Monday, August 01, 2016

Critical thinking or just hitting 'like'?

I was unfriended recently because, I'm pretty sure, I wrote a comment on a  friend's Facebook timeline that respectfully challenged the source of a political story. I was very careful not to be inflammatory or tromp heavily on that person's cherished convictions.

My reason for even commenting was because I thought the post/link, about election fraud, sounded a little too much like propaganda rather than being factually based. When I investigated the organization that issued the 'study,' and read comments, and followed links, it began to look like one either backed by the Trump people or the Bernie people to discredit Hillary and the Democratic National Committee. While it purported to be a non-partisan organization run by a group of non-partisan lawyers, journalists, analysts, etc., there were no names attached to it at all on their website, and the DNC and Hillary appeared to be the only ones investigated and targeted -- nothing at all about the Republican election and voter registration fraud that has been widely publicized in the last decade or so.

My comment pretty much said that. I questioned the assertion that it was a 'non-partisan' organization.

Clearly it was not welcome. And equally clearly, I was no longer welcome in that person's life.

I thought about it all day and why it upset me, other than losing a friendship that while not a close one was a pleasant one with someone I thought highly of.

And I figured it out: it is the lack of evidence of any critical thinking -- and it doesn't just extend to this particular post and 'study,' but to all such social media posts that claim a candidate or organization did/said/stole/lied in some very authoritative and absolutist language with very little supporting evidence cited when you actually read the story. Often the 'study' is reported by a site that is widely known to have a left or right or special interest bias.

I'd venture to say that many -- if not most -- Facebook users hit "Like" or "Share" based on the incendiary headline without even READING the whole article!

How many actually research it and look for sources, reputable sources, with a truly non-partisan point of view, sources which actually strive to present both sides of the story instead of wildly slanting whatever thin strands of 'evidence' might be there? Anyone? Even a little bit?

Well, I do. I was raised to think, to ask questions (conversations around our dinner table were often quite lively). As a journalist, I was trained to provide both points of view in a story, or else label the story as editorial, not as news. As an English major, I was expected to learn critical literary analysis. As a liberal arts major, I was required to sample different philosophies and disciplines, and taught how to examine them and draw my own conclusions based on evidence provided.

Is that even taught in our schools anymore?  Are we giving our children data and expecting nothing more out of them than to regurgitate it on tests? Do we have discussions about politics or religion or social issues within our groups of family and friends without rancorous judgment and angry disagreement? Does anyone remember how to disagree respectfully?

I think not, at least based on what I am reading and seeing on social media and in the news and newspapers.

And yes, I do watch the news, I do read newspapers and blogs and magazines. I have heard many of those who post on Facebook claim that they 'never' watch the news -- too biased -- but rely instead on Facebook groups to get the 'real' story.


These groups are not unbiased. They present a particular point of view. If you don't balance it out by also reading groups who present a different viewpoint, you are not getting 'the real story.'

No one likes having a dearly held belief challenged, political or religious or social. But if you respond by refusing to consider any other evidence, if you continue to wear blinders and steadfastly forge ahead without considering what else may be waiting just outside your narrow tunnel vision, you risk losing much, much more.

 I'm sorry that I lost a friend over politics. I'm sorry that this person didn't value our relationship enough to just block my posts but keep me as a friend -- as I have done over the last two elections with some of my friends and relatives.

But I am not sorry for speaking up -- although I pretty much have decided that for this election, I am simply going to vote my convictions rather than ballyhoo them on Facebook, hard as it may be. You may hold me accountable to that.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Women! Are you really going to stand for this?

Donald Trump said out loud and very publicly this week what the Republicans have pussy-footed around saying (through enacting and proposing and supporting anti-reproductive rights legislation) for years:

    Women who have abortions should be punished.

and while he may not have said it in these exact words, what he meant was:

    Women should not be allowed to determine what medical procedures are performed or medications prescribed when it comes to their reproductive systems.

     Women's lives are not important when a  fertilized egg is growing in a uterus. That group of cells takes priority over any medical, emotional, or spiritual needs of the woman.

    If women think they can get away with acting in their own best interests on anything relating to reproductive rights, they better think again, because WE WILL COME AFTER THEM. 

It's been all over the news, and many groups (including some of the Repubs) have responded in shock and dismay.

But all you have to do is to look at the state of reproductive health legislation in this country to know that Trump has just voiced exactly what the majority of our Republican legislators (both federal and state), and not just a few Democrats, alas, really think.

That's what Trump has done throughout his bombastic and unprecedented presidential campaign on many topics, not just this one, actually. He has openly voiced what is not politically correct or acceptable to say. (And I am NOT defending him on this.)  The maybe-not-quite-voiced conclusions? Women (and minorities, Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants) should NOT be treated equally. They are not worthy, they are not as good as (white Christian) men, they do not deserve equal pay for equal work, they cannot and should not be allowed to determine what happens to their own bodies. But we support women, they say the bedroom, the kitchen, the nursery, the classroom, as nurses and caretakers...not in the executive offices, as decision makers, as innovators, as doctors or lawyers....

But Trump and all the other presidential campaign candidates and associated events are not the real subject of this particular blog post.

THIS is:
What I do not understand (and haven't, really, for years) is WHY the women of this country are allowing Trump and the lawmakers who believe and say these things about women's reproductive rights to get away with it?

WHY are you not protesting and actively campaigning to defeat candidates who would take away this very personal, very basic right of an individual to determine her own medical treatment and options?

