She looked the hater in the eyes

There is a right way and a wrong way to make a point … our friend Keith writes of a young woman who made her point the right way … take a look! Thanks, Keith!

musingsofanoldfart

Peaceful protests are happening in huge numbers around the country regarding Black Lives Matter. There is danger from both the COVID-19 virus as well as counter protestors. From what I have seen, most of the protestors are wearing masks and they are outside, but they still need to be very careful.

As for the other risk of counter protestors, here is what one young black woman named Samantha Francine did. Her actions are captured in an article written by Asta Bowen in the Jackson Hole News and Guide on June 10 called “Looking hate in the eye in Whitefish.” Here are few paragraphs. A link to the article is below.

“What happened here was much less dramatic. On a fine afternoon in the pretty ski town of Whitefish, a group was gathered to raise signs of support for Black Lives Matter. One large, angry man descended on the scene, cursing…

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R.I.P. Civil Discourse

It once was considered good form to engage one’s brain before engaging one’s mouth.  This procedure was known as ‘civility’, or ‘civil discourse’, and was once quite popular.  It was the thing, perhaps, that kept us from killing each other.  It was the thing that kept marriages together, even in times of trouble.  Until one day somebody, and I know not who, gave the process a name:  political correctness.  For some reason, giving it a name made it a process to be shunned, made it unpopular.

The latest evidence of the reversal of civil discourse is a comment I read this morning by republican Senator Orrin Hatch when speaking to a group at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday:

[We] finally did away with the individual mandate tax that was established under that wonderful bill called Obamacare. Now, if you didn’t catch on, I was being very sarcastic. That was the stupidest, dumbass bill that I’ve ever seen. Some of you may have loved it. If you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met. [emphasis added] There are a lot of them up there on Capitol Hill from time to time.”

Hatch later apologized, sort of, for his remarks saying they were ‘flippant’ and ‘off-the-cuff’, though it appeared he was reading from a prepared speech. ‘A poorly-worded joke’, he said. Not to let Senator Hatch off the hook, for he deserves to be called on the carpet for his remarks, but he is only one of many who, seemingly energized by the populist movement in general, and by Donald Trump specifically, have relaxed both their brains and their mouths, and allow whatever thoughts they have to tumble out unfettered.

There are many definitions for ‘civil discourse’:

  • “Engagement in discourse intended to enhance understanding …”
  • “The language of dispassionate objectivity”

A June editorial in the Los Angeles Times suggests “Trump didn’t birth American intolerance. He’s the manifestation of our long-disturbed national dialogue.”  In response, a reader of the Times wrote …

“When personal computers and the Internet became ubiquitous, civility was dealt a final blow. It’s so easy to be nasty and cruel sitting at a keyboard, never seeing what impact the nastiness and vulgarity are having on the recipients of such missives.”

We could debate … with civility … for days and still not likely pin down an answer about when, how and why we have lost the art of true communication sans rancor, or civil discourse.  But the debate is rather pointless, rather like worrying about how the dog got rabies, instead of taking the dog to the vet to be treated for the condition.

We in the U.S. are living in the most divisive, polarized environment since the Civil War era, and the thing that is most lacking is understanding of the other side.  Understanding is not going to come to any of us in a nightly dream, nor is it going to suddenly strike us like a streak of lightening.   The only path to understanding is going to come through conversation.  By conversation, I do not mean the type of communication we see daily on CNN or Fox News, where people are constantly deriding one side or the other, name-calling and using phrases that are designed not to communicate, but to stir anger and resentment.  The only thing this type of communication accomplishes is to push the two sides further apart.

Not long ago, I wrote a piece titled Thoughts on Integrity in which I opined that integrity is basically dead in many areas including government, medicine and religion.  I would say the same for civility, only I would add that the loss of civility has extended to many other areas, including families, friendships and neighbors.

If we are to make a start at narrowing what I have referred to as The Great Divide in this nation, we are going to have to have a return to civil discourse, a return to kindness, compassion, a return to listening to what another person says rather than listening only with the intention of providing a response.  We need to listen to each other … truly listen.  Then, before responding, we must think … process what was said, and respond with calmness, not rancor, not vitriol.  This is not easy, but I think that the longer we wait to make a start, the harder it gets.  I too am guilty of this.  Words can hurt, words can anger … we need to choose our words much more carefully.  We must learn, once again, to be kind.

I’m not advocating that we have to agree with everything we hear, for we are not lemmings.  But there are ways of disagreeing without offending.  Our words need not be a personal affront, or target the other person.  We can, as one of my friends is fond of saying, respectfully agree to disagree and move on.

