Tag Archives: media

This Is Not Normal

It has been a week since Donald Trump became the president-elect. In that week, protests have erupted across the country, hate crimes are rising, people are making plans to move to Canada or Mexico, women are looking to get IUDs, couples are getting married, and division has arguably never been more blatant or destructive in this election cycle.

I’ve heard the endless mantra of “We need to be united.”  First of all, it’s really difficult to be united when the president-elect is a person who built his entire campaign on dividing people. It was always us vs. them, “them” being any group that Trump thought a particular audience was afraid of. When I hear, “We need to be united,” I’m really hearing, “Get in line.” I’m hearing, “Conform.” Now, I know that President Obama has said to be unified, and I’m not sure what exactly he means by that, but I know that his role is a unique one. When I hear “unify” from someone random on Facebook, that’s when I’m hearing, “Stop criticizing Trump and Trump supporters.”

That’s not what unity is. Unity is not when one side of a divided pair shuts up, while the other gets to run the show. Frankly, I don’t know how we can be unified right now, because it’s like our values are on total opposite sides of the spectrum. A Trump presidency looks like it’s going to be about restricting women’s rights, gutting healthcare, demonizing Muslims and Mexicans, restricting LGBTQ rights, denying climate change, and so on. What can we unify around? People who voted for Trump are either racist, are willing to tolerate racism, or deny that a Trump presidency is even racist at all. The same goes for sexism. Freedom of religion seems it will only apply to Christianity. Good healthcare is not nationally recognized as a basic human right. WHERE IS THE COMMON GROUND?

People are also saying, “Protests didn’t happen when Obama became president, so accept it and move on.” Okay, so people weren’t necessarily flooding the streets like they are now, but for his entire presidency, they were questioning whether he was born in the United States. That’s definitely a form of protesting the election results. For 8-freaking-years. Also, after every election, there are groups that don’t want to accept the results. It’s just what humans do when something happens they don’t like. However, there is a big difference between the national reaction to Obama and Trump, because TRUMP IS NOT A NORMAL PRESIDENT. I’ve heard the word “normalization” a lot recently with Trump coverage, and that’s exactly what’s happening. The media is normalizing Trump and treating him like he’s just your run-of-the-mill president-elect. Yes, he’s a bit of an outsider, but there’s a silence about just how outside-the-norm he is. What do I mean by that? Here are just a handful of reasons:

The typical “accept and move on” response to the peaceful transition of power following an election does not work in the situation America finds itself in. That’s why we’re having these protests. It is the peoples’ way of shouting, “This is not normal.” Eventually, the protests will stop, but we will need to keep shouting through our actions and activism during Trump’s entire presidency. Even when good things happen, we can’t forget that this is not normal.

Because once we start believing it is normal, America, as we know and love her, is dead.

 

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What Do We Grieve?

Maybe we’re just too overwhelmed by all the tragedy in the world, that we can only choose to grieve what the media tells us to grieve.

My Newsfeed is a splash of French flags. Every major news outlet is sending out updates on identified victims, graphs, testimonials, and what world leaders are saying.

But this sort of thing happens every day. Facebook didn’t make it possible for users to change their profile pics to the flag of Lebanon. There was no “safety check” when Beirut was attacked. I’ve heard people call the Paris attack “France’s 9/11,” and that’s definitely true in the sense it is an attack in a country where this sort of thing doesn’t happen all the time. Is that why we’re told to care so much? Is it not really about the fact people died? Is it about people dying in a Western city that’s known in America for love, culture, and tourism, while Middle Eastern countries are portrayed as inherently bloody and violent, where life is taken so frequently our emotions can’t keep up? What are we being told to grieve, exactly? People? Or only certain people?

I can’t change my profile picture to France’s colors. I’m not going to hold it against anyone who does or accuse them of not caring about other victims of terror, but for me, I don’t want to immerse myself any further in the idea that this is the only tragedy going on right now. The media is already doing that for me.

Going Back to Church

So I went to a church this past Sunday. 

Whaaat?

I know, I know. I haven’t been in an actual church since Christmas and I’ve been fighting against Chris’ hints for a long time. To be honest, most of my reasons to not go to church seem better than his reasons to go, but I’m biased towards myself. And most of my reasons are fear-based, and when has fear ever led to an ultimately good decision in spiritual matters? 

