The Rebellion Takes Action

Week 207 (countdown)

march
San Francisco, Rebel Alliance, Jan. 21, 2017

I’m opposed to the labels, name-calling and emotional arrows. I’ve been countering the president’s assault on my values with constructive activism. This is mainly a blog about action and following my personal quest for good conscience actions.

My media hole is filled with links from the Washington Post, New York Times, The Atlantic, New Yorker, ProPublica, Bill Moyers, George Takei, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver among others.

That’s all the same voice you say. Is it? If the voice of reason and sometimes humor is the same voice, then yes I’m guilty of listening to one voice. I know I need to expand these horizons. I’ll make an effort in future posts to find sources from unexpected voices on the right that speak to logic. Occasionally, I have been known to listen to David Brooks of the NY Times and George Will for their perspectives. But I could do more.

During my critical Facebook reads, I’m also discounting opinions and non-credible sources. If a piece says something inflammatory, non-substantive, and name-calling for the obvious sake of raising blood pressure than I simply turn it off. I’m not listening to that. That serves no purpose than to rile. You have to recognize your sources and their motives. Everyone on the spectrum wants an audience from NY Daily News, MoveOn, and OccupyDemocrats to Fox and CNN commentators.

 

wp-1485806236838.pngwp-1485806236813.pngSometimes you need a laugh even though they’re cheap shots. On that front Andy Borowitz, the Onion and Boing Boing deliver. It’s the humor that has made the political turmoil not a complete mental firestorm. The Spicer GIFs, the bad lip reading video, the alt facts tweets and alt websites in revolt, the creative signs at last week’s march have all helped to feel satisfied that we are not complicit. We will not roll over.

I’ve been very open to action plans and trying to align myself with sensible, effective action plans. Giving money to organizations fighting for your values is great if you have the resources (as discussed in last week’s post). But there’s more to do.

I’ve heard repeatedly about contacting Congress or various politicians. I’ve been reluctant to explore this path. How does it help if: 1. You already think that Congress is ineffective and simply a piece of the broken machine. And 2. If it’s just a staffer on the other end of the line or worse an answering machine. How does that get your message through and what are you demanding?

putinOn my Hawaiian vacation last week, we walked past an olderalt-facts white man wearing a Trump/Pence hat. And I caught myself instantly demonizing the person. I rationalized, why would you wear that hat after the election during a week of protest and turbulence? Either the guy is pronouncing he’s a “winner”, analogous to a Super Bowl champion fan; Or it’s a conversation piece. It’s an invitation. The fear is that the conversation would be a one-way gloating and pontificating rather than an exchange of ideas. But you risk that outcome at every conversation with a stranger, don’t you.

I could not react quick enough, but I wanted to work up a productive script for the future in case I encountered more of those hats. With my wife’s help, we came up with the following response:

“I’m interested in reaching across the Divide. Do you mind if I ask you about the election and what it was about Trump that appealed to you?”

That type of conversation is mature and I’m encouraged now to engage others I know who voted for Trump in a similar way.

Week 1 I marched. Week 2 I found feasible ideas in this keeping your sanity guide and in two action-oriented movements: IndivisibleGuide and 10 actions in 100 days (a follow-up to the women’s march). Others protested the anti-muslim executive order at airports this week. Thanks to the alliance.

I will continue to pass along helpful resources as I grapple with how to best defend social justice and yes true civilization. -CSR

Advertisements

Today I March

I’m lazy. I don’t want to fight. But if I don’t fight, then someone else is working to remold my reality.

I need to stand up to injustice and distinguish what’s not right. I might not be able to change someone else’s behavior, but I can try to have a discussion, to engage, to protest, to challenge. What makes you think that’s a good idea? Why do you do that? Why do you think that?

In community
The neighbor who leaves the bag of dog waste on the sidewalk. What makes you think that’s a good idea? Do you think maybe disposing your dog’s litter in a trash can might be what a responsible dog-owner does?

