Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Yesterday, students walked out of class.
Naturally, that would be cause for alarm, but this time it wasn’t. Rather, the students in this high school class wanted to demonstrate under a pouring rain their displeasure of the beginning of the ‘now’ President Trump era. As a teacher and man with an objective view, I announced my support of the protest with hearty applause from the students. When it was time for them to walk out, they did just that. I would say out of a class of over twenty students, only two remained in the classroom where I stayed behind and monitored their work progress.
Today I understand there are women marching in several cities across America, with more protests soon to follow. Get used to this ladies and gentlemen, this is the norm for the next four years (or more), but there is a reason why I supported the dissent and it’s something we all should take note of.
This country is partly founded on the right to protest. Think about the colonials marching against the rule of the British and King George. Do you think those early patriots would listen to supporters of the Empire (British) to simply ‘just give King George a chance.’ No, those Americans wanted their own country and moved forward with the actions we’re seeing today. Even during President Obama’s time in office, we’ve seen the rise of the Tea Party and similar ideological groups in massive displays of resistance. So may I ask, why should one ideology feel it’s right to march and protest against a president they do not like (Obama), but disdain those groups or individuals who don’t like this new president (Trump). Smacks of hypocrisy if you ask me.
The conservative base can cry and moan about ‘fake news’, how Trump is treated unfairly in the press, etc. Except we live in a time and place where a few strokes of a keyboard allow We the People to see the same antics used by their side for eight years. The progressives, as usual, squandered their opportunity by not sticking with President Obama and rightly so, lost their seats of power. They cry about ‘purity politics’ but when your base was as laser focused as the conservative base was in electing Trump, all of that nonsense doesn’t matter. The irony is, for all the marching and protesting during the Occupy movements during the Obama administration, they so-called ‘99%’ will face four years of which they deserve, justifiably so.
The students who walked out yesterday will be severely impacted by the rulings, statutes, legislation passed forth by the Trump administration. They will have four years when they’re of voting age to make the sound choices to select people who speak to their views and issues ranging from race to sexual preference. In the meantime, in order for their voices to be heard I nodded and allowed my students to leave. If you claim you love ‘democracy’ and understand not one political party has a monopoly on it, then you will also nod in agreement these young people did the right thing. The right to show your dissent peacefully is what freedom should be all about, the kind that is ‘free’.
Observing the lingering aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections, I am reminded by this quote by the great W.E.B. DuBois answering a question from a reporter from The Atlantic magazine about his ‘feud’ with Booker T. Washington:
"The controversy developed more between our followers than between us.”
Fifty two years later, we see the same thing happening again between supporters of Hilary Clinton and President-elect Donald Trump. There is one difference however; whereas DuBois and Washington to this author’s knowledge never ‘slung mud’ at each other, it is noted that from one side, (Trump) the controversy continues. There are all sorts of news (real and ‘fake’) that you the reader may peruse at your leisure. For the sake of keeping this on topic, let’s focus on what the ‘followers’ have done since election’s end.
A group of followers who support one side has engaged in a ‘sovereign state mindset’ where they have actively taken part in acts that can be seen as disruptive, divisive behavior in opposition to the other side who voices their displeasure over the election of one candidate amid a storm of there’s that word again – controversy – with involvement of a foreign power influencing the results of a presidential election. I would suggest the ‘foreign power’ played upon our prejudices and fears to make what they’re alleged of doing, possible. But I digress.
The polarization of America began much earlier than last year’s election. Instead of using what was called a ‘Fairness Doctrine’ to hear both sides of a particular issue – then let the public make their choice – our media airwaves have been smothered with cable networks, websites, other forums of information to gather people towards a ideology which fits their political or social views. For this reason alone, the biggest winners are everything Fox News related; the Huffington Post, and many others which emulate the two. We are all consumers to our political bias, which feeds the anti-intellectual beast within a few who believe their side is right, always right and everything else is ‘fake’ or ‘liberal’.
I consider myself one of a minute few who insist we bring the Fairness Doctrine back, but that’s nigh impossible at this point even in the digital age we live in now. With the plethora of ‘fake’ news blended with actual journalistic reporting, we will always have this ill-tempered attitude when it comes to our elections from now on. Even when the next President of the United States makes outlandish statements via Twitter, which the press feeds by posting them every day, we no longer have hope for civility in the United States at this rate. All we can hope for is that We the People decide to put a stop to the troublesome rhetoric to end and to finally become invested in the one thing social media and the comment sections on web sites cannot:
Remember this ill-fated speech on Nightline, thirty years ago?
Until that interview, I had respect for Al Campanis, who at that time was the Vice President for the L.A. Dodgers. The theme for that particular Nightline, and this is ironic, was to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s entry into major league baseball. It was very unfortunate for Mr. Campanis to express those views, but as Mr. Ted Koppel relives the events of that evening (which the clip has been played over and over again since that time), he reminds us of something we all failed to notice back in 1987:
“He was a victim of his own generation than anything else.”
The direct quote from Mr. Koppel says a lot. I didn’t find Mr. Campanis to be an overt ‘bad guy’, just a man who made an unfortunate statement at the time he said it. Sports talk show hosts, political pundits, even those who knew Mr. Campanis best have weighed in on this subject over the years, but Mr. Campanis was as much of a byproduct of his upbringing, the social mores that allowed him to foster in a stereotypical mindset of Black people even though he and Jackie Robinson were roommates according to Mr. Koppel. I think his recounts of the interview are sincere and we have to remember even though this is 2017, what was acceptable in 1947 does not mean it would be acceptable in 1987, or in 2017. Times change, people and places are not fixed and a return to this America would be a disaster for all of us.
