Jun 01

See how fast a grassroots effort can be launched?

We need to learn from this.

Being Memorial Day, I was out and about and taking the rare break from constant news coverage. But getting into my car just after headline news was underway, I caught an interview with a Cincinnati zookeeper about a silverback gorilla they just lost, without an immediate context, though with very reasoned remarks about the animal’s enormity and strength, and a sincere appreciation for all the concern expressed for the occasion, tough as it was but necessary. What the heck happened, I thought.

It didn’t take long to learn. CNN’s report was the first account I got of the events that led to the demise of Harambe for the protection of the child in his grip. Though I’m assuming nearly all of you know this story by now, here’s that early account of the basics.

Zookeepers shot and killed a rare gorilla on Saturday after a 3-year-old boy slipped into its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, triggering outcry over how the situation was handled.

If they had to do it again, they would respond the same way, the zoo’s director said Monday.

Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said he stands by the decision to kill 17-year-old silverback Harambe to save the child. The boy went under a rail, through wires and over a moat wall to get into the enclosure, according to the zoo. Footage shot by a witness shows Harambe dragging the child through the water as the clamor of the crowd grows louder.

Zookeepers shot the 450-pound gorilla with a rifle, rather than tranquilizing him. The brief encounter sparked widespread Internet outrage over the decision to shoot Harambe and whether the child’s parents were to blame for failing to look after him.

But those second-guessing the call “don’t understand silverback gorillas,” Maynard said in a news conference. And, they were not there when it was time to make the crucial decision.

“That child’s life was in danger. People who question that don’t understand you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla — this is a dangerous animal,” he said. “Looking back, we’d make the same decision. The child is safe.”

End of story, right? You know that’s not the case. Activists who rush to protect different species other than homo sapiens lit up the internet and social media with reaction to this event, championing the cause of the gorilla over the safety of the little boy.

Even though famed, celebrity veteran animal zookeeper Jack Hanna reaffirmed the danger of the situation and his sheer lack of doubt that the animal would have killed the boy had not the zookeepers taken the swift action they did.

Harambe was a silverback male. When an intruder enters the gorillas’ territory, the male asserts itself; having people shrieking at it from above while it’s confused would only further antagonize it. Hanna says the instant he saw the footage of an agitated Harambe yanking the kid roughly through the water by the foot, he knew it would have ended with the child dead had zookeepers not intervened. To give you a sense of the power the animal has, he notes that humans need a hatchet and a sledgehammer to generate the force needed to crack the shell of a green coconut. Male silverbacks can do it with their bare hands. Let that thought guide you in what lay in store for the kid.

But it didn’t, for animal activists who place more value in animal life than human.

Carolyn Moynihan wrote about it here. Blogger Max Lindenman says activists show “what happens when justice is pursued without any notion of transcendent human value”. These are good pieces to read, consider and absorb. So is Mona Charen’s NRO piece on the moral confusion that comes with treating animals like people.

My reaction was deeply felt and concerned with the impromptu and organized reaction of animal activists, which swiftly erupted into a campaign, while so many of us are working to get attention on the populations of human beings being seized, held hostage, tortured and massacred in the Middle East, Nigeria and elsewhere, with insufficient response from the international community who has a ‘responsibility to protect’, acknowledged formally since the 2005 World Summit to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Having recently attended the UN conference on international religious freedom, genocide and mass atrocities committed against Christians and other religious minorities, I’m more keenly aware than ever of the need for attention to this crisis growing in urgency all the time. Speakers from the US, Europe, Iraq and Syria gave powerful witness to the daily reality for vulnerable populations of people fleeing for their lies, or camping out in tents by their churches while they could still stay safely there (safety refugee camps could not provide Christians and Yezidis), hoping the West would take up their cause and call for awareness and relief.

Where’s the ‘guerilla activism’ there?

