You Can’t Handle The Truth!

Decades ago turning on the television was a race at 6 PM each evening to host what would be the nightly headline. Of all the media segments, it seemed, as if all the major networks were delivering the same news stories injecting its interviews or overlapping interviewing at press conferences. There was an overall sense of trust in the media that the information we received was the truth without bias or political leanings. However, the most significant part of American journalism was that all people, regardless of political compass, seemed restrained enough to invoke his/her part of a discourse by not forming a quick opinion until all of the evidence, over time, had been delivered.

Today journalism isn’t what it used to be. Instead, the art of journalism extends to anyone with a laptop, cell phone, and blog to post anything or whatever they want without much need for articulation or fact-finding. The death of trust in the media came to an abrupt halt once the internet took over. American culture and society have shifted from print newspapers, magazines, and credible orators or writers towards an a la carte version of subscription-based or safe-space journalism. I would be willing to assert that our knowledge base of reporting only the facts and what was said rather than injecting our thoughts are perhaps a critical reason that the free press isn’t open anymore to seek an unbias delivery. It has become chaos driven by entertainment-based journalism so that media sustains its membership somewhat like a drug with adverse effects. Media, along with public policy, has shifted from a balance of compromise towards a social trust barrier that no matter how much evidence there is to support one thing, we believe the opposite entirely.

Social trust is a belief in the honesty, integrity and reliability of others – a “faith in people.” It’s a simple enough concept to describe. But it’s never been easy to figure out who trusts, or why

When America Online and CompuServe introduced instant messaging on computers, we witnessed the first-hand scope of what the future of news would be. When CNN began its cable news network and launched the scroll at the bottom of the television screen our attention was no longer on the actual news, but we suddenly became ADHD candidates for absorbing information without synthesis for what is fact versus bias. When Facebook and other social media companies began sorting how data would be disseminated and delivered to individuals, it perhaps then was the reason many credible news agencies faltered, and print media eventually died. Our confirmation bias began to shift that news media took too long or wasn’t instantaneous. Therefore, people texting, posting on social media (with video clips), and presenting its version of accounts must be the truth because it’s the first to break the story in a live format. Society no longer cares about the fact because there is no need incentive to becoming truthful by American standards anymore. Politics has created a deep divide in America that the truth is only relevant if you belong to “our way” of thinking or diplomacy.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.

Some may suggest that “all products have a shelf life” and are replaceable to the next new thing. The problem is that the next best thing isn’t actually our best delivery for the truth or truth. I would argue that our lives are too filled with news instead of stories of how to remedy the problem. As a society, we are entertained with emotion and reality measurements to either celebrate or vilify the images we see on our smartphone, in media, or splashed on a television screen. All it takes is less than 15 seconds of a story, and society has managed to make up its mind in an armchair jury fashion as if they have all the evidence they require. It is a scary indication of how humanity has suddenly reinvigorated the verso pollice as its measure to rate other human beings without much fact-finding or critical decision making. Our minds have become the outsource of anyone behind and camera, keyboard, or microphone.

If America or the rest of civilization in a globalized world intends to become diplomatic and end repression, hunger, crime and justice reforms, violence, and begin growing virtuous to all of humanity with equal effort. It must start to think critically from all sides and embrace an ear of understanding to become better citizens for all instead of self — humanity isn’t entertainment of suffering or scorn. Hopefully, we have grown mentally as a society since the ancient Rome days?

Pollice verso or verso pollice is a Latin phrase, meaning “with a turned thumb”, that is used in the context of gladiatorial combat. It refers to the hand gesture or thumbs signal used by Ancient Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator.

We Created Discrimination​

Many believe that prejudice is influenced or taught in the home. I suspect that could be a plausible argument. However, I tend to think that forms of discrimination are formed from particular events. I would cite such facts such as soldiers being deployed to Iraq and engaging with faction groups posing as soldiers. It could also be argued that military leadership paints a portrait of Muslim culture or middle easterners as radicals. We commonly hear and see this rhetoric often by soldiers displaying “morale” patches or scribbled helmet sayings similar to the days of “Commie Killer” adorned on cold war helmets.

