Category Archives: politics

Choose Carefully: Politics Over Friendship

Since my Twitter rant turned into a somewhat thoughtful blog post, I decided to do the same for a Facebook rant . I think this one is still pretty ranty so take it for what it’s worth. Mostly, let’s be kind to everyone.

Perhaps I am the last person in the world who hasn’t unfriended or unfollowed everyone with whom they disagree politically or religiously. To you, this  post will seem a bit outdated and naive and maybe even dangerous as I haven’t written everyone on the other side off as immoral and unethical.

Forgive me. Despite the political and religious divide in the world, I have attempted to maintain friendships with folks from the whole spectrum. And, while I don’t share overt political posts or rants on social media, I suspect my own politics are pretty clear from what I do share. (Let’s just say a lot of stuff from The Zinn Project and The Equal Justice Initiative.) I will admit to using the mute button liberally.

Mostly, I try not to be judgmental. We all have pasts and stories and cultures that define who we are and are difficult, and perhaps, impossible to shed.  I genuinely care about the people I follow, and I try to put relationship ahead of politics or religion. But, yesterday, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, two posts, in particular, just seemed incredibly out of line: a ridiculous “I’m just sayin” kind of conspiracy theory post and then one that showed real hatred towards those on the other side. Mean and ugly posts about people like me from people that I regarded as friends. Granted, they did not originate the thought, but they shared it and pretty cleared agreed with it.

One of the women who posted checked in with me via Messenger almost every day as I was recovering from my surgery last year. Yet, her rhetoric in a public forum was really hateful. She genuinely seems to find people like me repugnant. While I am no snowflake, my feelings were hurt. Had she considered me at all before sharing the post? She knows me to be a good person, I think, and must be aware that her post was going to hurtful.  She has chosen politics over our relationship. I considered a confrontation, but I pressed mute for now. It is tempting to try to engage her, but if her ongoing posts and comments are any indication, she does not appear to be open to ideas outside her echo chamber.

I guess I feel a little betrayed: I stuck with these friends even though we disagreed on larger issues because I wanted to know about their lives and support them as friends and even be aware of what others outside my own echo chamber were thinking. Part of the reason I don’t do “those people on the other side are horrible” kinds of posts is because I do care about their feelings. I know I’m not going to change their minds and it would just be hurtful.  How could we still be friends if I took that path. I wonder if these women stopped to ask that question of themselves?

Here’s my plea: can we, just for a little while, focus on what connects us. I love the posts from families about surviving quarantine and doing simple gardening at home. I look forward to the posts from a friend who is asking daily questions about what we are learning or cooking or thinking.

Today, we all shared pics of meaningful art from our homes. Here’s mine: my favorite poem from Wendell Berry seems so appropriate now. It is done as a collage, and I know I purchased it at an art festival in Corolla, NC, a very long time ago. There doesn’t appear to be an artist’s name on it:

If you have managed to maintain any friendships with people with whom you disagree, try reaching out in a positive way. Or at least unmute them for a few days to wish them well.

Be safe out there.



In Celebration of Guy Fawkes

January 25, 2019: As part of the #blogging28 challenge, I am updating this post to include another video suggested by the original inspiration for the post, Keith Reeves.

From The American President:

My friend and colleague, Keith Reeves, posted the V for Vendetta speech as a way to remember the Fifth of November, otherwise known as Guy Fawkes Day:

And it made me think of other great video speeches of resistance:

The opening speech from The Newsroom where Will McAvoy riffs on the question of why America is the greatest country in the world. (Hint: he doesn’t necessarily agree.)

Jedediah Bartlett’s biblical soliloquy  from The West Wing. I found this series belatedly and this was my first episode. I knew I had found my television home.

And, finally, just to show my age…the classic from Network..

I was just entering high school when this movie premiered, so it gives you a sense of why I may have a somewhat cynical world view.  Every so often, I fight the temptation to open my window and lean out…

Any others I’ve missed?

Watching the School Reform War in New York

I feel like I have much better insight into what’s happening in the New York mayorial race at least as it relates to education reform now that I’ve got Steven Brill’s Class Warfare under my belt. He focused a lot of attention on New York where battles over charter schools, union contracts, and using test scores for evaluation played out on a grand scale. That battle continues and if you’re interested, Gotham Schools provides daily news feeds related to education in the Big Apple.

Today’s links led to an editorial by Eva Moskowitz, famed CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, whose students have outperformed even the most well-heeled schools on the state tests. She is bashing candidate Bill de Blasio over his plan to begin charging charters for the space provided in public school buildings. She talks about the dismal test scores of most New York public school students, particularly those of color. I thought it was interesting that she didn’t bother to mention her own success rate. Maybe she doesn’t have to.

Or maybe she doesn’t want to have to defend all charter schools. While the Success Academy has lived up to its name, other charters have shown similarly low scores, leading to the conclusion Brill came to in his book: trying to figure out how to “fix” schools is a complex process and just calling something a charter school is no guarantee of success.

Attack Yourself

PBS Newshour has worked with Mozilla to create Ad Libs 2012, a website that allows you to create your own campaign commercial.  It shows the simple formulas behind campaign advertising. As you work on your ad, you can check out ads from previous Presidential campaigns and see how closely they follow the formula. You can make a biographical or an attach ad, both about yourself.  Because it’s linked to Facebook, you can choose your own photos or wall posts. They also provide generic selections but considering how some of my posts might sound in ads was a bit of a revelation.

The National Constitution Center sponsors Ad-O-Matic. I created one:

I was a little annoyed that women were not on the list of issues.  You might want to also check out the Constitution Center’s website for other resources.

Perhaps the biggest (and saddest) lesson of these create-your-own-ad websites is how little information we actually get from campaign ads.  A couple slogans, some canned photos, and you get an ad, something that the candidates will spend $3 billion on this year.  There is some disagreement as to whether or not they really work to change anyone’s mind except perhaps the swing voters who may not decide on their vote until they are standing in line at the polls.  And it is those approximately 4% of voters in 6 states who will ultimately decide this election.  Research into political ads doesn’t focus on swing voters in particular so it’s hard to tell how they decide…let’s hope it isn’t based on political advertisements!


The Wisdom of John Adams

The horrid events in Arizona are the talk of the Sunday morning news shows. We all pray for Gabrielle Giffords and her family and for all Americans and do hope that it may be the moment when we look for a new way to work together where we can have honest disagreements with others without having to demonize or destroy them.

I’m reading David McCullough’s biography of John Adams and I have new found respect for this great American leader. I find myself marking the pages with quotes and ideas that are still relevant today. He would have been very sad about the state of civility in our country because respect was essential for a successful government:

We may please ourselves with the prospect of free and popular governments. But there is great danger that those governments will not make us happy. God grant they may. But I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls…There is one thing, my dear sir, that must be attempted and most sacredly observed or we are all undone. There must be decency and respect, and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank, or we are undone. In a popular government, this is our only way.