Saturday, September 15, 2012

freedom and responsibility.

i find that one of the most frustrating things about reading the news on the internet is the comments section. time and again i tell myself "oh, if i read the comments section i'm just going to get upset" but i usually do it anyways, clinging to some shred of hope that i may find someone else's opinion enlightening. and this does happen, about 1 out of every 30 comments i read is interesting and noteworthy. mostly, though, they just make me want to tear my hair out, or never talk to anyone ever again.

ironic, isn't it, that i'm about to post a mouthful of my own opinions? which i am.  

i have had it up to here with people talking about the protests against the U. S. government in Egypt and Libya. admittedly, i haven't been following the stories as closely as i should have, but there are several things i  have heard about wayyy too much considering how little i've actually been focusing on the issue. 

1) the protests are ONLY about a movie/14 min preview of a movie on YouTube. 
i suppose this is the crux of it for most people. somebody made a movie where the prophet Muhammad is portrayed as a child molester/rapist/terrible person and the Muslim community is up in arms about the whole thing, so they have suddenly used this as an excuse to attack the US embassy (Libya) and riot (Egypt).  
now, i know we all have laptops and tablets and catch YouTube trends like influenza, but this is not the case everywhere in the world. no matter how "global" technology claims to be, the fact of the matter is not everyone is linked in to YouTube. not everybody has internet. most of these protesters probably haven't seen the clip. these protests are about our country's less than stellar foreign policy record with the people of these nations. they live in unstable nations with recently changed governments, nations that still have a lot of dissenters (openly and otherwise) and haven't figured out how to maintain a stable environment. healing nations-and hurting nations. nations that don't have bright futures their people can easily see. nations that have barely understood the U.S. involvement in their past, present, and future.   
  i've heard it reported that the tragic attack on the Libyan embassy was actually planned as a 9/11 retaliation (as it did happen on 9/11, did it not?) and actually has NOTHING to do with the movie at all.

2) the man who made the movie was just exercising his 1st Amendment rights.  
 this one is, admittedly, a bit stickier. he does have the right to the freedom of speech, it's true. yes, people have made movies about Christianity that were also offensive. on the surface, it seems defensible. and in a way, it is.  
  but you can't honestly expect people to understand this 1st amendment business all over the world. and once that movie clip hit the internet, it belonged to the world. and it was seen as American. through and through. does that mean all video content needs to be censored? no. maybe? what i am (clumsily) trying to say is that these people live in countries where they have much less personal freedom than we, as Americans, enjoy. they don't quite see the same separation between citizen and government that we do. they see the movie as a tool of the american government, or at the very least sanctioned by them. and its not a great thing for an already poorly represented US government to be associated with in the eyes of the Muslim community.  
 this man knew what he was doing was wrong. reportedly he even dubbed over actor's lines and lied about the script of the movie to the people in it. is he free to think these things? yes. is he free to say them in the united states of America? yes. is he free to post them on the internet for the entire world to see regardless of the consequences? one would hope not. additionally, if he really did dub over some of the actor's lines, i'm pretty sure it's still illegal to portray other people as saying things they never actually said, without their consent. even in movies.  

3) this anger at the US government is their problem, not ours. 
the few comments i have read have not come outright to say this, but they definitely take that sort of tone. "they hate our freedom" as i'm sure we all have heard. i'm not sure it's our freedom they hate. maybe it's the fact that we openly interfere in their regions affairs for political and financial gain. repeatedly. maybe it's the fact that their relatives who live here face open discrimination and hate. maybe its the fact that the U.S. government still has a detention camp in Cuba where the global community knows there has been torture of the detainees (their families, their heroes in some cases) and the U.S. government was hardly held accountable. is it that we helped get rid of Qaddafi but have not interfered in Syria, where the death toll is still. STILL. STILL rising. the civilian death toll. the bombed kindergarten child death toll.  
right now Americans are awfully focused on the economy, and for obvious and good reasons. but there are some other problems we have. and if we don't stop our fast and loose foreign policy where we only move when we can clearly see what's in it for us, our international reputation is going to continue to fall. and, as citizens, we will all be part of the group who did nothing to stop it.  
we're not just able to vote for President. we can vote for senators, representatives, and local officials. and we can get in contact with these officials. we can let them know that we're unhappy with what they're doing. maybe money talks a lot louder than we do, but we have to say something. we can protest too. 
we can know that after the protests and riots against the US government, there were counter-protests by people our government has helped. what are we protesting about? we are legally allowed to protest (peacefully) in this country. the economy? no longer. where are the U.S. protests over China and Russia repeatedly veto-ing UN interference in Syria because of their ties with the regime? that would speak volumes for the opinions of the average US citizen.
we can know that there's not just one kind of Muslim, just like there's not just one kind of Christian. and right now most Americans only understand the link between Islam and terrorism, not the links between Islam and peace. religion has been a banner for all kinds of atrocities throughout history. would the Crusaders have had suicide bombers? maybe.  
what are we saying about the upheaval in Egypt and Libya? 
what are our reactions saying about us? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

