Tag: politics (Page 2 of 3)

I’m listening (to the heartbeat of democracy)

I don’t post about politics often. There are plenty of other voices out there already — voices smarter and more relevant than my own — so I try to sit back, listen, and learn. I try to understand and really consider what people are saying, even when it’s not pleasant. Maybe especially when it’s not pleasant. I try to question my thoughts and feelings, to examine my own experiences and beliefs. I try to figure out what I can or should do to create positive changes in myself and my community.

(And usually I cry a little.)

Because I believe in the power of words and stories, I like to share the things that I think more people should read/see/hear/watch. Below is one such thing, written by a friend of mine from college.

* * *

Dear everyone,

Just wanted to say this: if you are angry, confused, upset, etc, consider this a call to action. If you are not okay with the verdict, consider this a time to act. If you’re wondering: what can I do? Google it. If you live in a major city, there are action groups around you, and they will be demonstrating. Join them.

So now: the hurdle. You’ve read articles about looters and rioting, about tear gas and arrests, of chaos and destruction. If you’re hesitant to go to a march, I can understand why. But I will just say this: I personally have been to a bunch of protests here in St Louis. We’ve closed down highways, marched downtown, you name it. I have seen no violence, I have seen no looting, I have seen no fires, no fights, no crazed and raging protestors. All has been peaceful, all has been constructive, all has been people joined together to show support.

Honestly, when things start to shift, it’s very clear (and also usually much later in the evening). You’ll see a line of police in riot gear, often times with gas masks on. This is the turning point. This is where everyone makes starkly different choices. Some people do not back down. Some people stay, but at a distance. Some people decide to go home. Whatever you choose, I really don’t care. I’ve chosen each of those paths on different nights, and I understand each one. So do what you feel you’re ready for.

My point is this: these protests are calm and organized. They are a show of support, and a way to find more local organizers for future action steps. They are a way to do something more productive than posting “WTF” on Facebook.

If you go, you will see what this is really all about. You’ll have a perspective formed from action, from experience, and not from a frenzied media. And if one night you decide to stay, you might see things left unreported, like your local coffee shop or church tear gassed by police. You might hear the heartbeat of democracy.

Do not be afraid. Go forth and help change things.


Ruben Quintero

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Stuff worth reading (Sochi edition)

“On #sochiproblems as I see them” by Vicki Boykis

I’m more than thrilled that attention is finally being called to how fucked up Russia is; it’s only something I’ve been talking about for years.  And it’s fine to make fun of something, but when that something is not your own, not something you understand, babies, goddamnit, you’ve got to be kind as Kurt Vonnegut would say. And kindness from journalists means adding context and not being sensationalist. Not playing the Ugly American Broadcaster.

“#SochiProblems Is More of An Embarrassment For America Than It Is For Russia” by Sarah Kaufman

Russians are not pleased by the trending #SochiProblems. Rather, they are “puzzled by why the Americans and the British are so very happy that the details are a little screwy, the way they generally are in Russia.”

So this is my plea to @SochiProblems, whining journalists and social media fiends: Have just a bit more respect for Russians, because while you might think you’re just ridiculing the Olympics, for many, this is their everyday life.

And a personal note:

I was disappointed in — but not really surprised by — the mass mockery of Russia that took place leading into the Sochi Olympics. Yes, some things are genuinely and harmlessly amusing (like the coat rack incident in the second article) and some things are seriously worth criticizing (like the human rights issues, or dangerous hotel water). But the cheap cultural jabs? The mean-spirited and purposeful misunderstandings? Gross. And worse: distracting. They took conversation and attention away from the problems that really need scrutiny. They gave people permission to laugh and move on.

Even many of the journalists came off, at least to me, as snotty Americans whining about less-than-4-star conditions. Guess what, folks? Not everyone has it as good and comfortable as we do. And you know what else? Not everyone does things the same way we do. Just because the Russian way of life is different from ours doesn’t necessarily make it bad or wrong.

Most of the snark has dissipated since the Olympics actually started, I think. We’re focusing on the events, as we should be. I just hope that after the last fireworks of the Closing Ceremony fade into the night, everyone walks away having learned something — having taken a closer look at themselves and their actions and their values. Because the medals aren’t the only things that matter. And as we’ve seen in the past, the Olympic torch has the power to cast its light across history.

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Of monsters and men in Steubenville

This is not usually a space for politics, but the Steubenville rape case has hit the YA community hard, and I have thoughts.

