Friday, October 6, 2017

The Black and White Shame Game

I won't be shamed for trying to find gray in a world of black and white. I won't be shamed because I try to understand why some people supported Donald Trump when I did not. I won't be shamed for respecting a person's right to take a knee in protest. They are trying...but I won't let them.

It's been awhile since I've posted anything political on  social media. There's a great deal I don't like about what's going on in my country and I gave up thinking my expressing an opinion on any of it would change anyone's mind. But I'm not gonna lie--I have changed my mind on a lot of things over time. I've been black on white on issues I'm now gray on. When faced with conversation from people with a differing view, who present facts I hadn't considered or experiences I have never had opens my mind and softens my position ... I won't be shamed for that either. Angry keyboard warriors call a politician who has changed their position a flip-flopper, but if you flip-flopped because you were wrong, and admit it--I think that's a sign of strength not weakness.

Every day on social media I see these keyboard warriors shaming others. The far left and the far right pontificators are the most represented in social ( and all ) media, and in fact, as we learn of paid propaganda ads I'm starting to think social is the problem-not media. All of us and our shades of gray cower...not wanting to offend or get a fight started on our walls. The sane among us are left in the dust.

Extremes have become the accepted norm. I've seen people post "if you voted for ______ unfriend me now." Horrible racist memes on both sides. Good Lord...we've normalized this kind of black and white "my way or the highway" thinking. Compromise and bipartisanship is weakness.

I want to understand why people hold a different opinion than I do. And I think we need to elect politicians who aren't afraid to do the same. We need bridge builders. I regularly converse with a friend who holds vastly different political views than I.  On the subject of how this president got elected she said-- "we need to understand many did not vote FOR Trump. They voted AGAINST everything our political system has turned into." Proving that it can be done--we always have great discussions. We listen and end up realizing how much we agree on. It's amazing how two women can solve the world's problems on a walk in the park.

The taking a knee protest is an issue that seems as divisive as the election. Like Hillary vs Trump there is no middle ground. No gray. If you agree with a person's right to take a knee you are anti-American, disrespect the flag and the military. If you don't think taking a knee is an appropriate way to protest, you are a close-minded racist. So many see the other's view as not only wrong--but unforgivable.

"If you think it's ok to take a knee, unfriend me now!"

Good Lord!

The most compelling opinions I've heard that have helped form my view are number 1, from blacks, and 2  from veterans, each who have experiences I do not. My observation from my experience alone is this; every person I know who is offended by athletes taking a knee is white. While those who accept the protest are of mixed races, creeds and ages.

The veterans that support the protest say it not an assault on the flag, but instead,  an example of the rights they fought for to peacefully protest injustice that happens in the country our flag represents. Other vets or people with loved ones in the military hold the view that this is not the venue for such a protest. And is a disrespect to all who who have served.

I don't live in black skin. I understand that just by being born white, I simply don't know what it feels like to be teased on the playground because of my color, or my accent. I don't know what it feels like to be a black mom or dad having to explain to my pre-teen why he puts himself in danger if he wears that hoodie outside on the street...why people may cross the street if they see him walking by with a group of his friends. Or why him running around wielding a stick on a playground or park could have different consequences for him than it would a white boy. My black colleague once described his fear of being pulled over, the thoughts that went through his mind seeing blue lights behind him. How to talk, where to place his hands, what would happen to him if he stepped out of the car. Was there a robbery nearby? Does he fit a description? I simply don't know that fear. My experience being pulled over has been that of  a cute white girl talking herself out of a ticket. The learning to drive "tips" I gave my kids are a lot different than the ones my black friends are giving their teens. I have had an advantage--yes "privilege" that I did nothing to earn. I just was born. Not being black, asian, brown or what is now called "other" on the census form, I cannot not know the experience of a person of color.

So now, football, of all things,  has given us an opportunity for dialogue... an opportunity to try to see another view. An opportunity to build a bridge. And a white girl like me saying black athletes shouldn't use a venue where all of America is watching to protest seems...well, to be proving their point. And also--offending someone is what a protest is suppose to do. It's a protest! Not against the flag, but against systemic racism that still exists in this country over which the flag flies. Against story after story and video after video of blacks dying at the hands of police officers.

