Gossip

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Dear friends, I have a confession: Today I shared a piece of gossip to over 100k people about a group of people I don’t even know.

I didn’t realize the error until hours after I had pressed “post,” but in that short time, my vision of social media and its potency was forever changed.

Let me explain.

This morning while scrolling through my timeline I came across an image of a black woman, fist in the air, standing in front of a group of people who seemed to be marching for a united cause.

The caption read: One Woman vs. 300 Neo Nazis.

I clicked on the link and saw a 70 second video showing the same single image cut together with an explanation that she was protesting a “Neo Nazi march.” The video labeled her an “anti racism activist” and compared her to the famous peace leader Nelson Mandela.

I was immediately moved by the video. I hit “share” on Facebook and proceeded to post the link to my twitter feed.

I am sure many of you might be questioning the error I speak of. Likely you have seen, and maybe even shared, the same video. It evokes historical images of heroes fighting for a noble cause, people standing for what’s right beyond any adversity! Inspiring, right?

Upon greater examination, I realized that I wasn’t looking at an image of Nelson Mandela or Gandhi, and that sharing that video supported the same prejudice and short-sightedness I was naively attempting to address in the first place. I was alienating and judging a whole group of people with no data, no context, and no understanding of what they were marching for in the first place. Now, clearly I do not agree with what I understand to be the philosophy behind the Neo Nazi party, but that’s not the point I am making. And interestingly enough, that’s not the point the video displayed either.

From an objective standpoint we simply saw a group of people, in uniform, marching together for a united reason. There was no violent action happening, no attack – there weren’t even clear signs posted or statements being made about the intent of the group. If not for the caption, I wouldn’t have known what was going on.

But because of my own prejudicial perspective and desire to jump on the bandwagon of a “righteous cause” I directly supported the very issue I so strongly oppose.

There is a quote, sometimes attributed to Voltaire or his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall, that goes something like: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I thought I believed this, but what I demonstrated was not that. It was prejudice, gossip and trial by media.

Without thought, without data, without any valid or founded reasons to back my accusations, I vilified a group of people to deify a single woman.

I believe this happens more than we like to admit. But seeing it is the first step.

Prejudice, violence and hate cannot be overcome using the same process in another form.

Drawing unfounded conclusions and supporting biased propaganda no matter the context is the downfall of civilized communication and just evaluations.

It is so, so tempting to confirm our beliefs through what we think we see, but true ethics comes from the clarity to question all sides and uphold a principle equally in all cases.

I apologize to those I affected. Given the nature of my work I have earned a certain platform of influence. When I impulsively voiced my opinion, I abused the privilege of this platform. The sacredness of the trust placed in me by others demands thoughtful consideration of voiced opinions. From now on I vow to honor your support and attention with the responsibility and care it deserves. I will do all I can to learn from this mistake and spend my time and energy in support of what I truly care about: peace, compassion, honor and justice – in the most noble sense.

If you agree with what I’m raising and want to help increase awareness about these issues, please share this letter.

xo,

A

DO NOT MISS THIS ARTICLE

One of my dearest friends wrote this beautiful blog post. Read it if you can and check out her blog, follow her on twitter and all that great social network stuff. She is phenomenal and this post is stunning.

A Lesson in Humanity

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2012

R.I.P Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith & Glen Doherty

R.I.P Tyrone Woods

I started this week with the theme of Beauty. For me it was a natural transition from ‘Wisdom and Age’ that would bring us to “Awe,” corresponding with the “10 Days of Awe” between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. My themes are generally organic; they represent what is relevant for me in my life, while at the same time trying to keep in synch with current events. No matter what, they are always an expression of my values and perspective.

This week current events inspired me to take leave of my chosen theme of ‘Beauty’ – or perhaps helped me continue with it in a different way than I had expected…

On Wednesday morning I woke up and began my usual routine. My husband and I were talking over tea when he received a phone call from Libya. The US Ambassador had been killed in Benghazi. This was heart wrenching news. We didn’t know how or by who, all we could do was hold on, wait for more information and offer to help in any way we could. It was frightening and saddening. What I had heard went against everything I know and have experienced in Libya. I was worried for my family there and my heart was with all our friends who have worked so hard for the liberty and progression of their country.

Then a beautiful thing began to happen. I started receiving text messages and phone calls from people. They were concerned for us, for our friends and for our country. Over the next few days people from all over the world, as close as my family and as distant as business colleagues and professionals – from Europe, South America, the US and Asia – were sending their condolences. Before I met my husband I didn’t think much about Libya – it just wasn’t on my radar. Since I have known him, Libyans have become a part of my family. For many of my friends it was the same way. Many of them were concerned about my getting involved with a Libyan, a Muslim, especially my American friends and, understandably, my Jewish family. They hadn’t met any Libyans, many of them had never met a Muslim. For my husband & his Libyan family & friends, it was the same.. Americans, and in my family’s case Jewish Americans, were unknown to them. Through the friendship, dedication & care brought by people like Chris Stevens, and in a different way, through the union of our marriage, we have built a subtle bridge that has impacted all of our lives. Consciously or unconsciously we have all carried the prejudices perpetuated by our medias, histories, folklore and hearsay.. and with no human, person to person experience; we lacked a reason to re-evaluate our beliefs.

In the last year, Libya has gained new friends. There are new people all over the world who are watching her, routing for her and caring about the well being of her people. A link in the human family has been re-established through friendship: For the people in my life Libya is no longer a place of “them,” it is a place of “us.” This is beautiful.

This is one of the many triumphs bore of last week’s tragedy. We cannot undo the past and bring back the lives we have lost. What we can do is mourn, recognize the significance of this loss and perhaps, in the spirit of these Jewish High Holy Days, repent. We do not know exactly who killed Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues, but they alone are not responsible. Each of us, when we allow fear and prejudice to prevail over love and humanity, are responsible for their deaths in some way: Fear and prejudice are the root of such violence.

So, let us all; Muslims, Jews, Christians et al honor the lives lost in Libya last week – and all those lost around the world this last year. As intended in the Days of Awe, let us solemnly look inside ourselves – not to punish or feel guilt, but to find internal peace and resolution. Let us seek to heal wounds we have caused, and make amends with people we have treated with violence – no matter how small the act. Let us vow to overcome the fears that keep us from recognizing our perceived foe as friends. Let each of us re-establish at least one link in the broken chain of humanity. Le’shana tova.

Here are a few of my favourite tweets from the past week:

“No one is born hating another person..” – Read it here – Love this quote from Mandela & so poignant re situation in #Libya & around the world..

Imagine if we put as much effort into restoring ‘internal damage’ as we did external.. @TheAtlantic – Read it here

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” ? Marcus Aurelius #Quotes #Beauty

?RT @INLIFO ’Peace Be Upon You’ @saletan writes for @Slate – Read it here