Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The United States Border Wall

We don't need to build a border wall in the United States. We already have one. 

Thousands of miles long, we have an invisible wall dividing this country along red and blue lines. Our border wall is constructed with an unusual material: it is almost impenetrable on one side and quite permeable on the other.

The permeable side allows people and information to pass through. Residents on this side of the border have contact with people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The danger, of course, is that exposure to new ideas can cause one's own ideas to evolve. This evolution has the potential to be disruptive.

The other side has been carefully constructed to protect residents and prevent such exposure. It limits contact between residents and people not like themselves and restricts access to new ideas. Leaders on this side of the border fear that access to potentially conflicting information may lead to cracks in the wall and those cracks could ultimately shatter the bubble that keeps their residents safe from change. For this reason, they work around the clock to keep out real news, science, and especially people that could change perceptions and alter preconceived notions. 

Of course, no border wall is perfect. Despite their efforts, #factsmatter. As it did in Berlin, the wall will fall.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Whaddya know?

A true sign of intelligence is awareness of how little we know. 

The more you learn, the more you know you don't know. 

If the converse is also true, then the less you know, the more confident you are of your knowledge. (Because you don't know what you don't know.)

In the current political climate, it certainly seems that those who don't know what they don't know also don't want to know anything that would challenge their assumptions.

And, those in power are happy to take advantage of that.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bubble Reflections

Happy International Women's Day, 2017. Fourteen years ago today, I was in DC for the first Code Pink March to attempt to prevent the Iraq war...and we know where that led. Meanwhile, it's been a few weeks since I've blogged. I admit to being utterly discouraged by my failure thus far to engage others, particularly supporters of the current administration, in a productive dialogue. I started this effort shortly after I rode one of hundreds of buses from all over the country to join the Women's March on Washington and stand up for women's rights (= human rights) and against the threats to our democracy posed by the "alt-right". And yes, there were significantly more of us in DC (and around the country and the world) than there were the day before, watching the inauguration of the 45th president.

Many of the women and men on my bus were actively trying to understand them, the people who are excited about 45. In my blue bubble, we saw the Republican nominee build a movement based on hate and fear: hatred of Mexicans, fear of Muslims, disdain for LGBTQ people, and disrespect of strong, confident women.

And yet, some of my own extended family live in the other bubble, the red bubble. They are good people. They are not haters and until 2016, I would never in a million years have believed they could support a candidate that is so inarticulate and  so offensive and continually spews such hateful rhetoric that his campaign was enthusiastically embraced by people like the KKK and skinheads.  
We are not quite two months into this very rough ride and into my attempts to understand them. These are my preliminary ideas.

People in both the blue and red bubbles have "confirmation bias" and seek out news and information that reinforce their blue or red world view, filtering out information that conflicts with that view.

But in my blue bubble, people are actively trying to reach out to and understand the perspective of those in the red bubble. In my blue bubble, we consume a wide variety of media produced by professional  journalists that adhere to high ethical standards, fact check their stories and sources, and rush to publish corrections if so much as a single letter or digit are incorrect. 

From where I sit on the third coast, deep within the "coastal elite", dark blue, urban metropolis, I see no evidence that red bubble denizens are interested in learning about or engaging with us. I find that depressing. When it comes to entertaining diverse perspectives, I imagine the people supporting the administration putting their hands over their ears saying, "I can't hear you. La-la-la-la-la." I would love to find out that I'm wrong about that.

Meanwhile, taking a page from Marketing 101, I've come up with three red "personas" based on my encounters:
  1. We expect 45 to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who will undo Roe v Wade and (even if I disagree with everything else he says and does) nothing else matters.
  2. Our team won! Rah! Rah!  Ha ha! 
  3. The scariest group (that I optimistically believe to be the smallest) actually supports the agenda to destroy the environment, gut public education, and make America hate again.
I'm hoping to see a fourth persona emerge: as the excesses of 45 and the power behind the throne become too much to bear for reasonable folks in groups one and two, many will move back toward the center.  Of course, for that to happen, they have to have access to real news and information. #factsmatter

What do you think?