But I think the example needs to come from the top.  Church leaders need to remove the politics of intolerance and hate from their speech.  Politicians, our elected representatives, need to treat us and also each other with respect.  For a senator to refer to the people he has been tasked to represent as ‘stupid’ or ‘dumbass’ is simply unacceptable.  Every one of his constituents should be writing letters respectfully protesting and reminding him that he faces re-election in a few short months.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to freedom of speech, and yes, hate speech is protected as long as it does not incite violence.  Whether that should be the case or not is a discussion beyond the scope of this post, but it is up to us to show some common sense, to treat others with respect, to learn to keep our mouths shut sometimes.  Just because you can say something, just because the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to say something cruel and senseless, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  It doesn’t necessarily mean it is helpful or will solve any problems.

The leaders of this nation, both in Congress and in the White House, need to first set the tone, need to learn to speak without raised voices, without shaking fists, without name calling.  But first, they need to learn to listen.  How can they possibly manage the government that is ‘by the people, for the people, and of the people’ if they do not listen to the people, if they do not know the needs of the people, and if they view We the People as ‘stupid dumbasses’?

Is civil discourse dead?  Perhaps so.  Can it be revived?  Surely it can, but it requires the effort of each and every one of us.  It requires a commitment to respect the opinions of others, even those we disagree with.  And it requires that sometimes we be willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, we were wrong.  The ability to say, “I’m sorry”.  Think about it.

A few suggestions for a better 2017

My friend and fellow-blogger has some sound advice for us all as we enter yet another year … please take a few minutes to read his excellent post!

musingsofanoldfart

As many blogs have highlighted, 2016 has been the most interesting of years. My biggest concerns go beyond any electoral issues. They are the decrease in civil discourse and the increase in fake news and misinformation.

On the lack of civil discourse, we must start listening to each other and not just to respond. We need to listen to understand the other’s point of view. We need to decrease the decibel level and the use of name-calling and labeling.

The louder people are and the more shortcuts they use by labels show their argument is poor. I personally find labels to be a lazy form of argument to dismiss the other’s point of view. I have been called a tree hugger for this purpose, but I usually counter that I am also a capitalist to make that person think a little more.

On the fakes news and biased news sites, we must do a…

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Where Has My Internet Gone??? And Why Do I Care???

It is amazing and sad how reliant we have become on communication technology.  Monday morning, I awoke to find both landline and internet service was out.  I won’t bore you with my frustrating attempts to contact our service provider (or maybe I will, but that is a whole post in and of itself) to determine if there was a system-wide outage or only our home, but at the end of two hours it was determined that the problem was in our lines somewhere and a repair technician would be required.  The soonest date available for this was Wednesday, two days hence.

Okay, I have a cell phone that can use 4G, whatever the heck that is, to connect me to the outside world, so it won’t matter that all three computers in the house are without communication and I cannot connect outside with my Kindle, right?  Since I am visually challenged, the phone is a little harder to see, but with my 500x magnifying glasses, it is a workable solution as long as I can keep it charged.  No problem, right?  I have been saying for quite some time now that I am going to take a full week and stay off the internet so I can get some major projects done around the house without distractions, so what better time, right?

Okay, so first things first.  Maybe I should just try to re-set the wireless router … just one more time.  Third time’s a charm, right? And maybe if I use some canned air to blow the dust out of the trunk jack coming into the house … could be just dust, right?  Nope, none of that worked.  Okay … let’s get busy and … wait … there is a guy up the street who works for the telephone/internet company we use … maybe if I went and asked him … okay, forget that.

The upstairs hallway really, really needs a good cleaning.  I trudge up all fifteen steps, look around for a minute, run my finger through the dust on the mini-fridge … eh, there’s always tomorrow, right?  Back downstairs, I look at my laptop again … nope, still got that annoying little yellow slash across the wireless icon.  Sigh.  Okay, this is the time I would normally spend writing, during the quiet hours while the felines are sleeping off their morning meal and before my granddaughter gets up.  I won’t be able to post to my blog, but since I won’t be wasting time being distracted by trolling social media and news sites, I should be able to knock out at least two or maybe even three blog posts and have them ready to post on Wednesday!  Excited now … I know the first one I wanted to write, inspired by the story of the armed invaders squatting on a federal wildlife preserve in Oregon.  Now I just need to do some research … hit the Firefox button … “Please check your internet connection”.  Oh.  Yeah, that.  Never mind … I can figure this out.  Turn off the WiFi on the cell phone so it automatically goes to 4G, and it may be small, but I have magnification glasses and a small lighted magnifier.  Check.  Go to email, as I am sure to have a few news digests in my inbox featuring the story I am looking for … yes, there’s one.  Click.  Wait.  Click.  Wait.  Wait.  Still waiting.  Click click click … smack phone against palm.  Back at home screen.  Repeat steps 1 thru 5.  Sigh.  This is not working.  Let’s try re-setting the wireless router one more time.

Forget writing.  I know … I will work on getting some more music on the iPod the girls gave me for Christmas!  That will be fun … oh, ITunes only works with internet.  Fine, I’ll just go mop the kitchen floor and then read for a while.

