Saturday, January 4

Student (and other) activism: Not for the faint-hearted

I learned about Sophie Scholl around 3:30A several mornings ago when I couldn't sleep. For some reason I decided to check Facebook and found a post about Sophie Scholl, which led to a bit of wee hours research followed by more research when I was more alert and fortified by coffee.

I've done more reading on her and reflected a bit more in light of several things. First, the response to the Christianity Today editorial by Mark Galli.

Second, the response to the policy of a school in Northern Virginia which will allow students one excused absence for activism.

Third, the groundswell of response, both negative and positive, to Greta Thunberg that soon became something of a tsunami that has now become a tiny wavelet barely lapping at the shore. Which has led me to thinking about the ebb and flow of outrage that becomes indifference or limited outrage about something else that attracts our attention. (ICE? Immigration? Children in cages? Stephen Miller? Anyone? Anyone?)

But I have to start with the kneejerk reaction that some conservatives seem to believe that everything that is not in lockstep, a word I've chosen intentionally, with their way of thinking is "far left," "liberal," and/or "snowflake," or all those combined. Good grief! The way some of the conservatives respond, they are the snowflakes--triggered by the slightest thing that seems to be outside of their slowly shrinking comfort zone.

So this young woman, Sophie Scholl, began her activism while in college. She didn't seem triggered in the way its meant as an insult. She seemed triggered in a more powerful sense: her triggered response was one of outrage and action. There are different accounts of her last words--just before she was beheaded--but we do have this:
In the People's Court before the notorious Judge Roland Freisler on February 21, 1943, Scholl was recorded as saying "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just do not dare express themselves as we did."
"Somebody had to make a start," and she decided she would be one of those somebodies. And those somebodies chose to do so publicly. And it cost them their lives.

"What we wrote and said is also believed by many others." Yes, and we believe such things quietly in the privacy and safety of our homes and heads, where we cannot be attacked or shamed or trolled in a toxic social media environment. And that is because we often do not dare to express ourselves as others have.

That led me to think more about the editorial written by Mark Galli. He is on the brink of retirement, though some news outlets have written that he was forced to resign because twisting the facts seems to have become a journalistic norm for an opposing viewpoint. In October 2019, Mr. Galli announced his retirement effective January 3, 2020. It's possible he felt compelled to take advantage of the platform while he had it and perhaps being mindful of his own failings.

I should note that I found a piece by Julie Roys who published her own scathing article in which she seems to applaud Galli's editorial but then seems to want to take down CT, Mark Galli, and others because of their past hypocrisy, because she didn't get an apology, because she didn't get whatever it is she thinks she deserves. I followed up on her accusations and there is likely some fire among that smoke, especially with the Harvest Bible Chapel/James MacDonald connection. I don't dismiss it but I have to say that her outrage about Christians being hypocritical is disingenuous. Christians are often hypocritical. We are human and humans aren't fallible. I mean, look at so many of the evangelical right just now. They are hypocrisy writ large. Which was one of the purposes for Mr. Galli's writing in the first place, I think, And perhaps his own need to reconcile whatever is happening in his heart, which is between him and God. Or maybe he felt like his "somebody" moment is now.

So as media outlets are trying to say that Galli was forced to step down because of his editorial, on the flip side, digging through the morass of hysteria about Galli's non-resignation, I found an open letter from CT friends who affirm Mark Galli's editorial. I've also read that while CT lost about 2,000 subscribers, it gained about 5,000 subscribers; I'm not (yet) among them.

Let us now consider the school policy causing its own wave of outrage about conservatives. Starting January 27, Fairfax County Public Schools will "permit students in seventh through 12th grades one excused absence each school year for loosely defined 'civic engagement activities'" that might include marches, sit-ins, trips to lobby legislators. Here's the thing: if parents want to haul their kids out of school to take part in their civil liberties, no one can stop them. What this school district has done is acknowledge that one of the best experiences students might have is to really learn about democracy, about what it means to be a citizen, about what it means to participate in something that is bigger than themselves, about what means to stand for something. Shame on them? Nope.

