I Am A Ukrainian

I Am A Ukrainian

Maidan in Ukraine

My friend Ben Moses put this video together. It’s a direct address and appeal for support for the protests in Ukraine. The woman speaking took a big risk in filming this and speaking so openly. We read about Ukraine and other countries fighting for democracy in the news, but this video is one citizen’s story and sharing.

Please share this post and video. The story of Ukraine is, of course complex. The world has its attention turned to Russia with the Olympics, but there are real fears that once the Olympics end, Putin will turn harsh attention on Ukraine. The video below tells part of the story of Ukraine. Ben posted it just hours ago and it’s already getting thousands of viewers. Please watch and share.

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Amalia has informed me that I don’t do selfies properly. I’m not sure what she means by that and she’s cagey and squirrelly enough to just smirk, dance away and flat out not tell me. Please understand – I don’t do a lot of selfies. I hate photos. They never seem to look like I think I look. I don’t get the disconnect. Somehow it seems important to understand this. And for once, it’s not vanity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity lately. Identity comes with assumptions. Assumptions about yourself and others. I recently had the privilege of being invited up to Esalen to take part in a five day workshop with the group Beyond Words. Beyond Words was started by Nitsan Gordon and brings together Arab and Jewish men and women living in Israel to work on conflict. Rounding out the group were a few Israeli-Americans, white Americans and a few Mexican women. It was a stunningly beautiful, open and trusting group. The trust was kind of breathtaking given the intensity of the experiences we all shared.

I can’t speak for the others, but I came away with deep questions about who I am, how I view the world and its people and what I need to do to be a peaceful, productive person on this planet. What is my role?

I became close to a woman named Marcela at the workshop. She gave me a grey stone that fits nicely in the palm of my hand. When I ask, What is my role? I feel like that stone dropped clean into a bucket of water. I don’t swim. I don’t exactly sink either. I settle to the bottom wondering what’s next. That’s how many answers I have.

At Esalen, I was the American. An American. I watched the State of the Union address tonight and was an American. But I wasn’t moved by Obama’s speech. What I hope for is a Congress that actually gets something done (aside from stripping away women’s reproductive freedom). Obama seemed to be calling for that. The speech fell flat for me and I wonder what it would feel like to be proud of the country I live in. Right now, I feel rather distrustful. The US feels too large and unwieldy for anyone to really manage and I’m not sure how we bridge our suspicious natures.

I have stories of motherhood that have me feeling good and also leave me scratching my head. I’m not sharing those tonight, but let’s all celebrate Izzy getting her first college acceptance.  Go Izzy!

American, mother. What else?

Poet. I applied to Yaddo for an artist’s residence for a couple weeks in the summer. I’ll hear in March. That would take my poetry to a new level. I’m like the kid on the playground, hopping up on one foot- Pick me, pick me! 

I can pull out thousands of words to describe myself. Some will be lies. Some will be true now, false by morning, irrelevant by next month. Which brings me back to the selfie. If I get just the right lighting, angle, shade of lipstick – maybe I’ll get the truth on my iPhone and understand something. If that happens, I’ll probably share it here. In the meantime, feel free to share your best selfie.

Finding Common Ground Through Sandy Hook Promise

Sandy Hook Promise - Parent Together I’ve been getting regular updates about the approaching one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. I have to admit that in the daily flurry of clearing out my inbox and notifications on Facebook, I haven’t read everything that’s come my way. But these have served as reminders of the anniversary and it’s something I want to honor. Everyone I talk with has expressed surprise that it’s already been a year. Thinking about the parents, families and friends of the 26 children and adults who were killed, I’m guessing it’s been the longest, most grueling year of their lives.

Sandy Hook Promise is one group that formed out of the tragedy. Parents, spouses and community members affected by the shooting came together with a mission to prevent gun violence and help the community deal with the tragedy. On November 14th, they launched a campaign called Parent Together with the straightforward goal of getting parents to pledge to move away from polarizing discussions and inaction and find ways to open up the conversation about keeping kids safe, mental health issues and community.

I’ve struggled to find ways to discuss the issue of gun violence and gun control with friends and family members who have equally strong, but opposing views on the issue. I know I’m not alone in this. The Parent Together campaign asks each of us who take the pledge to start with something we can all agree on: parents love their children and want them to be safe. We can start from this point, but what’s next? How do we keep the lines of communication open when the discussion moves into specifics?

I go back to my inbox and dig through the trash to find the email about the Parent Together pledge and end up on their website, Facebook page, Tumblr and Twitter. There are links to videos of the parents with Sandy Hook Promise doing news interviews and talking about the campaign. It’s striking how brave these parents are in telling their stories of the unimaginable loss of their sons and daughters. Please know that I don’t mean this cynically at all, but this is a smart campaign. It’s deeply personal and the actions requested come from a place of love and a need to make a difference.

We can talk about the power of social media, comb through analytics to find the target audience and look at each voice as an amplifier. I’ve been looking at an online Master’s Program out of American University in Strategic Communication. One of the first things they emphasize is telling compelling stories. We sift through our tweets, posts and emails for more than a great deal on a yoga class. At the end of the day, we still want to hear stories, we want to connect and sometimes, we want change.

Clay Shirky said, “A revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools, it happens when society adopts new behaviors.” But we can share new perspectives that encourage those new behaviors with tools like social media. As of this writing, over a quarter of a million people have signed on to the Sandy Hook Promise. The number of followers on Twitter and Facebook is increasing steadily as attention is focused on the approaching anniversary. The campaign is strategic and it is calibrated to have an impact. Ultimately, the bottom line measuring the success of this campaign doesn’t come from the number of website hits or Facebook Likes. The success is already being counted as the nature of our dialogue shifts and will be recognized over years and decades.

After Eli Saslow’s powerful article on Sandy Hook families ran in the Washington Post, the comments were flying. It’s interesting to note that a sort of self-policing started happening. The conversation shifted to a discussion with detractors saying that what’s being proposed isn’t going to make a difference, but what else can? The underlying assumption has become that gun violence is a problem. This represents a shift from the conversation centering on 2nd amendment rights and the argument that any work on gun violence means taking away people’s guns. A small step maybe, but identifying gun violence as a problem is a beginning.

The experts who study trends in social media and mobilization look at how the various platforms such as Tumblr and Facebook are bringing us closer together and the potential that exists for solving real world problems. By some counts, the traditional six degrees of separation has closed to four or five. If we’re conscious of narrowing that gap, we can use this awareness not only to find old high school friends on Facebook or score a job interview through LinkedIn, but with some diligence and intention find ways to have difficult conversations and take actions that lead to lasting change. We can shore up the separation that exists with our perceptions and create the new behaviors Shirky references.

With the Parent Together pledge, we can start from the agreement that we love our children and want them to be safe, that we want our communities to be safe. If you take that pledge, you’re joining a community committed to ending the tragedy of gun violence in this country. Ongoing campaigns efforts will include specific tools and programs to bring people together in a safe place where community and individual actions are implemented around gun safety, mental health awareness and wellness and community connectedness.

When the shooting took place at Santa Monica Community College last summer, I was out-of-town and my frantic daughter called me to tell me that a friend of hers was on campus during lock down, unhurt but very scared. It’s getting to the point where we’re all connected by a story like this. We know someone who had a friend, co-worker or family member who was present during a shooting. We’re talking our kids down from fear and bewilderment over how these things can happen. These tragedies touch all of us and close the separation between us. I don’t need Facebook to tell me that. Instead, I want to pick up the phone and call all the people I’ve argued with to talk about the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting and see if we can’t find some common ground.