Celebrate America–by Remembering Philando Castile

Philando Castile died two days after Independence Day, July 6, 2016. Shot to death in his car, in a traffic stop in Minnesota, in front of his girlfriend and her young daughter, by a police officer who later swore he was in fear of his life. One year later, in July 2017, the officer was acquitted by a jury containing men and women of different races.

Courtesy Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, via Wikimedia Commons

 This is not a post about guns, shooting, police, or even Black Lives Matter. This is a post about love. This is a signpost, showing a way forward.

According to a story by Michelle Krupa of CNN in March of this year, Philando’s legacy is still alive, helping children the way he used to, when he worked as a custodian at a public school in St. Paul:

One by one.That’s how Philando Castile, who was killed by a police officer during a 2016 traffic stop, used to help kids who couldn’t afford lunch. The school nutrition supervisor would dip into his pocket and pay the bill.

Now a charity run in his name has multiplied his mission by thousands, wiping out the lunch debt of every student at all 56 schools in Minnesota’s St. Paul Public Schools, where Castile worked.
“That means that no parent of the 37,000 kids who eat meals at school need worry about how to pay that overdue debt,” according to a post at the YouCaring fundraising page Philando Feeds the Children. “Philando is STILL reaching into his pocket, and helping a kid out. One by one.”
This July 4th, I’m going to celebrate my country, which I love, as much as anything, for its ability to rise from its own evil–slavery–and become better. And I’m going to remember Philando Castile, who died because the legacy of slavery has legitimized the idea of a black man being scary, even as he sits in his car with his family. I’m going to celebrate the fact that an American like Philando, held to one of the lowest jobs, chose to help children the way we all want adults to help children.
God bless America. God bless the example of Philando Castile. Let’s make ourselves and our country better.

 

Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline: Wow, Media, Could You Be More Obvious?

I’m pretty late to the controversy surrounding the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. But now that I’m trying to learn more about it, I gotta say–Bravo, Mainstream Media. You’ve outdone yourselves. Even CNN is running a pro-project video as “news.” Their most recent story I could find on Standing Rock is titled “What’s Up With the Dakota Access Pipeline?”

Since that’s exactly what I wanted to know, I clicked on the video. It lasts 1 minute and 21 second–just background music with captions. Thirteen seconds of the video relate the objections to the pipeline (fears of leaks, attacks on Native culture). The other minute or so lists all the pro-pipeline arguments about jobs and oil usage.

Hmm. That’s strange.  But when I read the script at the base of the screen, it said, “Source: Energy Access Partners.”

Anyone else see a problem with this? And this is CNN–not Fox.

Much more balanced was this story from Al Jazeera back in August:

The story is the protest, right? Whether Americans think the pipeline is a good idea or not, don’t we deserve to know why there’s a protest in the first place? 

Why does it take a news company based in the Arabian Peninsula to inform me? 

Never mind–I think I know the answer.

 

 

asdlfkslf skdjf

You Scratch My Media, I’ll Scratch Yours: Yin-Yanging in the Digital/Cable Age

“So should I join Facebook?” The Mate mused a few weeks ago.

I was startled. “You?! Why?”

Him: Well, you do seem awfully caught up on things like babies and hospitalizations and retirements and stuff. I always have to find out from you what all our friends are going through.

Me: Exactly! You find out from me! So what would you need to join for? It’s perfectly obvious to me that Facebook would drive you mad with its stupid advertising, not to mention all its bells and whistles which even I can barely keep up with. You think I want to listen to you grousing about that?

[That last part was unspoken, you understand.]

Him: Yeah, guess you’re right. You can keep doing my Facebooking for me.

Which, it occurred to me the other day, is only fair, because The Mate does my Lamestream Media-ing for me. I can’t abide TV news in this day and age–sorry, my heart will always belong to Walter Cronkite. When Al-Jazeera America was on, I watched that pretty happily, mostly because they were so shunned by U.S. advertisers that most of their ads were for their own programming. But CNN? MSNBC? Faux “News”? No, no, and NO. Too much snark. Too much slant–even when it’s a direction I agree with, I don’t like feeling the bias. And WAY too much focus on stupid stuff, like Donald Trump rallies, than on real stuff, like what the hell is going on in Venezuela anyway?

(Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia)

(Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia)

But I do appreciate knowing what’s going on. NPR only covers so much, and I only have the radio on occasionally, like when I’m making dinner or driving to town during the hours of Morning Edition or All Things Considered. [Given my 4 a.m.-1 p.m. work hours, that doesn’t happen very often.]

Enter The Mate. He watches CNN and MSNBC daily, during his morning and afternoon workouts. (Also a lot of ESPN, which can sometimes get pretty political in itself.) Thus…

Me: [arriving home from work mid-afternoon] Hey, babe, how’s the world been going today?

Him: Well, the House and Senate passed Zika virus funding bills, but they don’t match up, so they’re going to conference. And Puerto Rico’s still broke. And there was a big plane crash in Egypt. And…

Me: [thinking about all the advertising, snark and slant I didn’t have to expose myself to]: Ahhhh….

So here’s to Media Buddies. A whole new definition of marriage. 🙂

 

 

 

God Willing, Everyone Should Be Able To Say “God Willling”

Have you heard the one about the university student thrown off a flight for saying “God willing”?

Sorry, this isn’t a joke and there isn’t a punch line. Unless you count this: our country is now so Islamophobic that saying “Insha’Allah” (God willing) in a private phone conversation can a) make one’s fellow passengers so nervous that they b) call the flight attendants who c) escort you from the plane for interrogation by the FBI.

This is what happened to 26 year-old Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, an Iraqi who had refugeed to the U.S., on a Southwest flight last week. According to Al Jazeera English,

Makhzoomi said he was excited after attending a conference that included a speech by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, so as soon as he got on the plane, he made the call to talk about him.

“I was speaking Arabic with him. Explaining the details about the event,” Makhzoomi told Al Jazeera. “All of a sudden a lady in front of me started staring at me and I got off the phone. My uncle told me to call him when I land and I said, ‘inshallah, inshallah, I will call you’.”

He told the Associated Press news agency that most of the conversation was mundane, covering subjects like who was there and what the food was like, but at one point he said someone had asked Ban about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.

A woman sitting nearby reported him to Southwest staff and he was escorted from the plane.

According to CNN, after his questioning ordeal, Southwest gave Makhzoomi a refund, and he flew back home to Atlanta on Delta. Once recovered from the shock and humiliation, he contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Since then the story has taken off. But in all the articles I’ve read, the chief question seems to be, “Is keeping your mouth shut in public the new normal for Muslims?”

Insha’Allah, it is not. Because, insha’Allah, there is something we non-Muslims can do to register our refusal to play along with this new brand of racist xenophobia: we can start speaking Arabic ourselves.

My suggestion: every time you want to say, “hopefully,” or “I plan to,” every time you feel the urge to knock on wood, slip an “insha’Allah” in there. You don’t need to be Muslim, or Christian to say it…in fact, I don’t think you really need to be particularly religious at all. If what you really mean is, “I sure hope whatever powers out there that are larger than I am will heed my humble wish,” then–yeah. In my book, “insha’Allah” covers that pretty well.

Insha'Allah and the Creek Don't Rise...whichever

Insha’Allah and the Creek Don’t Rise…whichever

Might some Muslims argue with me about this? Probably. Some Christians too, I expect. But, insha’Allah, the more my suggestion gets put into use, the fewer Americans will be demonized by their fellow citizens.

O Walter Cronkite, Where Art Thou? The Demise of Al Jazeera America

When it comes to mass media, The Mate and I are the kiss of death. If we love it, chances are it’s not commercially viable, and it goes away.

Case Study #1: Summer Olympics, Barcelona, 1992. TBS ran something called “Triplecast,” meaning three different channels simultaneously broadcasting three different sports venues. So instead of being hijacked into watching prime-time, after-the-fact gymnastics performances while waiting for that one after-the-fact swim race that’s been hyped all week but won’t be on till 11 p.m., we could watch the competitions we were interested in, LIVE. We track & field junkies were in heaven–but a very sparsely populated heaven, apparently. TBS lost a ton of money, which is why you’ve never heard of Triplecast.