But why are Americans suddenly anti-Latino or anti-Mexican? Immigrants typically embrace jobs that American youth won’t take or apply. Is it that unfair prejudice is actually our malice and bitterness is that they are employable while most American youth won’t take a moment to apply? It reminds me of the days where migrant workers filled American farmlands picking anything from cotton to yams far less in wages, benefits, and protections than the typical American worker. Generations beforehand worked side by side to pass on time treasured traditions ensuring that families would hopefully pass on to future generations. Eventually, those generations abandoned the hard and heat sweltering work. This the era of migrants to fill the slack left by younger generations to seek higher education or other employment means. It was American farmers that opened the floodgates to welcome anyone that would take jobs ranging from farms, manufacturing, production lines, janitorial, cooking, and other low paying or low skill jobs. Today we see job construction sites filled with not faces of the typical white or afro-American worker. Instead, we see construction sites all over America with a diverse mix of Hispanic and foreign workers. What I don’t understand is companies and individuals insist on hiring Latino workers while at the same time treat them as potential criminals or quasi-servants. It is as if the middle and low class of Americans have somewhat created the underclass of society that will work but ridicules that class for taking all the jobs available in the first place? It doesn’t make sense, but we use immigration law to argue about the legality of something Americans skirted the law in the first place.

When any form of leadership creates a dialog that a particular group of people is criminally prone with no facts to support it, then perception becomes a reality. Influences such as hate-filled speech lead to discrimination. With that being said, Latinos as a whole in America have been falsely criminalized. There are those that oppose such language but appear to be falling on deaf ears or silenced by the power of government influence. Folks, a lot can happen in four years during a Presidential cycle. But what has transpired over the past year has the recipe of leading from political divisions towards a severe civil war where the firestarter could come from the Latino community – and legitimately so. I certainly do not wish or want any forms of fighting. But individuals within society have a right to protect their integrity and stability that they refrain from becoming labeled or wrongly classified. When certain politicians decide to take it upon themselves to invoke religious scripture, then society may experience repercussions like no other they have witnessed.

A suggestion to return to some form of normalcy is for Americans to accept responsibilities that they habitually cut corners by outsourcing, allowing immigrants, don’t enforce hiring practices, and skirt issues to get ahead. It is somewhat strikingly similar where Americans would foolishly recommend that if African Americans were not happy with America that they could go back to Africa. Such exaggeration is not only stupid but a magnification of how and where discrimination and bigotry originates.

Every so many decades Americans disdain for other cultures publically airs its own forms of prejudice. Such recent events are when Japan during the 1970’s gas crisis began importing cars to the United States. 1980 were when China started to import cheaper manufactured goods. 1990 were when people from India began infiltrating customer service and high tech job markets. 2000 when suddenly Mexicans that had been here in the millions were decidedly a threat to Caucasian populations. Perhaps we should take a moment and remember that the melting pot doesn’t belong to any race, religion, creed, sex, or identity. Just because you discover it doesn’t make it exclusively yours. We are a society elected by people supposedly of laws. But when we create laws to enforce upon a particular class of people, then we are no longer a democracy.

People Are People

There is a time in our lives where meeting someone we may be attracted to leads to some somewhat embarrassing moments. That particular moment is when you approach someone at a bar or social setting and ask them out only to learn that they are gay or lesbian. Immediately the apologies and blushed faces are apparent where the brain exclaims, “I wish there were labels to identify who is who?”  Our obsession with labels or our own personal gaydar has become slightly problematic that when someone hears pansexual, gender non-binary or aromantic. It becomes a lesson defining moment sometimes leaving us more confused than educated. Even for the LGBT community, such labels create a learning moment. At least LGBT members embrace most anything thrown at them to learn and assimilate. It is a shame that same quality isn’t shared in the heterosexual community as a whole.

