Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’


A young man I know in another state has a very different political outlook from mine. Like many people, he re-posts memes on Facebook to support his positions. He’s a good person, but the sources he cites often exhibit poor taste and lack credibility. I checked out one source—a Twitter account. I was disturbed. Moreover, the attitude it represents is more widespread than you might think.

This particular Twitter account posts on Facebook very aggressive pro-Donald Trump, anti-Hillary Clinton material. Freedom of speech? Sure. Support Trump? Their right. But pay heed. The account’s primary theme is “Keep America American.” Its secondary theme: “Peace Through Superior Firepower.” Its graphics include a skull and skeleton hands holding a knife and a gun. I hear echoes of “Keep Germany German” and see the similar symbols of the Nazi Waffen-SS.

We often associate this thinking with rednecks, white supremacists and gun nuts—those people “out there.” But many small-town and rural people are wonderful and all-too-often falsely maligned. The fact is, prejudice exists everywhere.

In last Tuesday’s New York Times, Michael Luo, deputy Metro editor, wrote of a “minor confrontation” with a well-dressed woman on Manhattan’s expensive Upper East Side. Luo and his family were waiting outside a restaurant and apparently in the woman’s way. She passed by then from down the block yelled at them, “Go back to China.” Luo was born in Pittsburgh.

If some people think it’s critical to keep America for Americans, what does being an American mean? The Constitution states that anyone born in the United States—like me—is an American citizen. Our laws also enable people born elsewhere to become citizens if they fulfill residency requirements and pass a test. My grandparents became citizens 102 years ago and with them my father, who was 11. I have friends who became naturalized American citizens far more recently.

Yet some people scorn the Constitution they preach about upholding and place limitations on who they recognize as true Americans. White and Christian? You’re good. Black, brown, yellow or red? Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist? Forget the Constitution. Forget our laws. Some things, as Donald Trump reminds us, are only words. So should Mike Luo go back to Pittsburgh? Maybe—if Pennsylvania was never part of the United States. Or unless, as one of Luo’s readers responded, you’re blue-eyed and from Sweden like her.

The final weeks of the presidential campaign will be fascinating and disturbing. Neither candidate is sweeping Americans—recognized or not—off their feet. But one candidate retains an unwavering commitment that ethnicity and religion do not define who is or who isn’t an American. One doesn’t.

I’d like to believe that after the election, tempers will cool and we’ll all go back to normal. I can’t. We’re living with a new normal—an increasingly divided citizenry and, in some quarters, increasing racial hatred in what eight years ago was (falsely) termed a “post-racial” nation.

We’ll continue to hear “Keep America American.” New demagogues will shout about upholding the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for their own ethnic group and denying it to others. Doing so in the name of patriotism, they’ll mock the nation they claim to love and weaken the nation they seek to strengthen.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out Post something on Facebook, too. And let’s hope that all Americans are up for what comes next.

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Last Saturday, we celebrated July Fourth, official birthday of the United States. But we’ve never been all that united. We endured a bloody Civil War, after all. Blacks and whites lived separately. And only yesterday did South Carolina decide to remove the Confederate battle flag from Statehouse grounds. Key issues divide us. Many seem fueled by paranoia.

Liberals often see themselves and/or others as victims. All of society’s ills stem from ongoing racism and capitalism. Whites cling to entitlement. The “one percent” constitutes a brotherhood of predators. Solution: Tax the damn rich until they bleed! Maybe raise the minimum wage to $25 an hour and guarantee every individual $25,000 a year in income. Plus housing. Doesn’t it work that way in Sweden?

Conservatives fear a rapacious federal government that seeks to strip away Americans’ wealth. They include middle- and lower middle-class citizens struggling from paycheck to paycheck with no wealth to lose. They also believe that liberals don’t care about crime; they abet it. Moreover, the White House and its Black president are waging a war on Christians. Solution: Stock up on guns and ammo, the most lethal money can buy.

