Friday, August 15, 2014

What Would Your Reaction Be?


I always try to imagine myself in controversial passion-filled situations to see how I would feel if I was actually part of the story.  On the occasion of Michael Brown's shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, for instance.....

I'll use my own small town of Wabash as an example. Wabash consists of Wabash proper and the south side, separated by a river. In this scenario, let's say, the south side is the poorer side of town and includes 67 percent of the population of Wabash. There are often hostile feelings between the two sides, with the northsiders feeling contempt for the southside and the southside feeling resentment toward the northside.

It really isn't difficult to see why the southsiders feel as they do. Everyone on the school board is a northsider; 50 of the 53 police officers on the Wabash force are northsiders; the mayor is a northsider; the prosecutor is a northsider.

Some (maybe even most) of those 50 northside police officers have a low opinion of the southsiders. Sometimes, it is announced right out in the open at roll call - "let's go out and have a southside night", which means let's go arrest a bunch of southsiders". And this prejudice shows itself statistically. Even though only 67 percent of the population is made up of southsiders, they make up 87 percent of the arrests. The vast majority of speeding tickets written are given to those from the southside.

These aren't just perceptions of a disgruntled community. They are facts as compiled by the state over the last 14 years. So we know for sure that profiling and targeting by police is rampant. And we also know that, despite clear evidence, absolutely nothing has been done to try to correct the situation. The officer who made the comment about having a "southside night", and well as many other racially charged statements, has now been terminated but that didn't happen until he was hit by a media spotlight. As long as no one but Wabashians were aware of his rank prejudice, it was ignored.

So, pretend you are a southsider. You see the people in your community getting citations for speeding and other minor infractions at a much higher rate than northsiders. You son comes home with a story about being hassled by the cops when he was doing nothing wrong. You are called ugly names. Your neighbors get stiffer sentences than northsiders for the same crimes. You get stopped by the cops because you have a tail light out, a tail light that magically comes back on by the end of the stop. You've heard and seen and experienced this happening your whole life. And, yet despite efforts to complain and sue and draw attention, it just goes on and on. The Northside power structure isn't interested in changing. They're fine with things the way they are.

And then a police officer shoots Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was due to leave for college. Shoots him down in the street. You're stunned but you wait to see what the reaction from authorities is going to be and what that reaction is, it seems to you, is stonewalling. They don't release the name of the shooter. No one is charged with a crime. They don't even interview Michael's friend, who was with him and saw it all. Nope, there is no car video, they tell you. And you believe, as a southsider whose been through this movie before, that once again, you are going to get screwed. Only this isn't about a speeding ticket or a joint, this is about a dead boy, one of your own! This is your last freakin' straw!

So you gather in protest and you're met, not by police trying to calm the situation, but tanks and Humvees and assault weapons and a freaking MRAP! It looks like they'd love nothing more than the slightest invitation to shoot you. And so you're pissed, yeah, really pissed. And yep, there is some looting and vandalism until Michael Smith parents beg for it to stop and it does. But still, there is no statement from the state apologizing and declaring a really serious investigation will be done because this kind of incident is flatly unacceptable and intolerable. The streets are still filled with police officers lobbing tear gas into your midst, spraying your children with mace, calling you "animals".

The chief of police warns that you may gather but you should be off the streets by dark. Why? The First Amendment is not only in affect in daylight. It is a 24/7 amendment. Because you are a southsider and southsiders have a particular experience with being told to leave town before dark, that order strikes a painful chord northsiders might not recognize.

All you know, is your're goddam sick, sick in both senses of the word - sick as in "sick and tired" and sick as in "sick at heart" - of seeing your husbands and fathers and sons being arrested and bullied and even shot down in the streets like dogs for doing nothing more than northsiders do every single day with no consequence. You could go back and compile a list of names and it would stretch on endlessly.

So what would you do if you saw yourself and your family and your community being subjected to injustice that went on for years with absolutely no response from the people in a position to change it? Do you think you're be angry? Do you think you'd be resentful? Do you think its possible you might act out?

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I'd have as much self-restraint as most of the southsiders in situations such as this one and the Trayvon Martin shooting and....

It always amazes me that some northsiders' (not just in this little story but in all these similar cases) first reaction is to be judgmental about the behavior of the victims instead of the perpetrators.

What if someone smacked you in the face every day for 14 years (probably more but that's how long we have evidence for) when you'd done nothing wrong? And one day you smacked him back and people told you, "oh, no, you shouldn't do that....just be quiet and take it and someday, by magic, it will stop"?

No, things don't change by magic. They change when attention and outrage are brought to bear. You don't convince people who are treating you badly into doing a 180 by "niceness". They change when victims rise up and say, "no more". Does that sometimes mean physical violence. Yep, sometimes it does. You call people animals, don't be surprised if they throw it back in your face.

So, we'll see what happens next but if the powers-that-be think that they can whitewash it and then it's back to business as usual, I think they are wrong. If the response to cries for justice are Humvees and assault rifles and tear gas, then this certainly won't be the last of it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Paranoid Majority


I keep seeing posts like these on Facebook implying that it takes courage to stand up for the American flag and boldness to admit you believe in the Bible. Really? Are there hosts of Americans being attacked for their patriotism or their faith? Do you risk getting punched in the nose if you fly the flag or kicked in the groin if you profess your love of Jesus? Am I not watching enough news because if this is the case, I must have missed the reporting on it?