But when labels transfer away from sexual identity towards registered offenders, those on parole, individuals with criminal records, or just everyday humanity, then the labels become forms of weapons with mass destruction appeal. Often we hear of the stereotypical and somewhat sexist, racist or name-calling tone of “Tyrone, that black dude that looks like he was just released from prison” or “Chris, the guy that looks like a molester.”  There is no basis as to why people enjoy appalling and unpleasant descriptive values when attempting to describe one another. But such sarcasm spills over without defense from humanity to uncomfortably laugh at such descriptors. It is slightly similar to how Nazi’s attempted to label Jewish citizens by nose size, eye and hair color, or particular skull features. It was all hocus-pocus noise however people actually believed it – and some supremacists still do today.  Perhaps our obsession to label is a convenience? Somewhat like unofficial nicknames were given as a child that stuck with us. However, if someone has a criminal record, is a registered offender, or is a member of the LGBT community shouldn’t be the sole basis to stigmatize or label individuals. Doing so is not only wrong and hurtful but is nothing more than adult versions of bullying. The past is the past, but adults should learn to act like responsible adults.

I don’t introduce my friend Martin as, “this is my black friend Martin.” Instead, I introduce as “this is Martin.”   I don’t say, “this is my dike friend Carol.” Instead, I say, “this is Carol.” If an individual wants to learn more about them instead it is an LGBT or perhaps rumor that need put to rest, there are times and appropriate places to continue that conversation as long as it is respectful and allows open dialog.

Recently there was a discussion about how to label registered sex offenders.  This was perhaps a thorny issue to tackle. However, I strongly feel and suggest that all forms of labels that diminish the humanity value offer more harm than good. I suggested, “this is Steve” followed by “someone affected by the registry.” That way the conversation can begin if Steve is a registered offender or if Steve has a family member on the registry. But we will constantly learn that ill winded people will suggest “Steve, that dude that looks like a creeper.”  We see the postings and hear the noise all the time yet do very little to advocate or redirect improved language. Comedy is one thing if you are a skillful comedian. However, there is nothing funny about the misuse of labels and how it stigmatizes others.

Gender may create a bit of an issue for many trying desperately to become politically correct. First of all, there is no political correctness in the LGBT world. It is learned as you go because diversity knows no limits. The term mister goes a long way but can be interpreted as differences between LGBT members. However, straight men shouldn’t begin throwing the enthusiastic term of girlfriend around unless you are sensibly fashionable, have perfect teeth, and can recite all song lyrics by Madonna. I have discovered that titles should be a doctor, professor, queen, princess, mom, dad or other obtainable and qualified appropriate titles. Sure, the LGBT community does occasionally throw the term Miss Thing around, but in a lighthearted joking manner. The LGBT community is one of the communities that embraced people of color, those affected by HIV or AIDS, the homeless, transgendered, convicted, and registered offenders. Why? Because it was those labels and human beings that were shunned and abandoned as a second-class citizen. While the heterosexual community tends to forget its cruel past, the LGBT community continually reminds its members to not forget how we got there and keep moving forward. That is the real gay agenda to allow everyone to become inclusive and break down barriers that divide us.

There was a time where there was a gay club, and a lesbian bar usually separated miles apart from one another (because gay men could figure out where to put the pool table as it would take away from the dance floor). Today, the gay clubs are united dance clubs where people of all backgrounds are free to be themselves and sometimes experience conditions they never thought would be mentally possible. You don’t turn a person gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Just as you don’t make a criminal or sexually deviant. People make mistakes and poor judgments. Pay the price and move on. There are situations no matter how brief that people experience for themselves. Labels create obscurity of learning from one another. But labels are an eerie reminder of the pink triangles during the Holocaust. Never again will LGBT members be labeled and ridiculed by policy.

The musical artist Depeche Mode wrong a song called People Are People. The lyrics are:

People are people so why should it be

You and I should get along so awfully

So we’re different colors

And we’re different creeds

And different people have different needs

It’s obvious you hate me 

Though I’ve done nothing wrong

I never even met you

So what could I have done

I can’t understand

What makes a man

Hate another man

Help me understand

These lyrics from the 1980’s describe a time where racism, religion, sexuality, and only being different created a mound of labels. Perhaps people should learn from those lyrics as to become less obsessed with labels and more driven to become assimilated into a society that embraces and accepts them for face value.

