Dear Twitter Dad: What I Would Have Told Your Bullied Daughter

“My daughter is being bullied at school for being ugly. Nothing I say is helping and it’s breaking my heart. Please retweet with a message telling her how special she is,” a father desperately posted on Twitter, sharing a school photo of his perfectly average-looking and undoubtedly lovely daughter.

So, people did. Kind people. Compassionate people. People who wanted his daughter to not feel ugly. To not feel bullied. And what did most of them say?

“You are SO pretty, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”
“You’re a beautiful girl. People are just nasty.”
“Oh, honey, you are GORGEOUS. They’re just jealous.”
“Look in the mirror, sweetheart. You are BEAUTIFUL.”
“Don’t listen to them, you KNOW you’re pretty.”

And so on.

Spot the trend? In almost every case, the impulse was to assure her, insist to her, convince her that she was pretty, pretty enough to not deserve bullying on that front (as if anyone deserves bullying on that front… or any front, for that matter). That’s all this kid got. The remedy to her shattered esteem. You. ARE. Pretty.

Well-intended, certainly, and maybe what her father was hoping for—a quick sugar high to cheer up a sad little girl—but to my way of thinking the tact was a wasted opportunity. And, frankly, counterproductive. Why? Because “pretty” cannot ever be the arbiter of a girl’s self-worth. Ever. It can’t be the assurance of her value, the assuagement of her hurts, and certainly not the empowerment of her esteem.

I sighed, reading tweet after gushing tweet, itching to jump in with another angle. But, unwilling to risk this child’s already fragile ego, or start a Twitter snit on her behalf (and, frankly, needing more than 280 characters to get it done), I demurred, hoping whatever boost she got from retweeted Twitter-love would suffice until she got tougher.

Female self-esteem is a curious thing. From the moment girls exist they’re awash in observations about their looks and where those looks fall on the beauty spectrum. Gorgeous, beautiful, pretty; cute, all are default compliments flowing from the mouths of appreciative adults, solidifying the implication that this element of a girl’s identity is the most highly sought. Or at least the most noticed.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with giving a little girl a compliment; everyone loves a compliment. I love a compliment. But even the most evolved of parents struggle with how to balance their daughters’ natural need for validation with how to push the focus beyond physical attributes. Because while it may seem benign to say, “You’re so pretty, sweetheart!”, when that becomes the most oft-repeated comment to a girl (which it so often does), what is the underlying message? Your looks are your greatest currency. And if looks are what elicit the most commentary, how can any other message emerge?

The difficulty is that societal attitudes about attractiveness are pretty much baked in. Studies have documented the cultural bias, conscious or otherwise, of parents, teachers, medical professionals, human resource departments, even the voting public, toward physical beauty. While other attributes may rank high in other, more narrowly defined, circumstances—science contests, sporting events, academic testing—the initial feature most noted in any generic setting is attractiveness. And, as suspected, that’s right from the get-go.

Deborah Best, PhD, is a psychologist specializing in gender stereotypes among young children. She says that the emphasis on appearance starts young.

“Children are exposed to the importance of physical appearance and attractiveness from a very early age,” says Best. “Without really thinking about the implicit messages they send, parents, family, and friends often comment on a newborn’s appearance. ‘What a pretty baby! She’s going to break some hearts!’; ‘Look at those strong legs! He’s going to be a football player!’”

In graduate school, Best studied under influential child psychologist Harriet Lange Rheingold. According to Best, Rheingold observed parents utter the above judgments in the nursery and said parents were more likely to discuss girls’ appearances than boys’.

“Adult comments on children’s physical appearance indicate to children how important it is to ‘look good’,” continues Best. “These subtle messages tell children that appearance is important and also suggest that those who are ‘better looking’ are also better people.”

From The Beauty Bias: How Attractiveness Affects Our Lives

Attractiveness even trumps other biases, like race and ethnicity. Media is eager to promote “the most beautiful girl in the world” whether she’s a blue-eyed Norwegian or a dark-skinned Ethiopian. By the time we’re adults, it transcends even the most egregious of negatives, like felonious behavior or murderous impulses (think Ted Bundy or the infamous “hot felon” who parlayed prison into a modeling career). We’re mesmerized by beauty, addicted to it; we forgive vacuousness, criminality, a lack of talent if the body embodying those traits is beautiful. The trend is epidemic in the entertainment and media industries, but even in the most unexpected of places it emerges (Esquire once ran a feature called “The Five Most Beautiful Nuns in the World”).

But in grade school, middle school, and high school? Attractiveness is the gold standard. Add the ubiquity of social media and texting, with their ease of weaponry in cyberbullying, and the pressure to please swings to heights so extreme teenagers turn to cosmetic surgery, while teen suicides, often the result of repeated shaming in public forums, are on the uprise. No wonder Twitter Dad panicked!

Now, I’m no expert but I am a woman who was a girl who, 1.) wasn’t considered “Homecoming Queen material”; 2.) had a photographer tell me, “you’re not photogenic”; 3.) worked with an agent who regularly bleated, “you’re not pretty or thin enough to be a leading lady,” and 4.) had a famous soap star tell me he’d date me if my butt was smaller. I do know the humiliation of not being seen as physically ideal. Yet I survived. I transcended. I crushed my dismissers by getting really good at the things I’m really good at that had nothing to do with being good at being pretty.

And this is what I would have told Twitter Daughter:

1. Really get this, sweetheart: Being pretty is not an achievement. It’s not an accomplishment. It’s inherited genes. It’s DNA. It’s clothes, makeup, and hair. It has nothing to do with worth or viability. Don’t over-value it; that’s the lie. Beauty really is only skin-deep. Go deeper.

2. Stop reading comments on social media or wherever, especially those directed at you. It’s hard to break the habit, it really is, but STOP. Just as you wouldn’t allow someone to repeatedly slap you in the face, don’t allow anyone’s caustic words to get inside your head. You can’t control them; you can control you and how you react and respond. Set your victim bar at ZERO.

3. Ask people you love and trust what traits of yours (beyond looks) stand out, what talents and strongpoints resonate with them. Write those down. Add your own. Honestly assess what you’re good at, where you excel. Clarify your “brand,” your most unique and valued sense of self. BE that, proudly.

4. Research people you most admire, personal or historical. Explore what inspired your admiration; note that attractiveness usually has little to do with it. Notice, too, how age becomes the great equalizer of beauty, leaving those who developed little else to become less with their lessening youth and beauty, while those who nurtured and developed their talents, their contributions to society, their compassion and art, endured. Be like them.

5. Don’t give a hoot what other people think or say about you. I know, easy to say, harder to do, but learn how to do it. It’ll be the very best gift you give yourself. And the bonus is, you’ll discover that the worthy people see exactly who you are, the others don’t matter. You do not ever need to fulfill some random criteria of attractiveness to be worthy. You’re worthy. And you’re pretty enough; decide you’re pretty enough, know you’ll always be pretty enough, then let the whole “pretty enough” meme go. Determine, and let anyone asking know, that that’s not the metric with which you will judge or be judged. Period.

There. More than 280 characters. Hopefully enough. Yes, surely enough.


Little girl photo by Kate Williams
Seated girl photo by Cristian Newman
Three girls photo by rawpixel

Related articles you might enjoy:

How to Compliment a Young Girl (Without Mentioning Looks!)
22 Compliments Not Based On Physical Appearance
50 Compliments That Have Nothing to Do With Appearance


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon. Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s other books, music, photography, and articles.

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Let’s Discuss the Politics of ‘Closed’ Facebook Groups

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I get it. I get why people want to create “closed groups” on Facebook. “Secret groups.” It’s not hard to understand.

With a closed group, an administrator can control who’s let in and who’s kept out; how it’s done and what is shared. They can keep out the caustically antipathetic and avert the toxicity of trolls. All of which is desirable.

As someone who posts on sites like The Huffington Post, with one of the highest readership ratings of any media site in the world, I have heard — oh, have I heard! — from an array, a confluence, a literal horde of trolls over my writing career, and I mean to tell you, their hateful, hissing commentary can be soul killing. And trolling appears to be an equal-opportunity affliction, as I’ve been bombarded by everyone from gun nuts and political zealots, to angry moms and independent writers.

So, yes, removing that seething demographic’s inexhaustible urge to hijack meaningful conversation is a good thing. Though I do know some pugilistic, well-meaning writers who seem energized by virtually jousting with inarticulate, hateful poop-throwers, I’m not one of them… and my experience tells me most people aren’t. Hence, “closed groups,” with their ability to block trollism, have sprouted en masse, popular amongst those who want a safe space to engage with like-minded people to exchange ideas, information, articles, calls-to-action, etc.

But given that increase, inspired, no doubt, by the shit-storm we’ve just experienced in Election 2016, I do think it would be wise to rethink a few things, not only on the general protocol of any group, closed or otherwise, but the impact of particularly closed groups on public perception. I think these points bear some thought, especially considering what was just lost and what we are now facing.

