Posts Tagged ‘slavery’

On Influence and Insensitivity

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Kylie Jenner ... queen of selfies

Kylie Jenner … queen of selfies

It’s been awhile since I put my name on something I wrote, mostly because there’s really been only one one thing to write about. But other life goes on, so …

Last time out, I wrote about how I had recently come to the realization that, much as I chafed at the designation, given the 21st century dilution of the term and the relaxed admission standards that allow anyone with an attitude and an audience into the club, I was — am — for better or worse, a pundit.

 In my defense, just being able to write that sentence should qualify me.

But punditry, I have even more recently learned, is small potatoes (chicken feed, chump change, yesterday’s news) compared to the title to which anyone with any interest in the power of persuasion today should aspire.

I want to be an influencer.

Really. It’s a job. I just found out. Some pundit.

Influencer is such a legitimate thing that Forbes Magazine has initiated a list of the Top 10 Influencers for 2018 in a variety of  categories. It’s starting with Beauty, Fitness and Home, capitalized I assume for influence.

Apparently one qualifies for this list by telling tens of thousands — even millions — of people who follow you on social media what beauty products you prefer, the type of fitness regimens, supplements, food, clothes you prefer or let them in on the type of furniture or decor you like to surround yourself with when relaxing at “home.” Then a lot of those people go out and buy the stuff. Companies pay you for your creative messaging.

It’s kinda like being a shill. In fact, it’s exactly like being a shill. It just pays a lot better, if you’re, you know, influential.

If you sense me being a bit flippant and sarcastic about this discovery it may at least in part be because I am not just a little bit envious of these people who have discovered a way to earn a good living by sitting home, posting photos and writing blurbs on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites and being paid by companies whose product they promote. You don’t even have to use it. All you really need is a ton of followers who believe you and apparently await your every posting to find out what they should really like, then buy it.

For one thing, this says a lot about buying habits today, when so much shopping is done on the internet, with no opportunity to check out the merchandise firsthand. Well, heck, if Randi Jo Cutie Pie says those are cool candles or neat boots or dynamite hair products, they must be. Look, she’s got a million and a half followers.

The Forbes list was heavily female and mostly millennials, which would suggest that a male in his seventh decade might look for another line of work. It’s also prominently featured on Instagram, which I thought was mostly for sharing cellphone photos. So, on second thought, I’m going to stick to punditry, where I don’t have to worry about competing with Kylie Jenner or Cardi B.

Yet.

— Maybe it’s just me, but …if I’m going to get the news that I’m about to shake off the coils of my current mortal construct and rejoin the Greater Consciousness in some other form real soon, I want a living, breathing doctor standing next to my bed delivering the diagnosis as compassionately as possible, not a streaming image of someone, presumably a doctor, on a screen on a machine wheeled into my hospital room.

Ernest Quintana didn’t get that personal treatment at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Fremont, Calif. Instead, with his 33-year-old granddaughter standing by his bedside, the 78-year-old, who had been admitted to the hospital for the third time in 15 days because of difficulty breathing, heard the headset-wearing image on the screen say there was serious lung damage. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can treat very effectively,” the image said. He also said giving his “patient” morphine might help with pain, but would make breathing more difficult. He topped off his “On Demand” consultation by responding to a question about hospice care thusly: “I don’t know if he’s going to get home.”
     

The grand daughter was mortified, as were Quintana’s wife and daughter, who had briefly left the hospital to go home and shower. They complained to the hospital, which was semi-apologetic. Quintana died two days later.

They call it telemedicine and it presumably has its place, but a spokesperson for the AMA said delivering a death sentence electronically should be a doctor’s “last choice.”

Don’t they teach this stuff in med school?