Within the same calendar year, Jimmy ‘the Greek’ Snyder was a featured host on CBS’s The NFL Today. I used to look forward to his predictions to see whether the Los Angeles Rams could beat the Washington Redskins in the old RFK Stadium. He also made a few ‘questionable’ comments that have become unfortunately legendary. Here is the clip that cost him his job.
As you’re watching that clip today, you may be asking yourself, “What in the world did he say that was wrong?” He said nothing wrong, nothing overly offensive if we judge him by today’s standards, but in 1987/early 1988, that soundbite was offensive to anyone within earshot so CBS reacted to the complaints, the phone calls and quickly dismissed Mr. Snyder.
This is an example of learning how to use the power of free speech in this country. What Mr. Campanis and Mr. Snyder eventually learned as we’re now doing the same in our high paced social media connected world is that it’s okay to speak your mind, just prepare yourself for the consequences for what comes out of it. For example, you’ve may have seen and read many accounts of social media users type out an offhand comment about President Obama, only to be fired from their jobs once their employer found the offensive Facebook post or tweet. What caused these individuals to lose their jobs wasn’t a debate on policy, but a focus on his skin color, his wife, their children and not in a positive light. I have close friends who disagree with him because their political ideology is the opposite of his, but they use tact when making their views known. They don’t resort to the old stereotypical images of Black people as most would. Of course, if I found out they ever did that; I would have a serious talk with them. (smile)
We all have the power of the freedom of speech here in America and it should be used in ways to help encourage, inspire, and uplift. When it’s used to express views that could potentially hurt others, then it should be exposed for what it is. There are times in the clips above, the offensive person should be left to say what’s in their hearts. We as a public should decide whether it is divisive or not. Our rejection of their rhetoric should be the consequence.
Next month begins my twentieth year as an online citizen. I started using the internet as of February 1997 and have used it ever since. Encouraged by my aunt to go on the World Wide Web, I entered the world of the America Online chat rooms and enjoyed my time making new friends, associates and networking with folks who later I would meet in person. The chat rooms were various and plenty as I would frequent the Black-oriented chats, browse a few websites including sports and news. It was a great time – at first.
As time went on, chat rooms like Net Noir and Black Voices were often the target of punters – hackers who would come into a room and randomly kick out the number of users in it. For example, we would have a good conversation going on until I found myself outside the room. When I logged back in, I witnessed the prejudiced words on hackers who were annoyed there were chat rooms for Black people! I read claims of ‘reverse racism’ and ‘unfairness’ on screen but even today my contention is this: isn’t the internet free for all? To me, it doesn’t matter what your personal, political or social beliefs are, just as long as you do not infringe on the rights of others who personally wanted to ‘connect’. Before the topics turned sexual in nature, I would engage in ‘old school’ music battles, talk about movies, hold meaningful discussions, that’s it. I suspect these ‘punters’ who invaded our chat rooms kicked us out in the same manner these so-called ‘anonymous’ posters on message boards indulge in their racist tirades. They feel the freedom to unleash their talking points, their spew of hatred all under the guise of ‘free speech’. It’s different twenty years later where now the same punters and hackers who logged in from the shadows are now coming out – with a vengeance. They rightfully believe now as they do then that this country – and the internet is theirs. They honestly believe someone such as I am not entitled to the same rights to log on and use this medium. So much for the “I don’t see color crowd”.
Flash forward twenty years later to today. We have a president-elect who is a favorite of this punting or hacking crowd who may not share their beliefs, but they back him up every time he uses his social media to bully, intimidate, shout down opposition, even to his feelings. No longer are they hiding behind blank profiles or false names, they have websites that espouse their one-sided view, creating ‘celebrities’ of their own making. The internet should and is created for all. Every person who has an opportunity to use it, should, even those who have a different social philosophy than I.
During this year I will write about the different experiences I’ve had online and share a few stories with you that I hope you enjoy. As we’re about to move into an interesting time in our society, I hope we all understand regardless who uses the internet or not, even social media which I have a love-hate relationship with, this is a medium that benefits all of us no matter the color or your skin, your gender, or how much love or hatred you have in your heart.
The grand function of social media is to offer your opinion, and nothing else. It doesn’t matter if President-elect Trump or a wannabe 'troll' posts their thoughts on those sites. Even in a blog like this it’s just opinion, not fact. For those who are conflicted with the two terms, let me share this with you:
OPINION – a belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated with proof. 3) a judgment or estimation.
FACT – information presented as true and accurate. 2) something having real, demonstrative existence.
(Source: American Heritage Dictionary)
Therefore, if a newly elected world leader, a celebrity or a troll happens to ‘post’ or ‘tweet’ statements that are bizarre and make no sense, remember it’s only their opinion and not fact (unless they can prove in the same message they have evidence to back their claims up).
This is why the press fails, outright FAILS to do their job. Following the tweets of an elected official or celebrity on a social media site isn’t important. It never was and it’s not supposed to be. This is why I look in abject horror to see national and local journalists lead with a story based on a tweet, an ill-advised Facebook post coming from the heart of one unfortunate soul who shared their opinions about social topics, race, gender, etc. What they post doesn’t matter. What I post on social media sites doesn’t matter, what YOU post on those sites doesn’t matter except to build a ‘base’ of people who value said opinion and give a thumbs up to it.
America is a country where the idea of free speech is allowed, the right to hear whether or not a person is sane or completely lost all semblance of reason. When we as a society legitimize the ‘crazy’ without using critical thought, this is when we allow folks to become leaders instead of a common person offering their opinions. Social media is slowly becoming the death of us all because if one side cries hard and loud enough, their opinions slowly become what we consider to be fact, which helps no one at all. Let’s do our best in 2017 AD to use whatever reason we have left and distinguish the greater of the two between fact and opinion. Everyone demands to be heard, but not to the point where facts don’t matter but your point of view does. We need to become much better than this.