It’s a barely forged New Year. One in which I vowed to blog less about me, and more about the crafts, the history and the cultural aspects of our work. I’ve even newly defined my vocation as a craftivist, in my designer + writer + treasure hunter chosen life. But that term, a combination of craft and activism, includes my political side. Since the shooting in Tucson on January 9th, my focus has been riveted by coverage and commentary in our rapidly moving Media 2.0 world. I’ve marveled at the sheer wave of evaluation, some of it brilliant, some haunting.
It’s a watershed moment for communication, to relearn how we process the aftermath of tragedy.
The death of a nine-year-old girl with an interest in politics and an unnerving connection to September 11, 2001 is a wakeup call to our culture. Given the day she was born, she’d be more aware of history than most children her age. Is her death more tragic because she was born that particular day? Of course not. But out of 365, what are the odds that this child, “a Face of Hope”, would have been born on that exact day of national sorrow? There are no coincidences. The Universe cannot possibly scream any louder at us to stop this madness of hatred and vitriol. Osama bin Laden could not have planned our demise more diabolically: we are proving capable of destroying ourselves from the inside.
So, will we? This past week has been a rollercoaster of emotion. Anger at thinly veiled calls to action: people with influence who place target marks on a map of the US, tweeting followers that ‘reloading’ is how to solve a problem, then claiming not to be advocating violence. Words are tools, just like guns are. Yes, their effect may not be quite so immediate or deadly. But the “sticks and stones…” taunts of childhood have become the schoolyard of our political discourse. We as a nation have to grow up.
‘Most’ Americans are not aligned with these margins, any more than ‘most’ Muslims are terrorists. Many can’t distinguish between Fascist Mein Kampf of the far right and The Communist Manifesto of the far left. When we’ve been raised as consumers, not citizens, little wonder it’s so easy to confuse. What’s missing from our polarized society is education, compassion and the pursuit of common ground. But maybe that’s where social media can help. The internet may foster a freedom to speak to virtual strangers in ways that heal, “to sharpen our instincts for empathy“.
Then I took the risk of getting personal. Yes, I know that FB gives too many details of our lives away, but I saw that she lived near Tucson. When I asked, she revealed that she’d been within two miles of the shooting that morning, that she was a recently arrived military wife from a very different part of the country. Aha – how could I not have empathy for someone far from home, so close to a scary situation?
Perhaps President Obama’s somber appeal to the ‘better angels of our nature’ did lift the majority of us to consider this tragedy from a higher perspective, as did a president from an earlier divisive time. “…how we treat one another is entirely up to us.”
When Muslims in Egypt are protecting Coptic Christians from attacks, saying “We either live together, or we die together,” and Tunisians have overthrown a dictator to put themselves on the rocky road to democracy, we Americans need to step back from the brink and consider the enormity of what we have to lose.
Yes, I do think more carefully about what I post about Turkish issues on public forums than I do about American ones. I’d like to have the freedom of responsible dialogue regarding both my countries without the fear of being threatened or worse. We must “align our values with our actions”, if we are to deserve this great experiment called democracy, to honor our ability to speak freely and not use it to bash each other. “Government is not the enemy. It is our reflection” a wise commenter by the name of Martin Nyberg said somewhere in that deluge of words I read this week.
We are a long way from forming that more perfect union, but We the People have to keep talking…“in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”
You met our multinational Dialogue 2010 cultural innovators last spring in a roundtable discussion of hybrid life at expat+HAREM and followed their reactions to a polarizing book promotion. In this round they offer their thoughts on the recent shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona.
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More thoughts on this subject from my fellow hybrid ambassadors: