Posts tagged current events
The meaning behind the name of the industrial/ebm band VNV Nation seemed fitting for today.
“Victory Not Vengeance”
The concept that we should achieve victory, but not for the sake of revenge. Justice, not a thirst for blood. Justice, of course, is not a damnable thing when it is carried out responsibly. When crimes are committed repercussions are natural and necessary to achieve a honorable society.
For a decade we’ve been chasing the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, desperately pouring money and lives into a search — presumably for justice. Yesterday, justice was served and Osama Bin Laden was killed at the hands of a US military team. The death of Osama is a symbolic statement more than anything else. A symbol for justice, for the intolerance of hatred and senseless violence.
Of course, that is what it should have meant.
The news has sparked a wave of jingoistic flag-waving unlike any other. People have literally taken to the streets, celebrating the death of another human being. While I understand why this is happening, I can’t feel comfortable with it. Almost as immediately as the news hit the masses, a sense of justice was morphed into a sense of vengeance. It was surreal to watch Phillies fans jump into chants of “U-S-A” at Citizen’s Bank Park. Seeing clips of it, I can’t help but feel as if I don’t recognize these people. Yes, Osama’s death is ultimately a positive — but to embrace it with pure celebration as if the death of a man is equal to winning the World Series? Does that not continue the hatred? This was not a sense of relief — that an enemy had fallen and a symbol of hatred had been buried. It was a zealous, cheerful exuberance.
As a country we have always tried to claim that we are “better than that.” That we are above the enemy. We are a land of justice, a land of freedom and prosperity, not savagery. When videos circulated around the media after 9/11 of people cheering, we judged them as lesser. This, of course, wasn’t because of the hate directed at us (or so we claimed) — it was because of the lack of respect shown to the dead. It was because it was zealotry and intolerance. It was a celebration of the death, something that has no place in a civilized society.
The difference here, is that we see one group as innocent and one group as the enemy. While there is no doubt truth to that statement, the hatred it has the potential to breed is dangerous — if not precisely the goal of Osama in the first place.
A quote from Salon’s David Sirota sums it up best:
This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory: He has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.
We shouldn’t roll over — and the fight against hatred (and terrorism) is a just one. However, we shouldn’t be consumed by it. We shouldn’t forget that we are fighting to end hatred, not to perpetuate it. The death of Osama should signal images of 9/11 in our minds. We should remember that this man was responsible for killing thousands, yet we should also remember that his death does not bring them back, nor does his death signal the end of terrorism.
In the end, the cycle continues. One man was not terrorism. One man was not an ideal.
I’ll add more to this later. Just wanted to scribble some thoughts down before class.
The media has been buzzing lately with talk of WikiLeaks and it’s founder, Julian Assange. While the website has been mentioned by the media before with previous releases, it hasn’t been until the recent “Cablegate” leak that they’ve really seen any major attention. With this current leak, they’ve published roughly 500 US diplomatic cables so far, although they have plans to publish many more.
The media jumped on the story immediately — not reported what was actually in the cables, of course, but instead choosing to focus on a very different question: Is Julian Assange a terrorist?
Sound bites have been played on most of the major networks from various personalities. Some quotes focus around Assange being captured, assassinated or otherwise killed.
Yet very few seem to be focusing on the wires themselves. What do they contain? For starters:
…and this is just from me quickly browsing them (basically, surfing their facebook page — not even going to the direct site and sifting through them myself, one by one). Considering an extremely limited amount has been shared with us so far, I’d say that this is pretty significant news, especially to US citizens. Yet most of the “sources” I find regarding the leaks are outside of the border.
Shouldn’t things like an air strike that killed civilians be major news? Shouldn’t the way our diplomats over seas do their job be news?
Instead, we are being “asked” if WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization.
I wonder of the people that say “yes” would’ve said the same about the New York Times? Or if they would’ve considered Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo criminals?
It’s impossible not to draw a comparison between the Pentagon Papers and this leak. While the situations are different, both seemed to highlight government secrets, especially ones that were damning to those with something to lose. The Pentagon Papers pointed out civilian tragedies that were unknown to the American people, along with government dealings that were previously unknown. Cablegate does the same thing — though most of the papers do not directly contain information related to the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.
As anyone who has taken a class in journalism knows, the Supreme Court stood up for Ellsberg, stating that the freedom of the press trumps the secrecy of information when it is relevant. Does the information leaked here not have the same relevance? How about information leaked by WikiLeaks in the past, such as the infamous “collateral murder” video?
We need WikiLeaks because the government sometimes needs a watchdog. I understand the need for secrecy within the military and the government. Lives can be put at risk by some information. In WikiLeaks’ case, though, the information is not threatening lives. I honestly question if it is harming our diplomatic standing in the world. I doubt any other governments thought Americans looked up to them, and I certainly don’t think they expected any of it to be secret.
