Beyond the Helpers

There’s a popular Facebook meme circulating that quotes the late, esteemed Fred Rogers advising us to “look for the helpers” during times of tragedy.

This well-meaning trend re-emerges just when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has admitted to a lack of transparency for the social network’s advertising policies and display algorithms. Specifically, the ads allowed foreign (Russian) companies to funnel hundreds of thousands dollars into circulating divisive, often false information. These ads were paid for in Russian rubles, from an unclear source that Facebook has not been required to disclose…yet.

In addition to the negative political sway Facebook has exhibited through ad sales, there has been a barrage of content relative to kneeling NFL players and interpretations of Trump’s (in)actions in Puerto Rico. This is the backdrop against which the “look for the helpers” philosophy has re-emerged. 

With these events, the construct of “helpers” is considered in different ways.  With the NFL protests, we need help clearing the misinterpretations of protests against police brutality, as well as an understanding of First Amendment rights. In Puerto Rico, significant humanitarian efforts from celebrities and everyday people have taken the place of significant government action. Helpers seem to be in short supply with too many challenges across the nation and the globe to attend to at once.  The aid needed is varied as well: hearts and minds (NFL) versus a physical requirement to rescue and rebuild infrastructure (Puerto Rico). 

The renaissance of the Mr. Rogers meme, however, is overwhelming applied to the  mass-shooting that took place in Las Vegas weekend. While there are ways to help our fellow Americans  through every crisis (and there is abundant evidence of Good Samaritanism in Vegas), now more than ever, we need action from our duly elected government representatives.

I’m looking for the helpers to address our many challenges on Capitol Hill, and across the board, I’m finding them lacking. The obvious leader in failure is Mr. Trump, who benefited from the Russian attack ads, greatly exacerbated the NFL protest’s momentum, made a mockery of assistance in Puerto Rico (he wanted to throw cans of chicken a.k.a. metal projectiles into a crowd of people without water or power) and has already deflated efforts for gun control reform, because white male “lone-wolves” are his people. The President of the United States, rather than being our central helper is instead the Instigator in Chief.

Sure, there’s a select few representatives pushing for changes in gun laws, but the political gridlock turns it all into lip service. An insufficient proposed regulation of gun stocks rather than gun sales. Over 500 injured and 58 dead demands more than compassion and partisan time wasting. It demands positive action across the aisle that will actually save lives.

I offer up a new meme: Guns don’t kill people. Cynicism does.

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Gun Control Momentum Shift: Media Coverage, John Lewis And Republicans In Flight

Contemptor

“Nothing has changed. Except the year. And maybe, just maybe, the approach of our journalistic and elected advocates.

This is not 2004, when the last assault weapons ban lapsed and a struggling, incumbent President George W. Bush floated a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage with much success. Instead, it’s 2016, one year since marriage equality became the law of the land. And now it’s the year that the Democratic House Caucus, muted since the 2010 midterm election “shellacking,” finally stood up to the disingenuous Ryan agenda that makes the majority of us less secure by every measure. Georgia Representative John Lewis, a Civil Rights legend, reminded the nation this week that fulfilling civic duty with courage doesn’t have to be a lost art. Under the threat of much panicked, procedural bullshit intended to silence his voice, Lewis spoke to the chamber on behalf of a weary nation.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Are Members Of Conservative Mass Media Ready For Gun Control Honesty?

Gun control

“It is sort of amazing to hear (or read) entrenched members of the right-wing media establishment drop the talking points in favor of honesty. In favor of speaking to the actual will of the people, rather than the NRA-purchased Congressional narrative about gun control. In short, we want it. Now.

Keep talking Geraldo. You have our attention.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Guess What Corporate Media? There’s More Than One Gun Lobby Worth Covering

everytown_final_logo

“Hell yes. The only thing that stops a cynical operation profiting from the death of innocent Americans is a positive operation, sick of the killing and ready to fight for change. Does the media possess the courage to cover the growing chorus of regular Americans calling for it?”

Click here to read the full article on the Contemptor website.