Of course not all police are guilty of this brutality. But many are. Of course not all Catholic priests are guilty of molesting boys. But many were. And not all white men are angry mass murderers...but the Oklahoma bombing, mass shootings in an Aurora theatre, Columbine, Sandy Hook, and now Vegas weren't committed by foreign terrorists or Mexicans or refugees, so building that wall won't prevent another from happening.

The real problems are born right here... and conservatives and liberals, straights and gays, blacks and whites, christians and those of different faiths, people of all colors need to find some gray and not be ashamed to put a listener, a negotiator, a compromiser, a listener---a LEADER  in the white house.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Talkin' Bout My Generation

NPR had a piece recently on social media's depiction in the romantic comedy genre. Not since "You've Got Mail" in 1998 has there been a movie that successfully tackled the subject. Yet, over 30% of marriages today are a result of an online meeting. Far higher for online dating.

The story went on to say that they can't get a screenplay on this subject produced, because most people approving concepts and scripts are 50 and older men. Most of these decision-makers were married around 1986 and by the time they were going into a second marriage in 1998 they were rich enough that they didn't need to use technology to meet a partner. If they don't get it, believe in it, haven't experienced it, or fall into the "negative stigma of online dating" camp, they won't approve it, this piece concluded.

I thought about the men my age, mid 50's and how that transcended to my business: radio and music. In the music business, mostly men run radio stations, and make programming and music decisions about what even female targeted stations want to hear on the radio. Most record labels also have men in the top decision-making positions as CEO's presidents, etc.

I work in country radio. For years the format has had an inordinate number of male acts worked to radio as compared to women, probably a 12-1 ratio at any given time over the past 8-10 years. When I talk with mainly female artists and record reps, they express frustration over the fact that male acts get signed at this ratio, and even once signed, they get worked more often and with more passion than the female artists. Most of the time, the decision on which single is shipped to radio is also made by men. One rep told me she and the other women reps who really believe in one of the female artists they were working begged their male bosses to release a different single. They felt that these guys were consistently picking the wrong ones...and sure enough, the song selected failed to make traction.

There's no doubt that the male-oriented version of the country format has been successful. No one can argue the appeal and success of Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Eric Church and tons of newbies. But there have also been plenty of failures. Because there are more men signed to labels, there has been more male acts that haven't made it.  It's a matter of numbers. I just wish there would be more risk taken on female acts, similar to the pop world. The more women signed to labels, the more women you'd hear on the radio, the more hits there would be. It, too is a matter of numbers.

So why aren't more women getting signed to country labels and being worked to country radio? There seem to be no easy answers.

I've heard for years (from men) that "women don't like to listen to other women". To that logic, women wouldn't be dominating the charts or sales in pop music, which also targets women. These comments are disturbingly similar to the line of thinking in this article from 2015. It's a frustrating portrait of the inequity, sexism and the downright verbal assault women have endured in the entertainment business alone.  Can you imagine male-based industries like banking, auto, or tech?  And people are surprised at stories about Bill Cosby or Fox News Roger Ailes?

I know I will sound like a male-bashing feminist but I think it's time for many of the 55-70 year old men to step aside and move women into more decision-making roles about what women want to hear and watch on the radio and in movies.  It may take awhile before a woman is the CEO of a label or film-making company,  but perhaps if more women were in these roles, country radio may sound different; and maybe the line-up of movies would also look different. I don't know....

I recently asked a group of younger women in my circle their opinion on women in music, what they like listening to.  These late 20 early 30-something women were in agreement that they wanted to be represented. While they love fun party-songs on the radio, they also want to hear their "voice" represented. They want to hear a woman singing about things they are living, thinking, feeling and experiencing, and there is very little of that in today's country music. They find those songs in pop radio and online, but think of country as the fun party-format.

Speaking as a 50 plusser myself I had Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt  and Carole King to name only a few,  as my voice.  I know there are plenty of talented women with a voice and something to say out there, and they are being discovered online rather than on the radio.

