Why Don’t He Just Shut Up?!?

19365_717013806513_9223634_39963040_868241_nI believe
That if you’re bristling
While you hear this song
I could be wrong
Or have I hit a nerve?

– Tears for Fears

I know, I know…

I’ve been making a right nuisance of myself over the past few days. I’ve been harsh; I’ve been critical; I’ve been–dare I say it–a bit judgmental. Perhaps I’ve stepped on toes; perhaps I’ve gotten on a few last nerves.

That’s the idea.

On the other hand, perhaps I’ve come off as a tad superior, mayhap even condescending. That’s not good; also not my intention. Here’s the thing: I’m disappointed, more so than I remember being in anything in a long, long time. And when I’m this far down the rabbit hole, I get angry. And when I get angry, I get a little sharp.

I’m disappointed in my former faith: I see the likes of Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, spewing hatred disguised as theology from the pulpit of a major Southern Baptist church, televised, watched, listened to, thoughtlessly adored by who knows how many so-called Christians.

I’m disappointed in those who can’t understand the fact that Jeffress and his ilk, while louder than most and therefore more visible, do not represent the soul of Christianity, any more than the Paris terrorists represent the whole of Islam.

I’m disappointed in my country. Some of you may know I grew up in Argentina, and I have seen us through the eyes of others. Consequently, the grand rhetoric has always sounded somewhat hollow in my ears. But the events of this last week have fairly yanked whatever patriotic myopia I might have had left right out of my head.

I have seen comments by self-assured ‘Muricans, praising the magnanimity and generosity of spirit “for which we are known around the world.”

Here’s an example:

I wonder if situations were reversed and it was “the greatest nation on earth” who required help for millions of our people, I would be most curious to see the rush of compassion and outpouring of help, that we are known for. It’s classic though. You can rise to the occasion every time, but the ONE time you may have to withhold or proceed with caution, you are resented and all past acts of kindness are totally forgotten. Typical.

That would be such a good point, if it weren’t complete crap. There is a list of UN treaties and resolutions that we have “signed but not ratified” that is longer than the list of excuses we’ve come up with for ignoring the Syrian refugees. This includes, among others, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (which we helped to draft) and the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (which we signed knowing that, due to previously adopted domestic legislation, we lacked the ability to ratify). In other words, we want to police international law without committing to abide by it ourselves. We hold the purse strings to the IMF and World Bank, and have, time and again, forced other countries into near-bankruptcy through coercive, lop-sided loan agreements. Our domestic subsidies throw international markets out of balance, leaving farmers and small manufacturers without affordable sales partners. We force our multinational corporations on other nations, while refusing those nations access to our own markets. These things are not hearsay. They are well-documented facts…if we’re willing to listen. And they are not exceptions; they’re just another day at the office.

This time, though, in my opinion we have sunk to a new low. I’m not sure how much lower we can go, at this point. We have turned tail and run for this hills because of something that didn’t even happen in our country. We have abdicated whatever moral high ground we still occupied, and left thousands of our fellow human beings (human beings; not rabid dogs, or bad apples, or fans of falafel; not even potential terrorists) cold and alone and afraid, with nowhere to go and nowhere to turn.

A word of reminder: an isolationist stance did little to keep us out of World War II, and may have even contributed to the attack on Pearl Harbor. So, isolationism is no protection. Why not go down swinging? That’s the rhetoric, right? John Wayne, the OK Corral, High freakin’ Noon? Are our historical/fictional characters really the only brave souls among us?

At long last, I’m disappointed in myself. For writing this damn post while Rome is burning. For assuming that by taking time out of my day to do this, that I’m actually making a difference. For not getting off my ass and finding ways to actually address this situation with actions rather than words. For being one of the shrinking violets I’ve been criticizing so loudly for the last few days.

We–I–need less social media, and more social action.

But above all, we need to be the people we pretend to be when we’re trying to distract the world (and ourselves) from who we really are.

If we want to be the greatest nation on earth, we need to act like the greatest nation on earth.

Spread the word:
Open the doors!

16 thoughts on “Why Don’t He Just Shut Up?!?

  1. Well said!

    Btw, Social Media isn’t going away, so we might as well use it to our advantage. Words are powerful. fMRI studies show they significantly impact the brain. Scans revealed that a single negative word can increase the activity in our amygdala (the fear center of the brain), releasing a number of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters, which in turn interrupts our brains’ functioning. Fear-provoking words significantly influenced the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.

    Other studies, also using fMRI scans, show that conservatives tend to have increased grey matter volume in the fear center of the brain.

    Unfortunately, many conservative politicians and preachers are using fear tactics (through words) to emotionally manipulate the masses on the refugee crisis. It’s working.

    1. Words are only powerful IF they are sustained by action. I know you think I’m blowing smoke when it comes to social media, and you may be right. But there is an increasing tendency to confuse opinion with activism, and raising awareness isn’t a solution in itself.

      Mind you, as they say, when I point a finger, there are four more pointing back at me. I’m just as prone to talking over doing, especially here in the bloggy-sphere. I’m just as frustrated with myself as with anyone else.

      Thanks for stopping by, V!

      1. IMO, to not utilize Social Media as a tool to educate is unwise. It has been the most effective tool to incite fear. It can also be used to counter it.

        I rarely post an opinion in the comment section or my blog unless it’s backed up by sources that are evidence based. Same goes with FB. The problem I see is that many are addressing the effect, not the cause.

      2. Sorry, I don’t mean unfounded opinion; I’m sure you vet everything you post. I mean the tendency to stop at offering an opinion and calling it activism. Like me, writing my posts, and then expecting everyone else to do the heavy lifting while I sit around planning my next post. (Like I said, frustrated with myself as much as anyone else.)