1. Do NOT put someone in any group, closed or otherwise, without asking first. 

This is a big one, and though I’d have assumed it didn’t need to be said, it does. I have now been “put,” sometimes repeatedly, into various groups without my knowledge or permission, discovering said membership only after getting notification that I was in said group. BAD FORM.

When you do that to someone, regardless of your good intentions, you are not only being presumptuous, you’re now giving that person a task they didn’t ask for: if they choose not to be in said group, they now have to take the time to track it down and remove themselves. Which may seem minor, but it’s annoying and can potentially lead to someone else being miffed that that person doesn’t want to be in said group. Bottom line: it’s messy, it’s presumptuous, and it’s bad manners.

If you’ve discovered or are starting a group you think someone else might be interested in, ASK THEM FIRST. Very simple. Send them an invitation; let them be the one to decide if they want to join. And if they don’t, don’t take it personally. Realize that many people simply don’t want to be in groups; some are already in as many as they choose to be in; some may not want to participate in that group, or, if it’s a closed group, they may have different philosophies about those in general.

2. Allow members to participate as they see fit: 

I have now been in a few groups where administrators treat members almost like errant students: they’re obligated to engage in certain ways, with measurable degrees of visibility and involvement; there are to-do lists and even “homework.”

Typically I hop out of any group that turns voluntary participation into the dirge of academic obligation, because I don’t choose to, or have time to, participate in that way. We’re all adults; we do not need to be scolded, managed, or browbeaten into engaging in specific, mandated fashion. Again, it’s bad form, and it turns the positive experience of that group into something, well… less positive.

Don’t judge what members are getting out of it. If they’re there, they must be getting something. Trust your members. Which means, don’t “guilt” people into signing petitions, donating money, taking actions, sharing stories, “liking: other people’s posts, leaving reviews, etc. Coercion, however gentle, is counter-productive. We all learn, grow, change, and are inspired in individual ways. If you invite people into a group, unless they’re trolling — at which point, yes, they’re uninvited — allow them to participate as they choose. You never know what may be gained from their quiet engagement.

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3. As for “closed/secret” groups, are they really the best way to make evolutionary, cultural change?  

I know I’m likely to get some heat for this one, but hear me out:

There are many valid reasons for closed groups: groups that allow abuse survivors to communicate privately; battered women, LGBT groups; any group where privacy is truly survival and mandatory.

But political groups? Really?

One of the biggest criticisms of Hillary Clinton over the entire election cycle, including the primary, was that people weren’t enthusiastic about her; they weren’t as “excited, thrilled, inspired,” as, say, Bernie supporters… and later, as Trump supporters. You remember that, don’t you? And it was strange, that perception, because, in fact, millions of men and women were deeply enthusiastic about her. And where were they, many of them? In “secret” groups, every day touting and cheering their support amongst each other. It was a literal spree of support in… secret groups. Out in the public forum? Not so much.

Back in March I wrote a piece titled, I Will If You Will: Why Clinton Supporters Need to Speak up More on Social Media, based on the fact that so many of them were oddly silent, seemingly cowed from public discourse on media, social or otherwise. And while the piece inspired a fair amount of dialogue, I continued to see more and more “closed/secret” Clinton groups pop up every day, with, still, less open discussion in public forums.

And I understand. Based on feedback I got after the article, it seems countless people, mainly women, were reticent to share their public support for Clinton because of backlash they were bound to receive: in work situations where people might take umbrage; within families where members would be incensed; amongst social media circles where trolls were all too active. Fear, and an unwillingness to set themselves up for that kind of negative response, led, then, to their participation in those many “secret/closed” Clinton support groups.

Certainly those groups provided upliftment and support to the members involved, and that was good. And maybe the group’s mission was just that, and didn’t include any intent or mission to change public perception of Clinton’s enthusiasm quotient, or build greater coalition for her campaign out in the public sphere. Clearly no group was obligated to meet that demand, but I have to wonder: did all the secrecy have an impact, a negative contribution, to the endless mantra that Clinton just didn’t have the same level of support as either Bernie or Trump?

I have no quantifiable statistics, but my gut says yes. The greater lack of public outspokenness amongst her many supporters did her no favors, and at the end of the day, the “silent majority” has never been more painfully evident than in an election where the more popular, more qualified candidate lost in the din of support for her opposition, whose supporters were always out, loud, and proud without any commensurate caution or hesitation.

Additionally, is it possible that all this echo chambering did/does little to help bridge gaps between different, even opposing groups? If we never hear from or engage with those on other sides, isn’t it possible we’re never going to find reasonable coalition again in this country? I’m not talking trolls — they get zero engagement from me and shouldn’t from anyone else. I’m talking about honest, thoughtful people who may have conflicting views as well as the ability to communicate sanely and without invectives and vitriol. They surely exist… don’t we want to engage with them… or at least try?

We liberals got this election so damn wrong on so many levels, I think it behooves us at this point to climb out of the bubble. I realize those with opposing or even just conflicting perspectives have to have the same willingness to put down pitchforks to meet us on the field (will they? won’t they?), but we gotta start somewhere. Someone needs to get out on the dance floor. Not everyone on the other side is a KKK member, a flaming white supremacist, a hate-mongering xenophobe, or a virulent alt-right bigot. Some are just less informed, have been more hurt by problems that exist in this country; have been misled by misinformation, or whose narrow concerns blinded them to the worst of the other side. They make up that BIG red blob in the middle and southern edges of our country. And many of them are on Facebook.

If there’s anything we’ve learned this go-around, it’s that we have to start paying less attention to our own biased media and flawed online polls (oh, how flawed they were!), and more to the people across the street. On the corner. In our hometowns. In those flyover states. In other Facebook groups.

Yes, closed group aficionados, I’m aware that “some of us need, want, demand a safe place to vent, share, speak, write, cry, scream, inspire, laugh, etc., without any pushback or even feedback from those who don’t share our worldview.” OK, but considering the paragraphs above, how about this?

Create the group. Leave it open; not “secret.” Create and post the mission statement. Define parameters: rules against trolling and ad hominem attacks, suggestions for participation, clear awareness of what kind of communication will get someone removed from the group, etc. Monitor conversations. Monitor comments. Monitor threads. Stay vigilant to bona fide trolls; block and delete without apology. And build a group, a circle, a conversation that is open, welcoming, and, hopefully, ultimately, illuminating to anyone open to illumination.

It’s how I’ve built and curated my own social media and, yes, it takes vigilance, but it works. It will be more work for administrators, it will take more vigilance from members to keep administrators aware of anyone breaking the trolling rules, but it might go a long way toward creating both a safe space and a public forum that allows the positive energy, thoughtful dialogue, and inspiring debates to more usefully and productively enter into and impact the pubic sphere.

We need that. If anything taught us that, it was Election 2016.

Table & chairs photograph by Jonny Clow @ Unsplash
Studying man photograph by Bethany Legg @ Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Cleansing Power of Creativity… Yours

— photo by Gaelle Marcel

Maybe it’s the God-syndrome; the idea that having the power to create is what life is all about, what ‘godliness’ is all about… or at least closer to that vaunted status than ‘cleanliness,’ for God’s sake, which is what we’ve been told all these years!

The power to create comes in countless varieties, allowing humans of every predilection to choose their path to the heavens. But in a culture more readily fixated on watching, judging, commenting, hang-wringing, ranting and railing, it’s easy to get preoccupied by the passivity of being an observer, an analyst, while minimizing the activity of shifting the zeitgeist with the smallest touch of our energy and creativity. We huddle over Facebook or Twitter, availing ourselves of the latest “whatever,” feeling our outrage stoked, our righteousness riled; we share, and comment, and converge, and there is some value, some sense of being part of the roiling evolvement of our world by this engagement, and certainly there is.

But we have to question: is it sustaining value? Does it help us in our lives? Does it help others? Does it change outcomes? Does it positively impact those we know, we touch; the world around us?

I’m not convinced. It’s fun, surely (sometimes); it’s distracting and entertaining. We do come across funny animal videos (perhaps the BEST reason to be on social media! 🙂 ). There are great, inspirational stories about great inspirational people; those have merit. Activism may be stirred, involvement encouraged, but how often does that get beyond observational to become actual?

I bet if studies were done (which they probably have been but I’m too lazy to go look), we’d discover that people spend a significant chunk of their “free time” on social media, immersed in arguing/commiserating about politics, crime, gossip, outrage and tragedy, less on creativity, inspiration, and upliftment, and certainly less on actively pursuing those higher-toned activities.

In some ways we can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. It’s driving past the car crash, looking at the dead body; gorging in the latest tragedy. We observe and remark and ponder, but odds are good all of that leaves us feeling more burdened than inspired to act.

