It’s on the web, it must be true. Aren’t you?

socialPotentially disgruntled journalist. Liberal activist. Occasional snarkmaster. Fierce grandmother and don’t even think of messing with her kids.

Active on social media, posts pictures on foodie pages and contributes to the discussion of local politics with guarded insights from her reporter past.

Casually but frequently promotes caffeine use, positive body image, pit bulls and the correct use of their, they’re and there. Grammatically correct. Politically flexible, but rumored to be a left-leaning conservative. Laughs a lot.

Hates lima beans and intolerance (irony noted).

Frequents live theater, cover band concerts and is a vocal advocate for arts in the schools and community. Writes like a fiend because the voices in her head all clamor to be heard. Looking for the positive is her strongest survival skill. Ambiguously ethnic look.

Guilty?

160612111152-14-orlando-shooting-0612-large-169What would your profile say if you were the suspect in a horrific crime like the slaughter of 50 (and possibly more) patrons of a gay nightclub in Orlando?

Would they look at your name and make assumptions? What can you tell from something as innocuous as Rock? Maiden name? Unpronounceable in some circles, but no clear indicator as to politics or motive. Presumably not Muslim. Definitely Czechoslovakian with a large dose of Irish.

Would we be judged by what we do? Who we friend? Words we post? What we ate for dinner? What events we attend? Our pets? Politics? Passions?

We share our secrets with the world liberally on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other networks; we worry about privacy and identity theft, but don’t consider the overwhelming ability of reporters, politicians and the general public to cull our online pedigrees for accusatory ammunition.

160612054737-orlando-nightclub-shooting-pulse-large-169With breakneck speed, the Speculation Avengers assemble and create a creature that provides “answers” to questions that inquiring minds insist upon, accuracy be damned. In their attempts to scratch and claw their way to be first or on top without allowing time for fact-checking, media outlets post assumptions, generalizations and wild-ass guesses as to the suspect’s background and motivation.

Sadly, with a certainty that drills to our very core, people online eat it up, chew on it for awhile and take their own spins, some with extra vitriol, taking the violence from the blood-stained nightclub floor and spreading it out with their own broad brushes across America.

How the hell did we get here?

What’s even worse, if there is a hint of controversy, the trolls and master spinners work double time, creating poisonous posts and justifying them with their own anger. We know volumes about the American-born-and-raised Muslim shooter in Orlando, but what do we know about the non-Muslim plain white guy who was arrested in Santa Monica early this morning with a carload of weapons on his way to the Los Angeles Gay Pride parade? He came from Indiana, something easy to surmise from the license plates on his car. It’s been hours since he was arrested, and we know nothing about how he got his weapons, potential explosives, who his alleged “friend” that he was meeting might be or gotten a statement from his parents. Biased much?

os-orlando-shooting-pulse-nightclubI have spent far too much time on the train wreck we call social media today, unable to look away (if I did, I would only see the TV playing an endless loop of tragedy). I read far too many vicious comments about discrimination, suggesting that we ban all Muslims or rush to gun stores to arm ourselves so we can shoot back if attacked. There is no good that will come of either of those proposals.

And I’m not going to touch the political commentary; racists taking credit for the terrorism call or homophobic elected officials expressing their sympathy because it’s the right thing to do.

The only redeeming quality of today’s posts were expressions of sympathy and frustration and horror at the events in Orlando. They significantly outnumbered the nastiness, bolstering my faith in the greater good. They all cried for a solution to the violence, to build up love to overwhelm the hate.

In a perfect world, politicians would listen to the people and better the situation. Solutions are hard and require working together toward a better day.

Would that it was that easy. But it’s worth giving it a shot.

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I welcome your feedback and thoughts. Solving these problems call for a lot of good communication – why not start here? Thanks for reading. Please share!

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

 

Love and Legislation Is All We Need

umguamournersReflecting on Thursday’s shooting in Roseburg, Oregon that took the lives of 10 people, President Obama reminded us that gun violence has numbed the country, especially the decision makers. “This is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country,” he said. Truer words have not been spoken.

