A mostly left, feminist perspective of current events.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Does it get better?

I've enjoyed, well maybe "enjoyed" is the wrong word, appreciated? the responses to Dan Savage's movement: "It Gets Better." I sincerely hope that angry, hurt, bullied kids will hear this message and believe it. I tried to trace back to when the suicides started. The first one I found in the news was Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, but others date bulling in general as a cause of violence back to Columbine. Carl was 11 years old and from Springfield, Massachusetts. But there's more. Jaheem Herrera was an 11 year old boy from Atlanta who hung himself after being bullied.  Eric Mohat was 17 from Ohio. There's too manyLee Simpson, Phoebe Prince, Billy Lucas, Tyler Clementi, and more. Is this a quiet genocide?

That may seem over the top, but these people brag about it. Look at this article on Phoebe Prince.  They bragged that they killed her. And then there's the stories of the parents who created fake MySpace/Facebook accounts to bully their children's enemies. What is wrong with people?

I just hope there's more of the good kind of people than bad. People like these:

Dan Savage to Gay Kids: "It Gets Better"

Ellen DeGeneres

President Obama

Chris Colfer from GLEE

Even more so, I appreciate this message from various religious groups to stop the bullying, and to let kids know things will get better for them.  There aren't enough messages like that.

The BBC has links to several other celebrity and political videos on their site.

Not everyone sees this campaign as a good thing, or at least not doing enough. One blogger has a lengthy monologue here on why Dan Savage's campaign is overly simple. And truly, all one need do is look to the Don't Ask Don't Tell issue to see how much of a problem adults have with accepting someone as different.  There was a Supernatural episode that dealt with more generic bullying, and took a good look at who is the bully? Sometimes it's a sympathetic figure; sometimes it's a victim who crosses over to being the bully. This is a vicious cycle perpetuated by our reluctance to accept those who are different.

It's not a new issue. Once upon a time, if you were born with a cleft lip, you would have been left in the woods to die. Leper colonies. So we've evolved a bit, but not enough. We still make life very miserable for those who can't or won't conform. Is it so hard to believe that one way could be right for some, but not for another? Must I beat down anyone who disagrees with my view of life so that I am validated? I hope not.

More on Bullying
Bullying Bill Okayed in the House
Why anti-bullying programs fail
Campaign Offers Help to Gay Youths

Monday, October 25, 2010

NPR and the politics of fear

I admit I haven't listened to NPR news in a while; since moving to Minnesota I've greatly enjoyed listening to their Current radio station that mostly pays a mix of indie bands or other less than popular musicians. But I have always respected their news programs as balanced, well-done and of the highest ethical standard. What has happened to Juan Williams is lamentable, but has not changed my opinion of NPR.

On October 21, 2010, NPR terminated Juan Williams' contract after the remarks he made on a FOX news program. I honestly don't understand how he was allowed to be a part of that news program in the first place. It seems an obvious conflict of interest to me, but admittedly I do not know very much about how journalism or news stations run. Maybe it's an incestuous world of corporate owners, and no one higher up really minded?

Politico has this Juan Williams' comment, "Look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality." As a journalist, his comments seem a bit naive to me. It's not like he hadn't been at NPR ten years, and couldn't have guessed how they would react to such statements regarding a blanket fear of Muslims. I agree with the NPR ombudswoman Alicia Shepard who compared his statements against Muslims to another race saying, "But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see an African American male in Dashiki with a big Afro, I get worried. I get nervous." You just don't say things like that when it's your job to be unbiased and without prejudice.

The NY Times also did an article describing how NPR's Shepard stated "she had received 378 listener e-mails in 2008 listing complaints and frustrations about Mr. Williams." They also quote Shepard's piece where she said that Williams tended to show one face to NPR and another to FOX. Maybe it was just time for a change? As Williams has been given a highly lucrative position at FOX, I doubt he's too upset. And his confusion over whether Muslims are terrorists by default should fit right in. I also disagree with this Slate piece that says acknowledging your fear of a large group of innocent people on national television is the best way to transcend your fears. Wrong. The best way to transcend irrational fears is to look them in the eye for what they are: irrational. Then move on. And that's not proclaiming to "merely hold consciously egalitarian views." No one is perfect; no liberal is claiming to be a saint. Suggesting otherwise is just silly.

Huffington Post has a similar take from Mark Green who says Williams should have been given a choice to stay at NPR and shape-up, or go to FOX where his more opinion-based commentary would be acceptable. I especially agree with his comment on "William's [writing] in the New York Post after his firing that the events were 'a chilling assault on free speech.' This is a Christine O'Donnell-level misunderstanding of the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from enacting any law limiting speech. So everyone has a right to free speech but everyone does not have a right to an on-air job at NPR. That's up to them and them alone."  If you're interested in some further misinterpretations of free speech and the whole affair by conservatives, I suggest taking a look at the NY Magazine Daily Intel piece.

More on Juan Williams' Firing
An hour by hour breakdown from NPR
NPR CEO Apologizes For Handling Of Williams' Termination


If you fell in love with the idea of American politics from shows like The American President or The West Wing, everything you read or see on the news must be a major let down. Where are CJ, Josh and Toby? Alas, real pundits and DC politicians aren't quite the same.

That being said, I love American politics, government and history. I have a bachelors degree in History, and love to share the news and commentary I find that seems worth sharing. Sadly thanks to Facebook, I have learned the pitfalls of expressing your honest opinion to family and friends. From Twitter, I have learned that sometimes strangers can be more respectful and thoughtful in their comments or criticisms.

This blog is a place for me to express my thoughts and share what's going on in the world with a group of readers who choose to come here, instead of forced to read it in their feed. I reserve the right to remove hateful comments. Choose your words carefully. No one is truly anonymous on the internet.

You may contact me at punditryalas [at] gmail [dot] com.