You Asked For This

This past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, something terrible happened.  White nationalists marched in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Civil War era Confederate statue.  They were met with counter-protesters marching against hate and racism.  At some point, the violence broke out and culminated in a car ramming into counter-protesters, injuring over a dozen and killing thirty-eight-year-old Heather Heyer.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say racism is bad.  Of course racism is bad.  And of course groups like the white supremacists who showed up last Saturday are repugnant and loathsome.

I’m not going to sit here and criticize President Trump for his initial response to the situation.  Nor am I going to go on a rant about how it took him forty-eight hours to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis by name.  I think the internet, the public, and the media have done a good enough job of that already.

No…what I want to talk about is this:

 

 

How about another one?

 

 

Still not getting the point yet?  Let’s take a look at one more:

 

 

I’ve seen memes like this posted all over Facebook in the past year or two.  To the people who have actually shared these memes, I have only one thing to say:

You asked for this.  The callous attitude expressed by the memes above is what made Charlottesville happen.  Republican legislators have even called for legal protections for people who hit protesters with their cars.

This is what you wanted.  I hope you’re pleased with yourselves.

And I know someone out there will say it.  “It was just a joke.  I didn’t actually want protesters to get hit.  Stop getting so triggered you snowflake!”  Well Kathy Griffin holding up a fake version of Trump’s head was “just a joke”, but I didn’t see many conservatives jumping to defend her free speech rights.  Because that’s the world we live in today, isn’t it?  It’s all about freedom of speech…until someone says something you don’t like.  Then they should just get out of the country, right?

Besides, I doubt it was a joke for everyone sharing those memes.  No…I bet there are a few cold-hearted individuals out there who were hoping something like this would happen eventually.

It’s amazing to me how many people will back off when it comes to acknowledging the racism in white supremacy for what it is.  And that includes our president.  Even though the marchers were chanting things like “white lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us”, people still refuse to call them what they are.  It’s as if they’re afraid to acknowledge the fact that these groups even still exist.  They keep using euphemisms to describe the groups, as if trying to soften the blow for themselves.  It doesn’t matter.  They are who they are.  And they didn’t just suddenly appear.  They’ve always been there.  The current political climate has merely emboldened them, made them feel safer in espousing their toxic, hateful worldviews.

And yes, I know people on the other side can be violent as well.  That doesn’t excuse what happened.  It wasn’t a crazed leftist that hit Heather Heyer.  And it wasn’t the left advocating for laws protecting drivers who hit protesters.  Any way you slice it, Saturday showed us just how dangerous extremist rhetoric on the right can be.

So please, don’t deflect from the situation by saying “but the left is violent too!”  It doesn’t change anything.  It’s a false equivalency.  Even if it comes out that the counter-protesters engaged in extreme violence or even started the violence (which we may never know due to the chaos of that day), it doesn’t change the fact that the people marching were there to protest the removal of a Confederate symbol, a symbol that stood for a faction fighting to keep an entire group of people enslaved.  It will never change the fact that the Confederacy was fighting against equal rights.  If all this was really about preserving some kind of heritage, then that’s part of the heritage they are trying to preserve.

I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward.  Our president doesn’t seem to know either.  He initially blamed “many sides” for the violence before issuing another statement on Monday condemning white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK.  But then, just yesterday he returned to his previous statement, blaming what he called the “alt-left” for some of the violence as well.  I think we’re standing at a crossroads, and soon we’re going to have to make a choice to decide what kind of future our country will have.  Do we continue forward with the progress we’ve been making?  Or do we let the country slip back by fifty to a hundred years, back to a time when racism was far more acceptable than it is now?

I know my answer.  Do you?

 

Thanks for reading.  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

Children These Days

Stop me if you’ve heard this rant before:

“Ugh…children these days are so spoiled!  They have no respect for their elders and spend too much time on their smartphones and iPads.  They’re getting pregnant and doing drugs.  They lack discipline, and it’s all those participation trophies and weak parenting that’s to blame.  These kids need a good spanking!  Back in my day, if I stepped out of line, my dad would give me an ass whuppin’!  And I turned out better for it!”