Oh, except for his earlier statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

Hundreds of families have been wrenched apart by these tragedies that are happening far too often. Last night, instead of having dinner together or chatting about their school days, 10 families looked at empty chairs and silent phones, forced to deal with the shock of “how could this happen?”

We know most of the victims had barely begun their life journey, while some had much experience – 18 year olds Quinn Glen Cooper, Lucas Eibel and Rebecka Ann Carnes; 19-year-old Lucero Alcaraz; 20-year-old Treven Taylor Anspach, 33-year-old Jason Dale Johnson, 44-year-old Serena Dawn Moore, 59-year-old Kim Saltmarsh Dietz and 67-year-old professor Lawrence Levine.

And for those of you who think I may have miscounted, shooter Chris Harper Mercer is included. Can you imagine, just for a moment, the horror and shock that his parents are dealing with? Not only is their child dead, but he most likely brought about the deaths of nine people. That’s a double whammy for which no parent can prepare.

Shootings in the classroom, workplace, church or public gathering places – we stuff the critical information in our collective memories and shuffle on. Thirteen dead in Columbine. 26 in Sandy Hook, 12 in Aurora, 9 in Charleston, 32 at Virginia Tech and two journalists in Virginia. We grieve. We bring in counselors. We build monuments. We promise to hug our loved ones. Then we give up.

Why have we thrown up our hands in helplessness?

The Second Amendment allows us to have guns, stating: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Good words when they were written, but worthy of regulation, such as background checks and waiting periods. I don’t think that stronger gun control would help. Oregon is an open carry state and there was a person in the thick of the action who had his own sidearm and chose not to go after the gunman because responding SWAT team members might have confused him with the actual shooter. More guns are not the answer.

And I’m not naïve enough to think that tighter gun laws would influence people like Mercer who came to the campus intent on killing people. That old “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” principle holds true. Criminals don’t generally obey the law and changing the Constitution is not the answer. I understand why we cherish our right to bear arms, but I cannot fathom why we think we need things like AK47’s that exist for the singular purpose of killing other people. Give those to the military and take them out of civilian hands.

mentalhealthIf the NRA is really supporting responsible gun ownership and safety, why don’t they use their formidable lobbying power to make mental health resources affordable and available to all? Along with strengthening and funding community programs, we need to change our attitudes to remove the stigma of being an outcast if one seeks help.

It all comes down to one simple four-letter word that needs to be addressed: hate. How do we stop the hate?

Rodgers and Hammerstein were criticized for their song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” from their 1949 musical “South Pacific.” See if you can determine why:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

We really don’t like it when someone holds up a mirror, do we?

We can change this juggernaut of hate. How about starting by squelching partisan politics? How about the name-calling parts, where adults and elected officials become playground bullies in three-piece suits, turning a blind eye at any achievement by individuals of the “other party,” just because it’s popular to discredit and ridicule them?

Where do we cut the vitriol? What kind of example are we setting for our children, and for that matter, our fellow human beings? How do we justify cherry-picking the parts of the Constitution or the Bible to suit our current cause? And when do we stop rewriting the facts to reinforce our hate?

It’s got to stop. The more we operate as if it’s “Us vs. Them,” the bigger the cancer of hate grows.

We allow – and fund – campaigns to undermine each other and drive people to desperation. We disrespect each other routinely. Why are we surprised that these shootings happen so often if we treat our colleagues and constituents with hostility and anger?

Is absorbing this behavior – from Washington and the shooter-of-the-week – really the best response? Where is the outrage? Posting a rant on social media doesn’t count. Contact your elected representatives, tell them you want them to find a solution to making our schools, churches, shopping centers and others public places the safe places they were meant to be and make them listen. Don’t let them just form another blue ribbon committee either. Make them work, and when they don’t, vote them out.

It’s the only way we’re going to start the healing process we so desperately need.Kids_compassion And  one last word from our president:

“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work together to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different…doesn’t make sense.