Iraqi priest Fr. Douglas Bazi, from Erbil, wonders:

I too know what the people in the camps have been through, because like them, I was kidnapped by terrorists, and tortured simply because I was Christian…How did this happen to my people? Who bears the moral responsibility of this? What should be done for the Christians who remain in Iraq? And just as important, for those Iraqi Christians and other refugees whose lives are on hold in this situation in other countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan…

My people are losing hope. And we are disappearing. Every day our members are growing smaller. Soon we will be small enough for the world to forget us completely. Then, Christianity in Iraq will essentially be gone. Can we change the future? Does the will exist among the good people of this world to change this reality? Has this finding of genocide come in time to make a difference? And what can we do with it now?…

There are many who would say, mostly from a distance, that it is important to save Christianity in Iraq for a culture and for historical reasons. There is a great truth to this course. But friends, the Christians of Iraq, we are living, breathing human beings, not museum pieces. If there is a fundamental reason that they should survive, it is simply this: on our small earth, peaceful people should have the right to live in their homes in peace and dignity. And when the world stands by and watches any peaceful people disappear, it is a wound to the entire world, all the time, and wounding will kill us all.

We don’t know what we don’t know, but some media groups are working to spread awareness and inform us. Groups like Citizen GO who participated in the conference and worked to generate awareness, Aid to the Church in Need, Knights of Columbus, In Defense of Christians, CNEWA, Picture Christians, Iraqi Christian Relief Council, 21 Wilberforce Initiative, and many others.

When we saw the spontaneous eruption of activism on social media and in on site demonstrations on behalf of a gorilla, drawing a stunning amount of impulsive, instantaneous response, all I could think of was how great it would be if we could generate that same kind of grassroots activism on behalf of women, children, young boys, men, the elderly, and all who live right now, at this moment, in moral danger personally, and danger of extinction as a group.

I’m not going to ask ‘is that too much to ask for?’ Because I know it’s not. It just takes conviction, impetus, will and action that follows from it. This can happen in a heartbeat. So many depend on that.

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Aug 16

That’s another ‘dog bites man’ headline. But had the circumstances been the opposite, a shooter armed and angry opening fire in the DC headquarters of a social policy advocacy group would have been all over the news cycles with endless analysis of its grave ramifications.

Remember how quickly some media rushed to pin the Tucson shooting to some sort of right wing political extremism? More recently, recall how a major network newsman rushed to pin the Colorado theater shooter with the Tea Party? In this case, the target was conservatives, and the shooter was motivated by the politically charged issue of gay marriage. And media were virtually silent.

Here’s what happened, as reported by a very few handful (if even) of sources.

CBS, for one.

A man suspected of shooting and wounding a security guard in the lobby of a Christian lobbying group had been volunteering at a community center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

A law enforcement official has identified the suspect arrested in Wednesday’s shooting as Floyd Corkins II of Herndon, Va. Investigators were interviewing his neighbors.

Another official says the shooter made a negative reference about the work of the Family Research Council before opening fire. The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.

David Mariner is executive director of The DC Center for the LGBT Community. He says Corkins had been volunteering at the center for about the past 6 months. Mariner describes Corkins as “kind, gentle and unassuming.”

While police have not yet stated what motivated Corkins, a coalition of 25 gay rights groups released a statement through GLAAD condemning the shooting.

“The motivation and circumstances behind today’s tragedy are still unknown, but regardless of what emerges as the reason for this shooting, we utterly reject and condemn such violence. We wish for a swift and complete recovery for the victim of this terrible incident,” the statement read.

Fox News reports:

An FBI affidavit in the investigation of a shooting Wednesday at the downtown Washington, D.C., offices of the Family Research Council says the accused gunman uttered a statement to the effect of, “I don’t like your politics,” before reaching into a backpack for a handgun and opening fire.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, of Herndon, Va., 28, is charged with assault with intent to kill, in addition to federal firearms charges.

Corkins was wearing a white prison jumpsuit and showed no visible emotions or reactions at federal court Thursday….

Leo Johnson, an unarmed building operations manager, is being lauded by D.C. police as a hero for stopping and disarming Corkins before he could get into the building.

Surveillance video shows Johnson interacting with Corkins before he allegedly opened fire, striking Johnson in the arm. The security guard managed to wrestle Corkins to the ground and disarm him before he could get inside the group’s offices.

“The security guard here is a hero, as far as I¹m concerned,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. “He did his job. The person never made it past the front.”

Sources told Fox News that after Johnson disarmed Corkins, the gunman said: “Don’t shoot me, it was not about you, it was what this place stands for.”

Talk about hate crime….

Which we should. With civility, finally.

Here’s a good roundup.