Liberty is Fleeting

I am one of the few soldiers that actually patrolled the Iron Curtain between East and West Germany during the Cold War.  During that period I witnessed a divide between freedom and controlled environments. What separated two ideologies was a death strip filled with land mines, razor wire, metal spike crosswalks, and East German border guards that would shoot first and ask questions later. As an American soldier, I was proud that I didn’t live in a nation that habitually lied to its people, denied freedoms, embraced a one-party system, and would jail its citizens based merely on suspicion.

 

Fast forward today, and for some reason, I feel that I am in the middle of lousy reality dream. When I hear the President wants to build a wall along the border I can only think about how we spent decades, at the cost of lives, to tear down a wall.  Police are arresting people based on suspicion without evidence similar to how the Stazi arrested East Germans. Shootings or the use of tasers by law enforcement are often and highly questionable. Listening to our elected leadership habitually presenting false or misleading information all while dismissing the press is a bit disturbing and sounds like the days of Erich Honecker. It is as if we as a nation are told we have inalienable rights only to become the revised version of East Germany and the Soviet Union all over again. The recent United Nations withdrawal from the Human Rights Council should be a wakeup call that our seat of influence to the world has become an observation post where we have no real voice or teeth to promote freedom.

 

There was a time in my life where I could quickly recognize military uniforms and present a level of absolute respect and honor. Today, I witness police emulating military styled clothing closely resembling military uniforms adorned with ribbons, awards, and rank that were usually privilege and expressly used by the military. Overnight we have transformed our police departments into Soviet styled organizations and dressed police officers in military garb because it looks cool or intimidating. It is a stark reminder of civil service versus military service and how the two should instinctively be different visibly from one another. If police persist in wearing military uniforms and camouflage, then perhaps I should invoke my third amendment right of consent. Afterall, if the police want to dress up like military soldiers, then it is high time that this nation pushes back and hold those accountable that tarnish the uniform mixed with its stolen valor by using our third amendment right. The last time I looked, there were specific laws against the militarization of the police and adulteration of the standard police duty uniform.

 

Public buildings once the highlight of tours and open society have been quickly militarized with body scan devices, authenticated access points, and anti-ram bollards that have been institutionalized by a post 9/11 society. Former President Bush suggested that we continue to go about our business, but stay vigilant. The fear-based society of politicians and conspiracy theorist with no formidable data began the terror machine of identifying everyone as a threat. It started to develop registries and checkpoints such as no-fly, offender, terror watch lists, REAL Identification and so forth. These actions are no different than how the Soviet Union and communist countries continue to monitor and control its citizens today.  Specific controls are reminiscent of how Soviets and communist-based neighbors grew suspicious of one another by not becoming vigilant but turning into self-imposed informants. No facts are needed. Just a self-induced form of hysteria that something could happen is all to create a recipe of additional and unwarranted controls.  Lessons learned from history that showed Soviets and East Germans were taught to believe anything said by western media was false. The stigmatic message was that western news was manufactured to be a threat towards communist democracy; at least from their viewpoint. However, capitalism has a strange way today of acting similar to what communists claimed decades ago. Interesting that the Berlin Wall was meant to keep invading forces of the west out. Ironic that no westerners were ever shot for crossing into the east. Moreover, when the Berlin and Iron Curtain fell that unification efforts didn’t put nations into debt. In fact, it created a robust economic powerhouse where America is discovering difficulty in keeping up with the Germans.

 

As a soldier, I was taught and reminded of freedoms all around us both visible and invisible. I am told each time I see the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, that it embraces the embodiment of freedom from all forms of oppression. An interesting fact is a broken chain that lies Liberty’s feet. It reminds us that we are not prisoners of our beliefs or pursuits. Liberty became an icon of freedom and of the United States and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad that all are welcome. But with an impending wall on our border, immigrant children separated from families, using religion as a precursor towards public policy, or prison populations higher than most national census seem perhaps fitting that we return the Statue of Liberty to France. Apparently, we are losing our vision, integrity, and accessibility with regards to freedom and how this nation was created.