Trolling with the Homies (February 21, 2015)

This week I read Anne Thériault’s piece for the website Vice, Let’s Call Female Online Harassment What It Really Is: Terrorism. Thériault, a frequent speaker and writer on issues surrounding sexual assault and violence against women, discussed her personal experience with the “pile on” effect ye olde Internet unleashes upon female voices. Those who dare to have an articulate opinion on issues that have plagued our gender since we began walking upright. Maybe before then. Thériault’s story of prolonged psychological torture at the hands of misogynist Internet trolls is very familiar to any woman who earns her bread and her soul’s sustenance by the keystroke. She says of a response to a piece she wrote about rape culture:

“The first comment was a man saying that I deserved to be raped.

I wish I would tell you that this comment was some kind of anomaly, but of course it wasn’t. Rape threats, death threats, and general threats of violence populate my inbox, Twitter mentions, and blog comments. I’ve had people target my family—one popular tactic is to threaten to report me to Children’s Aid as an abusive parent.

What makes these incidents even worse is just how common they are, not only for me, but for any woman who speaks out or takes up space, especially on the Internet.”

I can certainly relate to Thériault’s familiarity with online harassment, though I am nowhere near as famous, nor do I have an immediate family endangered by it. There are unfortunately a plethora of vignettes I could offer, but I think one will suffice. In January 2013 I wrote a piece for PoliticusUSA entitled, Wayne LaPierre and NRA Directly Responsible for Ricin Letters to Gun Control Leaders. Admittedly the headline is incendiary. It was meant to be. The more nuanced arguments contained in the column are based upon well-informed frustration with radical gun owners and the violence they incite.

 

In response, an NRA fansite called The Truth About Guns plastered a big picture of my face on its blog, “The Daily Digest.” In the body of the post, they asked the philosophical question on everybody’s mind: “If someone is killed in a home invasion or raped because they can’t own the arms they need to protect themselves properly, can we haul the Becky and the other gun control lemmings in and treat them the same way?” There’s nothing like reasoned intellectual debate, is there?

 

And if you can stomach a lower denominator of discourse, please have a gander at the comments section. Allow me to share just a few brief highlights:

“‘That [manjaw] should be powdered with a Ball-Peen Hammer. Stupid, evil libtards.’ I’ll wager dollars against donuts that if someone assaulted her with a ball-peen hammer, she’d like to have a .45 cal ACP at hand.'”

“Her chin looks like a golf tee, for some reason.”

“And that isn’t even why I want to smack it with a five-iron.”

“Mrs. Doubtfire was more attractive, not to mention more intelligent.”

“Becky Sarwate is proof that for every stupid position, there’s a stupid ho to advocate for it.”

“[She should be] feeding raw chicken to starved alligators by hand.”

Have we had enough yet?

Frankly speaking, this bullshit is more upsetting for the people who love me. As for myself, I’ve developed a rather thick skin over the years and am well equipped to hum along as I go. In fact, the venom I encounter as a woman with a voice and unafraid to use it only encourages. It is precisely because of this demented, perverted groupthink and the way it’s driven smart, strong women into the shadows or out of their minds for centuries (or longer) that it’s imperative to take a stand.

I am 36 years-old, twice divorced with an autoimmune disease, alopecia and a sprained left ankle. I have survived cancer, bleeding joints as a toddler, having most of my teeth knocked out, a crushed lower vertebrae, the death of my best friend, jail and two concussions. And most harrowingly of all, I made it through a childhood and two parents with more addictions and mental illnesses that a full cell block of Oz inmates. I have reinvented myself more times than Madonna and have a thick candy shell to show for it – hard but sweet.

Really Internet pigs, you think I went through all of that just to run away from the computer because I’m scared of you? Let me tell you something. You don’t know me. You don’t know my sisters-in-arms, my fellow poetesses, authors, journalists, artists, dancers and thinkers. The mothers, wives and aunts who grow a little taller everytime they create something special out of your opposition.

The cause of turning the shame right back on the dudes (yes, yes #notallmen) who use fear and violence to try to silence us is furthered everytime a professional like Anne Thériault shines a spotlight on its pervasiveness. I’d like to try to make a small contribution with my own work. So I wrote this. And I’ll keep writing. Bring it bullies.