As for me, I know I've been luckier than many women in my business. I've worked for mostly private companies with forward thinking men at the helm, who have allowed me and others on my team to make decisions we felt best for our target audience. I'm now at the point in my life and career where I hope I can use my years of experience to mentor, advise, and encourage those coming behind, as we have the invaluable insight only living through these experiences can give.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Gift, or Curse of Being an Empath

I went through a stage of more than a year with very little TV watching. I canceled cable and limited my news consumption. When I decided to stick my big toe back in, we got a smart TV so that I could be mindful of my viewing selections. I began watching very specific shows available on-demand, from recommendations from friends and family. But that experience, too, has grown dark for me. Clearly, I can't "take" what others can. I get easily stressed and upset by so much of what I am exposed to. What's wrong with me?

After a great deal of self-reflection, research, life-experience, and some therapy, I have learned there is a name my my personality type. I am an empath, and can be deeply affected, even obsessively so, with things I have viewed, read about, learned of or experienced. That explains why watching the news, a show, documentary or movie with a storyline of injustice, terror, or violence affects me so deeply. When watching a disturbing scene, especially if it involves children or animals, I literally feel it, physically in the pit of my stomach, and then often have dreams (nightmares) and then feel torn about the dilemma of burying my head in the sand or facing harsh realities. Once I have learned first-hand of some kind of injustice, I feel faced with a decision: now that I know...what do I do? Then I feel guilt when I do nothing. Or if I do something, it's never enough.

I remember when I was young, the mini-series Roots affected me deeply, watching a 17 year-old Kunta Kinte being kidnapped from his village and taken to a Virginia plantation and mercilessly whipped while they demanded he accept his new slave-name left me crying and gave me nightmares for weeks (actually years). Another mini-series about the Holocaust, again, was important for me to see from a historical and educational perspective. But I watched with a sick feeling the entire time, fearful of what would happen next...imaging how I would feel to be in their place. Many a date or movie lover in my life would get annoyed with me because I don't like going to a movie in a theatre, because if a difficult scene comes up I can't escape. I've heard many times: "it's just a movie" or, "you know this didn't really happen...these are actors" by annoyed people who can't seem to understand why I just can't watch certain things.

Movies or a series rooted in history that tell a story that needs to be told are important. Documentaries showing a hidden camera view of inside a factory farm confirmed my decision to stop eating meat. As hard as those stories were for me to learn about, I believe that starting at a certain age of maturity watching a well-produced educational documentary or a replay of a series like Roots or the Holocaust may open the minds and hearts of our young people. The history of humanity needs to be taught, in order for there to be any chance it may not repeat itself.

Now that I have discovered this gift, or curse, it explains the things that have always happened to me. There are times I have met people, whether on a plane, at a social event or in a grocery store line where within minutes people begin to tell me things. I often avoid conversations with people if I'm not up to it completely because I can't just make small talk. People just open up to me. I've heard many times, "I don't know why I told you that. I've never told anyone that and I barely know you." I feel an energy coming from someone (positive or negative) and I have learned to trust those instincts. More than one person has told me that when they walk into my house there is a healing energy.

But the dark side of empathy is that feeling so deeply can be draining. I often don't want to believe what I am instinctively feeling about someone. I know when people are lying. I get a sense when something is happening to a friend or loved one and I call them and sure enough, they are sick, or sad or something. I can easily become entrenched in the drama of someone going through a rough time and I try to take on their problems. Then, it deeply affects me. I have been called "too sensitive" or a "pleaser" because I like to keep the negative energy to a minimum.

When I became a new mom I was tormented by any bad news item pertaining to kids. An episode of Criminal Minds now freaks me out, because, well, they pull the story lines from somewhere, don't they? What if someone tried to do this to my child? My loved one? I have colleagues and acquaintances who are hunters and I try to understand--but I can't imagine pointing a gun at a living creature (unless it was self defense) shooting it to watch it fall and then celebrating that death with a smiling photo over the still-warm, not quite dead creature. An trophy hunting a beautiful lion, elephant or bear?

I. Can't. Even.

I have concluded that while many of what has affected me most was important for me to see, hear, read, or somehow experience to make me the person I am, as it changed my life perspective;  moving forward, limiting my exposure to such things is in the best interest of my sanity.