(Note: I did blog about this previously, though not as directly as I’m about to.)

When the verdict came down yesterday, I was not happy. I was not pleased. I did not feel that justice was served or that anybody had won. I believe it was the correct decision, but I do not believe it was a victory or a cause for celebration.

Because nothing can truly right such a wrong as this.

Twitter had some strong opinions. Apparently no one is allowed to feel sympathy for the two boys whose lives have been forever altered. Apparently the girl is a slut and deserved what she got — was asking for it, even. Apparently it’s a conspiracy and the whole world is against one small town in Ohio. Apparently this is really about alcohol, or football, or privacy in the digital age.*

Sometimes Twitter is stupid.

I worry that for most of America, this will be the end of the Steubenville case. I worry that the wave of righteous indignation will crest and then ebb, and we will go back to whatever else we were doing before. I worry, because this should be just the beginning. The beginning of an important nationwide discussion — and a million smaller conversations in homes, in offices, in schools. This should start a movement to understand and educate one another.

That would be the only silver lining to this overwhelmingly sad situation.

If I’m being honest, I do feel sorry for the two boys. What they did was reprehensible and inexcusable, hence the verdict and the sentences. But what now? Do we wash our hands of them, let them “rot in jail”?

I find that attitude particularly abhorrent coming from the YA community. We, who immerse ourselves in teen stories, should know better. We understand exactly how mature teens can be, and at the same time we recognize how young they still are. We know the tremendous power and turmoil of coming-of-age, and we believe in the opportunity for growth and redemption. We know that life is not about picking sides like a dodgeball game. When it comes to improving teen lives, we are all supposed to be playing on the same team.

What I’m saying is, people are not born monsters. Monsters are created. I hope that these two boys will not be sent farther and faster down the path to monster-hood. I hope we will do everything in our power, over these next few years, to find them, turn them around, and bring them back here with us where they belong.

The survivor, too, must learn and grow. (I think it’s possible to express concerns over her decision-making without saying she caused or deserved her rape.) In my training as a sexual assault advisor in college, I learned that we call them survivors, not victims, because of the strength they show in dealing with and hopefully overcoming their assaults. This girl has endured much more than anyone should have to, and I hope she will continue to draw from whatever well of courage has gotten her this far. But of her I also ask, What now? Will she try to put this behind her and return to her “normal” life? Or will she perhaps find an even better course to pursue from here on forward?

Those are the questions that I hope everyone involved will be asking themselves. The other partygoers who saw and said/did nothing. The parents. The teachers. The town.

Indeed, those are the questions we should all be asking, as I said earlier.

And to those who say, “They’ll never change,” I say in reply, “They sure won’t if we never try.”

*As an aside, I know a lot of people worry about the younger generations and how they use social media, how they view privacy or lack thereof. Frankly, I’m starting to wonder if maybe it’s not such a bad thing for their lives to be open books. Yes, their mistakes will haunt them — but maybe then they’ll learn to make fewer and smaller mistakes as they mature. At the very least they may not be able to hide things as easily, and that leaves the door open for people older and wiser to keep an eye on them, and step in when needed.

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The literary community reacts

Isn’t it funny how right after I post about how I don’t like to post about politics, there are all these political posts? HAHAHAHAHAHA.


No but seriously, this is relevant to literature, which is the only reason I offer it up here now:

Last winter, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison received a phone call from Sen. Barack Obama, then the underdog to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Obama had contacted Morrison to ask for her support. But before they got into politics, the author and the candidate had a little chat about literature.

“He began to talk to me about one of the books I had written, ‘Song of Solomon,’ and how it had meant a lot to him,” Morrison said in a postelection interview from her office at Princeton University, where for years she has taught creative writing.

“And I had read his first book (`Dreams From My Father’). I was astonished by his ability to write, to think, to reflect, to learn and turn a good phrase. I was very impressed. This was not a normal political biography.”

For Morrison and others, the election of Obama matters not because he will be the first black president or because the vast majority of writers usually vote for Democrats. Writers welcome Obama as a peer, a thinker, a man of words – his own words.

I wonder if I should read his books? I do love the title “The Audacity of Hope”…

“But finally having a writer-president — and I don’t mean a published author, but someone who knows the full value of the carefully chosen word — I suddenly feel, for the first time, not only like a writer who happens to be American, but an American writer.”

Like this:

Waking up to a new day, a new world view

She was a stranger, and she kissed me. Just for being an American.

Mostly I loved that line. But the rest of the article is good too.

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