Now India (7 Minutes to Sunrise)

Now India (7 Minutes to Sunrise)

The first sounds of the morning are of tuk-tuk and taxi engines as they come to life, their honking horns alongside the footsteps of the city’s informal working class taking to the streets. And, even earlier than that, the song and chant of Hindu morning prayer, and the feral dogs that slink to the shadows to sleep, no longer dominant as the sun begins its climb from behind Agra, India’s low hills. It is near the end of February, in the year 2020, we are in Agra, my sister and I, in Uttar Pardesh, a state in the north of India, standing at the Taj Mahal before sunrise; standing before the majesty of its soaring dome, those great minarets, and the carved walls of ivory-white marble. It is 6:53 in the morning, 7 minutes left until sunrise, we’ve made it just in time. A scene: A young Dutch couple with blonde hair wearing sandals, they appear to be on their honeymoon, pause mid-kiss before the calligraphy of Persian poems and semi-precious stones, taking pictures against the backdrop of plant motifs and Arab Ayaat. As a tour guide leads a bustling group of Germans squinting past the mosque – they remove their shoes as one big group to go inside. A low fog blocks the sunlight as an elderly Japanese man stares down at the map in his hands. Hundreds have entered already, and hundreds more are waiting still to get in. We haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Could a story about India begin without first introducing its rich history and culture, the traditions maintained over centuries, and these preserved monuments...
A Festering Past

A Festering Past

I was born in Hackettstown, New Jersey.  I don’t remember the coast. My older sister, Kaela, born two years before me in Freiburg, Germany, remembers more. She remembers leaving, at least. We moved to Huntsville, Alabama for a brief period, where my sister was born in the humid, mid-August heat. We then drove north to St. Paul, Minnesota. Raised in the Midwestern United States, I learned quickly not to bring up subjects (past, present, or future) that might cause strife at the dinner table. Not with my immediate family – where discussions, dissent, and even discord were welcomed as long as tones and topics remained respectable (and even the word “respectable” remained rather broad and undefined) – I was raised into a family were the idea of talking about something/talking things out was the only way that they would/could actually get solved/be addressed. But elsewhere I found this to be a problem: The holiday tables of my grandparents and great-grandparents. My second-cousins and their friends. The unfamiliar homes of classmates and their parents. The tables of strangers and in the workplace. Riding public transportation. In the aisles of grocery stores. At neighborhood barbecues, where everyone laughs and drinks beer, but-don’t-offend-the-man-who-sometimes-shovels-your-walk-for-you-in-the-winter. This is being written in the time of Donald Trump. Judge Roy Moore was recently defeated in the Alabama special election, arguably the largest shift of the tide since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in November of 2016. Moore, an accused sexual molester, at best, and the owner of such regressive philosophies as homosexuality is “sin” and deserves punishment, and that times were better during slavery,...
Real Websites, Fake News

Real Websites, Fake News

Fake news has existed from the earliest days of journalism, long before Bat Boy became Hillary Clinton’s alien baby. In 1835, Richard A. Locke published a series of six fake articles about the discovery of life on the moon, now known as the Great Moon Hoax, in The Sun newspaper. Sales of The Sun went through the roof. Writing false news stories and calling them real is generally protected by the first (and 14th) amendment (though libel can be prosecuted, and harassment). A groundbreaking 1931 case here in Minnesota defined journalistic freedom for the decades to come. The Near v. Minnesota case, dealing with a small newspaper that attempted to report corruption in the Twin Cities, went all the way to the Supreme Court. It set a precedent for recognizing freedom of the press by disallowing prior restraint on publication. (If you want to know the full story, read Minnesota Rag by Fred W. Friendly) This isn’t satire we’re talking about. We all know The Onion, or the New Yorker’s Borowitz Report, as reliable sources of satire. The number of humor-free sites attempting to convince an audience of authenticity without any real truth or foundation in them has been growing. As has their audience. At first these sites were easily identifiable. They were cheaply made and clearly unprofessional. But it was only a matter of time before duplicity got a makeover and began looking a lot more legitimate. The Big Hoax Facebook is perhaps the biggest offender. 66% of Facebook users get news from the site, and falsehoods have spread there like the plague. As outlined in the Select All article Can Facebook Solve Its Macedonian Fake-News Problem? the ability to generate income through ads...
You’re An @sshole: Being “Right” in the Digital Age

You’re An @sshole: Being “Right” in the Digital Age

The Digital Age is the current period of human history in which we moved  from the industry-based society of the Industrial Revolution to a focus on computerizing information and creating a knowledge-based society. The Digital Age Also known as the Age of Information, the Digital Age’s greatest achievement is the internet. With the internet (connecting computers through a series of networks) comes access to things we may never have gotten our hands on, and certainly not all at once. Information has, throughout human history, been a priceless commodity and has never before been so readily available as it is today. So when we ask the question, Have we become more intelligent or less in the Digital Age? the knee jerk response is of course we’re smarter now. We have access to a wealth of information (a seemingly unlimited amount). We can connect cultures, and all of the learning therein, with the click of a button. And what’s more, we have the opportunity to share/spread that knowledge in the most revolutionary way since the printing press. But as has also been discussed (in the article Why facts won’t help win an argument, for example), we often latch only onto the things that we agree with, or, more importantly, the things that agree with us. With the amount of half-truths, unfounded claims, and falsehoods on the internet, it has become too easy to trade truth for misinformation. We’re not always getting the truth or the right information, and then we pass it along thinking we’re doing the world a favor. And, even if we are more informed, we’re not necessarily smarter. The convergence of computer ability, data storage,...
A Brief History of Black Lives Matter

A Brief History of Black Lives Matter

The murder of Philando Castile has placed tragedy on St. Paul’s doorstep once again. Marcus Golden was shot and killed by police in January of 2015, and, in the seemingly short year and a half since, there have been a startling number of black men and women across the country killed by police. This is not a 2016 phenomenon; this clip from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, for example, dates back to 1991: There are two ends of the spectrum. On one, those who offer unequivocal support. On the other, those quick to cast aspersions; those who don’t think the officers did anything wrong, believe that the black men and women who lost their lives perhaps “deserved it,” or simply don’t believe something like Black Lives Matter should exist. It has been called a “terrorist organization,” it’s been accused of inciting violence, and it’s been dismissed by anyone upset that protesters haven’t stayed out of the way when protesting. Okay, so maybe it isn’t that simple. There are plenty of people unsure of what the movement is and what it stands for. Few know the actual story, the philosophy and the goals of Black Lives Matter, and the reason why it is so necessary. Black Lives Matter: More than a hashtag, more than a disruption of your daily commute, and certainly not a terrorist organization.   After the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in the summer of 2013, and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman, the movement began with a simple hashtag: #BlackLivesMatter. Co-founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, community organizers and friends from San Francisco, it began as a social...