This is America Right?

I feel so many things right now; helpless, enraged, sick at heart, outraged, defeated, and energized to name a few.  I’m a parent and a human being so when I hear about families being ripped apart my empathy meter goes off the charts and I feel like I need to act immediately to try and make this better.  The question I have is: Why don’t the members of Congress feel the same way?  Surely if they are not currently parents they were parents at one point, and if they were not they HAD parents at some time, so they have some frame of reference for how it would feel to be separated, by force, from their families.  If they can’t muster this basic function of empathy there is something horribly wrong with our elected officials.

First, this is not just a Republican issue.  A law signed by Clinton in 1996 made detention mandatory for immigrants convicted of crimes even if they pose no flight risk.  In 2014 Obama tried to prevent families from coming to the US by forcing them to remain in detention facilities but that was struck down as a violation of the constitution.  That law, signed by a Democrat, and the policy of trying to detain immigrants, originally tried by a Democrat, are now being horribly abused by a Republican nativist with no empathy for human life.  We can hope that the courts will again rule against this abuse of power and denial of the basic liberties each human has.

What makes this time exceptionally terrible are the stories from asylum-seeking immigrants who are being forcibly taken from their children, babies, with no guarantee they will ever see them again.  Children are being taken for “baths”, issued numbers, and put in detention facilities without their parents or adequate caregivers.  The parallels to another horrible time in world history are disturbing and at this point any human with a bit of empathy should be disturbed and outraged.  The United Nations has gone so far as to call what the Trump administration is doing is a violation of human rights and international law.  The US used to stand against leaders who committed crimes like these, now we ARE one.  Perhaps our president needs a reminder of what happens to world leaders who act the way he does but I doubt that will make a difference because it’s clear our president has no empathy for his fellow human beings.

How did we get here?  How did we end up once again repeating historical mistakes that I never thought I would see in my lifetime, let alone in the United States?  Political division and the inability of the American people to compromise, work together and vote for the greater good of our country.  If you voted for Trump or didn’t vote then you share responsibility for the violation of human rights and child abuse happening at our borders today.  Let that sink in.  Now I know Hilary Clinton was not the most lovable candidate but because she wasn’t Bernie Sanders many of you chose not to support her.  That division in our own party is what led to this and we must be willing to put aside any stance of “I can’t support them they aren’t MY candidate” or this WILL happen again.  We are in danger of that happening again with the race for Governor of Minnesota.

The results of the convention in Rochester were surprising to many Democrats.  The candidate I personally supported did not get the endorsement and I was surprised and a little disappointed about that but certainly not angry enough that I would not support the endorsed candidate to ensure Minnesota remains blue.  This is the attitude all Democrats need to have if we are to make a true difference in politics.  Small divisions lead to the election of people like Trump because we could not put up enough votes.  Granted not all Republicans are emotionless, narcissistic, egomaniacs bent on becoming a dictator (at least I hope the president is a rare exception) but just in case we need to have a united front so that we are never faced with the inability to protect families, who are fleeing atrocities in their own countries, from having their very basic human rights violated in what was once the greatest country in the world.

Now we really do need to make America great again.  Vote for a Democrat in 2018, or at least vote, don’t let your feelings get in the way of your voice being heard.

 

 

Fake News or Not?

April starts with a day dedicated to practical jokes, and I’m not just talking about the weather in Minnesota, I mean April Fools Day.  In this era of Fake News I’m struck by how on April first everyone questions what they see online and everywhere else but why don’t we do that on a daily basis?  Critical thinking and research into what we consume through the media is a skill that we can all benefit from.  I googled how to identify fake news and was directed to a great article on NPR by Anya Kamenetz and a great online resource Web Literacy For Student Fact Checkers by Michael A. Caulfield.  Here are some highlights from each.

Learn to trust your instincts and check your emotions.  Take the example of memes which circulate at light speed around social media.  These are often treated like facts and rarely checked by the majority of online readers.  Some are all in good fun and don’t cause too much concern, cute animals reminding you to smile are harmless, but a meme that says Yellowstone is erupting (yes this has circulated as recently as 2017) can cause panic if not checked.  For our Yellowstone example that was easy enough to fact check with a simple google yet many of my friends hit share and sent this image around social media without checking its validity.  If the article or meme elicits a strong emotional response, be it anger, fear, sympathy or righteous validation, you should check it before sharing.  Fake news often relies on that emotional knee jerk reaction to get you to spread the word, and it works.

So how do you go about checking your media facts?  According to Mr. Caulfield and his book there are four steps:

  • Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
  • Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.
  • Read laterally: Read laterally.  Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.
  • Circle back: If you get lost, or hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

Each step requires work but mostly we need to get in the habit of not trusting everything we see, hear or read.  Yes, this is more work and will delay your retweet of that awesome meme of Ben Carson but it’s worth the time to help stop the fake news cycle.

There will always be those out there who refuse to do the research and those are the minds that the fake news relies on to spread its false claims.  We can combat this if the majority of us, who I believe are capable of doing a little fact checking, stop, question, and research before sharing.  You will likely become that annoying friend on social media (I know I am) who comments with, if you check Snopes this is fake.  Even good rational smart people get caught in this fake news trap because often it looks and sounds so real.  For example, the recent image that circulated of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez tearing up the bill of rights, a fake image, shared by many even after the truth was known. (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/emma-gonzalez-ripping-up-constitution/)

Make a habit of questioning what you see.  Try and separate your emotions from your twitter or Facebook posts and you might find yourself educating others and stopping the spread of Fake News.  Read Mr. Caulfield’s book, it’s free online, and start making a habit of checking the media you consume before your emotions hit that share button.

Links to a few fact checking sites:

Politifact

http://www.politifact.com/

Factcheck.org

http://www.factcheck.org/

Washington Post Fact Checker

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/

Snopes

https://www.snopes.com/

 

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