        It’s apparent that we’re not going to agree on this subject; we’ve had this conversation before. And that’s okay–you keep defending, I’ll keep criticizing, and hopefully we’ll meet somewhere in the middle. :0)

        I do have one question: If the problems I see with social media are indeed effect rather than cause, what do you see as the cause?

      3. Fair enough. But I would suggest that perhaps the fear you see as cause is also an effect of the ease with which unfounded opinion can be disseminated via social media, which means social media is in turn a cause, as well. Perhaps this whole thing is a giant vicious circle, feeding on itself. Which means that arguing about cause and effect may miss the point: maybe we need to be addressing both at once.

        Have you considered also that the people who are spreading the fear you refer to (and I agree that that is exactly what they’re doing) also believe they are educating? How do you use the medium in question to distinguish between good and bad “education” when there is no mechanism for doing so built into the system? I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it’s the flipside of the democratizing effect of the root cause that is social media. Everyone has a voice, everyone thinks they are correct, and anyone can say pretty much anything they like without having to back any of it up (let alone credibly). It’s Friday night at the pub gone viral…

        (I feel like we’re going a bit Superman v. Lex Luthor here; I hope I don’t offend…)

      4. I understand where you are coming from, and I think I have been addressing both cause and effect. There was no social media, as we have now (not even close) in 1939, before we got involved in WWII. Yet politicians, including the president, heavily influenced approximately 2/3’s of Americans to oppose admitting 10,000 German Jewish refugees, mostly children from settling into the U.S. They used news media to accomplish this task.

        “The State Department cooperated in preparing a Saturday Evening Post article warning the public that ‘disguised as refugees, Nazi agents have penetrated all over the world, as spies, fifth columnists, propagandists, or secret commercial agents…”</cite?

        Not much has changed except we've got the fear-mongering preachers in bed with the fear-mongering politicians. If you think you can be more effective in educating the masses outside of media, I tip my hat to you. We are on the same page. We're just using different methodologies. If you can find a more effective way to educate the masses, let me know. My heart aches for those refugees. As a person who is disabled,I am limited in what I can do, but I'm doing everything I can with what resources I have.

        Thank you for caring.


    2. After reading your conversation, I can’t help but wonder if the people who are incited to action beyond opinion-waving would do so regardless of social media/propaganda. When I hear stories of people that put massive amounts of energy into righting a wrong they perceive to be too great to ignore, it seems like their personality and timing are the biggest factors.

      People react to situations as they are wont to do. Writers write, musicians sing and play, politicians pontificate, leaders lead, warriors fight, prayers pray, talkers talk, activists activate, etc… Are the people that get up and do something predisposed to being doers? I’m not saying that words and pictures don’t incite action, of course they do, but is the action that they incite really motivated by the words and pictures or are the actions determined by the individual’s self and circumstances?

      …I think I’ve just made this into a free will conversation, which I didn’t mean to, but there it is. Regardless of the truth of it, we almost certainly must behave as if we have free will to do what we will do.

      I think maybe the words and pictures are the tipping point, but the action that comes from those words and actions is determined by circumstances that we don’t control enough to influence.

      1. “but is the action that they incite really motivated by the words and pictures or are the actions determined by the individual’s self and circumstances?”

        Can it not be both? I’ve been on the Internet long enough to know that words and pictures have a significant effect on people. For example, I read comments from people who were once devout Christians say they were lurkers for months and even years, and what people shared on websites and blogs profoundly changed their outlook and lives. I think the key is to not marginalize social media, or discourage activists who use them as tools for positive change. I’m not saying you’re doing this. I just think that we need to be careful not to judge a medium as being ineffective just because we don’t see the kind of progress we hope to see through our own efforts. Then, it seems to me, it becomes about the individual’s need to be acknowledged, and not about the cause.

      2. I don’t think I’m simply indulging in a pity party (at least not all the time). But is not acknowledgement part of the point of having a voice in the first place? Otherwise, what’s the difference?

        I’m not putting you down for your support of social media; that’s not my style. I ask questions of others that I’m asking of myself. At the end of the day, it’s about me and my own inner struggles. I understand what you’re saying, and I agree with a good deal of it, but I’m more comfortable with questions than I am with answers, so I keep asking them. It’s just who I am…

      3. Deep, my friend. Very deep…

        I’m going to have to think about that one. Perhaps there is a critical threshold for action in every person, a line they cannot cross, whatever the issue at hand. And perhaps blogging IS an action in itself. I would be more confident of that if it weren’t for the ease with which individual voices fade into the overwhelming background noise of the bloggy-sphere (and the Facebook-sphere, etc.). When everyone talks at once, is anyone really ever heard? And if we’re restricted, even in online contexts, to a handful of friends/followers, what have we really gained from giving up the face to face in favor of the digital? These are the questions that float around in my head.

        V is right, of course. But so am I. So were the blind guys with the elephant, so far as that goes. Digital media must be used to educate, as must all media with which we are confronted, and it is not The Cause of the problems. It IS a conduit, however, a facilitator of particular difficulties and challenges, and so the key is not to simply criticize, as I am wont to do, but to suggest ways of overcoming those inherent difficulties. I don’t do enough of this.

        I would hope that I’m enough of a known quantity that people would understand that I’m not attacking anyone with any of these questions. I’m simply trying to see the question from as many angles as I can. That’s all…

      4. I see where both of you are coming from. The key is in doing the most we can with our skills and circumstances and recognizing that ‘the most’ is usually much more than we realize.

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