—  Speaking of insensitivity, maybe it’s just me, but the State of Virginia would appear to have a serious race issue. The governor, Ralph Northam, is desperately trying to repair his image after a racist yearbook photo of him was published and he subsequently admitted to wearing blackface in his youth. The state’s attorney general admitted likewise. Both men are white. But get this, mere days after her husband pledged to devote the rest of his term to racial equity, his wife, Pam, leading a tour of the governor’s mansion, handed raw, prickly cotton to 13-and-14-year-old black pages and asked them, “Can you imagine being an enslaved person and having to pick this all day?”

No, they couldn’t and no, they weren’t happy with the hands-on history lesson. Neither were their parents. A former middle school teacher, Northam said she does the same with all the history tours she leads.

Maybe they need to re-evaluate that lesson in First Lady school.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Incivility of Any Civil War

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

By Gretchen Gibbs

A brutal civil war is being fought in Ukraine.

A brutal civil war is being fought in Ukraine.

The Ukraine people look haunted in the newspaper photos. Some want to stay with their country, some want to separate and join Russia. We tend to think of them as non-overlapping groups. My experience this past weekend on a trip to Washington, D.C., led me to think about the matter differently.

Our own Civil War divided our country in ways hard to fathom. I know little about the Civil War beyond the Ken Burns series and what I gleaned in high school and college. I have heard that books about Lincoln sell better than anything else, and given that, I am hesitant to put forward any views at all to readers who may be much more knowledgeable than I. But there must be some who don’t know all the things I learned this weekend.

First, I went to hear a concert at the Church of the Epiphany in downtown Washington. An attractive church with great stained glass and excellent acoustics, it is pre-Civil War and housed wounded Union soldiers during the fighting. According to the historical poster outside, Washington as a whole was essentially a southern, secessionist city, and that was especially true for the area of the city around the church. Most of the members were for secession. Jefferson Davis was a member with his own pew until conflict with the minister, who was strongly pro-Union, led to his departure. The poster mentioned that Mary Todd Lincoln had a brother and three half-brothers who fought for the Confederacy. Two of them were killed and one was wounded.

The next day we (I, my brother and sister-in-law) went to Arlington National Cemetery. I’d been before, but the lines after lines of white gravestones, stretching off in all directions, still made me gasp. These dead are from all our wars, of course, not just the Civil War, but there were three quarters of a million deaths in that war, the most costly of our history.

We climbed a steep hill to the former home of Robert E. Lee. Arlington Cemetery was built on his property just over the line in Virginia. It was  confiscated by the Union early in the war as a sort of statement: “See what you’ve done.” When you look out from the front porch, you see a bridge crossing the Potomac and right at the end of the bridge, the Lincoln Memorial. The two men seem enmeshed, or at least their differences bridged. I knew from Ken Burns that Lincoln had asked Lee to head the Union Army, and with great difficulty Lee had refused.

I didn’t know that Lee had released all his own slaves five years before the Emancipation Proclamation. I didn’t know that his wife returned to the house after the war ended and died five days later, apparently of a heart attack brought on by the level of destruction. Few of the articles in the house today are original, except for furniture or dishes or pictures that have been returned by some descendant of a Union soldier who stole them. Now the site is a National Monument, and rightly so, for Lee was a remarkable man. After the war, he became president of Washington and Lee College, and tried to help heal the divisions in the country.

Another thing I learned, not this weekend but when doing research on the 1692 witch trials for The Book of Maggie Bradstreet, was that my ancestors in Massachusetts had slaves. They were called servants, but they were slaves. Tituba, who set off the whole Salem witch hysteria, was a slave from the West Indies. Northerners didn’t need slave labor the way the plantations needed it, but that didn’t prevent them from using it when they could.

It’s a kind of cliché, “brother against brother,” but the ways the Union and Confederacy were linked and divided were so complicated, they can’t possibly be reduced to “good vs. bad” or “right vs. wrong,” the way we learn in high school to think about it.

When we see the division in Ukraine, or in Syria, or earlier, in North and South Korea, and North and South Vietnam, we could reflect more on our own experience. People suffer, for such a long time and in such complicated ways, from a Civil War.