Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Jimmy Kimmel, Third Grade and Skipping the President's Speech

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

That seems lost on some congressional democrats who are planning on skipping President Trump's speech tonight.  Are we really in 3rd grade?  

No, strike that - I've seen more maturity from some third graders.  

Representative Maxine Waters from California called republican leaders "a bunch of scumbags" and refuses to show up tonight at the speech because she doesn't think she can control herself.  

Um, it's your job.  

You were elected to work with people you think are scumbags.  It's called politics - it's why the rest of us aren't doing it.  

Look, I get it - Trump is not my pick for president either, but guess what?  Regardless of what you write on your signs, he is your president.  Let's pull up our big boy pants and listen to what he has to say and then disagree with it.  Or better - work to amend it or influence it in some way.

I love what Jimmy Kimmel said at the Oscars:

"If every person watching this show — there are  millions and millions of people watching right now — and if every one of you took a minute to reach out to one you disagree with, someone you like, and have a positive, considerate conversation — not as liberals or conservatives, as Americans — if we would all do that, we could make America great again, we really could . . . It starts with us."
So let's have fun tonight applauding the President or fact-checking the President or creating fun little memes of passive-aggressive political disagreement (all of these are very American activities).  But please, to take our toys and go home because we don't like what we are hearing is really immature.

May the discourse on Social Media tonight be intelligent, snarky, fun-loving and passionate all at the same time.  And above all - may we respect each other - having "positive and considerate conversation" about all the scumbags in Washington on both sides of the aisle.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Facts and Alternative Facts . . .

Everybody is talking about Sweden.  Not everybody has the facts straight, however.

A few days ago, President Trump was talking about the problems with terrorism in the world and mentioned Sweden as an example.   Which made everyone ask, "what's wrong with Sweden?"  Some wondered if it was a reference to a terror attack - prompting former Swedish Prime Minister himself to wonder what Trump "had been smoking."

Enter Fox News.

Apparently, Trump watched an interview with on Tucker Carlson with Ami Horowitz - whose latest film Stockholm Syndrome claims that Sweden has seen a dramatic increase in violent crimes and specifically rape during the same period that refugees from Muslim countries were being admitted.

Reminder: This man has access to world leaders and experts 24/7 in which he could fact check Fox News.  

Speaking of the facts:

* Sweden has historically been very open to refugees (100,000 Bosnians moved there in the 90's).
* Between '14 and '15, rates of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanistanis doubled to 160,000.
* Sweden limited immigration in 2016 to absorb the high numbers from previous years (down to 30,000).

Comparing immigration and the accusation of high rates of rape, we find something interesting:

* In 2014 there were almost 7,000 rapes reported in Sweden.
* In 2015 the rate dipped to about 6,000 (while immigration doubled).
* In 2016 the rate ticked up to 6,500.

You can find more here.

The numbers don't match the claims.

In fact, Horowitz is in hot water for journalistic integrity as those who were interviewed are claiming the edit job made it appear that they were answering questions they weren't asked.

I don't think we can argue with Horowitz's broader argument that the West will have to deal with the eccentricities of Sharia Law in Refugee Muslim communities. That is a fact.  Just listening to the clerics shut down his interviews and rough him up is enough to make a person ask, "what right do they have to silence a voice?"

But on this specific issue we have the responsibility to not pass on falsehood.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

This needs to be said . . .

Your bedroom is your business, but when a movie seeks to normalize violence we need to speak up.  So I am speaking up.

We have a confused culture when swatting my three-year-old on the fanny to get his attention while misbehaving is unhealthy but sexual violence is celebrated in our movies.

In a country where we are super-sensitive about everything (participation trophies, multiple valedictorians, safe-spaces on college campuses to mourn current events) we spent half a billion dollars last year at the movies watching a woman get psychologically manipulated and sexually assaulted.  

Half a billion dollars.

And our morning shows like Today and The View winked and nodded at it like it was a great idea for a bunch of girls to get dolled up, sip some wine and go see it together.  It's just innocent fun . . .

