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The burst of the blue bubble

I have felt useless contributing to the conversations following the election of Donald Trump last week. I haven’t felt the fire in my chest to protest, to take a stand, to sign the petition in the hopes that a loophole will bring Clinton into office. I don’t feel that those are actions helping me get closer to reality.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the social media discourse, it’s that it is an echo chamber. I have taken comfort in my blue bubble for many years, believing that the country was collectively rolling forward in progress. I take comfort in it now in remembering that in the light of electing a white supremacist, my circle of diverse friends and allies will continue to exist and advocate for each other in the face of the doom that marches forward on January 20. But alas.

The Wall Street Journal released an interesting interface called Blue Feed, Red Feed, a project that shows how Facebook reveals an entirely different set of articles and news sources depending on the political alignment of the user. To a red user, posts about “reverse racism on the rise as black Americans beat an old Trump supporter” hit headlines, while a blue user reads about “Hijabi woman gets robbed and beaten by racist Trump supporter.” Clicking through this site makes it clear just how different the world is shaped and seen by people interacting with different corners of the internet.

Back in journalism class in high school, I was asked by my teacher, “What is the most important part about being a journalist?” I replied that it was to tell the truth, and was immediately corrected. “The most important thing is to make money.”Part of the reason this is so is because nobody is paying for good journalism anymore. Smaller scale newspapers and magazines are underfunded and have to rely on sensationalist drama to catch a reader’s eye.

Seeing the effect that this sort of news bias has had on our election, I now believe it is imperative to spend the money to get good journalism. No matter what the cost. I would be willing to pay to hear the truth if it means that I never have to feel the shock that the majority of the country is speaking an entirely different language when it comes to the conversations around choosing our next president. Of course, election articles and polls are merely speculative until the votes start rolling in. CNN was wrong. BBC was wrong. Even Nate Silver was wrong.  Over at Carreon Thinking, she says “this era of weakened trust in mainstream outlets and in poor media literacy is troubling considering that Balkan teenagers can run pro-Trump websites full of inaccurate or misleading information that nevertheless generates hundreds of thousands of engagements on social media.” But I no longer want to be in my blue echo chamber. This is the time for Americans like me to switch to Fox News every once in a while. For Republicans to have conversations with their Muslim and Latinx colleagues. For the bubble to burst.

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4

The new Ellis Island

 

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With the announcement of the new President of the United States still ringing in America’s ears, some are left speechless. Others are left scrambling through the soundbites of the campaign’s promises, trying to see what sort of laws he will implement that could hurt their families, their citizenship, and their sense of inclusion. And even 6,000 miles away, a broken nation of people are seeing the lock bolted on the door of the country they hoped they could have called home. The escapees of the Syrian civil war, 80% of whom are women and children, find themselves now in the crux of a psychological war in the American mind, caught between those who sympathize with their genocide and those who simply don’t want to be involved.

“Because they’re coming into the country, they’re being put where nobody even knows where they are,” guesses Trump, president elect  of our country. “We don’t know where they are, where they’re coming, you’ve them all over the place. And for all we know, this could be the great Trojan Horse.”

This depiction of these fleeing families, much like the story of the Trojan Horse, is a tired myth with no roots in reality or lived experiences. The reality is that out of 800,000 of the refugees accepted into American borders since the rise of terrorism in 2001, not a single one has been convicted of terrorism. Yet every last of these new Americans continue to be feared and attacked on the grounds of their otherness.

As a result of this stance of inaction, Americans have watched and balked at President Bashar al-Assad’s systematic massacre of his people. The degree of this engagement is limited to exclamations of lukewarm sympathy on social media, feelings of sadness at the circulation of images of bloody and drowned children, but never a stirring of emotion to the point of action. Instead, the reflexive instinct of our country has been to point right back at the Middle East, insisting that Syrian neighbors aren’t doing their part to shoulder the immigrants. But two of Syria’s neighbors, Jordan and Lebanon, host more refugees per capita than any European country. On the Western side, Canada has a tenth of America’s population, yet has resettled double the amount the States have. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, has even volunteered to accept 250,000 refugees from the States, Syrians and undocumented Mexicans included, if the ban on immigration holds water this coming January.