Sound familiar?  I’ve heard this quite a few times, or at least some version of it.  The basic gist of it is that everything was so much better “back in the day”.  You’ve probably heard this mentality before.  Maybe you’re even one of those people who have this mentality.  If that’s the case, then I have some unfortunate news for you.

The facts don’t support it…

One of the biggest components of this mindset is, of course, a perceived epidemic of rebellious behavior.  And while yes, the purpose of the teen years is to push the envelope in a sense, most of the time what people are talking about are drugs, alcohol, and sex.  But the thing is, kids these days are far less likely to do any of these things than they were back in the “good ol’ days”.  According to an article by the New York Times these types of behaviors have been declining for decades.

Some interesting numbers for you:

  • In 1980, about 60 percent of high-school seniors had tried marijuana and roughly 9 percent smoked it daily.  Today, only about 45.5 have tried it and only 6.6 percent smoke it daily.
  • 72 percent of high-school seniors in 1980 said they had recently consumed alcohol, whereas in 2011 that number had dropped to a historic low of only 40 percent.
  • In 1988, half of boys aged 15 to 17 had experienced sex.  By 2010, that number fell to 28 percent.  Same goes for teenage girls, dropping from 37.2 percent to 27 percent.

In the end, what this all means is that the story of an out-of-control generation of kids just isn’t accurate.  In fact, according to the research, today’s kids are better behaved then their parents were at the same age.  But the real question is why?  Why are kids these days so different?  What shaped the changes in their behavior?

Well…there’s no easy answer.  Like everything in life, the reality is that it’s a complicated issue.  The New York Times article points to some helpful possibilities:

“The last three decades have included a rise in the drinking age to 21; a widespread fear of H.I.V.; and legal challenges that stymied tobacco marketing. And while cellphones and Facebook have created new ways for teenagers to stir up trouble, they may also help parents monitor their children.”

The article also points out that today’s teens still found ways to rebel with things like sexting, but still reasons that every generation is subject to harsh scrutiny by the previous one.  And I think that’s the important lesson here, that every generation thinks they know what’s best and that the generations after theirs obviously don’t know what they’re doing.  In all this fear about smartphones and iPads, we forget the fact that the science simply isn’t there yet.  We dismiss the fact that some of the science even says that these things have beneficial effects on kids.  Because, clearly, we know what we’re doing.  Our way is the best, and damn every other way.

But, if I may, I would like to point to a possibility not raised in the New York Times article.  I would like to suggest that maybe part of the reason children are better behaved and generally more responsible may have to do with moving away from one simple thing: the idea of corporal punishment.

I can hear the protesting now.  “But I was spanked and I turned out just fine!”  Maybe you did.  Maybe you’re a perfectly fine, functional human being.  Or maybe it affected you in ways you can’t really see or understand.  I talked a long time ago about corporal punishment, and I’m going to link you to the same article I used back then.  As it turns out, spanking your kid may have detrimental effects on their brain development.  As the article says, “the sad irony is that the more you physically punish your kids for their lack of self-control, the less they have.”  Most people assumed that spanking led to compliance in children.  But that’s not necessarily true.

“What is spanking associated with? Aggression. Delinquency. Mental health problems. And something called “hostile attribution bias,” which causes children, essentially, to expect people to be mean to them.  This bias makes the world feel especially hostile. In turn, children are on edge and ready to be hostile back, ” the article says.

I’ve felt for a long time that spanking was more for the parent than it was for the child.  Think about it for a second.  What’s easier?  Getting to the root of why your child is misbehaving?  Or simply trying to beat it out of them?  Parents are human beings too, and sometimes they don’t have the time or the patience to deal with a child that’s acting out.  In such situations, it’s very easy to turn to the physical approach because it seems like it has immediate beneficial effects.  But, as the science says, there may be a lot more going on underneath the surface that we can’t see or understand until it’s too late.