Not really.  We are talking about hurting someone (slapping, whipping, choking) in the midst of intimacy.  Until 2010 these behaviors were listed as mental disorders by the APA.  Last time I checked, that is not innocent fun, that is sick.   

So after last year's release and applause by the media, I am seeing the buzz wear off.  Even though it was winked at by the morning shows (again), it looks like the latest installment (Fifty Shades Darker) is being panned by the critics.

The Critics:

"Basically, they made a lousy, mid-2000s-era Katherine Heigl romance with a handful of explicit sex scenes spliced throughout the familiar clich├ęs." - Chicago Sun Times

"An awful, retrograde sequel" - The Atlantic

"To put it politely, this movie has some structural issues." - A.V. Club

"Who would have imagined that a movie about sex could be so boring?" - ReelView

"The novelty of this messy relationship is really beginning to wear off" - Empire

Oh, I hope you are right, Empire.

Although it did earn the number two spot last weekend with $46 million grossing this is half the audience from last year - a promising note.  I am confident that this next weekend people will listen to the critics and choose something else.

If not the critics, how about conscience?  Is there anything less consistent with our values as a people than to support a movie that highlights inflicting pain on women during sex?  Listen to that - I have to convince people that hurting someone for pleasure during sex is not healthy.  That is really sad.  Dr. Deniece Cummins, writing for Psychology Today, reminds us it that not just sexual violence but the entire movie, "is a playbook for manipulating women's insecurities in order to lure them into abusive relationships."  

People can do what they want in their bedrooms, but we have a responsibility to call foul on a cultural piece that seeks to legitimize sexual violence and abusive relationships.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Thank you for celebrating life . . .

Last Sunday night everyone was anticipating Bey's performance . . .

For the record, I wasn't.  I think Beyonce is an incredibly gifted singer and she has become a political and spiritual voice for a lot of people in our culture - but I was really getting tired of the 'Queen Bey"- styled hype.  It just seems so overplayed.  I know, "how can you say that?!"  Yes, she is a talented singer - it is the hype-machine around her that makes it so overdone.

So as a non-fan - a Beyonce-skeptic, I gotta say, I was captivated.  

Ok - so maybe not totally.  I could have done without the whole half-naked-pregnant-woman-thing.  Kinda creepy.  But the symbolism was fascinating.  Lady Guadalupe, Mary Queen of Heaven, Shiva,  Kali, Oshun, Mami Wata, Venus, Artemis, Aphrodite - the list goes on.  I felt like I was in Cultural Anthropology all over again.  She displayed the power of a woman without cheapening femininity.  

We saw womanhood respected, not cheapened.  When is the last time we have seen that as a culture?  I think any believer can get behind that.  

She sang from Love Drought and Sandcastles and then whispered verses from Somali poet Warsan Shire:

Baptize me, now that reconciliation is possible.
If we're gonna heal, let the healing be glorious.
1,000 girls raise their arms.
Do you remember being born?
Are you thankful for the hips that cracked?
The deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother?
There is a curse that will be broken.

For all the times that the Grammys exploit women and their sexuality, this was finally something we could at least talk about and consider - to wrestle with meaning and symbolism.  

And it all centered on the miracle of life.

So thank you, Beyonce:  

Thank you for ditching the repeated dancing-toward-the-camera with your shoulders lowered and that determined look on your face.  It's old.  Thanks for letting it go.  

Thank you for talking about the power of femininity and not just the power of seduction.

Thank you for addressing everyone - not White, Black, Hispanic and Asian.  We get so race-focused for goodness sakes.  This was for all humans who have ever been born.

Thank you for reminding us that life is a mysterious gift - so much more profound than a choice. 

Thank you exalting life - for reminding us of the miracle of being born.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Snarky Memes or Action?

Well, it's a done deal.

Betsy Devos is the new Secretary of Education.

Against all common sense, we have a Secretary of Education that has never been a part of the Public School System in the United States.  Probably worse, we have a Secretary of Education that doesn't really know the issues relating to how to improve education within our Public Schools.  Like a Secretary of State that has never been overseas, we have a Secretary of Education that has never been in the classroom.