The first thing I did was research. Going into a church blind is like going into a social group without any knowledge of who is going to be there, at least for me. I want to know something about the church before I go. Is it geared towards a particular denomination? Is it going to be huge? Heading towards a big change? What is the staff like? In doing research, I discovered one church that described itself as “progressive” and politically-liberal, which got my ears perked up, but something seemed off, so I did more research and found that this was less of a church and more of a group of “spiritually-minded” people who used the life of Jesus as a “guide.” I may be pretty liberal, but my spiritual life is defined by my belief that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that the Bible is God-breathed. All of my big problems with Jesus and the Bible are related to how people interpret these two things. 

It seems shallow, but how a church’s website looks is pretty important to me. If it looks really outdated, odds are the church is very traditional and doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to get new people into the building. While there is a place for churches like that, they aren’t for me. I want a church that is in the world, (though not of it), and committed to reaching out to the unchurched and burned-out through the language of my generation. At the same time, I want a church that is also committed to caring for their flock; a lot of churches are so focused on outreach and growing that they don’t have the resources necessary to deal with the problems their current members might have. 

That is what made me interested in the church we went to. They have ministries for both outreach and “inreach.” Their website was clean and attractive, and they have four campuses. The one we went to was small, but not so small that it felt awkward. The speaker was a stand-in because the head pastor is on vacation, but there was enough there to get me interested in coming back. I just want a church that doesn’t make me angry with its message, or really bored. There are the churches that drive a hard right political line, and then those that just mask any opinion at all and are so concerned with not creating controversy that they don’t talk about much of anything. I don’t need a church that’s liberal. I just need a church that doesn’t try to judge me or shut me up because I’m a liberal. 

That’s a hard thing to figure out. It takes a lot of time. My fear is putting a lot of energy and time into a church and then find out they expect everyone to picket Planned Parenthood with them or something. My usual strategy has been to avoid all churches altogether, but I can’t do that forever. I want to have friends that share my spiritual beliefs. A church is pretty much the only place to find that. So I’m taking a risk. Erg. 

 

Image source: 

http://htlutheran.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/feet-walking.jpg 

Finger on the Trigger

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I recently read one of many articles addressing the issue of trigger warnings in academia. A group of students at a university brought it up and the media was quick to jump on it. A “trigger” is described as an extremely negative response – such as PTSD flashbacks or urges to self harm – to pictures, text, video, and/or audio. Warnings serve to alert a person that what they are about to encounter might have content that could trigger them.

The comments on the article were astoundingly ignorant and insensitive. One person objected to using trigger warnings, justifying their stance by saying, “Life is a trigger.” Others expressed contempt for those who need trigger warnings, describing them as weak or overly-sensitive or having a victim complex. One commenter said people who wanted trigger warnings were incapable of using the Internet (and informing themselves about the content of a textbook), had not heard about cognitive behavioral therapy, and were just bored. A common thread I noticed was that people believed trigger warnings were in place before content that was “offensive.” That’s not what a trigger warning is about. Being offended is not the same as being triggered. At all.

I have been triggered. I immediately began having a panic attack and had to leave where I was and curled up into the back of a car, unable to stop shaking and crying. That episode subsided, but the next day, when I was back at my dorm, I locked myself in my room for two days. I was unable to do anything besides lie on the floor and fight the flashbacks. People had to bring me food. Being triggered disrupted my entire life, at at the end of the school year, had a negative effect on my final exams.

It’s bizarre that people believe that those who want trigger warnings are sensitive or even naive. More than once I’ve heard people say that life is hard, suck it up, you can’t be protected forever. It’s not like these students are unaware of life’s suffering. They have literally already been through trauma, including rape, abuse, eating disorders, and self-harm. They are the opposite of naive. They would just like a head’s up so they don’t have to relive these painful memories without warning. A professor at a college in New York says that most decent professors essentially already warn students, in his syllabus, he includes a brief note that makes it clear that some of the material in the class may be difficult for certain students, so if they need to excuse themselves, they are free to do so. They are responsible for the material missed. In a film class on violence I took my third year, we watched some intense clips. My professor always told us that what we were about to watch might be too much. For one film in particular, she emphasized just how brutal and disturbing it was, so I simply did not attend the screening at all. For the essay we were assigned on that film, I simply read a brief summary online and went from there. Students are masters of this, which is often called “bull-shitting.” It’s why cliff notes exist.