Let me be clear, I’m not doing this to crap all over the previous generations.  My generation is old enough that I’ve noticed people my age donning the same mindset.  I’ve even caught myself doing it every once in a while.  Like I said before, every generation thinks they know what’s best and are afraid when things start to change.  I think it’s worth understanding that every generation sees the world a little differently.  And I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not necessarily a bad thing…just a different thing.

No one is perfect.  Children are going to act out in some way or another.  But that’s just part of growing up.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

One-Sided Satire: A Look at the Video “Modern Educayshun”

So I bumped into this short film called “Modern Educayshun” recently (see it’s funny because they spelled it all stupid like).  It was created by Neel Kolhatkar, an Australian comedian.  On his Youtube channel, Kolhatkar lists the video under a playlist called “Short Films and Cultural Satire”.

Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

The short film opens on a spooky hallway filled with spooky music (with stock spooky noises too).  Before our hero (played by Neel himself) manages to enter any of the classrooms someone screams, causing him to stop in his tracks for a moment.

 

Neel Kolhatkar (in video form!)

 

Our hero enters in a math classroom that inexplicably has only four students (including him) in it.  The lesson begins with a simple question:

“What’s one plus one?”

The protagonist slowly raises his hand and answers “two”.  But the teacher says no, he’s incorrect.  Mr. Turtleneck then raises his hand and gives us our true answer:

 

 

Time for another question, “what’s three times three?”  The protagonist raises his hand again, answering “nine”.  But of course he’s wrong, because the real answer is “gender equality”.  At this point the hero of the story asks “is this a joke?”, to which the girl student (Penelope) replies “you think gender equality is a joke?”

 

She looks like she’s ready to devour someone…

 

Our hero responds “no…but isn’t this a math class?”

“Don’t be so racist,” exclaims Mr. Turtleneck.

Do you see the trend now?  I’m sure you do.  This is one of those videos…you know, the ones that people share all the time to assure themselves that they’re right and everyone who thinks differently is wrong.  That’s actually how I stumbled into the video in the first place, because a couple conservative people on my friends list shared it.  I have to admit that the first time I saw the video, I clicked away right after the gender equality line because it became clear to me what the video was doing.  But for the sake of this blog post, I dove back in and watched the whole thing.

And it doesn’t get better.  No…it just gets worse.

The story continues with the students taking out their research projects.  Mr. Turtleneck and Penelope are given six out of ten on their projects.  Sunshine (the student wearing suspenders) is given a one.  Then, she gets to our hero, who gives an eloquent explanation of using math to predict heart attacks.  She gives him a seven, to which he responds “you barely even read it.”

“You used red pen,” she says.

“Red is considered offensive in many religions,” Mr. Turtleneck helpfully adds.

Now, it would seem that our hero earned the highest score in the class, but then the teacher averages out all their scores.  In the end, everyone ends up with a five out of ten.

Because equality!

It’s not over yet though.  Then they have to add in “privilege points” (at which point I rolled my eyes so hard I saw the inside of my skull).  According to the logic of this universe, privilege points are awards or detriments based on your traits.  For example, you get minus points for being white and male but you get plus points for being bisexual and female.  Once everything is said and done, the protagonist ends up with a five instead of a seven.

And then we get to Sunshine.

 

 

Why is he only wearing suspenders? The world may never know.

 

“I’m gay, I’m trans, I’m Asian,” he begins.  “I’m overweight, I’m lower-class, I’m unintelligent, unattractive…I’ve got hairs on my nipples.  And I also got body odor.  And I can’t really run properly or tie my shoelaces by myself.”  He pauses.  “And I once watched a pigeon die.”

After adding all his privilege points together, the teacher gives Sunshine an eighteen out of ten on his project (because maths).

This is when everything hits the fan.