At work
The manager who tries to diminish your worth and stifle your opinions.

In society
The president who makes false claims on a daily basis to impose his warped worldview to shape a false reality. You have to recognize and declare this is not okay. This is wrong, false, distorted, “fake”.

Simultaneously, you have to mind your values and remind yourself of the absolute truth. This is what you believe in. I would fight for these values. If I don’t stand up, argue, and advocate, then my beliefs wash away in the noise. They become silent background.

White Noise.

I bemoan that I’m pushed to do this. I definitely have taken privilege and freedom for granted in my life. I may have missed a military draft, because no wars required it while I was eligible, but I’m feeling a civil war emerging. I believe it’s a war about decency and respect. Civilization.

I’m an American-born white male with no religious affiliation. Quite a few income brackets higher, and on paper I should have no beef with the newly-elected president. I don’t feel threatened by an aggressive pussy-grabbing, science-denying, culture hater (including Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans, and people with disabilities). But my values feel attacked and those need to be defended.

While we don’t have a lot of disposable income, I felt the need this year to support causes that defend my values including truth in journalism, respect for women and different races and cultures, and truth in science.

The following organizations hit our radar: ACLU, CAIR, IWMF, ProPublica, and UCS.

The money we donate is nominal and frankly does not feel very effective, but I tell myself that every little action helps to solidify the world we’re bolstering.

Every week for the next 208 weeks (or sooner if there’s an impeachment), I vow to be vigilant. To challenge injustice when I see it. To engage when meaningful. To nourish understanding. In work, community, and the world. To do numerous small actions that add up to something. I have no ulterior motives except to live with myself in good conscience.

My greatest fear is doing nothing and letting others significantly transform the perception of what’s real.

Today I march.

Global Voices

Global Voices spoke to me this week.

The organization works to find compelling and important stories coming from marginalized and misrepresented communities. Their mission includes speaking out against online censorship.

This illustration alone consisted of an entire blog post called the Whirlpool of Silence – a Balkan discourse. This site contains some well written pieces including the hajib one mentioned below.
Balkan-whirlpool
I felt a shared purpose with GV as they “value curiosity, honesty and connectedness in the name of understanding and friendship across borders.” They seek to empower people who value justice, equality and empathy.

One of their projects called Rising Voices “aims to extend the benefits and reach of citizen media by connecting online media activists around the world and supporting their best ideas.

Documenting Presence

One such story they highlighted was about an African country, Niger, making a place for itself on the digital map. They may feel the presence of Boko Haram in Western Africa, but that’s not stopping them from validating their geographic presence. I applaud the community’s efforts to learn cartography and digital mapping tools.

It turns out residents of Niger and many African countries have learned to use OpenStreetMap a collaborative mapping wiki-like space that allows citizens to map the landmarks of their village around the world. The Niger mappers started blogging about this project in 2013 but stopped two years ago. Their progress is noted on this OpenStreetMap wiki.

Protecting the Environment

Season two of Netflix’s Chef’s Table features a Brazilian chef, Alex Atala, who uses ingredients from the Amazon jungle while promoting sustainability. In his episode, he warns of Amazon destruction. One article that stemmed from Global Voices indicated that a number of environmentalists were killed last year in Brazil, related to protecting the Amazon.

Cultural Preservation

I read about different cultures that are trying to preserve indigenous population languages that are dying out in their country, namely ones in Australia, Ecuador and Peru where they are creating podcasts of songs and jokes.

HIJABGender Equality

This young woman’s story about wearing a hajib in an increasingly intolerant Bosnian society, put a new light on the subject for me. It was very personal.

Finally, I was interested to read about rising voices of girls in Kyrgyzstan.

The article was written two years ago, but features girls in a video from the country standing up for themselves. Where is this country that sounds like an area where Borat may have offspring?