I too hope this near-miss will inspire some folks to pull-back on their rhetoric, but I think it unlikely. A lot of people in this Year of Our Lord 2012 have sprung gas leaks, and they’re just floating in suspense, waiting for someone to just strike the proper match so it all goes ka-boom.

And the seeming reluctance of the press to cover this story as it was breaking, and the many hours of presidential silence in its wake, do nothing to dissuade folks that ka-boom would be so very bad, after all, as long as it was against the right sorts of people.

Yes, we need to talk about this. With the respect for truth and honesty and human dignity we proclaim.

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Feb 05

It has been deeply revealing and we have learned much.

First of all, that the relationship existed. After all the years of doubt or uncertainty by many contributors to the Pink Ribbon campaign over whether the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure donated some of those funds to Planned Parenthood, it’s all out there now. So there will never be another Pink October or any other fundraising campaign in which ubiquitous pink ribbons  and the Komen logo of the breast cancer awareness giant will not be associated with Planned Parenthood, the abortion giant.

Second, we saw the full weight of Planned Parenthood’s power and fury. On a hair trigger, they and their supporters fired off relentless rounds of volleys through a vast social media network. And they either pressured or cajoled nearly two dozen US senators to leap into the fire and lobby on their behalf, all on practically no notice.

Senators Frank Lautenberg, Patty Murray and 20 other Democrats have prepared a letter, obtained by Reuters, saying Komen’s move “threatens to reduce access to necessary, life-savings services. We urge Komen to reconsider its decision.”

They certainly didn’t take the time to research the veracity of their claim about access and services, and anything else pertaining to the truth of the matter.

“It would be tragic if any woman, let alone thousands of women, lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack,” said the letter, which was due to be sent later on Thursday.

It all worked, and fast, which is a big lesson for the pro-life movement. Whatever else Planned Parenthood is, it is highly successful in everything it does nationally, at the local level and highest levels of government obviously up to the White House itself. And it is highly successful as a force to be reckoned with because it is relentless in applying pressure and mobilizing rapid response forces that frame a message, make it go viral and then make it stick. They make it clear that there will be consequences to non-compliance with their demands, and they follow through.

This, with another tenor but no less tenacity, is a model for the pro-life or any movement to notice and consider. Leave aside PP’s bullying for another post…

Social activism can change policies and laws when people unite behind a cause with a fervent commitment, make a clear statement meant to ’stick’, mobilize a network through social media, make a sustained effort to make the message go viral, and refuse to go away or back down. And make it clear there will be consequences to the response or lack of one.

The movement should be unapologetically forceful, but unassailably positive and relentlessly determined. And it helps when it’s an election year.

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Dec 15

This used to be a bigger issue.

And it used to be called the Time Man of the Year.

Person of the Year (formerly Man of the Year) is an annual issue of the United States newsmagazine Time that features and profiles a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.”

But look at its beginnings…

The tradition of selecting a Man of the Year began in 1927 with Time editors contemplating newsworthy stories possible during a slow news week. The idea was also an attempt to remedy the editorial embarrassment earlier that year of not having aviator Charles Lindbergh on its cover following his historic trans-Atlantic flight. By the end of the year, it was decided that a cover story featuring Lindbergh as the Man of the Year would serve both purposes.

So keep things in perspective. In fact…

Since then, individual people, classes of people, the computer, and Planet Earth have all been selected for the special year-end issue.

And people have become more selective in accessing credible and relevant news sources. Time has suffered readership and relevance in that process.

That seems to be reflected in reaction to this year’s annual special year end edition, honoring The Protester. And the editors’ list of ‘runner ups.’

And the ‘People Who Mattered’ list.

By what sliding scale do they measure people who matter?

And it strikes me as more than a little negligent that the magazine would devote such a lengthy and seemingly sensitive social commentary on the democracyof social activism and not recognize the spark or impetus generated by the Tea Party.

I encountered this story twice on radio Thursday, once as guest and once as host. When I was the guest, the host said he was just about ready to move on past this story because it wasn’t generating any listener interest. And when I was host the guest said she thought the whole issue was politically and ideologically driven and narrowly-focused, but then she added ‘Oh well, whatever…’ and changed the subject.

I have a proposal. Since this is such a big issue, let it be remembered that the citizens who wanted change and took the opportunity to mobilize for it were so honored. And next year, let’s see Time honor ‘The Voter.’

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