This article notes that the district has already faced some "backlash online from conservative critics who charge the policy is the latest instance of the left coddling its too-liberal, too-sensitive youth." What are those conservative critics afraid of? And how dare they assume that these are the actions of "the left" and that the youth are "too liberal" and "too sensitive." Who is being triggered now?

And so to Greta Thunberg, who is going to be interviewing Sir David Attenborough. The 16-year-old climate activist says what's on her mind and for that she gets both lauded and excoriated. Thunberg is TIME magazine's 2019 Person of the Year. She seems to take that and all of the criticisms and snide remarks in stride and to continue the work about which she is sincerely passionate.

I recently had dinner with a friend and we talked about how we are reluctant to join any online conversations for fear of the herd turning on us if we dare to disagree with the crowd. That has been on my mind as I think about Sophie School, Mark Galli, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Greta Thunberg--none of whom or which are perfect, without any kind of blame, and without any degree of hypocrisy or failure in something or another--just like the rest of us.

That led me to wondering about what I'm willing to stand for and how willing I am to stand for it, which led me to, yes, the internet. I found this 2017 piece by Ken Wert: What do you stand for? It is a provocative question, and one I need to answer as I think about my willingness to express myself and perhaps be that somebody to say what others are unwilling or unable to express. As do we all.


Wednesday, January 1

This is. . . 2020

You've seen the Barbara Walters montage of "This is 2020" as she introduced the TV show 20/20. And you've been deluged, as have I, with the various collections reflecting on all the good, bad, and ugly of 2019--that which we should have seen, done, or eaten and that which we did well to miss. You've read and heard about peoples' resolutions.

For me, the day dawned with clear skies and a shining sun, which was especially nice after days of winter dreariness. I'm grateful for a new day and that the turn of the page on a calendar, the change of digits at the end of a year, can mark a new and fresh beginning.

January 1 always feels like a reset.

I marked the day with some errands, but also a lovely, long walk in the glorious sunshine, the air crisp and cold. Other than a few other intrepid souls, there was little noise other than the crunch of snow under my boots and the occasional call of geese as they flew overhead. It was a good start to the day and to the year.

Like some others, I resist resolutions because I know how easy it is to fall short within, I don't know, maybe 48 hours? That could be generous. But this year I've opted for a few resolutions and not just because I think I can keep them. I've chosen these three because I think three is manageable and because I believe I'll be a better person if I can have any success with these.

Herewith:

  • I hereby resolve to be as kind as I can as often as I can. I'm not talking about being some sop or milquetoast, but a genuinely thoughtful and kind person.
  • I hereby resolve to do my best with whatever I undertake and to try not to undertake more than I can manage. I can assure the second part of that one will be harder than the first.
  • I hereby resolve to be more conscientiously attuned to God. That one likely speaks for itself.
There is a lot of ugliness in the world and all kinds of ugliness. I won't ignore them, but I won't let them consume me. I won't make that a resolution because I know how hard it is to resist railing against indifference and ignorance as well as flat out, outright stupidity and ugly, violent, and cruel behaviors. But that means leaning more on my first resolution of being kind and making whatever difference and impact I can in my small spheres of influence.

So perhaps I have a fourth resolution and that is to resolve to be aware of and informed about the chaos but not to let the chaos overwhelm me. And if feels as though it's starting to overwhelm me and starts to grip and wither and blacken my soul, I'll go for a walk and rejoice in fresh air and God's beautiful creation.

And so the adventure of 2020 begins. Yes, this is. . .2020.

Thursday, December 26

Why I'm embracing "OK Boomer"

There's been a lot of media hand-wringing over the phrase "OK Boomer" and what it's supposed to mean and imply. Whatever.

I'm old enough not to be triggered.

An article in the Wall Street Journal states that somehow the phrase indicates irrelevance. I suppose that's one way to look at it. Good grief, every younger generation has done an eye roll at the older generation and every older generation has experienced varying degrees of mystification and frustration by, about, and with the younger generation. Right on. That's the way it goes and probably always has gone. Deal with it, people.