WHY are you silent when state after state after state limits access to safe and effective and LEGAL access to birth control and wellness checkups and medication and mammogram screenings and reproductive cancer screenings, and yes, abortion?

WHY do you believe that a group of mostly men, mostly older, should determine how, if, and when you receive medical care and medications as it relates to your reproductive organs?

WHY on earth would you believe that ANYone, ANY organization, ANY group, ANY law, has the RIGHT to tell you what you can and cannot do about your body?

I remember when effective birth control was not readily available. I remember when abortion was not legal and thousands of women were helped by an underground network of clergy, doctors, lawyers, and others to receive what we all hoped would be safe abortions. I remember women who died from illegal, botched, kitchen table procedures, who were rendered sterile or maimed because of desperate do-it-yourself coat hanger and knitting needle attempts.

I supported and worked for safe and legal abortion, for access to birth control and reproductive counseling and medical tests and wellness procedures. Planned Parenthood was a godsend for millions of women then, and continues -- even though it has been so hobbled by the untruths and vicious lies that have been spread this last year -- to do so now. I lobbied on Capital Hill and in the Missouri legislature. I wrote letters and gave interviews and marched in picket lines and parades. I was then and continue to be PRO-CHOICE, even though my reproductive days are long over.

So where are you, Millennials and Generation X and Generation Z? 

What are you doing to ensure that these rights stay legal and accessible?

What are you going to do when our presidential candidates tell you that women who have abortions should be punished?

Do you not understand that your access to safe and legal abortion is under attack -- and is dwindling?

Do you not understand that your access to safe and effective birth control is under attack...and being curtailed?

Do you not understand that your right to make medical decisions for yourself is already limited and is likely to be even more so?

How can you not care?


Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana
Read more at:
 “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~ George Santayana in The Life of Reason, 1905.

“People are always quick to call evil what they do not know. The unknown sprouts fear. It spreads like an infection, burrowing into every facet of their lives. They need a scapegoat, someone to blame. Fingers are pointed, accusations are made, and a target lands on somebody’s back. They grow angry. They turn violent.
To history, human nature must be a stubborn and tiring student. No matter how many times history tries to show it the error of its ways, it never learns from its mistakes.”
Kelseyleigh Reber, If I Resist

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana
Read more at:
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana
Read more at:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A note to my United States Postal Carrier

Dear Thin Lady with the Hoodie who stands at our subdivision mailboxes peering intently at the letters in your hand:

Please go find another job.
This is not working for us. It can't be working very well for you, either, based on the conversation I had with our postmaster one day last week, and a mail supervisor the day before. And honestly, I'm working up to another conversation with the postmaster about the quality of our mail delivery service.  (I learned also that mine was among MANY complaints received in recent weeks, so this is not new.)

I know the current carriers are training you so that they can have a little time off from their current six-day-a-week delivery schedule. I talked to your aunt. She was not helpful. She said, "I'm doing the best I can."

It isn't enough.

You actually have a handbook that describes in detail the requirements of your job as a rural postal carrier. There is a lot to learn and a great deal of reporting accountability, and I can certainly see where aspects of the job are difficult to remember.

But when you get it all together, your job is to deliver the correct mail to the address on the package/envelope, and not put it in someone else's box. You are not doing that very well. If you are dyslexic, then find a job that doesn't require you to read numbers and letters with complete accuracy.  It isn't this one.

Twice in the last two weeks, I have had packages placed in others' mailboxes (and I'm wondering now about things expected over the last few months but never received). You had no way of knowing what was inside: it could have been a priceless heirloom, a birthday gift, prescription medication, a freebie giveaway. IT DOESN'T MATTER what was inside: your job is to deliver the mail to the address. You failed to do that.

In one case, my neighbor/friend called to tell me about it, and I retrieved the package from him. In the other, it was left in someone's box who I don't know well, and it was retrieved by a Postal Service supervisor who came out to the subdivision boxes after I went to the post office to find out what to do, since the package sender had called to make sure I'd received it and was able to track it as having been placed in the parcel locker. The supervisor opened the main panel of the mailboxes and searched through all the individual slots until he found my package which, despite having been delivered the previous day, was thankfully still in the individual's locker box.

I'd really like to believe that the person in whose box it was placed would have notified me or returned it to the Post Office or left it in the box with a note that said "Misdelivered." That's what I would do.  But what if they didn't? What if it was medication that they could steal or sell? Or financial account information that could be used for identify theft? A check that could be cashed? Government documents that could jeopardize a person's medical or legal benefits? Are we going to find stacks of mail behind a dumpster that you just didn't have time to delivery properly? Yikes.
YOU are liable and responsible, missy, just as much as the person who receives mail not intended for them.

You have a solemn and clear responsibility to deliver the mail only to the person to whom it is addressed, and you did not do that. I'm now waiting on a report from my doctor who told me it was mailed last week, and then again on Tuesday. Not here yet. We'll see if it comes tomorrow. (And of course I will check with the doctor before I head for the Post Office.)

Mail delivery is not just a job, it is a trust, a contract, between the sender and the carrier to get it to where it needs to go. I have great respect for the US Postal Service for doing an immense job correctly most of the time, and I am amazed that it goes as well as it does. But you're a weak link here, and it sounds as though you've had adequate time to learn the process. Please find something else to do, for both our sakes. Because I won't stop complaining until it's right.

No excuses

Not really. My intentions to post daily with the Reverb 15 prompts were totally positive. But stuff happens, and intentions sometimes are put aside for other things.

So some three months later, and here I am again, thank you, God/dess.