social networks and other things that freak me out

i would like to start this post with the good news (ok, not really. i would like to start this post by talking about myself). i have officially decided to become a regular at the coffee shop a few blocks from my apartment. which is something i've always wanted to do but been hindered by the fact that coffee just does not do it for me. i occasionally indulge myself in an overly-sugared (and priced) Starbucks frappicino but, honestly, I don't even enjoy it. and i am up far too late if i drink it after, oh, 3 pm. i think i'm being a bit snobby, actually, staying away from coffee for so long. but if i'm going to be putting even more sugar than i usually do in my body, i want it to be combined with yeast (get it? booze?) because at least THAT doesn't keep me up at night. but this place is reasonably priced, locally owned, and has a really cheap breakfast ($1.50 for 2 waffles!). oh, and free wifi. the basis of it's appeal. so i'm now searching for the perfect non-coffee shop "regular drink." today? blackberry iced tea. verdict? too much sugar. but it's a good start.

another nice thing about being a regular is you can strike up friendships with the other regulars. but that takes time, so far all i've done is make up stories about them based on their appearances/snippets of idly overheard conversations. i don't eavesdrop much but sometimes i just can't help myself. which leads me to a my rumination of the day-how invasive can social media/networks become before too much is too much? i have recently read a few fairly alarming articles about how much of our lives are accessible to other people. and i'm not talking about the quiet girl in the coffeeshop corner. i mean people we're can not see, will never meet, and probably don't ever think about.

 which leads me to scary article review. this began with my daily perusal of jezebel, a website for the ladies. and by ladies, i mean girls who like feminism and celebrity gossip with a touch of news. a deadly combo. anyways, the article talked about how the Taliban is spying on US soldiers by making fake facebook profiles of pretty ladies and becoming their friends. which seems like something they should be wary of but i guess not everyone is obsessed with their privacy settings and having to know someone in real life before they know them on facebook. anyways, the article mentions how posted photographs led to the destruction of 4 brand new Apache helicopters because they uploaded pictures of them to facebook on their smartphones, and those pictures had GPS tags embedded in them. our tax dollars at work. just kidding. sort of. our tax dollars definitely didn't develop a social media making us obsessed with everyone we've ever met (and plenty of people we haven't) needing to know exactly where we are, all the time. the money coming from ads posted on facebook and gmail and everything else did. we did. but why do we think we need to know this? because we don't. don't people feel weird saying things like "oh, i saw on facebook that you checked into the Spot on foursquare?"
how shamelessly do we need to stalk each other?
and open the doors for everyone to stalk us? you can't filter that out, no matter what they tell you. if you don't want EVERYONE to know where you are, you have to be careful.
and that's scary. my phone call tell people where i am just from pictures? i would throw it away if i didn't love it so much.
and that's scary too.
what is the alternative? what can we do besides put it all on us to be careful and hope for the best?
can we make a new facebook that actually doesn't share our private information with companies and whoever else pays for it? can we make our phones tell us where we're going (i need that Maps feature!) without telling everyone else where we are? will people ever be able to stop being seen as commodities and find a place where we can just share pictures, updates, and friendship without having our interests exploited silently? i don't think i should have to get rid of my facebook and iPhone just because i don't want to share my personal information with whoever's pulling the strings. social media has so many good qualities, and it can be such a useful tool to those of us who chose to ignore the fact that we have no control over where our information goes. but i also don't know how much more invasive they can get. and i am scared to find out.  

here's some reading for you, just in case i haven't made you want to throw your smartphone out the window of a moving car (a decision you would regret immediately anyways).