So as thinking people, we have to be aware of that equation, cautious about our own indulgences, our own consumption, to adjust. I often take myself off media, social and otherwise, enforce a sabbatical of sorts, out of sheer need for a mental/emotional palate cleanse. I get deeply wearied (I’m not sure there’s a word strong enough to express how wearied) of the relentless, redundant, scab-picking coverage of this presidential election. I get battered by the glut of tragedy presented by the globalization of our news media. I fight not to become inured to the injustices, the prejudices, the caustic bigotries and vile behaviors that drench our online discourse, so I can continue to be a voice of reason and protest.

And I create. I shut it all off and create. And that’s when I discover the ‘godliness’ we each have the power to access.

As some of you know, I went to an Adele concert recently. At some point the speakers got really loud so I had to piut on my best ear protection for concerts, that helped a lot with the ringing I had in my ear. It had been a long time since I’d been to a show as big, as overwhelming, and as I watched this warm, charming, supremely talented singer/songwriter work her magic on the thousands of people in the room with me, I thought to myself: ‘what must it feel like to have your path so firmly etched that you know your job, your gift, your contribution to the world is bringing joy, emotion, inspiration, reflection, MUSIC to this many people?’ I envied Adele’s singular purpose and her ability to carve a life where creativity was both her art and her occupation.

Then later that week I went down to San Diego to work on songs for an original musical in which I’m involved (The Geeze & Me), and despite having my computer along, I made a point of staying off social media, detaching for a minute from the noise and madness. As I worked with the show’s creator, Hedges Capers, banging out melodies and recording tracks, or discussed the script and characters with his wife and co-creator, Nancy Capers, I found myself wrapped in the excitement and exhilaration of creativity, pure and simple. It brightened my day and lifted my spirits, making my awareness of, and engagement in, the darker corners of life more manageable, less burdensome, more in balance.

Meanwhile, and during all the above, I’ve been knee-deep in accomplishing the first (very rough) draft of my third novel, a topical piece dramatic enough to be a departure from my first two. It’s been a bitch in that, and taken some stern focus and concentration, but the process of writing is the essence of what I’m talking about: there’s an immersion, a cloister-like cocoon that’s achieved, one in which I’m taken as an observer, a chronicler, into the world I’m creating, which is insanely surrealistic and magical. And while in my created world, following the activities of my imagined characters, the world in which I actually live hovers nearby, still in view, still accessible, but muted for that moment.

It’s within that mystical cocoon where the simple act of creating becomes the ritual: tapping the ‘godliness’ we each possess, where intention and imagination result in creation.

That ability is life-changing, empowering. It allows us to detach from self, from noise, from ego; from the distractions and chaos of culture, to, instead, create. A song. A book. A code. A building. A dress. A cake. A painting. An invention. A game. A restaurant. A water system. A business. A plan. A purpose. A curriculum. A change.

A better world.

Crayon photo by Gaelle Marcel @ Unsplash.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Yes, We Are ALL Part of the ‘Truth In Media’ Equation

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As most sentient people have noticed, distrust in the media is at an all-time high. It’s not just conservatives who whine about the “lamestream media”; people on all sides of the divide are generally dissatisfied, unconvinced that “all the news that’s fit to print” is actually fit… or even news… and certainly most of it isn’t in print!

In the glory days of good old-timey journalism, the mandate was to report, to chronicle the events of the day, absent of opinion and rife in verifiable fact. Nowadays, as we march onward in our digital revolution to accrue ever-more 24/7 online news/media sources, the sheer demand for content is so relentless that any story, any opinion, any slant or perspective is granted the same status as actual news. Which means much of what we perceive as news is actually an unholy mix of bias, misinformation, rushed reporting, and facts twisted so precipitously as to resemble bias, misinformation, and rushed reporting.

This “news food” (like “cheese food”… as resemblant of real cheese as, well, you get the point) is then put through various delivery systems that render it digestible pseudo-news. And once that gets bleated about by cable/network talking heads, splayed across blogs and online news sites, written/covered/spun by writers (some posing as journalists), or printed in newspapers and magazines, it becomes TRUTH. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t; it’s been given the pedigree of pontification and publication, and, therefore, must be true. Sorta true? Even a little bit true? 

Oh, hell, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it’s believed to be true, that it supports someone’s point of view, and once it reaches that dubious bar, it then becomes “bandiable.” Spreadable. Ripe for sharing, posting, tweeting, blogging, slathering across the media landscape like so much warm butter (or, more accurately, congealed lard). Whatever greasy mess it is, it ain’t pretty.

And where does that leave us, those of us who do want “truth in media”? It’s become increasingly difficult, in a culture that readily serves up this pseudo-news cocktail, to know what, exactly, IS true. What is factual, verifiable, worthy of our viral attention… and what is not. And, sorry to have to say this, but we partakers have been, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not, collaborators in the metastasizing of this regrettable phenomenon. Don’t think so?  

I bet we’ve all done/experienced some of this:

• We read an article posted by a friend, a family member, someone in our circle. It resonates, we “like” it, we express our outrage/support as appropriate; we might even share it… then we discover it’s a two-year-old article, the event is no longer relevant to the current conversation, or the reported “facts” have been discovered to be false, different, evolved, and therefore, the article is not useful. But, too late; we’ve sent it all over the place.

• Someone in our circle posts an article that is highly critical of some person, organization, political party, etc., they do not support. They even offer accompanying commentary to further fan the outrage. But as readers look a little closer, they discover the writer of the article works for a rabidly oppositional site, or is a fire-breather of known bias whose “reporting” could only be described as opinion, often faulty opinion teeming with dubious “truths.” But, again, it’s too late; it’s already been shared, “liked,” and commented upon as factual.

• A major event occurs somewhere in the world (terrorism, police brutality, plane crash, etc.). As the coverage tsunamis in, we rush to our TVs, our computers, and immediately begin sharing and commenting. Unfortunately, what often gets reported at the beginning of a news cycle, particularly as the facts are still being ascertained in the midst of chaos, is inaccurate and hazy, built on rumor and faulty witness reports. But those faulty reports and false rumors have now been thrown all over the media, social and otherwise, and unless those doing the throwing are quick to follow up with corrected, more accurate information, the misinformation exists online forever as fact, misleading many in the process.

• An incendiary, salacious, click-baity article is posted; it revs up the pitchfork throwers, sending commenters and trolls into a frenzy… only to have it pointed out that the site is a “satire site,” the article was tongue-in-cheek, the content was a joke, and so on. But before this is made clear, hordes of people have disseminated the information to be discussed and debated as fact.

• And, even in the most benign of circumstances, some of us are guilty of posting, say, notices of a celebrity death… only to have someone clarify that the person being mourned actually died months, even years, earlier. (A year or so ago, I—yes, I—posted a bittersweet piece about my favorite childhood DJ from Chicago having passed… only to be informed that he’d died three years prior! That’s the last time I posted something without first checking the date!)

And that’s the point. We gotta do a better job of checking what we post and share. We do have a role in this “truth in media” equation, an obligation even. Because we—the readers, listeners, sharers, commenters, posters, tweeters, bloggers—are like bees that spread pollen, birds that flit from flower to flower; Johnny Appleseeds with our bags of, well, apple seeds. We may not write the stories, but if we’re out there pollinating cyberspace with our shares, tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, comments, etc., we are participating in either informing or misinforming the reading public.

The fix? Simple: before you post or share anything, apply the following:

  1. Check the date. If it’s old, odds are good the information is as well. Either don’t post it, or—if it’s a topic/person/event you feel strongly about—find a more current source. Or at least make a point of alerting people that it’s an old article. 
  2. Check the site you’re sourcing from. If you’re sharing information from a far Right or far Left site, or any site known for a certain slant or opinion, odds are good the information being shared is biased toward that philosophy. Biased doesn’t necessarily mean not true, but it does mean one ought to share and read with a grain of circumspection. Even caution. Even cynicism. If you post something from such a site, be so kind as to make note of the political/philosophical penchant of the source so readers and sharers are aware and can judge accordingly.
  3. Check the veracity of what you’re posting. This one may be most important, particularly in regard to information that is incendiary, sensational, accusatory, insulting, potentially defaming; possibly not-true. Do us all a favor and get some fact-checking in before you post that sort of thing (or, really, anything). Between Snopes, Politifact, FactCheck, even Wikipedia, you can certainly do your own due diligence. In fact, it behooves us all to either refrain from posting slanderous-type material (particularly from a biased source), or be damn sure we’ve verified the truth of what we’re sharing. There’s enough misinformation and inaccurate propaganda out there without any of us contributing to the muckraking. 
  4. Be upfront when posting from satire sites. It’s all well and good to be so savvy, so culturally hip, that you know all the cool satire sites in the world, but presume not everyone else does. Posting a disclaimer like *SATIRE* is not only appreciated, it goes a long way toward keeping horrified folks from sharing as fact what is meant to be humor.
  5. Do your homework and figure out which news sources post the most neutral, most factual, most verifiable, least salacious news. Then share from those sites. This may take some time to sort out, and designated sites may go in and out of the category, but it’s worth it in the long run to get a decent list together, not only in terms of what to share from where, but what to reference for your own news information.