If you wonder if you are an empath, I have put a list of characteristics that you may or may not relate to. Some of these are from my own experience and from many online resources, including this one

You may be an empath if you:
  • Often feel fatigued, exhausted or ‘heavy’ inside.
  • Find it intensely painful to watch or read about cruelty, torture, violence or tragedy
  • Experience a strong Friday relief and a deep Sunday night blues due to anxiety of work or school 
  • Take on guilt easily, even for things you didn't do
  • Are conflict averse and try hard to keep the peace
  • Find it hard to relax until others are happy
  • Are often the "go-to" for emotional support to those in need 
  • People tend to easily open up to, and confide in, you. 
  • Can easily “read” other people. 
  • Can pick up when someone is hiding something or lying. 
  • Are deeply affected by the emotions of others and these emotions often linger in the form of obsessive thoughts 
  • Often feel unexplainably moody, or physically ill after spending time with certain people or in certain places 
  • Have excellent intuitive abilities. You often just know things, or can pick up a hidden nature of a person. 
  • Often put others needs and happiness above your own
  • Are a good listener 
  • Feel really good when those you care about feel good, and really bad when things are feeling bad 
  • Are driven to support the underdog, downcast or emotionally crippled 
  • Have a deep love for nature and animals 
  • Are creative, solitary and spiritual 
If you relate to most of what is on this list. You are not alone.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It's Your Facebook Page, Post What You Want!

Ahhh the trials and tribs of social media. We complain, share memes and vent in various ways about those things that bug us, but still, we come back for more. There are many things I see people post on Facebook that bug me. Passive aggressive posts. Posts begging for compliments or pity. Certain political posts. Animal cruelty photos for the sake of shock with no call for action or a way to help. Hunters happily posing over their bloody still-alive kill. Yes, these all bug me. But what bugs me most? People telling others to stop posting these things.

Now before I move on, I am certainly not talking about parents or caring adults advising kids or young adults to not post hateful, overly sexual, or drunken photos that will hurt themselves or another, and probably their future job prospects. I'm talking about those lecturing posts that say things like: "Stop the political posts!" Or "I'm so sick of hearing about (insert complaint here)" Of course, my just saying "stop lecturing people" certainly seems to be inconsistent with my telling others to stop their behavior--but hear me out.

We learned a lot about some of the people in our lives this past election season due to their social media posts. I viewed expressions of opinion from people that surprised me, having never knew they held those views. My opinion of some people changed due to those posts, and perhaps, from the opinions I expressed, some changed their opinion of me.

So be it.

Because while I may have felt surprise and disappointment more than once, I also learned a great deal, and in the end, I'm glad I know more about some of these people and their views that I did before. In this discomfort, I began to challenge myself to listen and learn another view, even if it was only to determine that, in the end, the divide was too great. Sometimes, I was presented with a view that stretched my own, and I was able to find common ground and grow.

It took me awhile to get to this point. When I was younger, I was more conservative than now, which to me, seems the opposite of what should happen. But I have found that many of the views I held in the past may have been skewed by a lifetime of lack of exposure--dare I say ignorance to so many things.

And interestingly, it was again, one of my daughters who got me to expand my viewpoint.  Anyone who knows her knows she is quite passionate about the things she believes in. And in between her happy little posts about her kids or her latest outdoor adventure, she'll share an article or express an opinion that some might find --well, controversial. Even uncomfortable. I have had many conversations with her suggesting  she limit those posts, because she has so many who see them; family members or others not within her close friends that may be offended by her posts. Her response:

So be it.

Facebook started as a way college students could connect with others, find roommates and communicate with friends. It then evolved into a way  family and friends could stay in touch, especially across the miles. It has now extended way beyond it's original purpose and is used not only for the things it was started with, but for connection in all its forms;  idea sharing, event planning, groups and business pages. She explained that for many, including her, it has become a conduit for social activism, where you can find like-minded people who may share your passion for a charity, animals, politics or an opportunity to share knowledge, expose injustice, or even, back to the simple feel-good concept of  positive quotes kid or  kitten photos. It is now a source for any or all of your needs.

