unbalanced rocks

Halfway between moral and immoral = nowhere

In There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground, Tayari Jones asks “When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle? Rather than chattel slavery, perhaps we could agree on a nice program of indentured servitude? “

Or maybe we can “compromise” on abortion and just let rich people get them? Yeah, NO.

As a Buddhist I must tell you that the “middle” is rarely the place of balance.

I strive to see the Buddha nature (good potential) in every human. Even the cretin in the White House. In fact, it’s not hard for me to see how much he is suffering from his own delusions and fears. But that doesn’t mean I have to see things his way. Understanding his motivations can be useful, but there’s nothing I can do to make people like him listen to me without severely compromising my own values.

Which brings me to the point of this work, making the world a better place. One of the reasons that most Democrats have been unable to win is that for the past 25 years they have been trying to sell themselves as friendlier Republicans. To win long-term they need a compelling vision that energizes voters and emphasizes progressive values (a la Lakoff‘s Don’t Think of an Elephant). Instead they’ve been letting consultants lead them by the nose to eke out marginal victories based on big money tactics. They occasionally win the battle for votes but they lose the war for hearts and minds. The Overton Window shifts ever rightward and now we are debating whether trans people have rights and whether migrant children should be treated like human beings.

Which brings me back to the strategic futility (as well as moral failure) of trying to compromise with people who want to annihilate us. I’m not saying to write them off. They are people too, and frankly they need help to come back to a place of love and humanity. But validating their hateful and counterfactual ideas won’t do that.

(I edited this post to add some thoughts that I wrote in response to en e-mail discussion of Jones’s article.)

Lakoff's Taxonomy of Trump Tweets

Stop allowing a greedy, childish, narcissistic loser’s pathological lies to control the news cycle

The media is still continuing the same behavior that normalized Trump and allowed him to walk right into office with less qualifications than a 9th grade class president. They are helping Trump block out rational conversation about real issues by treating his insane tweets as real news. Yesterday they spent all day talking about his crazy “wire tapping” story! (It’s either totally invented or proof that a court found reasonable suspicion of him last year. If the latter, let’s talk about the many suspicious ties to Russia.)

Stop reading his tweets. Stop sharing his tweets, even to criticize them. Stop treating them like they matter or like he matters. He is an unhinged loser and a complete puppet of the White supremacist Steve Bannon. Stop acting like his childish rants are the most important news of the day.

Great reminder from my favorite cognitive linguist George Lakoff:

Remember: @realDonaldTrump’s use of Twitter is strategic.

Trump Tweets

On the willful ignorance of religious right voters

“The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.”

This is a long read but a good one: An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America on Alternet. For me it still reinforces the need for the clear articulation of patriotic progressive values to communicate with these voters. They may be willfully ignorant, but they are human beings who love their friends and families and most of whom do not actually wish suffering on other people.

Image source: http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/27/politics/donald-trump-voters-2016-election/

New media and the civil rights movement

Cross-posted at http://www.hastac.org/blogs/ruby-sinreich/new-media-and-movement

Last week I had the immense pleasure of attending and participating in “The Unfinished Work”: Advancing New Strategies in the Struggle for Civil Rights a conference honoring civil rights pioneer Julius Chambers. The event was attended by several generations of leaders including many former staffers from the NAACPs Legal Defense Fund (one of the main litigators of civil rights cases). I was personally in awe of the intellectual and cultural prowess of Harvard Law Professor Lani Guinier and Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux, who laid out with precision and wit the problems inherent in the mere idea of a “post-racial” society, not to mention the fact that we most certainly are not living in one.

The Guinier-led plenary also featured Wade Henderson who is the President of the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. He spoke of the decline of the old ways that people used to get information, and the rise of personal networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook. His point that the civil rights movement needs to evolve along with this shifting media ecosystem or risk extinction was a perfect lead in for the panel I was invited to moderate on “New Media and Messaging Social Justice for Social Justice Advocates.”

This distinguished panel brought together insights from a wide range of organizations and issues into a cohesive message which was summarized by panelist Keith Kamisugi: online shouldn’t be your only strategy, but without online you have no strategy. If possible, I will add a recording of the panel when it becomes available. I’ll attempt to summarize our three key topics here:

Lynda Turet of the Center for Social Inclusion began by sharing the CSI’s work researching how people respond to discussion of issues with and without racial symbols. They found that people actually responded better to an ad about health care reform when it specifically addressed the racial undertones that come along with the issue (for many white people) than a similar ad that ignored race.  This prompted me to mention Berkeley Professor George Lakoff‘s 2004 book Don’t Think of an Elephant (a very accessible effort to bring cognitive linguistics to political activists). His main point is that all people have both liberal and conservative frames that we use to understand the world, and that successful activists should work to activate their own frame rather than attempting to negate (while actually reinforcing) their opponent’s view.