I’m sure there are other items that would be useful to the assignment (feel free to leave yours in the comments), but for now, these five, if vigilantly applied, would contribute mightily to the stanching of misinformation, and the propagating of more “truth in media.” I urge us all to do our part. Then, when we complain about the “media,” we can do so knowing that we, at least, have not further contributed to its “lameness.”

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

UK Author & Blogger E.L. Lindley Reviews AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH

ATSP_new billboard by Brenda Perlin

There is great honor, as an author, in seeing your work strike exactly the right chords, inspire exactly the desired response; even provoke exactly the intended conversations. We each understand that the experience of art and literature is a subjective exercise, but still… when it’s reflected back just as you imagined it in your head… well, that’s golden, isn’t it? 

UK author and blogger, E.L. Lindley, provided one of those shiny, golden moments for me today. She just posted her review of After The Sucker Punch, and I was as touched by her beautiful and articulate analysis of the book as I was her consideration in posting it beyond her blog and all over the social media world. THAT is truly above and beyond, and in a world where indie authors sometimes hear the resounding echo of their solo journey, that kind of support is truly and deeply felt. Thank you, E.L., I’m delighted you enjoyed the book! 

E.L. Lindley
E.L. Lindley

After The Sucker Punch is an aptly named novel because it packs a mighty punch and raises so many questions, I was left literally reeling by the end of it. Lorraine Devon Wilke commands our attention with a splendidly dramatic opening and never lets us off the hook until the very last page.

The novel is essentially the story of Tessa Curzio, who whilst attending her father’s funeral discovers that he kept diaries for fifty years and has used them to record less than complimentary observations about his family and friends. The trauma of the death of a parent combined with the diary findings serve to cast Tessa into a spiral of self-doubt and destruction. The diaries are described as a Pandora’s Box and indeed, once they’ve been opened, the lives of Tessa and her family will never be the same again. In addition to this, the effects of the Pandora’s Box seem to extend to the reader, leaving behind some very thorny philosophical questions.

LDW shrewdly uses the third person narrative to tell her story, which invites the reader to see the bigger picture. We don’t necessarily always agree with Tessa’s version of events, especially where her siblings are concerned. Tessa has a difficult relationship with her older sister Michaela but LDW offers us a glimpse of a woman trying to juggle her life as a wife, mother and teacher, whilst stepping up to her new role as the family designated carer for her newly widowed mother. Whilst Tessa may have little sympathy for Michaela, LDW ensures that the reader does.

Tessa’s relationship with her siblings is for me the heart and soul of the novel and anybody who has siblings will recognise the petty tensions and jealousies but deep visceral love that defines the bonds they share. Tessa to a large extent has removed herself from her family in order to survive and consequently much of the to-ing and fro-ing between them is via a hilarious series of telephone conversations.

LDW offers us the Curzio family and with it the question of whether parents are responsible for their adult children’s misery. Tessa grew up with an unstable mother who is prone to extreme mood swings and a distant, aloof father, who struggled with intimacy. Despite their chaotic childhood, Tessa and all five of her siblings have grown into accomplished, successful people. Ronnie, her younger brother has lost his way but still has the potential for a good life. However, they are mired in their childhood, looking for reasons as to why their parents are like they are. Tessa’s mother bemoans the fact that she feels like a “dartboard” as her children look to blame her for their difficult childhoods.

Tessa’s family dynamics reflect a period of time that will resonate with lots of us who grew up in the 60s the 70s. Children’s needs were not particularly taken into account and as Tessa points out there was “no concept of child abuse.” Her mother freely hits her children in anger and perhaps worse, they are subjected to the fear and anxiety of her constant mood swings. In some ways the fact that her mother has the capacity for great kindness, as when she reassures Tessa she isn’t sinful, makes her relationship with her children even more complex. In her role as a writer, Tessa covers a feature about fathers and daughters and finds herself comparing her own experiences with other more tangible forms of abuse. She comes to the conclusion that pain is subjective and so can’t be comparative – “it’s as deep as you feel it.”

There’s no denying that her father’s written words have a devastating effect on Tessa and cause her much soul searching. As she rails against his words, there is clearly the kernel of fear within her that they might be true. As she is forced to confront her fears, her life implodes around her. The only constant is her friendship with Kate and Ruby even though LDW allows just enough realism to creep into their relationships. Tessa can’t help but feel reassured by Ruby’s marital problems whilst suffused with jealousy at Kate’s seemingly perfect life.

At the crux of the novel is the idea of whether we should be judged by what we write. Leo Curzio’s diary habit is made more toxic by the fact that he wanted his family to read them. The diaries serve as a metaphorical hand grenade tossed into the bosom of his family with the potential to rip lives apart. Tessa’s aunt, who acts as the conscience of the novel, asserts that maybe we should be judged on our actions rather than by what we may write. To all intents and purposes Leo Curzio was a good man, who did his best to give his children the best start in life but, for some bizarre reason felt the need to vent his bitterness and resentment on paper. Which is the more valid Leo is the puzzle that Tessa is left to figure out.

In the end there are no startling revelations or absolute answers, just a sense of peace and the idea of trying to accept people as they are, warts and all. LDW has captured the spirit of family perfectly in that there is no perfect family. Her novel is funny, warm, tense, angry and ultimately shows us that life is to be lived and there’s no point in dwelling on the past.

To visit and stay updated with E.L.’s blog, click HERE. To visit her author page on Amazon, click HERE

ATSP photo art by Brenda Perlin.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Are YOU a Propagandist?

The Smarter You Get

Those old enough to have ever watched a World War II movie are likely to remember the infamous Tokyo Rose, the name given to any number of Japanese women (though largely ascribed to Japanese American Iva Toguri D’Aquino) whose role was to get on the radio to croon Japanese propaganda to the American military, offered with the intent of crushing morale. Given the outcome of that war, it’s safe to say the endgame didn’t quite meet the mission, but propaganda has long been a useful tool in pushing agendas and designing how the world and culture-at-large receives and perceives information.

Certainly it played a major role in the Cold War (how many kids were uniformly terrified of Russian spies or nuclear bombs hitting their grade schools?); it’s been an essential tool in how religion mesmerizes its masses, and, without a doubt, it is the machinery that foments discord between partisan politicians and their opponents. Yet even as heinous and manipulative as it is, propaganda has become so insinuated into the fibers of day-to-day American discourse that we barely notice it anymore; certainly we don’t seem to realize how affected we are by it or how we tend to use it ourselves to promote our own agendas and beliefs. In fact, we’ll raise a fist in objection to propaganda on one side of the divide while actively bandying our own version of the same. Social media has, in many ways, become a breeding ground for propaganda and I wonder if culture wouldn’t be better served if we rethought how we use it.

Constitutional scholar, Jonathan Turley, argues that the word itself, propaganda, translates literally to mean “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.” Helping or injuring. Yet we seldom think of propaganda in the “helping” column, it’s so often used to divide more than bring together.  Even Turley acknowledges that the almost totally negative connotation of the word has sprung from its cultural use as a “value loaded” activity, one that uses selective language and cherry-picked ideas to manipulate people toward one thought or another.

Manipulation is hardly viewed as a positive force, and that is, in fact, how most people view propaganda: as manipulation. The taking of facts and using them selectively, disproportionately, even untruthfully, and often at the expense and exclusion of balancing information as counterpoint. We see that every day on Fox News, on partisan talk radio, cable news and websites on both sides of the political divide. We see it on social media, translated through what photographs, articles, and memes are posted and shared, what words are used to introduce those images; how headlines are focused and spun. Propaganda is everywhere and, to some extent, if you partake in sharing its messages, you’re a party to it.

Don’t think so?

Well, here’s a thought: propaganda is an equation that works with the energy of thought. The more you think something, the more you say something, the more you breathe life into that idea by your thoughts, words and actions, the more a thing IS. It’s just a matter of physics. Propaganda uses that equation for its own purposes: Think it + Focus on it + Say it + Talk about it + Share supporting information + Discard countering information + Argue it + Denigrate disagreement + Be relentless in promoting it = More of IT in the world.

Racism? That’s a big topic these days, one in which propaganda is being flung around every which way, and while it authentically remains a substantial and important issue in our society, the way we discuss it, frame it, and propagandize about it is exactly how it will remain manifested in our world. Scream and yell every generality, every inflamed accusation; attack on both sides with hyperbole and viciousness, and that’s what we’ll keep manifesting.That’s just the way it works. We can’t inspire change when we’re too focused on kicking the crap out of each other.