As citizens, we need to be informed of what is going on within our country. The sort of discourse that has sprung up from these documents certainly makes me wonder. I can’t honestly say that we would have gone to Iraq if an organization like WikiLeaks let loose that the CIA thought Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.
The fact is, quite simply, that information has the ability to make us more informed about the world around us. I would much rather live in a world of free data than one that is suffocated and censored. WikiLeaks is simply a publisher. A tool for the world to better understand itself.
Note: I just sort of wanted to get my opinion out there. I’ll probably add to this soon.
Isn’t it amazing what gets media attention and what doesn’t — and when?
You might have noticed that the terrible, terrible “Ground Zero Mosque” is no longer in the news. I guess all of that stirred up intolerance and hate is no longer necessary after an election passes… but I digress.
Considering I saw a story yesterday on the local news about turkeys crossing the road, it is sort of surprising to me that this isn’t deemed important enough to reach the general public. The internet is currently the biggest source of free, unchained information on the planet. It is possible to find everything from literary research to recipes and absolutely everything in between. One of the reasons for this is that anyone can upload to the internet and no one can claim control over it. Everything exists on the internet because it is allowed to. There is no censorship here, at least not at the mechanical level.
For that, the internet is great. While it has only been around in its modern form for two decades now, it has impacted our culture immensely. It gives freedom to anyone who has a connection to it. This vast global network has even aided in political elections and revolutions. Would the green revolution in Iran have been noticed if the internet wasn’t there? Would we be informed about what our military is doing in the middle east?
So then, how does a small bill to prevent copyright infringement threaten that?
Imagine for a second that a blog with political content, such as mine, posts a video of the government doing something wrong. It doesn’t matter what really, use your imagination — the point is that it upsets someone with power. Theoretically, it would be possible (using the powers within this bill) to completely shut my site down if any unchecked “copyrighted content” was anywhere on my site. It may seem illogical for me to have such things on my site in the first place, but consider that technically a song used in the background of a YouTube video is copyrighted content. It can only exist in the movies due to technical loopholes in the law. With enough legal fire-power, an argument against specific content could be made in court.
We don’t even have to go that far to see the possible impact of the bill, however.
YouTube, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Dropbox, Mediafire, Rapidshare and any other content sharing sites would either be shut down or censored strongly. Given the main proponents behind the bill, any websites dealing with torrents or file sharing in general would be completely decimated. What gives the United States government the authority to censor the internet — a global thing that connects hundreds of millions outside the US? What about the many legitimate uses for these services?
Let’s face it: Legislature like this is terrifying. Regardless of the wording, it forces ISPs to comply with the government in censorship. There is no sugar coating it.
The ACLU, Center for Democracy & Technology, EFF, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders have all expressed serious concern over this piece of legislation. Is it not telling to anyone else that this bill is being pushed through under our noses? Or that the original bill was supposed to sneak through in just 10 days?
Get the word out.
If this passes, we all lose.
I enjoy being able to comment on local (or relatively local) stories that get national talk. I don’t, however, enjoy talking about stories like this.
Last week a student at Rutgers named Tyler Clementi killed himself after being recorded (streamed, technically) having sex with another man by his roommate. This story has been covered pretty much everywhere by now and many different points of view have been shown. It is a tragedy that the only option this guy thought he had after being outed was to kill himself.
I’ve read many articles looking at the situation and I keep noticing that few people are mentioning the atmosphere of the society we live in. While everyone is very much in a state of shock and question now, they certainly weren’t a day before.
You see, I think the real tragedy here is that our society tolerates hate more than it does anyone who is “different” in any way. If you don’t fit into the majority, you are often seen as an alien — as someone strange, regardless of what your personal “difference” really is. Despite being in a country that is considered a “melting pot” we are damned slow to accept anyone new into our mix — and it’s always been like that. It doesn’t matter if it is religion or race or sexuality — if you aren’t the majority, you are often nothing.
On the other hand, if you are a group who speaks out against another group of human beings, we tolerate you just fine. We give you airtime on television, even. Just don’t be trying to stick up for those being attacked — if you point out that Muslims are unfairly being grouped in with terrorists, you’re un-American and ridiculous. If you feel uncomfortable when someone makes a racial generalization you are called “sensitive.” Oh, and of course — if you stand up for anyone with a sexuality that isn’t “straight” you are somehow politicized as an “extreme liberal” — because sexuality is such a political issue, right?
And yet, when a tragedy happens we all turn our heads and act like today is the day when everything will change. On this very day, people will begin to act civil with one another, we will hold vigils and protests. We will hold hands and sing, hold concerts and benefits and act like tomorrow the world will be a better place. Then when the emotional high runs out and the initial shock dies… we tolerate hate once again.
I’m not jaded enough (yet, at least) to generalize that “we” as everyone in this country. There are good people out there who don’t tolerate this sort of thing — and never have. People exist that understand hate destroys us and that ultimately, people deserve to be treated equally no matter who they are. Those people exist. I know they do.