A criticism of having trigger warnings in academia is just how far this will go. People love the slippery slope argument, and in the article’s comment section, people were spinning wild presumptions about the kinds of content that would be labeled. “If a book has a troubled relationship between a father and son, will that be labeled too?” If that relationship includes sexual or other physical abuse, then yes. There are well-known triggers that encompass a wide range of content (sexual abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, emotional abuse), so that’s a good place to start, and it isn’t asking too much. Movies have MPAA ratings that specifically outline why it has that rating; this is not a new concept. It’s strange that people are so opposed to implementing warnings, it’s incredibly easy, something that any decent professor is already familiar with, and saves students from being surprised and sent into a full-blown anxiety attack or from self-harm.

I use trigger warnings. At least two of my posts have included a warning at the top. I do this because I care about those who have been through trauma, and because I don’t want anyone’s experience of my writing to be overwhelmed by negative memories. Any distraction from a core message (in movies, books, etc) is problematic, and a distraction that disturbs and triggers someone can completely override any positive effect the movie/book might have had. Sure, you could tell that person to just get over it and enjoy everything else, but you would be revealing your ignorance. This person would love to “get over it,” but it isn’t that easy and they weren’t necessarily prepared to be dealing with their trauma in this way at this time. A classroom isn’t really the ideal place to be hashing out your past.

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Sources:

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/inside_higher_ed/2014/05/hostos_community_college_professor_angus_johnston_explains_why_trigger_warnings.html

http://www.my-borderline-personality-disorder.com/2012/11/what-does-TW-mean-on-twitter.html

 

Racist, Say What?

ImageImageI saw this posting on Tumblr yesterday and after my initial feelings of horror, I checked my pulse and began to think. I don’t necessarily know people who share this view, but I do know people who might dismiss this person as one of a rambling few, or say the much dreaded, “I don’t really agree with this, but I can see their point/where they’re coming from.” Yeah, I can see where they’re coming from to. Racism Mountain, due south from Ignorance Junction.

Ok, let’s break it down. What exactly is this person upset about? They are upset about the fact that they perceive there are more black people than white people in commercials. They even use the word “disgusted.” Why is this so disgusting? If they themselves are not disgusted just by seeing “so many” black people and not racist, are they upset about the fact that commercials are not statistically accurate?

Since I follow this blog, I’m inclined to believe this isn’t the case, given the kind of content I’ve seen. If it was, where’s the outrage over the fact that TV does not show predominately overweight people (60% of Americans are considered overweight)? And while we’re talking about misrepresentations, where’s the rage over the fact that on countless occasions, white people have been playing people of color since the dawn of Hollywood to now? Laurence Olivier played a black man (complete with black face), Mickey Rooney was a Japanese man, Angelina Joli was Cuban, Katharine Hepburn was also Japanese, Natalie Wood was Puerto Rican, Ben Affleck was Hispanic, and Johnny Depp was Native American.

(A common defense of older movies with obviously whitewashed characters is that there simply weren’t people of the correct race in Hollywood. Because…RACISM. Actual racism. So that’s not a great argument.)

So, it seems that this angry person cares about representation, but only when it seems like white people are “losing.”  I would bet a lot of money that this person is also upset about the TV channel BET and historically black colleges. This anger is misplaced. And since when has TV been just about realistically portraying statistics? Representation is more than that. It has to be. Otherwise, yeah, we’d just have white people in everything, and then they would play the remaining 1.4% of Americans that are Chinese, or whatever. It’s happened before. It’s still happening.

In a Stanford address in 2005, Hazel Rose Markus wrote that “reality depends on representation. We learn to see and we learn to see the world as our society sees it, as our family sees it, as our political party sees it…” If young black Americans aren’t shown someone on TV who looks like them (in a positive way), it’s like they’re erased from society. Life imitates art. Sure, the “statistics” might be off, but for SO LONG, black people were either not on TV at all, or were shown in horribly negative and racist ways, as idiots, as passive slaves, as criminals.

I’d say society owes minorities some commercial time.