Next Jed Miller of Revenue Watch Institute drew on his experiences, including serving as the Internet Director for the ACLU and as an early online community builder for the New York Times, to lay out three major principles for any organization hoping to be successful in the digital age.  1. Timing is critical to having a relevant message that anyone wants to hear. 2. You must understand and work with the network-centric nature of new media. (More on this subject from me.) 3. You must build new media capacity within your organization rather than rely on outside consultants.

Finally Keith Kamisugi of the Equal Justice Society talked about the Digital Divide and the importance of Net Neutrality to preserving free speech on the Internet. (He was also very gracious about the other two speakers running over into his time.)

We didn’t have as much time for questions as we would have liked, but there was some good conversation about information overload, and also a question about efficacy which prompted me to mention Malcom Gladwell’s recent New Yorker peice “Small Change” asserting that Internet activism is not true grassroots organizing and doesn’t really change anything. This thesis was thoroughly debunked by many parties including Cathy here on HASTAC.

Again, it was an honor for me just to participate in this conference with so many legal and movement heavyweights. I was inspired and educated by them, and was glad to have the opportunity to give back by moderating this panel of new media visionaries Lynda, Jed, and Keith.  Thanks and kudos to the UNC Center for Civil Rights which organized The Unfinished Work. To learn more you can download a PDF of the program at http://www.law.unc.edu/documents/civilrights/conferences/the_unfinished_work_brochure.pdf

Economic Refugee Crisis

My boss Marty, who is a great communicator himself, read this article by the lingust George Lakoff on The Framing of Immigration, and came up with this great redux:

1. The US is dealing with an “Economic Refugee Crisis” that is pushing 800,000 people a year across our borders.

2. We are dealing with a humanitarian crisis that pushes good hardworking families to be separated and hundreds to die on a trek to earn a living wage.

3. We need Foreign Policy Reform that cuts support for corrupt governments and dysfunctional banking systems that bleed hard working and sacrificing people from developing countries. We need offer people freedom to follow jobs now that we have mutli-national corporations and trade agreements that are so fluid with capital and assets. Companies have more freedom and choices than the people.

4. We need to reaffirm the core American stand of birthright citizenship before small minded nationalists with fear of diversity attack another one of our core building rights in this nation. (I am the grandson of an economic immigrant from Ireland and I know they tried every trick possible to suppress the Irish too). Born in America is the test of American citizenship.

5. It is an economic crisis, fueled by American choices toward cheap labor. American consumers and businesses pay low wages to provide the crap served out at WalMart and McDonalds. As long as our country continues to do anything and everything to “save a buck” regardless of the human cost we will continue to have economic pressures to hire refugees.
Network-Centric Advocacy: The Framing of Immigration: Economic Refugee Crisis

Your nonprofit – Online

UPDATE: Notes and links from the class added 6/8/05.

Tomorrow morning I will be leading a presentation called “Your Nonprofit: Online” at BlueCross BlueShield of NC’s Healthy Community Institute. After the session I will post any additional notes, thoughts and links here on this page.

Here’s a PDF (3.2 MB) of the presentation.
Continue reading “Your nonprofit – Online”

Rock Ridge

Finally, a way to interact with the brilliant thinkers at the Rockridge Institute (home of my favorite linguist, George Lakoff). It’s basically a multi-author blog with registration required for comments, I don’t know why they call it a “forum.” Anyway, this is yet another interactive community-building resource that I can keep up with via RSS, yay!

One of my favorite things about the Rockridge Institute is that it always makes me think of the town of Rock Ridge in Blazing Saddles. The townspeople initially responded with violent racism against their black sheriff, but in the end they join forces with him to beat the real bad guys: the governor and his brutal cronies trying to make a buck by running a railroad through town. In the end, the people of Rock Ridge are victorious by erecting a life-size facade of the entire town good enough to lure in the bad guys and then blow them up with dynamite (hey, it’s a western). I have to wonder if the Rockridge Institute was drawing on this symbolism as a representation of “framing” or if it’s just a happy accident.

Dean for America, again

Trust me, I am no Deaniac cheerleader. As I have written many times, the Democratic Party has to stand up for for progessive values or sit down and get the hell out of the way. With the increasing consolidation of power in the Whitehouse and the clear indication that Bush is unrestrained by morals, international law, or the Constitution of the United States, it is imperative that we have some national leaders who speak out against this in a credible way.