Don’t get me wrong; shining light where it is needed is a good thing. Pulling racists and racism out from the closet or from under the rug, the basement, or from behind a robe or computer screen is necessary. Honestly confronting the issues we cringe from is essential to productive conversation and practical progress. And certainly many of these steps occur in explosive ways after events like the Rodney King beating, Trayvon Martin’s death, or the more recent Ferguson case. But wise people understand that rage and demands for justice have to be channeled judiciously and with utter candor and openness, clear that each of these cases (and others) is individual, not necessarily comparable, with specific and differentiated facts and meanings. And despite the incendiary nature of all these events, none of them mean ALL of America is broken, or race relations have all gone to hell, or civil rights have no meaning in this country. None of these are true. Elements of each are true in specific cases, but the sweeping generalities being spewed like so many litanies are not only not true, they’re propaganda, and they’re demoralizing and damaging to productive forward motion.

Remember that equation? Now, think about what your goal is as a person communicating in the world, a person sharing information and engaging in conversation. If your goal is to promote peace and bring honest, tangible change to the world; to educate, uplift, inspire, challenge, reach out, and bridge divides, you’ll communicate with equanimity, fairness, specificity, intelligence, truth, compassion, and a willingness to listen and hear new information.

If, on the other hand, your goal is to relentlessly vent and call it activism; attack and insult and call it “debate”; promote greater divides between the races, or to push the meme that racism is utterly hopeless and unstoppable, do this instead:

• Keep talking about how all whites/all blacks are all fill in the blank.
• Create and promote as many false equivalencies as possible.
• Spin the news so that only the part that supports racism is featured.
• Post as many stories as you can find about bad cops and prosecutors.
• Generalize heavily and focus on the very worst of humanity.
• Comment and promote the idea that all whites “don’t value black lives.”
• Generalize widely that all black men are criminals/victims/innocent/guilty
• Ferret out and share stories that support that all cops are vicious.
• Keep pounding the drum that ALL of America is broken/unfair/insensitive/racist.
• Look for and share media that promotes that all politicians hate people of color.
• Support the notion that all who disagree with Obama are racists.
• Make it clear by what you say and post that in all tangles between cops and people of color, the cops are always wrong;
• And be sure to only post stories that promote all of the above.

If you do all that – as many, many people are doing online these days – you are being a propagandist. And you are not helping to educate, heal, or raise the consciousness of this country. You are, instead, publicly promoting your own anger and outrage, potentially at the expense of positive change. You are promoting thoughts and ideas that focus energy and agreement on the very worst of society. And the more the very worst is agreed upon, the more it is accepted, the more it is envisioned, the more it is tweeted, posted, shared, argued about, etc., the more it will continue to become, to grow and metastasize.

That’s just the way it works. And we don’t want that.

Without propaganda, without all this fire-stoking, people would be left to their own devices to analyze, adjudicate, and form their own opinions of current (even past) events. We’d be obligated to get beyond the caterwauling of others to smartly weight pros and cons, do our own research to ascertain what’s true and what’s hyperbole. We’d not accept sensationalism on face value, but would be open to ideas that might fly in the face of what we’d held as fact. We might even have the magnanimity to change a viewpoint or embrace an ideal that had previously eluded us. We’d talk openly and civilly share our, perhaps, contrary opinions without fear of attack or ridicule. We’d boldly allow for the option to not agree with propaganda, but instead promote notions of equilibrium, personal responsibility, and each and everyone’s obligation to take control of their own actions. From there we would likely have a better chance at bringing real change to the problems that harm us as a culture.

I’m all for that. By the way, he was too.

MLK_love not hate
MLK poster from OurTimeOrg

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Cultural Noise: Remember When It Was Quieter? It Still Is…

View from our deck

I just got back from a working vacation in parts of the northwestern USA that are so gorgeously bucolic and blessedly detached from the grind of urban life that one can’t help but be reminded of just how noisy things out there have gotten… and how quiet they can still be!

It is a noisy world we live in, isn’t it? Particularly when so many insist on being permanently tethered to news and media, with TV sets blaring all day, smart phones ever at the ready, the Internet in all its tabloid permutations bleating a litany of tragedies and travesties from one end of the globe to the other, those of us not living in war torn squalor, profound poverty, gangland violence, or insidious oppression, can almost feel guilty for our relatively unscathed lives. And even if we refrain from such misguided tendencies, we’re still spending too much of our time fending off anxiety, fear, worry, or seething commentary from the worst amongst us, discovering that just laying one’s head on the pillow is a trigger for loud, internal late night chatter.

I’ve seen more and more posts on social media from people bemoaning the vitriol and hissing ignorance of so many who have  somehow become “experts” on issues of the Middle East or the Ukraine. I’ve read head-shaking online conversations in which someone’s expression of gratitude for a good life is attacked by trolls who’ve decided expressing gratitude shows lack of compassion for the suffering (because trolls know all about compassion, right?). I’ve talked to people who are SO convinced that horror and dread is around every corner based on endless ticker-tape reporting of horror and dread worldwide, they can barely acknowledge a beautiful moment without waiting for the axe to fall.

Foggy Lighthouse_sm

NOISE. Noise couched in news. Noise that is so relentless that we begin to feel that war, violence, hate and poverty are all there is to the world… and that’s simply not true. It is, simply, all we hear about. Which creates the delusion of “darkness descending everywhere.” It’s not and we cannot immerse ourselves in every tragedy, every war, every historical feud, every horrifying injustice, without taking a toll on our mental and emotional health. Doing so is as unbalanced as eating nothing but dirt and expecting to be healthy.

We are now and forever so connected to the collective noise of the world-at-large that QUIET and SERENITY are almost an unfathomable concepts. But think about it: we didn’t used to have all this chatter around us. We used to be able to watch an hour or two of news, then get on with the business of living our lives. Now “living our lives” is composed of never-ending bouts of watching, reading, commenting, fearing, yelling, trolling, posting, defending, attacking and deleting, to the point that serenity and detachment is a lost art. We can blame the culture, blame the Internet, blame new technology, but it’s all about us. We have the power to turn it off and go find that lost art.

Do. Get it back. It’s essential. And it’s there to be had; you deserve to  — but WAIT, you yell! How selfish am I if I revel in my own good fortune, enjoy my own peace and serenity while people elsewhere are living in literal hell? I can’t put my head in the sand!! I have to be engaged, involved, immersed in the world around me, so I can be a good citizen or, hey, even just have enough information to be able to scream and yell on social media with other marginally informed people!!

Right. As my therapist used to say: “and is that working for you?” No.

Here’s the thing, and I’ve said this before… many times: Screaming and yelling at each other on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit is NOT activism. It’s screaming and yelling at each other. Spending countless hours watching and listening to profoundly biased anchors on cable news and talk radio is NOT getting informed; it’s being propagandized to. Stockpiling weapons, joining militia groups, being “anti-government” and stashing duct tape is NOT being pro-active; it’s being fear-based and paranoiac. Wringing hands and lying sleepless at night roiled in anxiety after endless articles on the very worst of people and the most catastrophic of life events is NOT being informed and involved; it’s being oversaturated and toxified. None, not one, of these things does one bit of good for the children in the Middle East, the Eastern Europeans in their battles with Russia, the starving children of Africa or elsewhere, or the beleaguered young women in repressive countries. None.

Sunrise On Whitefish_sm

I don’t know why any of us land where we do on this planet, how we end up in the families we do; why some of us are born in war-torn regions and others have parents with endless wealth. Depending on what you believe it’s either all random, dumb luck, or some kind of spiritual path set in motion in another realm. But whatever it is, you living in Van Nuys, California with a good job, a healthy family, a decent marriage and the chance to get out of town from time to time are NOT obligated to feel guilty, or not enjoy your abundance, because someone in Gaza is being blasted to hell by rockets. None of us knows why any of us ends up on the paths we do, but denying and negating your own is not the answer.

The answer is twofold. First: if you are so compelled, and it would be good if you were, do what you can for those for whom you feel concern by allotting appropriate attention and energy to sending money, volunteering, writing meaningful articles, doing honest due diligence upon which to base opinions, educating others, raising your consciousness, and promoting and exemplifying tolerance, peace, and sanity.

Then, when you’re done with all that, there’s the second step: go live and enjoy your good life with gratitude, acceptance, kindness and compassion. If every single person who could do that did, the positive energy swirling around this planet would surely raise the bar of humanity a notch or two… of this I’m convinced.

47a. The Blue Canoe

So in following my own prescription, my family and I take every opportunity to go to wherever we can to find stillness and beauty. To revel in peace, nature, and serenity –  “But I can’t afford it,” you holler. “Lucky you, but not everyone has that kind of time or opportunity,” you admonish.