KyrgyzstanGoogle showed it on the most western border of China, and further described the country this way: “Kyrgyzstan is a rugged Central Asian country along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean. The Tian Shan mountains, which surround the old caravan route and dominate the country, are home to snow leopards, lynx and sheep. In the south, the millennia-old city of Osh has a huge, busy bazaar that was a stop on the Silk Road.”

USA Today reported that one of the three suicide bombers at the Turkey airport last week was from Kyrgyzstan.

What do all these items have in common and why am I bombarding you with them?

I apologize. For now, let’s just say, there’s more going on than what we get in our daily feed. Others are striving to make a difference. To be somebody. Like Navin R. Johnson in The Jerk who finds his name in the new phone book – “I’m somebody now!…Things are going to start happening to me now.”

Well, I’d say, things are already happening. Once you feel like somebody though, then you may be more cognizant of what’s around you. It’s just a theory.

Movie Underdogs

In this week’s survey (Please vote. See lower right sidebar poll.), we look at where heroes come from. For most people I speculate that heroes come from our daily lives: family, neighborhood, school, the office. But we also find heroes in literature, online, and in movies.

As much as I regret lowering the level of conversation to movie characters, I’m trying to be open to the blog as a trace of thinking and hoping that the next post will build and evolve into something greater. Furthermore, I’d like to lighten up the discussion and make it more fun. It takes work.

Below are a few movie quotes from movies with underdog themes for your amusement and pondering.

On the Waterfront

“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody. Instead of a bum. Which is what I am. Let’s face it.”

Rocky

Adrian: You worked so hard.

Rocky: Yeah, that don’t matter. ‘Cause I was nobody before.

Adrian: Don’t say that.

Rocky: “Ah come on Adrian, it’s true. I was nobody. But that don’t matter either, you know? ‘Cause I was thinkin’, it really don’t matter if I lose this fight. It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”

Slumdog MillionaireSlumdog-Millionaire-film--008

Police Inspector: Doctors… Lawyers… never get past 60 thousand rupees. He’s won 10 million.

[pause] What the hell can a slumdog possibly know?

Jamal Malik: [quietly] The answers. [spits out blood]

Jamal Malik: [quietly and gently] I knew the answers.

Erin BrockovichErin-Brockovich-DI

“Look I don’t know shit about shit, but I know right from wrong.”

There’s something truthful and humble about heroes. These characters did not think they had much value themselves, but they stood up for what was right. They stood up to corruption. They stood up to big money, big corporations, big opponents. They fought. Some won, but it was mostly about the fight.

But these are only fictional characters you say. What could we possibly learn from these heroes? Part of my quest is to find commendable behavior. To encourage. To show examples. This is how you take action. Even though it is fiction, there’s truth in the script. There’s truth in the passion. If it resonates with you, then that is real.

Below are some more movies with underdog themes and characters to consider. My wife played an extra in Revenge of the Nerds while at University of Arizona…so that’s clearly why that title was included. Believe it or not, this was a climactic scene below.

JW the Nerd

Karate Kid, Breakfast Club, 300, Revenge of the Nerds, 8 Mile, Slumdog Millionaire, Erin Brockovich, Money Ball, Hoop Dreams, The Fugitive, Jerry Maguire, Sea Biscuit, Gandhi, Little Miss Sunshine, Hoosiers, Bad News Bears, Hunger Games, Billy Elliott, Ratatouille, The Commitments, School of Rock, Ray.

Refining the Concept

What follows is an open attempt to refine the underblog. Ordinary person + big obstacle = great opportunity for humanity.

As this idea of global underdogs churned in my head, one of the images that came to mind was that of Tank Man (also known as the Unknown Rebel). He is the unidentified man who stood in front of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, the morning after the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests by force. (photo by Charlie Cole)TankMan

If you’ll remember the video footage, the tank tried to maneuver around the man, but Tank Man just moved with it to block the tank’s forward movement. That particular encounter concluded without bloodshed. I like to think that the tank driver saw the humanity of the individual and the very personal effects of what he was doing.