“Let me see this,” our hero proclaims as he stands up.  He goes and forcefully grabs Sunshine’s “research project”, revealing to be little more than the word equality written on a piece of paper with hearts drawn around it.

 

The beginning of the end…also yes “equality” is spelled wrong.

 

At this point, our hero is fed with everything.  “This is wrong,” he says.  “You’re all crazy.”  And that’s the last straw.

The three other students and the teacher all get up from their desks and advance on him.

“Prepare to die and know that social justice won,” declares Penelope as our hero is backed into a wall.  The teacher approaches with a roll of black tape and they start taping his mouth shut.  But before they can finish, he screams.

We’re then treated to another shot of the hallway, where a new student hears the scream and jumps.  She then enters the very same classroom, starting the cycle all over again…

 

Analysis

Now, it’s fairly obvious what the point of this video is.  It’s an exaggerated parody of political correctness.  And I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually hate the video as much as I thought I would.  There are people like Penelope and Mr. Turtleneck in the world, people who are so obsessed with being politically correct that it dominates all aspects of their lives.

And I despise that kind of hypersensitivity myself.  It’s the kind of thing where you’re not allowed to criticize Black Lives Matter without fear of immediately being called racist.  While I agree with their message, I sometimes disagree with their methods and actions.

But I digress.  That’s a story for another time.

Merriam-Webster defines politically correct as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.”  So by this definition, political correctness can span a whole heap of subjects.

Which brings me to my issue with this particular video: it’s a very one-sided look at the topic, focusing only on what extremist liberals use as talking points.  And that’s exactly why some people are going to share it, so that they can point and say “ha ha ha this is such a perfect representation of liberals ha ha ha man they’re stupid ha ha ha!”

For all pandering the anti-political correctness crowd does, they certainly seem to have their own issues they get all “triggered” about.

For example, what about welfare?

What about burning the American flag?

What about gun control?

Hell, what about abortion?  Now there’s a topic both liberals and conservatives are liable to lose their damn minds over.

This is what happens when you reduce a viewpoint down to a few talking points.  You lose perspective.  And it’s far too easy to feel contempt for anyone who disagrees with you when you don’t take the time to hear them out.  That’s basically all this video seems to be, a knee-jerk reaction to the extreme-left of the political spectrum.  And while schools do tend to be more liberal, I’ve never seen any real evidence of them being all that stifling to different opinions.  In fact, I can only remember one teacher I’ve ever had who openly displayed her political views, and she was arguing against the existence of global warming.  For all its attempts at being witty and clever (I will admit I did chuckle at the “sexually ambiguous” line), this video seems to boil down to seven minutes of liberal bashing.

I’m just gonna end this by saying that a best friend of mine from high school was once sent to the principal’s office for not saying the pledge of allegiance.

Because people were “concerned”.

So yeah…it goes both ways.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week!

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

Popularity and Controversy: “13 Reasons Why” and the Discussion Around Suicide

You’ve probably heard of the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”, even if you haven’t actually watched it.  Controversy has surrounded it ever since it was released at the end of March.

For those who don’t know, “13 Reasons Why” centers around the suicide of a fictional high school student named Hannah Baker.  Following her suicide, her friend Clay receives a box of tapes, each with a message Hannah recorded before she died.  In the tapes, she lists the reasons why she committed suicide…or rather the people who drove her to it.  Since the show came out, there’s been a swirl of controversy surrounding it, as people have argued that the show glorifies the act of suicide.

 

 

Now, I’m going to add a disclaimer here: I’ve never actually watched the show myself.  So everything I’m about to say comes from that perspective.  Take that as you will.

“13 Reasons Why” was originally a book written by author Jay Asher, which released in 2007.  Asher himself recently spoke about the book and the show at the Twin Cities Teen Lit Convention in Minnesota.  According to an article on Fox 9’s website, critics have called the plot dangerous because it depicts high school counselors as unsympathetic to Hannah’s plight.  Asher himself says that he’s dealt with criticism ever since the book released and he believes the Netflix show is sparking discussion on an important and difficult issue.