That doesn’t hold water. Because no matter where you live or what your budget might be, every person can find some place of solitude, some corner of nature and beauty where they can lower the anxiety and feel the quiet that exists away from chattering humanity and its machines. I had a creekside oasis in my childhood hometown where I could ride my bike to climb into a tree and sing show tunes surrounded by long grass and dandelions (for some reason “Shall We Dance?” was a favorite! :). A friend of mine used to find her spot in a big city park where a grove of trees surrounded a bench where there was surprisingly little traffic, human or automotive, to disturb the sound of squirrels and swaying branches. Another friend makes it a pilgrimage to drive to the beach at every opportunity; another, to hike the Hollywood trails; yet another to prioritize funds to get out of town at least once or twice a year.

Whatever you have to do, whatever you can afford to do, find your quiet. It exists out there. I promise. It takes a willingness to detach from our addictive, mechanical informantst but, trust me… it’s worth it. There’s a beautiful, quiet, peaceful world out there just waiting to be heard.

All photographs by LDW.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

A Pause From Politics… Or Why I’d Never Want To Be President

Not that anyone’s asking. I did have a long stint in rock & roll, God knows, and there has been some questionable behavior over the years, but, really, it’s the job itself that makes the point. It seems thankless, incredibly difficult, and one that comes with a big, fat, ready-made target for easy back-fastening, no matter who, when, what party, or what issue. I have a hard enough time with internet trolls; the presidency would do me in.

I’m not sure there’s ever been a time in history that hasn’t been dramatic and incendiary – certainly historians tell us that’s the case – but this is a particularly challenging era because now, by virtue of the internet and our 24/7 media saturation, we get to know everything about everything. Or so we think.

I have said very little about the situation in Syria; I’ve posted threads of others, shared thoughts expressed by smart people who seem to have a decent grasp on things, but as I’ve listened, watched, and read as much coverage as I can tolerate in a given day, I’ve mostly kept quiet. Which is not typically my style. But this is a complex, particularly troubling event, happening at a very politically convoluted time, playing out against a world literally breathing down the necks of those trying to sort it out while being battered, bullied and second-guessed by every living soul from Putin to Madonna. I don’t honestly think I have enough true, unbiased, completely factual information to be as firmly opinionated as either of them… or so many others, as it appears to be.

What I do observe is often a simplistic, foot-stomping tone to much of the debate, a tone that sometimes seems juvenile, petulant and lacking in appropriate consideration for the deeply sensitive nuances of the issue – which, likely, few of us are actually privy to. As someone who refuses to get swept into the black & white polarity of most of our political discourse and drama, I’ve stood in the back… listening. And I remain there, as I read and hear lines such as:

  1. I’m so disappointed in my President.
  2. I voted for change… where’s change?
  3. How is this any different than Bush and Cheney?
  4. We need to take care of our own backyard before we worry about the rest of the world.
  5. Love is the answer.
  6. War sucks.
  7. It’s simply not our responsibility.
  8. Syria can take care of its own mess.
  9. They’ll hate us no matter what we do.
  10. America can’t police the world.

And so on.

First of all, of course war sucks. I can’t think of one person in this world – unless they’re a sociopath or an arms dealer (which may be redundant) – who doesn’t think war sucks. And of course love is the answer but, COME ON! We can’t even be nice to each other on the internet; how can we expect “love” to keeps warring factions from their life and death struggles? As for Bush and Cheney? Let’s not get into false equivalencies (though we do so love those). Our backyard vs. the world? When has one precluded the other in terms of separate budgets and resources? Have they? If there’s irrefutable evidence that money has been taken from needed domestic programs to fund international military action, let’s hear about it. That would be a very necessary conversation.

But, strangely, it seems manageable for Americans to think “globally” when it comes to matters of money, difficult when it comes to humanity and the protection of it in certain situations. It’s worth discussing that, as a people, by virtue of what we buy, what we sell and export, what we’re willing to pay for our products, our oil, our gasoline, etc., we’ve easily embraced global interaction, the blurring of lines, if you will, of foreign borders. But even beyond oil, some of our favorites retail stores – Walmart, the Gap, and many other companies – work with business models based on cheap foreign labor and limited regulations. Why? Because we welcome a global community that will bring our costs down, make our products cheaper, keep our labor less expensive and our profit margins higher. Perhaps we should think about how we can so readily embrace “global participation” when it comes to money, but when issues like chemical warfare, ethnic slaughters, political ‘punishments,’ etc., occur, too many Americans suddenly shut the door and start talking about “we gotta take care of America, we can’t get involved in policing the world.”

As for the rest: Obama. Change. Disappointment. War-mongering. Craving the limelight (an accusation made by the usually wise Robert Reich about John Kerry). World War III. Our horrible country. Etc. All that.

It’s a swirling eddy of point and counterpoint. Frankly, I cannot imagine being the leader of the free world and having to ponder, research, weigh and come to decisions about grave national and international matters against a backdrop of EVERYONE’S expertise; everyone’s criticism, anger, unrealistic expectations, self-focused priorities and unremitting judgment. It’s never-ending. The President cannot and will not be able to make any decision that won’t bring down the bludgeons, no matter what he does, which way he turns, or what rationale he relies on. That’s a given. Because, somehow, the great we out here in every-day world, on Facebook and Twitter, listening to talk radio and cable news, sending around petitions and memes, penning treatises about our lack of faith in our country and our leaders, appear to have a remarkable depth of arcane, insider knowledge about what the hell is going on in Syria (and everywhere else, for that matter), enough to micro-manage world leaders, including our president, assigned the responsibility of solving it all. I’m not sure how everyone got so profoundly included in the minutia, the nuances, the details, the intelligence, the hair-trigger possibilities and imminent threats, but it seems they did. And from that vaunted perspective, there is no way for Obama – or anyone else – to win this battle.

Because it’s simply the way of the world, true in every aspect of 21st century life. Writers can’t write anything – even, I suspect, about flowers or kittens – without being pummeled for getting something wrong. Artists can’t make a mistake or flaunt youthful indiscretions without media and its many tentacles ripping them a new one. Politicians of any stripe can’t utter the wrong word, make a faulty decision or appear in any way fallibly human without the mob throwing them to the lions. How on earth could a president, a senator, a cabinet member, or a military leader make any decision without SOMEONE screaming they got it wrong? They can’t.

I am against war. I don’t even own a gun. I find the idea of maiming, hurting, shooting, bombing, poisoning and annihilating each other in the name of religions, countries, regions, ethnicities, politics, family feuds or neighborhood boundaries INSANE; anathema to everything hopeful, humane, and holy. And yet war has been the most predictable, most common, most connecting thread between human beings since the dawn of time. Wish though it would, it will not be going anywhere soon. Likely ever. Love may be the answer but war is the machine, driven by men who are hell-bent on aggression and power… or, as in many cases, driven by those with a sense that they’ve lost something of profound value, taken by those hell-bent on aggression and power.

As for Syria, I hope we can find a way to respond to the horrors there without bombing, without military action, without further decimation of that country and its people. I hope we can be part of a global coalition that upholds international law against chemical weapons (regardless of anyone’s past use), that imposes “economic sanctions or a freeze on Syrian assets,” as Robert Reich suggestswithout embarking on what no one wants… another war. Can that be done? I don’t know. But, then again, I personally do not have all the intelligence that is being shared, analyzed and judged by those in positions to act upon it. None of us do. So, because I don’t happen to believe our leaders, particularly our President, are amoral enough to go blithely into war for no reason, I will put my faith and trust in their decision and hope they get it right. Because, right now, they know more than I do.

And lastly: I wrote a piece at Addicting Info awhile back that I’ve chosen to take to heart: All News All The Time Just May Be Very Bad For Your Health. I’ve been involved with political writing and commentary for a while now and have decided to take a pause for a bit. That’s not to say I won’t have things to share on political matters from time to time; I’ll certainly take advantage of social media to stay in the conversation and, as a freelance writer, will gladly take political assignments as they come. But particularly after an election year, with all the drama of our crazy world before and after, the sheer immersion in the genre has taken a bit of a spiritual and creative toll. I’m veering off to focus on some new projects, others that have been neglected in the meantime, but I’m also just going to get quieter, more contemplative and observational for a bit. There’s a lot of noise out there, not all of it healthy or productive, and I want to step back, refresh my spirit, make sure what I’m contributing when I do contribute furthers the cause and isn’t just more noise. I mention this only because a few of you have asked where I’ve been; why I haven’t covered this or that, and I figured – after sharing hundreds of political pieces with you over the years – an explanation was in order. I’ll be around, I just won’t be publishing quite as much, at least regarding politics.