Case Study #2: Cutter’s Way. The best movie no one we know has ever heard of, ever. Go watch it. Bring a handkerchief.

Case Study #3: My So-Called Life. You may have heard of this one. Still–audiences were too small to make it viable, apparently. It died after a single season.

And now…Case Study #4, to me the saddest of all. Our beloved Al-Jazeera America TV news station is going dark after not quite two years on the air. Although The Mate and I love its sober, non-flashy approach to news, its coverage of topics other networks never touch, and its perspective (more on that in a moment), we are, once again, in the minority. It seems AJAM has a viewership of only 20,000-40,000–NATIONALLY. No, I did not accidentally drop a zero. The other networks beat that by more than a multiple of ten.

The saddest irony? We heard this news first from CNN. According to the CNNMoney story by Tom Kludt and Brian Stelter, 

The channel’s end appears to have been prompted by the plunging price of oil, which dropped below $30 a barrel on Tuesday for the first time in 12 years. That’s significant because Al Jazeera America is owned by Al Jazeera Media Group, which in turn is owned by the government of Qatar.

A source at the company’s headquarters in Doha said that Al Jazeera was planning on making cuts all over — perhaps up to one thousand jobs — due to the falling oil prices.

“Al Jazeera Media Network had to cut, and instead of making it across the board or anywhere else, they decided to chop Al Jazeera America,” the source said.

Al Jazeera.com’s take on their TV station’s demise is, typically, a little different. They focus on the company’s desire to compete in the global digital media market–no mention of falling oil prices.

So, Gretchen–you might be wondering now–if you heard this story first on CNN, and if CNN gave you a background that AJAM did not discuss, WHY is this a superior news channel?

Easy. It’s because the shoe’s been on the other foot 99 times out of 100 in the past two years. Al Jazeera, as mentioned above, is run from Qatar. They are “foreigners,” and (mostly) Muslims. Therefore, their perspective turns our mainstream media’s xenophobia and anti-Muslim bias on its head. I cannot tell you how refreshing, and indeed how necessary, that breath of perspective is during these heated times. I never heard this story about Muslim Americans raising money to repair black churches from any other news source.

Yes, those news channels which share my political bias irritate me less than those which don’t. But only a little. I despise snarky news, even when the snark fits my own political profile. I grew up with Walter Cronkite, people. I miss Uncle Walter more than I can say. I’ve never seen AJAM use snark, even in its editorial pieces.

Also–perhaps ironically, given Quatar’s wealth–we count on AJAM to broadcast stories about the poor and minorities. Such stories are generally missing from the mainstream channels. Just one example: in the hype about the most recent snowstorm threatening the east coast, AJ’s Joshua Eaton focuses on its effect on poor people trying to get to work: 

For Boston resident Barbara Fisher, the snow has been more than just an inconvenience. Problems with public transit caused the 25-year-old mother of two to lose hours at her job at Dunkin’ Donuts. Added to the extra child care she had to pay because schools were closed, that has put a real strain on her budget.

“It’s very expensive. I can’t wait for it to go,” Fisher said of the snow. “It’s terrible, because you be trying to do your best, and there’s something that’s always going to stop [you].”

Another example: Jennifer Eaton’s recent story entitled, “How Black Lives Matter Saved Higher Education.” 

Ah, if only those AJAM execs had thought about the effect their Arabic name would have on American audiences! If only Al Jazeera did not sound, to American ears, so much like Al Quaeda! (Which is like saying The Church sounds like The Devil because they both start with “the.” Al Jazeera means “The Peninsula”–as in the Arabian Peninsula, where Quatar is.)

Could xenophobia possibly have anything to do with AJAM’s failure to thrive? Hmmm…that’s a toughie.

Save us, Uncle Walter!

Save us, Uncle Walter!

Luckily for me, and for Americans if they’d start listening to me 🙂 , Al Jazeera will still exist online, where I will continue to visit to learn stories that I won’t hear from my fellow Americans. But when our TV’s on? I’ll be watching The Daily Show. At least they’re honest about being a pretend news show.