“The only thing that bothers me, is when people try to shut down conversation about it.  To me, that is the most dangerous thing,” Asher is quoted as saying.

Some people even tried to have the book banned when it came out ten years ago.

There’s been a lot of talk about “13 Reasons Why” glorifying suicide, but not much talk on how it glorifies suicide.  Most of the news stories I see talk about how schools are warning parents about the show and encouraging them to have a discussion with their children.  This is all well and good, but I find it hard to believe that the show is somehow glorifying the act of suicide when it is so clearly a tragic story.  And when I watch the trailer I just don’t see the problem.  To glorify something means to represent it as admirable, and I don’t get the sense that it’s trying to make suicide look like the right thing to do.

It seems to me, as an outsider who isn’t really a part of the conversation, that a lot of people are jumping on the controversy bandwagon in an effort to appear socially conscious.  It reminds me of when people buy those ribbons or bumper stickers in support of some cause and proudly put them on display for everyone to see.  In the back of my mind I always wonder, “do they actually care about the issue?  Or is it just a status symbol for them?”  The same kind of thing could be happening with “13 Reasons Why”.  People go on about how it glorifies suicide but they don’t really explain how it does or why they think that.  Instead, many of them say “don’t let your kids watch the show” and just leave it at that.

And that is not a solution.

Here’s the thing: when you present something as “forbidden” to kids, it tends to entice them to find out more.  If you simply refuse to discuss something with a child, then it leaves them unprepared for it when it happens.  They won’t recognize the signs if one of their friends starts to contemplate killing themselves.  And if they don’t recognize the signs, then they can’t help.

Suicide isn’t easy to talk about.  That’s understandable.  But ignoring the subject does more harm than good.

Personally, I’m glad that “13 Reasons Why” has generated controversy.  Controversy can be good because it sometimes encourages discussion.

And discussion is important, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week!

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here and follow me on Twitter here.

Generational Idols: Youtube vs. Hollywood

Everyone has at least one role model when they’re growing up, someone they look up to.  Role models teach by example, with younger people observing how they think and act in certain situations and then trying to emulate that.  Role models can be good or bad, depending on the person.  They don’t even have to be real people.  Some role models are the fictional characters actors portray on television or in movies, and some might even be characters in cartoons.

Traditionally, of course, role models have often been celebrities in Hollywood.  But that’s starting to change…

Recently I stumbled across a Variety article from 2014 that revealed that the most influential people among teenagers ages 13-18 are actually Youtubers (a term for people who make videos on Youtube).  This isn’t just a fluke either.  All five of the top spots in the survey were populated by Youtube stars.  The first Hollywood celebrity to appear on the list is Paul Walker at number six.  And honestly (not to be insensitive or anything), that might have something to do with the fact that he died.

Now, the tone of the article bothers me a little bit.  Here’s the beginning:

“U.S. teenagers are more enamored with YouTube stars than they are the biggest celebrities in film, TV and music.  That’s the surprising result of a survey Variety commissioned in July that found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube faves, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen.”

I might be reading too much into it, but it’s almost like the writer was aghast at the fact that the folk in Tinseltown aren’t on teenagers’ radars as much as Youtube content creators.  Later the article comments that “despite having minimal exposure in the mainstream media, another comedy duo, known as the Fine Bros., Benny and Rafi, finished a close second…”.  In the end, I only have one question.  One, simple question…

Have none of you been paying any damn attention?

This shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.  Maybe Hollywood celebrities were important for older generations, but for newer generations their popularity is slipping.  It’s not some big secret either.  Plenty of people within my age group (including myself) have made it obvious how we feel about celebrities and their lives.  When we see the stories about how Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breaking up their marriage, we roll our eyes and ask “who cares”?  The news business as a whole seems to have this obsession with celebrities.  They dominate the headlines and fill up our browsers with click-bait articles.