I think Howard Dean would make a grat chair for the Democrats: his politics are moderate, but his values are fully engaged. He listens to George Lakoff. Plus he has shown us that he he can do grassroots organizing and get the positive value of the Internet and free speech to a campaign. These are two critical strategic elements that the old Dems simply can’t understand, in spite of recent efforts.

So at DraftHoward.com I found the following list of voting DNC members representing North Carolina. Why not drop them a line? If you don’t live here, find your own

Barbara K. Allen
220 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC 27603

Jerry Meek
c/o North Carolina Democratic Party
Raleigh, NC 27603

Dr. Jeanette Council
3310 Lake Bend Dr.
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Muriel K. Offerman
105 Schaffer Close
Cary, NC 27511

David Parker
PO Box 112
Statesville, NC 28687

Everett Ward
3112 Falconhurst Dr.
Wake Forest, NC 27587

We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

This is it!

I have had a lot of strong feelings in the past week about this country. The level of division is staggering. One friend tells me that people have been moving geographically into ideological enclaves in recent decades, which helps to explain why not only do we disagree so strongly with each other in this country, we also just can’t understand those who don’t think like us. I am also reminded of George Lakoff’s explanation of the difference in how liberals and conservatives think. Lakoff has helped me to understand how it is that our values can be so far apart that people who don’t think like us come across as either stupid or evil. For example, if you think that Bush is fighting terrorism (as many people seem to believe) then anyone who is against him must appear to be for terrorism.

Thoughtful people can see that this is not the case. In fact, when taken from a reality-based perspective, many people feel that Bush has made the country less safe by stoking the fires of religious extremism (both at home and abroad). In fact, a recent New York Times story exposed the division in new terms (that have been amplified by bloggers). In “Without a Doubt” Ron Suskind describes the “faith-based presidency” in which decisions are made based primarily on Bush’s personal intuition and his faith*, not facts. (*Which comes from where? I don’t think he even goes to church regularly.)

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush by Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, Oct 14, 2004.

Even though I took an entire course on the civil rights movement when I was in college, it took the documentary February One to drive home two important points to me about how that movement manged to impact so many people: 1.) Although it seemed random to observers, the four men who started the sit-ins at a Greensboro lunch counter on 2/1/1960 were very strategic about what they were doing. And 2.) what they did was effective because it was covered by the media and therefore reached into homes across the nation. (Can you imagine shots of protesters in the street on your local evening news? The media is failing us – this is why blogs are becoming more and more important.)

In light of these lessons, I am finally seeing our anti-imperialist movement gain the momentum, visibility, and critical mass to be seen, heard, and felt across the country. It was Eminem’s “Mosh” video that made this really hit me. It’s kind of sad that a egotistical, white, homophobic rapper would be the harbinger of this widespread and growing dissent, but the world is different than it was 50 years ago. Eminem reaches people in a way that the Independent Media Center never will. This is big.

So here’s my election prediction: I think that this year’s voter mobilization effort will be in our children’s history books, although it might not include the part I like about the grassroots, people-driven effort triumphing over imperialism and corporate greed. Either way, I believe that this will be a defining moment of my era, just as the peace movement was in the 60’s and the civil rights movement in the 50’s.

I occasionally think (as my boyfriend does) that it will be a Kerry landslide, but mostly I think it will be a nail-biting Kerry victory. There will be legal battles no matter what the outcome. The losers will not recognize the legitimacy of the winner. In the entirely possible and extremely horrifying event of a Bush victory, I think we will witness the solidification of the next huge grassroots social justice movement of our time. At the last Bush inauguration there were almost as many protesters as celebrators on the parade route. This time most of the furs, fake cowboy boots, and ten-gallon hats will not brave the streets which will be full of patriots objecting to another four years of hate in the Whitehouse. This time, no-one will be able to ignore us.

If Kerry wins, we will have an uphill struggle against complacency. Many people who have been involved this year through MoveOn, ACT, Howard Dean‘s campaign, and the Democratic Party will think their job is done. They may go back to being “normal” members of society, as if democracy functions on it’s own without caretaking. They may ignore the fact that Republicans will still be in control of Congress, and working at every level to deny our rights, and give themselves more freedom.

So remember, no matter what happens tomorrow, the struggle is just beginning. We must remain engaged so that Florida 2000/presidential selection/Bush in the Whitehouse never happens again! Democracy doesn’t work without all of us participating. Keep the media on their toes and speak truth to power!