This seems like a really bad choice.

But since the truth is always found in the middle, and we can't spend all our days crying over spilled milk - let's consider a few things.  Not all Cabinet Secretaries have been involved in their areas (1/3 of our Defense Secretaries were never in the military).  So maybe there is something that she might be able to bring to the table that traditional educators cannot.

Again, I am not a supporter of any administration or political view - I am just trying to help us see that maybe there is something we can focus on that is positive rather than doom and gloom . . .

First - The Secretary of Education does not dictate what your kid learns.  This is what the Department of Education does:

1.) It gives out financial aid.
2.) It collects educational data.
3.) It identifies education issues.

Your school board tells the kids what books to read and what math to study and so on.  DeVos really has little reach into your kids' classroom.  

Feeling a little better?

So what does she bring to the table?  What can DeVos do and do well?

Well - she loves vouchers.  She loves helping Charter Schools get funding so people have options when Public Schools are failing.

Consider this . . .

In 1999, the Los Angeles School District was struggling - graduating 50% of its students.  Green Dot was a brand new charter school that started up with just 140 students.  It revolutionized education in LA.  Between 2000 and 2005, Green Dot opened 5 schools in the toughest crime-ridden areas of LA.  All five of these schools received honors from U.S. News and World Report and Newsweek as among the Best Schools in the Country.  The students in these schools rank among the top 2.5% in the country.  Green Dot currently has over 11,000 students and most are performing within the top 5% nationally.  Read more here.  

Green Dot is one of many Charter Schools in America that are changing how we educate.  

Now I need to say, there are a ton of things that Public Schools are doing well - and many of these things are being done in coordination with creative charter-school influence.  I also need to say I am not a public school teacher and far from an expert in education.

I am just looking for the sliver of light in all of this.

Maybe we all can look for it.  Like you, I am tired of the, "everything is horrible and we'll never get out of this mess" stuff.  Or, "I'm just so scared about the future of this country."  Stop with the fear - let's move on with action.  Can we take what we didn't ask for and work with it to get what we all want?  My guess is that positive energy will get you more than a well-done snarky meme.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tired of Facebook? Don't drop out!

Some people are so done with Facebook.  

I have seen a few friends of mine leaving Facebook because they are tired of the political rants - choosing instead to reside on Instagram - where they can mellow out in the world of over-filtered shots of your friends standing in front of brick walls, or last night's dinner.   

Like some kind of social media anti-depressant . . . is that really what you want?

Okay - here's what I get:

I too am tired of one-way bully "conversations" that are really bullhorn sessions about fear.  I'm so tired of fear.  Fear that Trump will use nukes.  Fear that Trump will lock up immigrants.  Fear, anxiety, worry  - it just makes me sad that we live in such an anxiety-prone world.

Yup, I get it - there's a lot of junk going on right now - where is our faith?

On the other side . . .
I am tired of the smirky, "we won, deal with it" political updates that make anyone disagreeing with this administration into mindless nitwits.  There are good reasons to take issue with the style of leadership that is being exhibited but instead of conversations where we can learn from each other, I see a lot of shut-downs.

I get it - all of that can be frustrating.

But here's what I don't get:

You'd rather spend your time scrolling through pictures of your friends on a beach in mid-air?  Or maybe you love the endless boomerangs of people doing a happy dance while sipping iced coffees . . . ?


This is history we are living through right now . . .

Yes, people are rude at times, but how can you retreat from a world that is engaged over issues that define us?  Not everyone is bullhorn-rude, there are actually some great discussions going in which people are learning from each other - now is the time to represent as well as listen and learn.  

Pro Tip:  You can un-follow people that are just plain mean.

Yes, there is a place for cute Cat photos, but this is the time to engage, resist, learn, listen and participate - all in the name of love.  If you run into people who are out to hurt, for goodness sakes, drop them from your feed but don't drop out of the conversation.

We need you to change the tone from coarse to courteous.  You staying in the game reminds people to be civil and open to learning.  Represent the Spirit of Christ and kindness in the spirit of mutual understanding.  

If not you, then who?