 

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
– Gen. George C. Patton

The Social Media Carousel

Following the news is much like watching an old-fashioned style carousel. While you may focus on a particular rider or object, there are plenty of distractions along the course of the ride. Decades ago our news was filled with somewhat credible and journalistic issues. Game and cooking shows could take our mind off of severe problems while soap operas would introduce a moment of drama to be shared with those that shared similar television interests. Naturally, there was Donahue or the Morton Downey Jr. show, which were the first talk show formats that included audience participation. Seeking tabloid journalism was as easy as standing in the checkout lane at any grocery store USA. That form of journalism was shunned but still a part of the gossip world. Overall the decorum of gossip entertainment and social etiquette is contrasting different than today’s standards – or lack thereof.

With the introduction of cable, satellite and streaming media content the world of news has become more of an entertainment value. Newspapers that once provided journalistic standards are barely surviving and slowly being replaced with opinion-based talk shows. Decades ago popularity of an individual could be solely based upon if you encountered a busy signal trying to reach a friend or by a frenzy of a pop culture performer appearance on your favorite television program. The internet and streaming media has removed the anticipation effect and replaced it with a 24-hour social media tracking device with special mobile alerts to keep individuals informed. If The Beatles would have been as popular today as they were fifty years ago, then JFK Airport would be empty except for the hordes of paparazzi trying to get an exclusive photo to post it on the internet.

Americans have desperately been trying to “cut the cord” to expensive cable or satellite television subscription services. Folks have resorted towards streaming media content or social media for what they consider as credible information with a feeling of being heard or connected. The United States was founded on the pursuit and discovery of freedoms. One of those foundations is the free enterprise system. However, that free enterprise or accessibility indeed isn’t free. What used to be free television with rabbit ears and a bit of tin foil has become an al la carte cash cow for social media content providers, television networks, and internet providers. If you want to skip past the commercials, be prepared to pay a premium fee. But finding credible news or events that impact community or awareness is now buried behind the Kardashians, Twitter rants or whatever was the buzz feed from TMZ.

Americans cannot cut the cord or change the level of dignity because we desire to keep up a war on something. It is embedded in our DNA and fabric as a nation to be fighters. We find it difficult to determine what we are fighting for and how to follow a particular platform. This is why politics is broken, social movements have division, and society desires to blend only if they think like me. We love to gossip and read about it. Otherwise, the National Enquirer would have been bankrupt decades ago. The risk of bankruptcy is local newspapers, libraries and the arts in general. Apple and Samsung will continue to profit because something new will be released to capture our eye. Somewhat like the carousel but without it ever stopping. We are all riders attempting to influence others to join us as long as maintain Facebook, Twitter, social media, dating sites, and receive our news from Apple or Samsung and its subscribers. President Trump has been smart (and I use that term loosely) enough to watch us all fall into the trap of “what will he say or Tweet next”?

Technology hasn’t made us any smarter or better multitaskers. In fact, I would argue that social media, television, mobile devices, computing, and other factors have developed us as codependent attention deficit thinkers seeking the quickest remedy with not credible returns. This is not to suggest to turn back the clock. However, it is a warning that we should tone down our rhetoric and use a bit more decorum, comprehension, and listening skills. Whoever is on television today will undoubtedly be on tv the rest of the week because the internet and subscription services never die.

Perhaps that irrational gossip-laden program can be replaced with random acts of kindness such as providing your dog or cat more attention (I doubt they watch television or play on the internet). Calling a friend or family member on the telephone (no texting allowed) and listening to them. Reconnecting with family and loved ones that typically hear from you on holidays. Sitting down with your favorite book or newspaper and that homemade cup of coffee that didn’t cost you $5 with your name scribbled on the side of the cup. Enjoying a moment of sanity in your world may bring you to the reality that you are no longer are on the carousel. Enjoy it while you can.

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