Williamsburg Hill

Williamsburg Hill

Friday, January 26, 2018

Six Years

During the last few months, it has been a struggle for me to keep this blog going. My personal interest in it has been waning, partly due to my disdain for the role politics has played in social media, and the desire to remove myself from the animosity that’s around every virtual corner.  It’s difficult to like being online anymore.  I’ve almost given up a few times, telling myself that it’s time to move on, but having the blog is goal-driven for me, so it lingers.  An anniversary…six years this month.  However, keeping it fresh and updated is getting tougher. 
I’ve rewritten the beginning of this post several times, unsure as to how far I might go with the words I wish to share. I know what I want to say, but how to express myself without making people angry is what’s nagging at me.  The fact that I worry about this is frustrating.  Part of the reason I’ve wished to discontinue the blog is due to what social media has become: a self-serving, disrespectful, judgmental and vitriolic place.  And this is where I have the greatest disdain.  There isn’t much care if I’m offended or angered.  And I’ve been both quite a bit lately.
The world’s population recently reached 7.6 billion people, yet according to the finger-pointing, fist-shaking virtual world, each unique individual is categorized and compartmentalized. We’re labeled this or that, either/or, good or bad, liberal or conservative, right or wrong (this, of course, depends on who is yelling the loudest at the time); we’re lumped into sameness when we share nothing in common; we’re stifled from expressing an opinion or asking a question out of fear of being unfairly pegged something we aren’t; we’re told, not heard.  When did people become irrelevant as human beings?
Things seem to matter only if they meet certain criteria; a person’s death is tragic only if the life is lost in a questionable manner; causes are embraced in the heat of the moment, then abandoned when the next bandwagon rolls in.  Making assumptions to support the popular cause of the day runs rampant: if a person thinks a certain way, then that person must be (fill in the blank). It seems as if we’re all judged by that checklist of life, deemed worthy or not as to how we’re generalized to be.  That broad brush of acceptance, if it’s given, holds little substance for me since real need is overlooked in favor of causes driven by our political climate.
How can we think need, suffering, neglect, or any level of pain is determined by a checklist? Hunger pains that tear at a person’s belly aren’t lessened or greater based on criteria. Poverty, homelessness, illness, and disabilities affect many people of different walks of life, and are tragic regardless of who is touched or where they live, yet genuine compassion is lost to the movement of the moment.  How shallow and hypocritical our world has become.
An interesting Chicago Tribune commentary (What Chicago's South, West Sides and Appalachia have in Common) details the similarities in poverty, unemployment and violence that plague the areas, but cites the biggest thing they have in common is despair.  It’s the writer’s belief that the overall population in the areas voted differently not because of any party loyalty, but because they wanted to have dignity once again. Politicians had failed them, and I tend to agree with him. Yet, the people of these areas are judged and ridiculed for how they voted, when each one of them generally wants the same things: a better life and opportunities for their families. The American Dream.
Native Americans living in poverty
Additionally, there are over 300 Native American Tribal Lands (Indian Reservations, Pueblos, Colonies, RancherĂ­as) in the United States, and the living conditions have been described as “compatible to third world” countries (www.nativepartnership.org); Native Americans have a higher poverty and unemployment rate when compared to the national average.  Visit or drive through one of them; poverty at its ugliest is glaring.  Why aren’t the masses “rising up” about this?  Why aren’t there marches and demands for change?
Capitol Crawl - 1990
The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990 (www.ada.gov), but those with disabilities still don’t always have access to basic services.  Some pro-business commentators at the time who were against the act said that the ADA “was an expensive headache to millions that would not necessarily improve the lives of people with disabilities.” No doubt the doubters had great headaches seeing the “Capitol Crawl” of 1990, when disability rights activists ditched their wheelchairs, canes, walkers and crutches, and crawled up the steps of the capitol in protest, demanding their voices be heard.  Yet, sometimes those who march for other things today don’t seem to mind too much about parking in a “Handicapped Parking” space just to be closer; or take no notice that a person in a wheelchair doesn’t have access to a public restroom, restaurant, movie theatre, art gallery, or football stadium.  Where is the anger?
Then there is this: the silence regarding daily gun violence. The site www.gunviolencearchive.org collects annual statistics regarding victims of gun crime. In the last four years, the incidents and deaths have increased yearly:
·      (2014)   Incidents – 51,862; Deaths – 12,558; Mass Shootings – 271
·      (2015)   Incidents – 53,723; Deaths – 13,513; Mass Shootings – 333
·      (2016)   Incidents – 58,834; Deaths – 15,089; Mass Shootings – 383
·      (2017)   Incidents – 61,437; Deaths – 15,584; Mass Shootings – 345
According to a New York Times article (Comparing the Las Vegas Attack with Daily Gun Deaths in U.S. Cities), while 58 were killed in the mass attack in Las Vegas, Chicago had the same number of deaths in a span of 28 days that started two days before the incident in Las Vegas.  All of these incidents, deaths and shootings are relevant and important. All of these lives matter. Where is the outcry?
I think the times were better when we didn’t know how anyone voted.  It used to be a private right, kept close to the vest.  People went to the polls on election day, cast their ballots and moved on with their lives.  Since social media exploded with “authorities” behind every keyboard and smartphone, it’s made life online an unpleasant place to be.  Dictating demands, yelling (via all caps, of course), ridicule and general rudeness have replaced common decency.  There’s a lot of talking but little doing.
A balm, in which to heal the festering anger, might be to disconnect.  Turn it off.  Walk away from the virtual world (or at least reduce the time spent there), find a cause that isn’t politically driven or motivated, and actively make a difference.  Find the need; it’s there.  Then listen to it and hear it.  I’m trying.
And the blog?  It continues…at least until next time.