This was how it went for two days, and the upside is that I nearly finished a 700+ page book by Tom Clancy and read part of another about Franklin D. Roosevelt and WWII.  But this whole thing made me realize how pathetic our reliance on the internet is.  I felt adrift and cut off, even though I was able to converse via text and chat with a few friends on my cell phone.  Did I mention how hard it is to type on a teeny-tiny keyboard and how much I detest “auto-correct”? I felt almost as if I were in a “time-out” being punished for some wrong doing.  How did this happen?  What have we become?  I was not alone in this feeling, as my granddaughter went through basically the same withdrawal process that I did, thinking that since she couldn’t get on Facebook or any of her favorite art sites, she would just load some games with her Nintendo points card … oops, afraid not!  I remember the days before cell phones, before the internet as we know it today, and even before personal computers.  We all seemed perfectly happy back then.  At least I remember being happy before I even knew it was possible to do all the things we do today.  So what happened and how did it happen?  Should we be worried, or just accept it and move on … until the morning when we wake up and find that …. GASP … the internet is out!!!!

I Am Jolly!!!

I am Jolly!

Actually, my name is Jill and most people, children and adults alike, know me as Grannie. Some call me other things too, but we won’t go there. My new name, though, is Jolly, and definitely not because I am always chuckling, rolling around like a bowlful of jello with a twinkle in my eye. I am now Jolly because my Syrian/Iraqi neighbor, Maha, deemed it so! Try as I might to help her pronounce either “Jill” or “Grannie”, it just wasn’t happening and finally one day she declared, “I shall call you Jolly”. End of debate, and I am forever to be known as Jolly.

As far as my pronunciation of their names, I got 80% lucky. The mother is Maha and the father is Ali … both easy enough, right? Then there are the three boys … Yousef, the youngest (this kid has the most infectious giggle I have ever heard!), and Ibrahim, the middle son. I can do both of those, having studied the Middle East and come across both of these names often enough. The oldest son, however, threw me for a loop. His name, written in the English alphabet, is Tholfakar. Once I saw it written this way, it got easier, but for the first several months I knew this family, I had only heard the name and I butchered it so badly that he finally said “you can just call me Tuny”. Okay, Tuny I can do. But still, I thought it would be more respectful to try to learn the correct pronunciation, so I persevered. Eventually I thought I had it … Dumcar! Maha looked at Ali, Ali looked at Tholfakar, who nodded, and I think they decided that was as close as the deaf old lady was going to get, so it was all good and for a few months I called him Dumcar. Eventually, they gave me a card for one of the holidays and on it were all their names. Suffice it to say that the “Th” is not pronounced quite like we would pronounce it in, say, the word “that” or “thought”, but it has a sound all its own that involves the tongue and the back of the upper teeth and comes out as sort of a hybrid between our “d” and “th”. And the “O” has a long U-sound. Makes sense. Since then, I try to visualize the written name when I say his name and I do fairly well. More recently, however, I found that when his Mom or Dad want to call him, they call him “Fakar” for short … now why the heck couldn’t they have just told me that in the beginning???

My granddaughter and I have been trying to help Maha with her English, as they hope to stay in this country indefinitely. Ali works, so he is exposed to English all day, and the boys all go to school, so they are learning quite well, but since Maha has almost no interaction with anybody outside her family and ours, she is coming along much more slowly. When she wanted to borrow a bowl one day, she brought one out and said “I need one of these. What name?” I said, “bowl”. Well, guess what? That “wl” sound that we take for granted is not natural to an Arabic-speaker. Only 4 letters, such a simple word, but we spent 10 minutes on the pronunciation and to this day we both still laugh when we see a bowl.

Being semi bi-lingual (Spanish/English), I’ve always thought that English was a complex language. I mean, in Spanish every letter (a few exceptions and qualifications, but the rule generally applies more often than not) has one pronunciation and only one. Certain letters in the English alphabet, on the other hand, may have not just one or even two, but multiple pronunciations. There are rules, such as “I before E except after C”, but more often than not, the exception is more frequent than the rule. Just looking at an “A”, for example … it may be pronounced as in “fast” or “shark” or “late”, to name a few. In most cases, rather than rely on a rulebook, you simply need to know the word and how it is pronounced. So yes, English is more complex than Spanish. But … ARABIC???? A whole ‘nother ball game!!! Depending on what source you view, there are 11 or more varieties of Arabic, not to mention regional dialects, and learning Arabic for an ancient, deaf American can only be done through audio or phonetic spelling, since the Arabic alphabet الأبجدية العربية does not even resemble the English. So, this ol’ Jolly will not likely be learning Arabic in this lifetime, though frankly if I were younger and could hear better, I would certainly try! Meanwhile, you may call me … Jolly!!!