Roseanne, Samantha and Free Speech

 

Critique does not come easy for me.  I try to be careful but truthful with my words.  I don’t like to be rude.  I don’t want to hurt anyone.  I consider myself a moderate in many things.  I prefer to look at both sides of an issue, as I know that circumstances can appear different to each of us. We all have experiences that color our perception of the world around us.  I’m one of those who believes in “being nice to someone no matter what because you don’t know what they’ve been through.”  When there is a bizarre statement trending on social media, I try to look it up before I pass judgment or share inaccurate or misleading information.  I have voted for political candidates on both sides of the aisle, taking into consideration which person I feel is best for the job. That being said, when push comes to shove, I lean to the left.  My reasons?  That’s for another blog post-stay tuned.

Today let’s talk First Amendment, specifically regarding Freedom of Speech, Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee and Colin Kaepernick.  I have never been a fan of Roseanne Barr or Samantha Bee, and I have had a passionate dislike for reality television since its inception.  I don’t care much for professional sports where the tickets are financially out of reach for the average family.  In my opinion, both women are the type of comedian who does or say anything outrageous just for laughs.  Reality stars are a peculiar bunch whose behavior is motivated less by real emotion than by the drive to affect the ratings and stand out from the rest by being dramatic or outlandish.

Samantha Bee’s statement about Ivanka Trump falls into the comedic arts category.  I think there were other ways she could have addressed Ms. Trump’s apparent lack of empathy for the families separated at the border.  The offensive word Samantha Bee used was not funny and did not advance her message, but the “wow factor” did get her media attention.  Should she have been fired? I suppose some might argue that foul language and off-color remarks are acceptable as part of a comedy routine. In the general population, some people use swear words like others use punctuation marks.  I have been known to unnecessarily spice up my language to make a point, but I am never in favor of anyone using disparaging statements to describe another person or to lash out at someone. 

Roseanne Barr, also a comedian, woke up in the middle of the night, sent out a racist tweet and tried to backpedal by saying she was under the influence of prescribed medication. There is an old expression that says, “a drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”   Is that comparable to a woman on Ambien?  I called out a colleague at work once for a scornful comment he made. He apologized saying that he said it without thinking; this admission on his part told me that derogatory thoughts were part of his belief system.  Had he been thinking, he would have filtered his words. I don’t believe medication, alcohol or Bipolar Disorder makes a person racist.  It is something taught early in life, and some people never learn anything else.  Should Roseanne Barr have been fired?  I’m sure she is not the only racist in Hollywood, but because she does not hold political office, she does not have the right to call people apes or fat or ugly or cowards or losers or sons-of-bitches. Ms. Barr doesn’t have the right to change the facts or make fun of disabled people or ethnic groups or even to say white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are made up of good people.  Although she is a celebrity, she is not the President of the United States and does not have the same rights sanctioned by conservative groups that the President has.  Instead, Roseanne Barr is an actor who worked for a family oriented business, and an angry racist is not kind of image Disney wants to be associated with their brand.

Since some in the media have linked Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee, and Colin Kaepernick, in the same First Amendment debate, I will address it here as well.  Colin Kaepernick, a young athlete of African-American descent, decided to use his position, his celebrity status if you will, to advocate for change in the justice system, specifically concerning racial profiling and use excessive force often leading to death.  We teach our children that one person; one small act can make a difference.  One NFL player “took a knee” to bring awareness to an ongoing problem in our country. He lost his job and was blacklisted from the sport.

According to a Snopes fact-check published September 28, 2017, former Green Beret and NFL player Nate Boyer, educated and advised Kaepernick and former teammate, Eric Reid to “take a knee” instead of sitting out the National Anthem in objection to current civil liberty violations.  The three agreed this was more respectful,  “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect…”  Eric Reid is quoted as saying “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”  The “take a knee” demonstration was a thoughtful form of silent protest.  It is protesting social injustice, not the flag, not the military or the country or whatever other theories are out there in the media. 

Divisive politics and fear-mongering have tried to skew the facts and turn the story around to question the integrity or validity of the complaint; to question the patriotism of protests in general. It is sad to me that the government has stepped in to coerce private companies to make employees behave in a way that is acceptable to the Administration’s agenda.   The NFL’s new policy about the etiquette during the national anthem is an example of this.  Last year it was indirectly suggested that perhaps the Administration should look into the tax breaks the NFL teams were getting since they were disrespectful to the flag and country.  Why these teams need “tax breaks” is beyond me, but that’s a topic for another post.  The point is the suggestive language worked.