12 comments:

  1. Good thoughts, Veronica. We can stay on social media, try to practice respect (which is hard to do when someone is shouting insults at you in all CAPS), and be engaged outside of social media (or in addition to it) on those causes that matter to us. And, every day, we should remember to be kind in person to everyone we meet. Open a door. Smile. Say hello. Give someone that coveted parking space. Little acts, I think make us feel better about ourselves and may help others as well. My philosophy is twofold: 1) Practice the Golden Rule; 2) Don't refuse to do the one thing that you can do, because it is not everything that could be done. In other words, take what action you can to accomplish your objectives. All the best. Keep up the fight for civility and change. Bill

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    1. Thank you, Bill. I agree with you. Civility goes a long way. Kindness matters.

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  2. I too lament the nastiness of social media. As someone with a “political job” I endeavor to smile and turn the other cheek. I take the long view, this too shall pass. And it is, young people are already fleeing FB leaving olds guys like me to try and keep the conversation civil. I find I have reached an age where I avoid drama at every opportunity. Kindness to others truly matters.

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    1. Thank you, Dan. I agree with you. Hopefully those younger ones fleeing FB will eventually see their role in much of it. One can only hope.

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  3. Veronica as someone who attempts to earn a living with "words" either via stage,print or video/film I am most impressed with your writing. Apart from your talent I am equally impressed with your philosophical analysis of the world crica 2018 that we live in. Anger,despair & the inability to listen to the "other" are all symptoms of the issues you so articulately described. Please keep on keeping on...

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  4. Veronica..not certain why my comment was listed as "unknown"...as opposed to Rick Roberts but so it goes...;-)

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    1. Richard, I'm not sure why it would've been listed that way either. I do appreciate your comments though. Thanks for reading.

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  5. I took a break from Facebook for a month as a sort of spiritual palate cleanser last year. It may be time for another. Your thoughts are always worth reading, though, Veronica.

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  6. When social media and the news of the day start to get me down, I remember these articles. I prefer Kristof's perspective.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/opinion/sunday/why-2017-may-be-the-best-year-ever.html

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/06/opinion/sunday/2017-progress-illiteracy-poverty.html

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