Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Stand up to one

There's a lot of fear going around these days, and with it, a lot of fear-mongering.

Yesterday, I posted this on Facebook:

At the risk of inciting the ire of the Internet, here are some truths. Daesh (ISIS) are already in the US; there's not enough security or shoe screenings in the world to keep them out. Worse, we are bombarded with terrorism from our own citizens daily: school shootings, church bombings, people gunned down while sitting in a movie theater. We don't have the systems and controls in place to secure ourselves from ourselves, let alone from some unknown villain. People love to point fingers at others, to blame other people. It's easy to blame someone else. It's so easy to fall back on fear and hate to guide decisions.

Choose love instead. There are people suffering; we should help them. That is what good people do; they look violence and hatred in the eye and meet it with love, compassion and kindness. Those are the heroes, those are the free, those are the brave. That is how we win. We stop building walls and boundaries and we reach out our hands in peace. We take loving action. It's not enough to change your profile pic or post articles of support on social media. Open your hearts, open your homes and help those in need in real, tangible ways.

There will still be violence in the world. Innocent people may be hurt or killed. We may not change every heart filled with hate. The best we can do is try to overpower it with love and lead by example. The best way to win is to represent the opposite of the hatred and violence; be stronger and more powerful in our resolve to not give in to what terrorists ultimately want to create: a culture of fear and hate that they have created, in which they hold the power. The best way to win is with love.

Yesterday evening, I saw this posted on Twitter, and responded: 

Evidently, Dr. Scipioni didn't like to have his data challenged, because here were his subsequent tweets: 
So, because I cited a source with a different number of homeless veterans, I subscribe to a "that can't be" philosophy. I have pre-programmed beliefs. I am sub-literate. A pot-stirrer. A rabble-rouser. 

I actually found a few sources to back up my data. Here they are: 

I haven't found any sources that would bring the average number of homeless veterans on any given night to 3.2 million. So far, Dr. Scipioni hasn't provided any. I am happy to be proven wrong if anyone can provide me with data to support his claim. 

If, however, that data doesn't exist, why am I being called names for pointing it out? Why am I being personally attacked and called names? Why are assumptions being made about who I am? 

This is why social media is such a toxic place: the name-calling, the bullying, the threats are allowed to happen. Misinformation is spread without anyone fact-checking, and those who try to hold people accountable to data are attacked.

Why do we allow people to behave in this way? Why do we allow this type of behavior? Aren't there more of us that can keep our conversations civil even when we disagree? I committed the grievous act of challenging uncited data and somehow I'm the problem? 

No, Dr. Scipioni. You are. 

If someone you worked with behaved this way, they would be fired. If your kid talked to you this way, they'd be grounded. But on social media, we allow it. And it's ruining it for everyone. Aren't there more of us than there are of them? Can't we stand up and say "this is not ok"? 

The truth is, Dr. Scipioni could have responded with a citation of the source of his data. He didn't. He could have said, "Oh, my bad. Still, 50k is too many." And I'd agree. He could have just ignored me. But he responded with an attack and an assumption that I don't have the right to respectfully challenge his words. I believe that I do have that right. I believe we all have that right. 

So today, I call on each of you. Those of us that believe in civil discourse, even when we disagree. Those of us who love social media and don't want our spaces filled with vitriol and attacks. Those of us who want to make decisions and form opinions based off of accurate information. Those of us who are sick of being called names for standing up to mis-information. Stand up to one person. Say that it's not ok. Stand up with love to the personal attacks. Stand up to name calling. Stand up for the truth, and be willing to do the work to back it up, and be willing to be wrong. But stand up to those who don't want us to question, don't want us to challenge them. 

When we stop challenging each other, we all lose. Don't let intelligent discourse die because a vocal minority doesn't want to participate. 

Stand up to one person today. Let me know how it goes. 


  1. I'm seeing similar posts appearing here in Canada. We've had homeless veterans and homeless in general as long as I can remember and these poor folks have rarely drawn attention from these kinds of posters until there is a pressing need somewhere else in the world. Suddenly there seems to be an incredible level of concern for those in need in our own back yard. Not that I am arguing against helping these people as they surely need and deserve this support - and we could have been helping them out all this time. However, I am feeling a growing sense of frustration and upset that these needy folks are being used as an excuse to not help others by those I feel are closet racists. The underlying motivation I'm sensing is not one of "let's help out humanity" but one of "let's help anyone but *them*". I'm starting to see this as a sinister way of dressing up one's prejudices so that these individuals cannot be challenged on it. And I hate feeling this way as I try very hard to see the goodness and humanity in others. But it's becoming a war of attrition since these types of declarations are appearing with greater frequency and the will to be understanding and tolerant of these folks is getting weaker and weaker. Would love to hear your take on this and how you keep a balanced and generous perspective towards these individuals despite getting verbally slapped for your efforts by the looks of things...

    1. I think the best you can do, Steve, is to remain true to who you are and have faith that while there is a lot of fear and hate in the world, you don't have to contribute to it. I think it's too hard to take on people whose beliefs are fueled by prejudice because there are very few people who will say "I'm a racist" or "I don't like people different from me." People don't like to admit those things about themselves, so you're right...they wrap their prejudice in other issues like immigration control and national security. It's also hard to have conversations with folks who spend their days criticizing and critiquing, but who aren't actually on the ground, seeing the people in need. I'm more of a doer than a talker, but when I hear (or read) someone spreading hate instead of love and compassion, I usually do one of 3 things: ignore them because I don't think I can have a healthy conversation with them at that moment, engage with them if I think they are open to conversation and both of us are willing to listen to the other, or unfollow/block them because they are toxic and beyond reason. Sometimes I choose to engage and soon realize I misread the situation. Very rarely do I give up on someone. And when I start to feel like the world is full of more of them than there are of us, I think about the whole world, all of the people and laughter and babies and weddings and tears of joy and I remind myself that most people ARE good, flawed but good, and given the chance to help or harm, more will choose to help. If all the armchair quarterbacks had to actually play the game, I wonder which calls they'd choose to make.

    2. Thanks Koreen, that's - and you're - awesome!