So yes, the Fine Bros. may be highly influential “despite having minimal exposure in the mainstream media”, but that’s because we simply don’t care what the mainstream media thinks anymore.  It’s become increasingly obvious that the media regularly fails to do its job.  News stations are often owned by bigger corporate people or entities that have slanted opinions which trickles down into the news broadcasts, depriving us of a objective view on the story.  And sometimes the media even tries too hard to be objective, refusing to delve deeper into a story for fear of sparking controversy.

Do you know why Edward R. Murrow has an award named after him?  Because he stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy and exposed him for the demagogue that he was.  He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind or tell the truth.  He showed us that what McCarthy was doing was wrong, and played a large role in his downfall.

But now?  We see stuff like this and wonder if our newscasters are even human anymore:

 

 

Youtubers, on the other hand, seem like polar opposites to the stiffness of newscasters and celebrities.  They seem natural and excitable.  They seem passionate about their work, passionate about the things they love.  As the Variety article points out, teenagers feel that they have a far more authentic relationship with a Youtuber.  They enjoy that Youtube stars don’t have a strict filter and that they have a more straightforward sense of humor.  Youtubers aren’t defined by PR marketing strategies created by professional spin doctors.  They’re still putting forth an “image”, so to speak, but one that appears far more believable and relatable than most of the people in Hollywood.

Sure, the liberal-minded among us can stand up and cheer when Meryl Streep calls Donald Trump a bully.  And we can applaud when Leonardo DiCaprio preaches about the necessity of fighting global warming.  But when we are confronted with a tough problem in our lives, we don’t find ourselves asking “what would Leo do”?  Because, in the end, they are still distant from us.  Most of them were born into families that had more money than they knew what to do with.  They grew up in lavish homes and never wanted for anything.  Now compare that to someone like Pewdiepie, who has the most subscribers of all on Youtube (as of this writing he has over 54 million people subscribed to him).  Pewdiepie (real name: Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg) was completely unknown until he was already in his twenties and going to college.  Even when he started Youtube he didn’t immediately have a massive amount of subscribers.  It took a combination of tenacity, luck, and other factors before his channel exploded and he went from two million subscribers to over twenty million in the span of a single year.

Instantly, Pewdiepie as a person is more relatable to us.  He wasn’t born into millions of dollars.  He had to work for it.  And when he gets on camera and records a video, it doesn’t feel like he’s reading things off of a teleprompter.  His image isn’t one crated by professionals.  His image is one he created by simply being an extension of himself.

 

And seriously, who could hate that face?

 

And that’s the key thing here: being relatable.  Youtube stars will always seem more relatable to teenagers than celebrities because of how they carry themselves.  Youtubers, at their core, usually started out by setting up a camera and recording themselves doing what they loved.  By contrast, Hollywood celebrities always seem to have a facade between them and us, whether they’re acting out a character or giving an award acceptance speech.  We can’t relate to them because most of us have never and will never have the same experiences.  But so many of us can relate to the more common experiences of playing video games or reacting to movies, experiences which Youtube has in spades.

Not everyone will enjoy their content or their personalities.  But like it or not, Youtubers are the celebrities for a new generation.

And if that still surprises you, maybe it’s time to stop judging and start paying attention.

Environmental Legacy: Twin Metals and Beyond

This past Thursday, I attended a forum on the Twin Metals proposed mining in the Boundary Waters area.  If you don’t know about Twin Metals, here’s the rundown:

Twin Metals is a Minnesota mining company that wants to do exploratory drilling up in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (or at least somewhere close by).  They have two mineral rights leases that they attempted to renew a few years back, but the presidential administration, then under President Obama, decided to deny the renewal.  Twin Metals expressed their disappointment with the decision, and has been lobbying against it ever since.  Fast-forward to last Thursday, and we had a forum in Duluth hosted by the U.S. Forest Service on the issue.  The specific focus of this forum was the withdrawal of federal lands from Twin Metals and a possible implementation of a twenty-year ban on copper-nickel mining in the area.  Many people voiced their opinions over the roughly two and a half hour event.  Pro-mining people argued that the mine could create jobs and reinvigorate the economy in the area (especially for the town of Ely), whereas anti-mining people argued that the mine could do drastic damage to the Boundary Waters area.