If posts I see on Facebook are credible, people I know in Texas, where I once lived, and Arizona really fear for their personal safety. They expect someone to knock down their door and commit mayhem. The news doesn’t comfort them. For example, Baltimore’s homicide rate is up 48% over last year; the mayor just fired the police commissioner. Will ghetto violence spread to white suburban and rural enclaves? Conservatives fear it will.

Conservatives also want to defend their freedom from Washington’s ill intentions. (The libertarians don’t like Washington but appear less threatened.) They celebrate military gear and skills, seeing themselves on freedom’s frontlines like the defenders of the Alamo. (Carolyn and I were married next door.) Interestingly, none ever volunteered for military service.

Honestly, if you love to hunt, kill it and eat it. Target shooting? Enjoy. (It’s fun!) Feel you need a gun for personal protection? I have no beef. But I do offer a caveat. My father’s best friend carried a gun. He was a union biggie in New York, a job entailing considerable risk. However, when a couple of mob goons told him he could retire either standing up or lying down, he moved to Florida. He knew they had much more firepower.

Could it be that guns aren’t the answer? A July 6 report on Yahoo News (Stephanie Pappas for LiveScience) offers the results of yet another study. “’We found no support for the hypothesis that owning more guns leads to a drop or a reduction in violent crime,’ said study researcher Michael Monuteaux, an epidemiologist and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. ‘Instead, we found the opposite.’” The article adds that studies find that as gun ownership goes up so do gun homicides.

But those are just facts. The National Rifle Association insists that guns don’t kill. People do. Conservatives support that position, including politicians threatened by NRA money. Liberals won’t listen to the fears of conservatives—people they fear. (Remember what I wrote about Baltimore?) So Americans will keep turning away from each other rather than seeking common ground. But shoot, at least we’ll all be united—by paranoia.

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I’ve been looking at photos of myself. My friend Ellen Newman took them. I’m not playing out the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his image in a pool of water. I need an updated author’s headshot for my new novel The Boy Walker, officially launching this February. Alas, like most people, I see images on screen that don’t match those inside my head.

Oh that we could all look like Hollywood stars! Of course, movies and TV are about illusion. The camera often loves our idols only after extensive assistance from hairdressers, makeup artists, costume designers, the occasional apple box on which to appear taller, and a cinematographer’s skilled adjustment of lights and camera angles.

Beauty of the soul is another matter. It’s found on the inside and requires some searching out. This takes effort. So we often drift towards what lies on the surface, deceiving ourselves that “what you see is what you get.”

I see a parallel with technology. Oh how easily we fall in love with bells and whistles. Millions of people can’t do without tech’s equivalents of the Kardashians and the housewives of New Jersey. Technology often seems to exist for its own sake. Anything that can be programmed must be worthwhile. “I exist, therefore I’m meaningful.”

Here in San Francisco, headquarters of social media, Heaven help those who don’t prostrate themselves to the gods of code. A recent article in the Chronicle explained that many adults take classes to relate to younger, twenty-something programmers. Said programmers can be quite dismissive of anyone who doesn’t speak their language. It’s like the old ‘sixties protest: “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” Lacking patience and basic communications skills, they turn off to their clients—the very people who pay them. This can throw a digital monkey wrench into the plans of anyone trying to get a website going.

Am I now an official curmudgeon in spite of using an (old) iPhone? Check out any restaurant. It’s a rare table at which one or more—or all—diners under thirty aren’t engrossed with their devices. Older folks, too. They text, tweet, comment on Facebook or engage with email. The world must know what they’re eating and drinking, and when they go to the bathroom. Right now! Rather than talk, they flash their screens at each other.

Ideally, technology makes communicating simpler by rendering physical distance irrelevant. Yet often it increases emotional distance. People seem increasingly challenged to converse face to face. It’s hard to engage a person whose device puts someone supposedly more exciting a click away. I’m reminded of cocktail parties where guests keep looking past each other to search out more enticing partners for sharing empty smiles and inane babble.

As to my author photos, I’m satisfied. Still, they’re just digital representations. For the real me—the real you—you have to dig deeper. This post—a somewhat long-form use of technology—can help. But it’s no substitute for meeting in the flesh, taking time and making the effort to really get to know someone. There’s just no app for that.

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