But they are an unfortunate minority in today’s society.
You see, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei — the pair that recorded Tyler — thought that what they were doing was okay. Nothing seems to paint the pair as malicious or vindictive. They weren’t trying to get this kid they barely knew to kill himself, they were just having fun. A prank. They never saw it as wrong. They never considered it as big of an offense as it was. At least that is what their tweets tell us.
And that is the exact reason why it is so disturbing.
The image that was imprinted on these teens by our society was that this was perfectly fine and acceptable behavior. Once Ravi found out his roommate was gay, he thought it was great entertainment. Now he had a reason to keep streaming, to keep embarrassing this poor kid. He never considered if the kid had come out before, or if his parents knew, or his friends — or anyone, for that matter. He never thought about how tough it is for any sort of kid with sexuality or gender issues in society. He never considered any of that. He was never taught any of that.
And so a tragedy happened, ultimately because someone was different and someone else just couldn’t understand.
Sure, right now we are pissed, furious over how something like this could happen — but we will continue to tolerate the root of the problem.
We’ll tolerate hate.
We will tolerate (and give plenty of airtime!) to those who preach hate…
We will tolerate blatant religious hate and try to call it everything but what it is…
And then we will act surprised when some kid does something like this. We will all gasp and shake our heads, wondering how such a thing could happen in -this- country.
But it isn’t very hard to understand.
September 25th to October 2nd is banned books week — a campaign that primarily celebrates banned books in America.
I’m sure such things seem silly to a lot of people. Why celebrate banned books?
Well, because the censorship of information is something that despite our jingoistic cries of freedom, we still live with. Every year a list is compiled of the top 10 most contested books in America — and while many more are challenged, the top of the pack gives us a cross-section of what we (as a culture) refuse to accept. Unsurprisingly, homosexuality and sexuality in general are at the top of this list.
Of course, this topic also has local ties as this past year a book was contested (and banned) in a local school system as well as the county library chain. The book in contention? Revolutionary Voices, by Amy Sonnie — an award winning anthology of stories focusing on gay, bisexual and transgendered youth. While the book had been in the system for a number of years, it was banned after complaints were filed against it by members of Glenn Beck’s 9.12 project, a conservative-leaning activist group.
The book was apparently targeted for being “pornographic” and “pervasively vulgar, obscene, and inappropriate” by members of the group, and thus they wanted it to be removed from Rancocas Valley’s High School library. This eventually chained into the book being complained about (and subsequently removed) from the Burlington County library system.
While this all happened a few months ago, I feel like it deserves to be pulled back into the light, given the “celebratory” week.
First off, my support of the book (or of any books being censored) is not just to be controversial. We live in a country that praises freedom (or at least claims to) and thus no book should ever be banned in my view, for any reason. Great works of literature and culture have been attempted to be censured in the past often because a vocal minority cannot accept the content with the book. Lolita, Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Rings, Catcher in the Rye — and we aren’t even going back very far in our history.
In the case of Revolutionary Voices, the book was censured for a very obvious reason — because it depicted homosexuality. Sexuality in general is a firecracker in America because of how incredibly uncomfortable we are with the subject. Add in any “different” sort of sexual or gender issue and people panic and run to the streets. A woman was quoted as (I’m really not making this up, seriously) saying “We did it for the children.” Yes, these people wanted to ban this book to protect the children. Your children.
I want you to remember something. Glenn Beck — the leader of the 9.12 group — describes himself as a libertarian.
Someone who wants the government out of your life, someone who thinks everyone needs to mind their own business and that we should adhere to a strict interpretation of the constitution.
From the 9.12 project’s very website: “My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.”
So they apparently want to make you — the parents — the ultimate authority in your child’s life, but they want to do it by choosing what books your child will and will not read in the public classroom.
This isn’t a blog based around comedy, but that has to be one of the most humorous things I’ve seen in the past year.
Coming back to my original point however, it is clear that some Americans are not comfortable with the idea of sexuality in their child’s books — and while I don’t think that is very productive, that is perfectly okay. That is their choice — not the government’s and it also should not be the choice of a public library, especially when they are under the influence of a group that can’t even figure out its own principles.
You see, the problem with banning a book like this isn’t just that it violates someones personal liberties — but it also violates their psychological health, in my personal opinion. When a child who is struggling with gender or sexuality issues sees a book that was created for them banned due to “questionable” content, how do you think they will feel about their internal struggles? When the content is called “pornographic,” how do you think they will feel? Warm and fuzzy that some grandmother decided they don’t deserve the same shelf-space that the other kids do?
Of course, that issue was never even brought up or considered. For now, Revolutionary Voices is banned and it most likely will remain that way. Perhaps one day we will look back on it much like the other books we cherish today and realize how silly we were as a country.
Until then, check out Banned Books Week here and celebrate by cracking open your favorite censured novel.