But what I do write, create, photograph, or sing, I will share… you know me!  And I will always welcome your enjoyment and response. Until later, then.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

As We Embrace 2013: My Top Seven Points Of Facebook Etiquette

info vs wisdom
I love social media. Regardless of the list of complaints I read every day on Facebook; in spite of the articles about privacy erosion, ad tracking, and all the rest, I happen to love the connectedness, the interaction, the sheer volume and creativity of sharing that goes on there. Without Facebook in particular (though I did love Twitter during the presidential debate season!), I would know less about my extended family and friends, would miss amazing events going on in my city, would be less in the loop of the cultural and political zeitgeist, and would not have been able to reach out to the widening and always welcome group of readers and subscribers who’ve come my way via social media. I always love good “conversation” on intriguing topics, it’s clearly a boon for any independent artist, and whatever you think of what people may post there, it’s an entertaining, thought-provoking and educational “community bulletin board” I personally love accessing from day to day.

But. I know…always a “but.”

There have been many comments posted about what Facebook “is supposed to be,” particularly during this very political election year. I’ve heard from some bemoaning the saturation of political articles and discussion; one friend even exhorted fellow group members to “PLEASE use Facebook the way it was meant to be used…pictures of our kids, our vacations, that kind of stuff. I’m SO SICK OF POLITICS!!”

To which I say….hmmm.

My thinking: Facebook is meant to be used however you choose to use it. For some that’s exactly as the writer admonished. For others it is, in fact, the exact place to post and ponder politics. For still others it’s about enlightenment via inspiring text, images, and artwork. Personally, I love the mix; I wouldn’t want my Facebook experience to be limited to only one thing. When I scroll down the newsfeed I actually enjoy the anticipation about what I might stumble upon; it’s oddly like going to Costco and wandering down the aisles never knowing what’s going to be there or what might grab my attention! A great, big, interesting mess of different items with different points and purposes and I can choose what I want to look at depending on my mood in the moment. How cool is that?

But what to do if someone in your group posts too much of something you don’t want to look at? It’s not hard: Hide their posts, change the setting and filters on what of theirs shows up on yours; delete them from your newsfeed or…delete them all together. It’s all within your grasp to make Facebook work for you. Rather than get overwhelmed or annoyed, design your experience as you see fit. That’s part of the fun.

(Of course, deleting or hiding anything of mine is so not recommended. 🙂

And what about etiquette? I bring this subject up at this particular moment because we’re days away from the new year, and the turn of the calendar always seems a good time to reset the button, refresh the window, restart the engines (dear God, please stop); and yes…turn the page. To better behavior, more productive action; a new way of looking at things. And as I took note this morning of a particular “friend” who constantly posts about his gigs, his CDs, his radio play, etc., but never, EVER, takes a moment to comment on, share, respond to, or even “like” the posts of anyone else that I can see, I decided today was the day to make some “refresh points” about Facebook etiquette. Read, absorb, and if so moved, add any of your own in the comments section below. These are not in any particular order of importance; just the ones I see as most useful in terms of making my personal Facebook – and maybe yours – a richer, more reciprocal experience.

1. Musicians: Don’t use Facebook as your personal billboard. We love knowing about your gigs, CDs, awards, etc., but without reciprocation – commenting on the posts of others, responding to comments left on your own posts, answering private messages of support left in your FB message box, sharing the posts of others, or just clicking “like” (how easy could that be??) on things unrelated to YOU YOU YOU –  you’ve made Facebook your exclusive, personal billboard. And that one-sidedness gets old for the rest of us.

It also doesn’t allow those in your FB group to get any sense of you as a person, as someone who can see outside your own world to be interested in someone else’s, and that works against you. It makes you seem self-absorbed and narcissistic. Believe me, I’m going to be more interested in your work, in supporting that work, if you’re a person engaged with others; a person who steps outside of yourself long enough to be interested in what someone else is doing or sharing. You know how politicians kiss babies, shake hands, make direct eye contact, and stop by coffee shops to engage one-on-one with people? That’s done to create personal connection, which makes people feel closer to the politician shaking their hand and…yes, more likely to vote for them. So even if you can’t find it within yourself to authentically reciprocate on Facebook for the purest of reasons, do so because it’s going to ultimately work for your public relations. People will like you better. You’ll make connections beyond slapping your gig dates up every week. And please don’t say you’re “too busy”; if you have time to bombard us with all your posts and invitations, you have time to reciprocate. If you truly don’t, make the time. It’s just good form.

2. Writers, Artists, Photographers, Actors, Filmmakers, Business Owners, Group Leaders, etc.:  see and apply #1.  I post a lot. Because I write a lot, I do a lot with my photography, I post a lot. I do so because I want to share, get feedback, encourage you to enjoy and pass around my work. But I also spend a lot of time commenting, sharing, liking, reading, and perusing the work of others. Your work. Your posts. I enjoy that process as much as I do the posting. I like availing myself of what others see worthy of sharing. I’ve found great articles, amazing photography, interesting resources I wouldn’t have found otherwise and have even been so compelled by some things that I’ve then shared them myself. It’s not about reciprocating just for the sake of social media etiquette; there’s actual benefit…to you! You’ll likely meet some very cool new people, get to know ones you know better; you might find links or references that aid you in your own work, and you’ll become a part of the community, not just someone who the rest of us are supposed to pay attention to! Get in there. We’re not your audience; we’re your collaborators. You’ll be surprised how much more willing people are to pay attention when you return the favor.

Noteworthy

3. Commenters: This is a big one. Learn how to do it. I have a public profile; I’ve chosen that setting because I want to reach as many readers, music and photography lovers, culturally and politically interested people as I possibly can. Having a public profile means that many of the people who comment on my threads are people I don’t personally know. Don’t presume I do and make the judgment that I have really weird friends, please. Some of the people who subscribe to my posts may very well be weird. But all the same rules apply, whether you’re my cousin or a subscriber from Dubai:

  •  Civility is required. Without question. I’m not interested in name-calling and personal bashing of any kind. Speak your piece as candidly as you wish, but speak to the issues; don’t attack other commenters and keep your personal attacks on the parties being debated to yourself or to your own page. (i.e., you can slam Romney’s politics but I have no interest in hearing that “he’s a fucked up Mormon asshole.” You can think Obama is a socialist Muslim but since he’s not, keep it off my page. Certainly feel free to share those types of comments on your own threads, on your own page, but understand I’m not interested and will delete them.)
  • READ THE ARTICLE YOU’RE COMMENTING ON! Major one for me. I can always tell when people are commenting without reading the piece, particularly if they admonish me or make suggestions about something I “should have said” when I actually addressed that exact item in what I wrote. While I always appreciate anyone taking the time to comment, whether on Facebook or the comments section of an actual article, using my piece as a springboard to spout your opinion without the courtesy of actually reading what I wrote is…disrespectful. I take a lot of time to write thoughtful, cogent, hopefully intriguing pieces; if you choose to comment on them, thank you, but please do me the service of reading what I wrote before you do.
  • Please don’t hijack a comment thread on one topic by suddenly bringing up another, unrelated, topic that gets the next batch of comments off on a weird tangent. Particularly when the thread is filled with thoughtful, passionate comments from people who really do want to discuss the topic at hand. If you want to extrapolate beyond the point of the post, share it on your page with the unrelated comment you’d like to make.
  • If you have nothing useful to say, DON’T LEAVE A COMMENT. I’ve had to delete a few regular commenters from my threads because they repeatedly leave inane, pointless, even vile comments that offer nothing to the conversation. While I’ll leave opposing views, debating views, contrary views (presuming they’re suitably civil!), I will delete stupid shit, to put it bluntly.
  • Be thoughtful in your comments. Beyond civility and usefulness, there’s really no point in just parroting the same, weary partisan bromides, thread after thread. Thread conversations on my page are usually about significant topics of great importance to people; take the time to offer something thoughtful and illuminating. I’m less interested in agreement than considered, honest, even researched contribution. If you’re on the other side of my aisle, don’t just be contrary or combative. Offer something insightful, sane and potentially thought provoking from the other side. Makes for a much more meaningful contribution.
  • That’s my list…do you have any others?

4. Mix up your posts. I’ve already covered the “make Facebook what you will” theory, but there is one part of the complaint that has merit. Which, to my way of thinking, is this: certain people become too predictable.  Not just musicians, artists, etc., promoting their work, but others who tend to ONLY post one type of thing, typically political pieces expounding on their side of the political divide. When you see their name, you know what you’re going to get. If you share their politics, it can be a good read; if you don’t, you skip on by. But what if you, the poster, are more interesting than just that? What if you’re missing out on engaging FB folks who’d add richness to your conversation but instead walk on by because they think they know what you’re saying without even looking? You are on Facebook for the point of sharing, so don’t limit your audience by being so predictable! Mix it up. Surprise us with something we wouldn’t expect from you. Post about your politics, certainly (we all know I do!), but then surprise us with a piece about music, your favorite ice cream truck, or an amazing person from Africa who discovered a new species of bug. SURPRISE US! It keeps you fresh and us interested.

