The beauty and the curse of cell phones and internet

By | July 2, 2018 9:18 am

Democratic Dialog – By Debra Wines

I am constantly amazed, appalled, and sometimes amused by the videos that are popping up, not just on the internet but also on various TV news reports. We were exposed to a great deal of disturbing videos when people were protesting the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. Those videos continued throughout his presidency. Those same types of videos are becoming more prevalent since the election of Donald Trump. Yet, there is a difference. We are seeing more videos that openly display anger, fear, and hate of minorities, especially of blacks. We are also seeing more videos of the police dealing with blacks, and these videos are not showing the police in a good light.

On the other hand, people have posted a great many videos showing police interacting with minorities in a positive manner. We all love to see police dancing with kids and adults at a block party, playing basketball, jumping rope, and just being kind to the people they are empowered to “protect and serve.”   We all know that not every man or woman who puts on a police uniform is a racist or power-hungry fascist. The fact that we see more of the dark side of police behavior is not unusual. That kind of behavior makes the news more often than reporting on good behavior of the police or anyone else. I think we can all agree, in the news business, sensationalizing bad behavior or actions are attention-getters and are reported at a higher rate than the occasional “good news” stories that get reported.

The exploding usage of cell phone cameras has allowed the everyday citizen to become a “reporter/recorder” of anyone out in public. You don’t have to be a celebrity or a public figure to have someone record your actions. It has empowered those who are being ridiculed or abused in some manner to record their “attacker” and, in most cases, put the interaction on various social media platforms for everyone to see. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who seem emboldened to say and do anything demeaning to a stranger, even when they know they are being recorded.

In the last several weeks, we have seen reports of white people calling the police about the behavior of black people doing everyday, normal things, but somehow those white people suddenly feel threatened and feel the need to call the police. We have seen white people confronting minorities who are speaking their native language to one another in public, as if this is some kind of crime or something repugnant. There was a video of a white woman confronting two young women, one was black and the other was Latino, in a mall. She started berating them because their hair was dyed a color that was not “natural” for them. It made me laugh because she was behaving as if these two young women had no right to dye their hair whatever color they wanted. I realize everyone is entitled to their opinion, but seriously, to approach two strangers, and immediately start saying offensive things to them because of their hair color, to me, was the epitome of rude and inappropriate behavior.

This “problem” seems to be getting worse since Donald Trump was elected. I know I have discussed this before, and people who support Donald Trump love his “tell it like it is” attitude. They love his “anti-politically correct rhetoric.” They feel he is being honest about his feelings. There are times when being brutally honest about your feelings and making disgusting and derogatory comments regarding other people’s sex, intelligence, beliefs, and physical appearance, including disabilities or color of their skin, is not acceptable behavior for anyone. It certainly isn’t appropriate for anyone who was running for public office and certainly not an acceptable behavior for the president of the United States of America. Mr. Trump’s behavior and manner of speaking to or about anyone he does not like has opened doors for certain behaviors that were previously unacceptable in politics and generally in any public forum.

I can guarantee that every single one of us has made derogatory comments about other people, their behavior, their looks, and intelligence, either behind their backs, under our breath, or to others who feel the same way we do. We know that saying those things directly to the other person will cause pain, hurt, anger, loss of a friendship or, in some cases, loss of a job or business opportunity. We try and practice common decency, common courtesy, and use common sense. Most of us do try to think before we speak. We understand and accept the notion that words and actions can hurt, and I want to believe the majority of us do our best not to hurt others. We do try and treat others as we would like to be treated.

One of the explanations I’ve heard and read on several occasions is that white people feel they are becoming a minority in “their own country.” I honestly can’t say I don’t understand this, especially when our country was formed by white Europeans who didn’t take into consideration that anyone other than people like themselves would occupy their new country. At the time, they didn’t consider slaves as total human beings. They didn’t see any problem pushing the Native Americans out of their homes, especially if they refused to adopt the ways of white American settlers. At the time, they did not envision expanding the country into Mexican territories and taking over more and more land occupied by the Plains and Western Native American tribes. As the country expanded and times changed, people of different nationalities and color declared America as their home, too.

After 243-plus years of growth, expansion and changes, we are a country of people from different backgrounds, ethnic groups, religions, and customs because that’s how our Founding Fathers created this country. They may not have seen far enough into the future the effects the words they wrote in the Constitution and Bills of Rights would actually produce. Many immigrants faced cruelties, bigotry, segregation, and distrust by the dominant white population when they arrived. Sadly, that has not changed. It is almost as if each “minority” must prove their worthiness in order to be accepted into the exclusive “American club of acceptability.”

I wish I could say that we, as a country of immigrants, have grown up and become more accepting of every person who is not a member of the “original” white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant settlers. Lately, it has been apparent that those in power are not any closer to “accepting” anyone who is different. Mr. Trump and his administration have become emboldened to make those feelings and the behavior that accompanies those feelings “normal” and acceptable.

Some people are fighting back, using their cell phone cameras, the internet, and the media to shine a light on the darkness that Mr. Trump has encouraged. Those in the Republican Party that support Donald Trump and his administration have given him a free hand to continue this behavior with his rhetoric and policies. The problem is this only benefits the 1 percent or 2 percent of people in America. The 98 percent may feel the administration’s policies don’t really affect them, especially if they are white. Some are slowly realizing the color of your skin isn’t the real problem; it is your economic situation that makes us all vulnerable to the rich and powerful who run our government, not just our elected officials.

We have some tools in our own hands, via cell phones and social media, which enable us to speak out against the people who feel no empathy or compassion toward their fellow human beings. This includes the person on the street, in a store or restaurant, or in any public area, as well as every elected official who feels they can say or do anything to degrade another human being without consequence or punishment. We must also use the most important tool that we have and vote against any current legislator, or candidate, who lacks compassion, ethics and integrity, and feels Donald Trump’s way of governing is the path we should follow for our United States of America.

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