The fear that drives Americans to push refugees out of our borders is not new-founded: In 1939, the U.S. turned away 900 of them, fearing that they may be conspirators or puppets from their oppressors. These individuals were Jews, and after they were forced back into Germany, a quarter of them were killed in the Holocaust. This is not to say that these two tragedies are comparable in scale or in atrocity. The point is not to play Oppression Olympics, but to say that the opportunity for the United States to intervene in the face of human rights abuses was present in both cases, and in both cases, the fear of the foreigner caused the country to turn its cheek.

This issue has often been split down partisan lines. Yet traditionalists and constitutionalists above anyone shouldn’t find it difficult to boast in the land of the free, the resurgence of the legacy of Ellis Island. But it seems that for many Americans, the lines of distinction seem to blur the farther the victims seem to be from the West. Suddenly, it’s not a human problem, it’s an Arab problem. This issue has been exacerbated every time media fails to delineate between ISIS and Muslim, between Islamic radicals and the peaceful followers of Islam. Thanks to this discourse, an entire religious group has been painted with a broad stroke of suspicion and mistrust, one that blankets the compassion for a nation of dying women and children that just want to live somewhere safe.

Pulling the welcome mat from our doors may ironically be the strike of the match that destabilizes our national security. Our compassion and accordance with global community in resettling refugees not only strengthens alliances, but also acts against the image of Islamophobia that jihadists use to justify their hatred against the States.

Regardless, such fear of ramification should not even be the basis for deciding to open our doors. Compassion, decency, and the practice of liberty and justice for all should be more than enough. Our country is only enriched with every new spice, every new addition to the melting pot of its demography. To go safe would be to be sorry.

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America’s Employees of the month are behind bars

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This holiday season, I finally got to enjoy the free time that I use to kick back and watch troubling documentaries about the state of our civil society, as I like to do. I was most looking forward to watching 13th, the documentary about America’s relentless incarceration of people in color. The movie is explicit in its message, which is lays out in a linear, chronological fashion, starting with slavery. As it moves through the decades, the director points at the ways that this institutional dominance persists through different means, from chain gangs to the war on drugs to the three-strikes policy, and finally to police brutality of black bodies.

Racism is an ugly streak on the track record of humanity, an example of the human race turning in on itself on very frail bases of beliefs. It has always been difficult of me to understand why discrimination and bigotry exists.

First reason: Once a pattern and worldview has started, it can be hard to stop. 13th defines incarceration as an extended pattern from slavery (though doesn’t necessarily explain my black men were targeted for slavery).

Second reason: This is one that we’re told as international relations students: in human society, it there must exist in a given moment a dominating class and a group being dominated. This is often used to explain why often dominating groups attempt to pit minorities against each other. In the 60’s mainstream media began defining Chinese and Japanese Americans as the model minority, by classifying black Americans as the “bad minority.” By doing this, America was able to wave away accusations of racism by using Asian Americans as case studies in “working hard to be successful.” Again, this is touched upon by 13th in the context of the war on drugs, during which Reagan racialized cocaine as a white drug and crack as a black drug, and criminalized them each to extremely different degree. Again, it doesn’t explain why black men are targeted as the minority in the crosshairs.

Third reason: I began to understand this one as the most convincing argument after finishing the documentary. Ultimately, evil begets evil, and the impulse for subjugating races of people is fed by the ever-present evil of … you guessed it! Capitalism. The need for profit, as we have learned (and learned again form the outcome of this presidential election) has always been held in higher regard than the liberties of historically oppressed people.

Companies have reaped huge benefits from this imprisoned labor force, some of whom get paid as little as 12 cents an hour to work for corporations like Victoria’s Secret or Walmart. The same size corporations are part of ALEC, the American Legislative Council, that works with politicians and lawmakers to create templates for laws. This undercover council is to blame for the “three strikes laws,” “truth in sentencing” laws, and mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders. Even when mainstream media is pressed to pay more attention to the human rights of these prisoners, the corporate proposal is to allow prisoners to be imprisoned in their own homes, under surveillance of leg braces off of which they could profit from once more. No matter which way you see it, there is money to be made off of putting people in cages. As long as there is a hunt for money, there will always be a manhunt for bodies to fund it. This documentary helped me understand the logic behind it all, though I found there to be no sense at all.