5. Be Present and RECIPROCATE. If it seems I’ve already covered this, there’s a nuance here that bears stating. If you’re on Facebook but not participating, ask yourself why you’re there. Frankly, I don’t understand people who sign up, put up a Facebook page, “friend” lots of people, then never contribute or post…ever. I’ve had more than one person tell me they “like looking at everyone else’s stuff but don’t really want to post anything of my own.” Really? Don’t we call that stalking? Or voyeurism? 🙂 Obviously this is not remotely earth-shattering and is, as my son would say, a “first world problem,” but the point of social media is being “social.” It’s about connecting and participating in the greater social community created by Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, etc. If you’ve taken the steps required to sign up, build a page and accrue some friends, can I make a suggestion? Participate. Jump in. Say hello once in a while. Click “like” as a default position of participation (really, could anything be easier than the “like” button??). If you’ve sent a “friend” request and I’ve “friended” you, or you’ve accepted a request of mine, come on…PARTICIPATE. Don’t just peek over the fence and offer nothing to the conversation. You climbed onto the Facebook hayride for a reason; figure out how to use it. But if, ultimately, all you really want to do is peruse other people’s links, posts, pictures and stories…OK. But at least take the nanosecond required to click “like” when you’ve read or viewed something that you…liked. It’s quiet participation, but it still counts and those who get those clicks will appreciate them, I promise.

6. Thank you, but NO Poking, Games, Applications, “Please Make This Your Status For One Hour If You Care,” Facebook Privacy notices, etc. This is personal request of mine, though I know others share it. I use Facebook in all ways I’ve laid out here. What I don’t use it for are things I’m not interested in or think have merit. Poking, games, applications, birthday calendars aren’t my thing; please don’t take it personally, but if you “poke” me, send an invitation to a game or application, or even send posts that require I join something to open them, I’m not going to participate. Sorry. Also, those “Please make this your status for an hour if you care” postings are just guilt inducing. If you wish to post something for an hour, great. But please don’t imply that I don’t care if I don’t. I usually do care. But I won’t post them. As for Facebook privacy notices, warnings, etc.: if you believe a Facebook privacy warning or notice is worth sharing and request that I and others pass it around, please check www.snopes.com first to ascertain whether or not it’s bona fide. Almost 99.9% of times it’s not and it’s just a big waste of everyone’s time, including yours. If you can remember these items here in #6, wonderful; if you forget, please don’t take it personally when I reject the invitation or don’t respond.

7. Public Profile Friend Requests: This applies to me specifically but it bears making a point. If I get a friend request from a “public person” I don’t know, particularly one who has no “mutual friends,” I am going to look at your Facebook page before I click “confirm.” While I welcome people from all over the world, with varying political, religious and cultural beliefs and norms, I’m going to look at your Facebook page first and if you have nothing on it, nothing “about” you, I will not confirm you as a friend. If you have a profile in a language other than English and I cannot read and understand what you’re “about,” I won’t confirm you. If you have a profile that displays Satanic, Nazi, racist, intolerant, bigoted hate-speak of any kind toward any group, religion, ethnicity, etc., I will not confirm you. I will only confirm you if you have a fully realized Facebook page and you seem like a basic, decent person. Of course, if your contributions later proves that to be untrue, well…you know what happens then.

So there you go, that’s my list of the Top Seven Points of Facebook Etiquette. Please read, take to heart, without offense, and with the positive intent in which they were conferred. Social media is an amazing tool, a profound point of exchange, and a really fun, engaging way to connect with each other. Let’s all try to do it in a way that makes it as positive and rich as experience as it can possibly be…particularly in the bright, shiny new year of 2013!

Happy New Year!

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Sex and Sensibility

We are a nation obsessed with sex. Fascinated by it; driven, titillated and entertained by it. We idealize it for commerce, romanticize it for cable and fixate on it for…well, pretty much everything else. We’ve iconicized our porn stars, peeped gleefully in on our randy athletes, pumped and plumped and pummeled our bodies into Ken and Barbie ideals of sexual beauty, God knows how many of us are actually getting any but, damn, whatever we’re getting we can’t get enough!

Yet even with all this hypersexual oversaturation we still seem to have generated a culture of women with not a sexual boundary or moral compass in sight (men’s wives and children be damned), and a complementary tribe of men who seem hell-bent on destroying their lives, careers, families and reputations for the sake of that one body part that speaks the loudest and can’t ever seem to stay put (you know the one). There’s much to be said about the various women in these equations but for the moment, particularly given the Weiner roasting of late, let’s focus on the fellows.

What’s the problem, guys? Illuminate us.

Why do so many high profile men seem incapable of keeping it in their literal and metaphoric pants? Off their social media pages? Away from their cell cameras? Out of their nanny’s, videographer’s, intern’s, best friend’s wife’s, or local prostitute’s…bed?  What is this unequivocally self-destructive proclivity and why is it so prevalent amongst today’s politicians?

(Though, mind you, it’s not just a problem of the high-profile; I’m sure there are plenty of low-profilers with the same self-destructive tendencies wreaking havoc on their own marriages, families and jobs. We just ain’t hearing about ’em because they’ve got less distance to fall and the resulting “thunk” doesn’t resonate as loudly. These higher-profile guys? Meteor blasts of destruction all over the damn place.)

There are tomes dissecting the phenomenon being written by psychologists, doctors, therapists and scholars who know much more about the mind and its machinations than I, and their analyses will surely cover the mental, emotional, psychological and cultural pathology of this dysfunction. Me? I want to talk about Mom, Dad and the Sex Talk.

Even in this more enlightened age, I well remember an exchange I had with a fellow mother when my son was in middle school. The conversation came around to sex and she asked how I approached that red-hot topic with my son (she literally leaned in and whispered the word “sex“).  I very matter-of-factly said, “We talk about it. Always have. Ever since he started asking years ago and will until the day he stops asking. Always age-appropriate, always clear and candid, always on both the emotional and physical aspects of the question, and on any sex related topic he wondered about.” She literally gasped and shook her head in awe, “You’re so brave.”

Brave?

What does brave have to do with it? Why does it take courage to talk to our kids about sex and its many wonders, complications, and responsibilities?

Because, despite our libidinous public appetites and ravenous over-consumptions, we remain a distinctly and counterproductively Puritanical society, deferring to our various religious, ethnic and cultural mandates  – and personal timidity – to keep us from honestly and openly dealing with this very real, very important element of life in candid conversation with our children. We’ll allow them to watch sex in movies, music videos, TV shows and the pole-dance parties currently all the rage for young teens (seriously), but we get squeamish about face to face, eye contact inducing, heart to heart talking on the topic. In some homes it’s Topic Verboten (yes, capital letters). In others, it’s considered too private and personal to get beyond bromides. Still others glibly figure “the school’ll take care of it!” and, most damaging, the families for whom sex is  too connected to sin and so off-limits that discussion is moot and repression is inevitable, leaving all future pendulum swings assured.

The result of this panoply of avoidance and ignorance is that too many children grow into their adulthood carrying the same sexual questions, confusions, fixations and repressions ignored or imposed in their childhoods, with no language developed to talk about the quirks and questions of their darker corners with anyone, inclusive of wives (particularly), friends, colleagues, even therapists. It’s all pushed down and put aside and out of conscious view and this cauldron of denial inevitably ferments into a great soup of sexual dysfunction and/or destructive acting out that results in the tawdry and embarrassing scenarios that seem to fill our 24/7 news cycle.

As for why so many politicians? Well, add to my thesis the traits endemic to the political personality – ambition, drive, arrogance, entitlement, perceived social immunity and the “sycophantasy” support system a celebrity or politician (the same?) so often accrues – and you’ve got the perfect storm of Bad Behavior Enlarged.

As more families are shattered, constituents disappointed and “good” wives are left to painfully stand by their errant, damaged men, I say, Parents, start now. Start talking to your kids about sex. REALLY talk to them. More than once, many times over the years, as often as they need or want to, even when they don’t want to. Ask questions. Listen to their answers. Discuss every detail offered, analyze every urge expressed, leave no thought ignored, let nothing be too private. Make no judgment, acknowledge their natural sexuality, and let shame nowhere near the conversation. Guide them through the gauntlet of its power and pull to get them safely to the other side of adolescence clear on what healthy sexuality, emotional fidelity, sexual integrity and personal discretion look and feel like.

I swear, if at every step of the way the questions and curiosities of developing children were openly met by wise, fearless parents and mentors who would honestly and compassionately answer those questions, we couldn’t help but develop a healthier society of sexually rational men who don’t play out their lifelong repressions behind sex and porn addictions, wolf-pack foraging, social media exhibitionism, clueless sexual acting out and, ultimately, personal and very public self-immolation.

And note I said “wise, fearless parents and mentors…” Huh.

Maybe it does take bravery.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.