But those needs vary. And you or I can use it for whatever need we may have, even if someone else doesn't like it.

So now, when I see something that bugs me, I do one of 3 things 1) Ignore  2) Hide/unfriend or 3) React (if I am feeling particularly passionate about an issue) Although I know that  the odds of changing someone's view by arguing on Facebook is slim to none. Just as it is equally unlikely, that a demand that someone stops posting about something they feel passionate about simply because YOU don't want to see it, will be heeded.

I've found that accepting that people use their social media for reasons that may be different than yours alleviates the stress of the news feed scroll. Rather than get angry at the political rant or sexy selfie... realize that YOU have complete control.

How do ya LIKE that? :-)


Friday, February 17, 2017

Thoughts On The Resistance

I listened to an interesting interview on NPR's Morning Edition recently. Rachel Martin spoke to Brendan Steinheiser, a Republican strategist and early Tea Party organizer about how liberal activists are using similar tactics in their resistance to the current administration as the Tea Party  did when they created a resistance to stop President Obama. He shared his thoughts on what went wrong for the Democrats in losing an election they thought was won, and what he thought the liberal movement in general is doing wrong to affect change. You can read the article on What The Left Can Learn From the Tea Party here from NPR.com.

It seems clear now, in hindsight, that when many blacks, union workers and women who make up what used to be the Dems base didn't vote for Hillary that the party had lost touch with its base and foundational core. But the same was true for the Republicans 8 years ago. The Tea Party would not have formed if there wasn't dissention in the conservative ranks. The rise of Donald Trump exemplifies that everyone on both sides is sick of "business as usual" politics of both parties. I've had discussions with many friends; liberal, moderate and conservative that didn't want another Bush, Clinton, or paid-for-by-big-business interests career politicians in the White House yet again. Many of these disenfranchised didn't vote for Trump, and they couldn't in good conscious, vote for Clinton, so they either didn't vote at all, or voted for a 3rd party candidate.

One piece of advice that Mr Steinheiser had for the Democrats, is that they should stop using Hollywood elite to speak for them, because that is as bad as using billionaires to represent their cause on the right. Neither speak for the average American (if there is one). I'll never completely understand why those that will seemingly be affected by the policies that are being proposed by the Trump administration, the poor, the middle-class, those most in need of health care and other programs voted for him. I'm afraid they may  soon find out that they are the ones that will be most hurt by his policies. Trump promised to drain the swamp and not be controlled by Wall Street, but his cabinet is full of billionaires created from Wall Street.

I believe the president's outrageous behavior, accusatory tone and technique of attacking those who dare to criticize him as liars with fake news is simply a distraction,  so that we forget about what is really going on.  When things look dicey, he deflects, so that we forget about, or stop talking about all the things that are slipping through under the radar. The good news? The press has stepped up their game. Because they are under attack and the microscope for credibility, they are acting as if they have something to prove; and they do. Mr Trump's plan may backfire, in that we may find the reality show sensational news cycle phase is over. Just as the safest time to fly was right after September 11th, this may be the the most accountable our press has been in years. Our 4th estate will now be more credible and vigilant and real than ever. It's their turn to shine.

For those of us on the sidelines who feel helpless, how do we form a truly effective resistance? I've seen a list of points of advice circulating online and I'm not sure where it started. But I think it is a good start for those trying to share information in a more productive manner:

1. Don't use his name; (45 will do)
2. Remember this is a regime and he's not acting alone;
3. Do not argue with those who support him--it doesn't work;
4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness and mental state;
5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow;
6. No more helpless/hopeless talk;
7. Support artists and the arts;
8. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check it;
9. Take care of yourselves; and
10. Resist!

Keep demonstrations peaceful. In the words of John Lennon, "When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you - pull your beard, flick your face - to make you fight! Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor."

When you post don't assign his actions to him, assign them to "The Republican Administration," or "The Republicans." This will have several effects: the Republican legislators will either have to take responsibility for their association with him or stand up for what some of them don't like; he will not get the focus of attention he craves; Republican representatives will become very concerned about their re-elections.

This country has lots in can improve upon, no doubt, but Mr. T is wrong. America is already great. His negativity, in the end, can be a unifying positive.