Not so long ago a young woman addressing the New Zealand parliament had her moments of viral fame when she responded "OK Boomer" to someone who seemed to express shock about or disagreement with what she said. The person who responded to her speech was identified as a "heckler" by our clickbait-happy media, though on any of the videos whatever the individual said can't be heard. We can only see Chloe Swarbrick raise her hand and say, "OK Boomer."

The Washington Post reported it this way:
Is that what happened? Did he "jeer"? Maybe. If what he said was indiscernible, how does the reporter know the colleague "jeered at her age"?

Was that "devastating concision" or just an annoyed "I don't have time for you" response. Other reports differ and I think it's because the media wants to make much ado about nothing much.

I agree with Bob Clark of the Smoky Mountain News who wrote that Boomers just need to settle down. Yes, many of us are not retiring yet. We still feel vibrant and a bit puzzled we're in this age bracket, and many others are like me and enjoy working. I'm still learning and figuring things out. And, while I have some issues with the younger generation, I have a lot of issues too with those still living and doing (and driving!) who are in my parents' generation.

So it has been and so it shall likely always be. Deal with it, people.

It's hard for younger generations to understand why we don't or why we didn't because they can't, won't, or don't comprehend the constraints in which we lived or how very much the world has and hasn't changed in our and their short lives. I have to laugh because, well, when they're our ages, they will understand better just as we began to understand the longer we lived and the more perspective we gained. It is the way things work.

I just read an article about 9 people who prove there should be a different perspective on Boomers, which is also the way of things. We see myopically--from our vantage points of age or youth, from the variances of our experiences and our expectations. Of the nine, five had direct impact on the technology that renders the younger generations the so-called "digital natives." They are the "digital pioneers" without whom there would be no iPhone, no laptop computers or tablets, no internet, no capability for Facebook, Tik Tok, or any other social media app. Sure, those things would likely have been invented eventually, but those five are the ones responsible for the technology world as we know it. What other Boomers have had and have an indelible impact on the world as we know it? For good or for ill? Well, that number might be hard to calculate.

What others also forget is how far and fast the Boomers pushed the technology and its capabilities so the Millennials could do what they do to push it even farther. And it's not as those Boomers aren't still behind some pretty impressive inventions, movements, and development that benefit not only Boomers but make a significant difference in lives of Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z and whatever labels come after, though most of those don't get the kind of fanfare the latest video game or smartphone get.

And Millennials have and will have their share of inventions, movements, and development that get little to no attention and yet have significant impact, just as Gen X and Gen Z will. It is the way of things.

I was talking with some Millennials the other day and asked them when they became aware that there was a world bigger than their own community. It was an interesting discussion. I asked, I told them, because I worry about the K-12 students I see who seem to have no creativity and little curiosity about the world. They seem to be most concerned about FOMO and FOLO, especially those who whip out their phones between classes to see what happened to others while they were in class though most everyone they know really should have been in class, too. Those students are among the reasons I don't yet want to retire; why I think, I hope, I still have something to offer.

In January 2019 I wrote about retirement because it is a question often raised to and about us Boomers. Are some of us leaving a mess? Yes, but a lot of us are fighting with those of us who insist there is no mess. Just as Boomers were often at the front of any wave of activism, Boomers often continue to support and often lead the way for change. Why? Well, we know stuff. We've lived with and through stuff. Many of us have experienced aggressions and microaggressions and either put up with it because we had to, or started the landslide of action that fought back.

And we don't trigger easily.

In the mean time, I'm going to get older. There's no way around that. I'm likely going to get more crotchety and less patient with the younger generation. Sheesh, there are times I already sound like my mother's mother and that's more than a little terrifying.

And like my grandmother and my mother, I hope to keep contributing in some way until I can contribute no more. I hope my contributions will make sense and be of value, even if only to my small sphere of influence. I hope my contributions will further influence those who influence others because, yes, that is the way of things.