According to Britanica.com “In the broadest sense, totalitarianism is characterized by strong central rule that attempts to control and direct all aspects of individual life through coercion and repression.”   I find it upsetting to think this is happening in our country.  People complained about political correctness, an idea that attempted to invoke fairness and open-mindedness but what I see now; is an agenda to make sure everyone is behaving and thinking in the same way.  This plan is based on one group’s interpretation of Judeo-Christian traditions or the Constitution or whatever else they can use to manipulate the masses.   

How does this change?  It changes when everyone takes an interest in being well informed and challenging the ideas that limit our freedoms.  It is disheartening to know that a significant number of people in this country stop at the headlines they see in social media. They don’t read entire articles nor do they cross-reference sources.  That’s why it is easy for foreign powers to influence our politics or how we look at the world around us.   It changes when citizens of this great nation stand-up and give a damn to research the candidates beyond the sound bites.  It changes when well-informed citizens get out to vote. 

Day Twelve: Critique a Piece of Work or Write an Opinion Piece   #everydayinspiration

Voting- A to Z challenge letter V

Blog challengea2z-h-small.

I was struggling with whether or not to use today’s letter “V” to broach the subject of Voting. Elections or anything remotely in the political arena puts me over the edge. It’s definitely an area that I tend to “self-censor” for the benefit of those around me. I noticed a couple of folks did use the word for the AtoZ challenge and so having participated in a rather animated meeting the other night; I decided to jump in and talk about Voting.

Full disclosure – sometimes I want to shake people who show such apathy towards the election process. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s sad to me that people don’t realize what a privilege it is to live in a country where each citizen is entitled to one vote – to have a say in how the country is run and how funds are dispersed for services. Voting does matter!

Originally it was only white, male landowners who were able to vote on the laws of the land. Through centuries of strife and struggles women, Native Americans, former slaves and other foreign-born were granted the all rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. This privilege was not handed to us but earned with blood, sweat, and tears -literally. If we the people don’t use our power to have a voice, the elected officials can take it upon themselves to make decisions based on what they think is the best interest of their constituents. We have seen referendums and laws shot down or put away because there hasn’t been enough interest from the general public. We have seen others put in place before anyone could appreciate the detrimental impact on the nation.

Don’t get me wrong; I get it. I happen to like this stuff, and yet I too get tired of the rhetoric. I like the research, the arguments, and hearing the candidates’ plans to make things better. I like studying the ins and outs of new proposals. I don’t listen to just one side. To know my choices, I research both viewpoints as much as can. I have voted for a candidate based on past performance regardless of party affiliation. I have become quite active and passionate about some issues, but there are times when even I’ve had enough and want it over. I think in our era of social media and cable networks, all the input can be overwhelming.

What I hear most from people is that it doesn’t matter because “they” are all the same. “They” are just out for their self-interests, out for the money. Despite what we have seen recently, I can tell you “they” are not all the same. Some have sought office with genuine intention to serve rightfully but then lose their vision fighting the uphill battle caught up in the bureaucracy. I have also seen men and women in office fight for their constituents as if they were fighting for their own family members. I do believe we play a role in not letting our representatives get complacent or stagnant. They need our feedback, our letters, our phone calls and our attendance at town meetings to help them have the pulse on what is going on back home.

I can sit here and tell you that one party is better than another but I ask you instead to love your country enough to take a stand for democracy and vote. Be responsible. I can’t stress enough to look beyond the headlines and the talking points in political ads. Knowledge takes away the fear factor. Don’t just “share” trash on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Research what you are reposting – especially if it sounds absurd or preposterous –even if it is sympathetic to your beliefs. Let’s not have a repeat of false information spread throughout the web as we’ve had in recent years. There are plenty of sites where you can do a quick fact check. Here are a few to get you started: Fact Checker, Politifact, Snopes, The Sunlight Foundation.  There are others but these have been widely recognized to use neutral language to prevent even an appearance of bias.

In closing, I ask you to check your local voting lists. Make sure you are still on the list, and all your vital information is current. Maybe you were dropped for not voting. If you need to register, you can do it online at https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote.
Know your candidates and ballot issues. If you can’t make a meeting with candidates, go to their website to get the details of their platform. If they have been in public service before, you can research their voting record at such sites as https://votesmart.org/; https://www.headcount.org/issues-and-candidates/; https://www.usa.gov/voter-research.
There will be plenty of information online and in handouts all over your city as we get closer to November.

Don’t take for granted what our service men and women have fought for around the world. Don’t just wave your flag on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July – make it count in November. We are part of an already great nation but WE THE PEOPLE need to step-it-up. We can do this!

The Red, White and Blue