In order to get to the essence, we must examine a few questions: What does it mean to be just or right? What does it mean to be humane?

Definitions

  • Just: Guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness
  • Right: In accordance with what is good, proper, or just: right conduct.

Synonyms

Humane: Considerate, cordial, forgiving, generous, merciful, open-minded, sympathetic, tolerant, unselfish, accommodating, charitable, good-natured, helpful, human, kindhearted, and magnanimous

Some Examples

What are authorities or society telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t do?

  • You shouldn’t aspire to be a doctor (if you’re Deaf).
  • You shouldn’t speak your mind (if you’re a low-level employee).
  • You shouldn’t question government (if you’re a common civilian).

The Noise

Whether it’s society, family, or some authority…here’s some more noise:

  • You’re too short, to play basketball professionally.
  • You’re too extreme, to have your own Olympic sports.
  • You’re too poor, to do anything meaningful.
  • You’re too nerdy, to obtain status.
  • You’re too young, to have compassion.
  • You’re too low-ranking, to speak up.

To get the ball rolling, I scanned the GoodNewsNetwork of stories this year to find potential examples of what to cover. It’s a work in progress. While they may not fit the bill exactly, these six still caught my attention. They’re in the right vein. Please check out one or two that grabs you.

I’m interested to know what your thoughts are about this topic, what’s engaging, and what referrals you might have. Besides the comments section, I hope to incorporate your feedback through other tools or widgets in the near future. I’m not certain I’ve seen many productive conversations through blogs, but I’m exploring. Thanks for visiting.

Defying Expectations

You’re not supposed to jump fully clothed in a muddy river to help some stranger, a foreigner, extract their car.

When my wife and I visited Costa Rica 10 years ago, we experienced the worst roads. Except for the main thoroughfare in the north, all the roads were dirt and full of potholes. It was like riding an elephant. You couldn’t go very fast and every few seconds was incredibly jarring.

After a few rainy days in the forest, the clouds cleared and we were determined to hit the beach. What appeared to be just a two-hour drive on the map turned into an all-day adventure.

dart frog
Poison Dart Frog

We kept encountering rivers running through the roads we needed to use. No exaggeration. They were strong currents and impassable. So we drove around until we hit another similar roadblock. Since this was off-season, we didn’t run into many tourists, or anyone, in the countryside. We began to worry how this would end for us as the sun began to set. We were in the middle of farm land evidently encircled by rivers, and we were no closer to the coastline than when we started that day.

In frustration, we planned to plow through the next obstacle. Unfortunately our beat-up vehicle wasn’t the power horse we needed.

Mid-stream, we got stuck. You could hear the water gurgling into the tail pipe. The situation went south fast. No matter the gear, we were stuck in mud and thigh-high water. After 5 minutes of futile pushing, a motorcyclist sped by on the banks above us. The silhouette showed a woman riding on the back. They stopped without hesitation. They spoke no English and we spoke no Spanish. So we mimed. He pointed the wheels toward the slope and I would push. Then we switched and he would push and I would step on the gas.

The young man got soaked and when the wheel spun hopelessly, it spit mud onto his entire body. We laughed. He persisted and eventually got us out of the pit and back where we came from. If we had gone forward, just 20 yards further, there was another river that would have been impossible to cross. So reverse turned out to be the right answer.

When the vehicle was restored, we rinsed in the river and shook hands. I took out a wad of wet money from my pocket and handed it to him, but he refused. Then they hopped on their motor bike and went on their way.

We were in such a desperate situation and the natives made such a sacrifice that we’ll never forget.

Certainly selfless acts occur all the time, but rarely do we hear about them. This interaction encouraged my faith in humanity and made me want to do the same for others. Ultimately, that’s living and I believe our news media largely focuses on the wrong things.

I seek more examples of ordinary people living selflessly and standing up to what’s expected, what others authorize, and what statistics say. Instead of idolizing superheroes, we should be recognizing the heroes that walk among us every day, the every day underdogs.