Now I won’t beat around the bush here.  I am definitely on the environmental side of things.  My family used to own a cabin up in the Boundary Waters until the Ham Lake Fire of 2007 burned it down.  I’ve gone canoeing in the Boundary Waters and camped there a few times in my life.  There’s nothing really quite like it.  It feels…untouched by modern civilization in a way.  Sure, there are people who live in the area, but it is nowhere near as cluttered or developed as other areas in the state or the nation.  There might not even be another place like it on the planet.  It is certainly a treasure and should be protected.

I’m going to back up a little bit and say I do understand where the pro-mining people are coming from to an extent.  Mining has been and still is the driving force behind the economy up here.  Even though I’ve lived in Duluth for more than five years now, I never fully realized how deeply people felt about it until last Thursday.  And I know that the typical breakdown of this is that the people who live on the Iron Range are for the mine, and the people who live in Minneapolis/St. Paul or other areas south of the Iron Range (namely the tourists) are the ones against it.  But I think that the possible environmental impacts are something that should be addressed.

Like I said, I get it.  People on the Iron Range don’t have it easy.  Ever since the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act back in the ’70s, the tourism industry of the area has fallen on hard times.  Motorboats were banned from being used in the area with the exception of certain lakes and even then only up to a certain amount of horsepower.  Tourism fell because many people didn’t want to travel on the lakes if they couldn’t use a motorboat.  And people don’t spend that much when they come up to the Boundary Waters because it doesn’t cost a lot to go camping.  But the possible impacts of sulfide mining (which is what Twin Metals would use should they create a mine in the area) should not be ignored.  According to Friends of the Boundary Waters, the environmental risks from sulfide mining are different from the typical iron ore mining because “when rain falls on the waste from iron mining, it makes rust; when rain falls on sulfide ore waste, sulfuric acid is produced. Sulfuric acid leaches out metals and chemicals from the waste and creates acid mine drainage…”

Basically, sulfide mining can create acid rain, which can be devastating for the ecosystem and create problems such as contaminated drinking water.

The common argument is that since technology has advanced so much, mining is safer.  And even if something happens, pro-mining people argue, we can clean it up.  But, as an associate professor from UMD said during the forum, the question isn’t necessarily if Twin Metals can fix the damage, but rather will they fix the damage?  Pollution can continue for decades, even centuries after the closure of a mine.  And there’s no guarantee that Twin Metals will be around for that entire time, spearheading the clean-up efforts.  Friends of the Boundary Waters argues that sometimes mining companies will even refuse to pay for the clean-up, leaving the burden on the taxpayers and the residents of the area.  The cleanup of the St. Louis River has been going on for decades.  Environmental damage is no laughing matter.  It takes serious work to clean it up.

As I said, I get it.  People need jobs.  But I have to ask, is it really worth it?  Is it worth the risk to create jobs that will last what, ten or twenty years maybe?  Is it worth possibly spending over a century trying to fix the damage?  And can we be absolutely certain that Twin Metals will be here to clean it up, or even be willing to clean it up at all?

I must believe that there is a better way to deal with the issue.  There must be a better way forward than to risk destroying a natural and national treasure.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.

When Debates Became Battles

Welcome to the age of snide comments and memes.

“But wait,” you say, “it’s been that way for a while now.”  Well hold on there.  What if I told you this was a problem?  What if I told you that all those snide comments and memes probably and likely contributed to the political divide we saw on display during this election season?  What if I told you that the memes aren’t what they seem?

 

Why yes Morpheus, do go on.

Why yes Morpheus, do go on.

 

In an age where social media dominates, perhaps it was inevitable that our chosen form of information consumption would come from pictures with white words written on them.  This is the internet age, where being “viral” is everything.  So many are looking for their fifteen minutes of fame.  But ironically, it is usually those who aren’t looking for their time in the spotlight that actually get time in the spotlight.  Because that’s just the weird way the internet works.

But all that viral meme-ness has led to a lot of misinformation and false statistics.  For example, you may remember this meme going around a while back:

 

gun-violence-meme

 

It echoes a certain sentiment that pro-gun people have, namely that gun control doesn’t work.  But here’s the problem: the meme is inaccurate.  No matter what metric you use, it seems that it is impossible to put the United States in third place when it comes to murders.  Now, understandably, that makes the second part of the meme much harder to test.  But as Snopes found out, it still doesn’t add up.  Using FBI statistics from 2012, they found that those four cities added together only account for about 7.8 percent of murders in the United States.  So basically, not enough to push the U.S. up from “fourth from the bottom” on this theoretical list of murders.

It might not seem like this meme had all that much impact, considering that it has faded out of view (at least, I haven’t seen it in quite a while).  But in an age when all criticism can be countered by screaming “FAKE NEWS” in all caps on Twitter, things like this are more dangerous than ever.

Memes like these leave no room for debate, nor were they meant to.  They usually come with links to an incredibly biased source or sometimes no links at all.  You’re expected to take them at their word, which is troublesome because so many are filled with biased rhetoric.  They’re not meant to encourage discussion.  They’re meant as a “so there” to discourage any opposing viewpoints.

 

chicago-teen-meme

Memes like this are only ever meant as a self-affirming fist pump, a soothing assurance to a select group of people that their worldview is right and all others are wrong.

 

And misinformation is just as dangerous as ever.  For example, recently an anti-abortion group called “Live Action” released a video that claimed Planned Parenthood was lying about providing access to prenatal care.  Of course, once you actually dig into the story, you’ll find that what Live Action really did was take things out of context so that their viewers would reach the conclusion they wanted them to reach.

That’s exactly what’s so dangerous about the widespread use of memes in political discourse.  It’s very easy for people to click “share” on something that coincides with their views.  It doesn’t matter if the meme is factually inaccurate.  It makes them feel good, so they share it.  And when something like that catches fire on the internet, it becomes nearly impossible to put out.

And in case you think I’m being biased, the left (or liberals, if you prefer) is guilty of this as well.  You might have seen this meme going around during election season:

 

trump-dumbest-voters

 

Ouch.  Yeah, it’s pretty harsh.  Also it’s totally bunk.  There is nothing in People Magazine’s online archive where Trump is quoted as saying anything even close to that.  But still, it was shared and liked by many liberals on Facebook, simply because it fit their mental image of Trump.

If you’re going to criticize someone, criticize them for something they actually did.  And believe me, there’s plenty of things Trump did that are critique worthy.

These days, debates have turned into fights.  They’re no longer about learning, they’re about winning.  They’re no longer about growing as a person, they’re about never admitting you lost.  Instead of trying to understand where someone with an opposing view is coming from, it’s about disparaging them and calling them names.  Why listen to what they’re saying when you can just brush them off as the “regressive left” or the “racist right”?

Bottom line is, we need to be vigilant.  Especially now, in an era where photos and information can be easily manipulated or taken out of context and made to suit specific agendas.  And I get it, it’s hard.  There are even blog sites out there that will make themselves appear to be a news website in an attempt to gain more followers or spread their message.  It’s a metaphorical minefield out there on the internet. and you can never be one hundred percent certain you won’t step right on top of one.  But you can do your part.  Before you click “share” on that buzzy meme, maybe do a little searching on Google to see if the meme’s information is accurate.  If it isn’t, don’t give it the time of day.  Don’t give it its fifteen minutes of fame.  Don’ t give it time in the spotlight.  You’ll be doing us all a favor.

And now, before I go, I leave you with this:

 

willy-wonky-generated-meme

 

Yes, I did that all by myself…using tools I found on the internet.

……

Don’t look at me like that.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.