Honestly, the American right has such a defensive chip on its collective shoulder. Come on, People, you are in the majority by about a gazillion to one. There is no need to be afraid...really. The odds are big-time in your favor.

You appear to be trapped in the throes of a persecution complex fueled by paranoia. You see yourselves as perpetual victims as your enemies try to take away your Christmas. (You've probably noticed how Christmas ads and sales and television specials and shopping has dropped off to almost nothing. Oh, you haven't? You say it is all about semantics - Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas. Really, that's your big piss-off?)

And whites are being overpowered by minorities until we're barely even represented in our own government anymore.  Here, this picture of the House Committee chairmen might ease your mind a little.

And what do you want to bet that these white men are all Christians too?

And oh, my, God, the gays are coming out in droves and they actually expect to get married AND force you to bake their wedding cake too! And Obama is dictating that you must carry health insurance and if you're a business, you have to pay for your female employees' contraceptives.

Actually, you right-wingers really should be pro-contraceptive and pro-abortion. You're always excoriating liberals and wishing they would disappear off the face of the earth. Commonsense would seem to indicate that most women who have abortions probably lean liberal while more women who have babies lean conservative so if you just let us manage our own reproductive business, we might fulfill your wish for you and pretty soon most little babies will be raised in conservative homes!

Of course, some of the fetuses liberals terminate are being replaced by undocumented immigrants so that might turn out to be a wash. They are definitely threatening your lifestyle because damn, you wanted that dishwashing job at the Lowlife Cafe!

And poor people. The terrifying unwashed masses of them. They sort of remind you of zombies, don't they? Coming at you with open mouths and staring eyes, wanting to steal your stuff.

Although the fact is that most people on food stamps work. They just don't make enough to survive without assistance. (Thank you, Walmart and McDonald's and Papa John).  And the ones who don't work are children or the elderly or the disabled, including veterans. And most illegal immigrants work too and pay in to help subsidize your Social Security though they'll never collect themselves. (And, in addition, most of them are Christians.)

Despite your concerns about the flag, I watch NASCAR every week where they wave the flag and sing the Star-Spangled Banner (not to mention saying a Christian prayer). And flags hang from lots of homes in my town and flies in front of the Sheriff's Department and the Courthouse and City Hall and the city parks. And the cemeteries are a sea of red, white and blue on Veteran's Day. So far, I haven't heard of a single person being beaten up by anti-flag thugs or one Christian being mugged by a gang of atheists.

The reality is, of course, that it is still much more dangerous to be anything but a hyper-patriotic white straight Christian American. You're way, way more likely to be shot coming home from the store if your name is Trayvon Martin than if it's Mitt Romney, Junior. You're way more likely to be arrested and sent to prison if you're any color but white. You're way more likely to be discriminated against if you're gay. You're way more likely to suffer hunger and homelessness and illness if you're poor. And try running for any office in the next election after admitting you're an atheist and see how far you get.

So, sorry, but I don't think it takes any particular guts to fly the American flag or profess your Christianity because that simply makes you a member of the norm. It's coloring outside those lines that takes a certain amount of nerve.    


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Songs of My Life - A Totally Self-Indulgent Blog

Blackfoot - Train Train                                                     Image result for images band blackfoot

Spirit - I Gotta' Line on You                                    Image result for images band spirit 

I'm generally not in favor of ignorance but sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. That's the way it is with me and music, about which I know absolutely nothing. Sometimes, I read my musician friends' comments about certain songs and most of them are over my head. They scorn the guitar part or hold the drummer in contempt but when they try to explain about the chording or the beat and why they are less than excellent, my eyes glaze over.

I only know what makes me happy. If a song makes me want to get up and dance, I like it regardless of the quality of the musicianship. For instance, Mony Mony  (Tommy James and the Shondells) which has been a staple "get people on their feet" song for as long as I can remember. This song is my own personal age test. The first time I hear it and don't start moving my hips or tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, I'll know I'm truly old. Yes, I know its simplistic and kind of silly but I don't care. It gets my juices flowing.

In my first years of becoming an aficionado of music, it was all about Elvis. (That's All Right, Mama.) He not only made feel-good music but it was all wrapped up in one beautiful man with a glorious smile. I wouldn't be surprised if he was also the first to get many of our pre-teen hormones stirring.

Many times, songs are associated with times and places and feelings and that's what makes them special. When I think of my first husband, I still smile at his penchant for wanting the latest high-tech toys. I believe we had the first eight-track tape player in our car of anyone in our crowd. He knew nothing about music so the two tapes he bought with it were Loretta Lynn -  You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man  and Aretha Frankin - Chain of Fools. We often laughed about the odd duo he chose but we listened to those tapes a million times.

He had two cousins, Jimmy and Vernon Staggs, who had a band. I went with them to practices and to gigs and loved every minute of it. Many songs make me think of those guys but their warm-up song was Honky Tonk by Bill Doggett and that is forever and indelibly "their" song.

My second husband and I fell in love to the strains of Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands because we were astonished to discover that we both loved Bob Dylan when most people in this area didn't know he existed. 

Every place I ever worked or spent time in has one particular song that brings it to mind. The first song above, I Gotta' Line on You, by Spirit was popular when my parent's owned the Club Royal, THE place to go in Wabash on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights when we featured live bands.

I heard I Gotta' A Line on You the other day on the radio and I was instantly transported back to my early 20's, looking good in a min-skirt and go-go boots, reveling in the deafening music and the loud and lively sound of customers packed shoulder to shoulder, joyfully celebrating their weekend.

Oddly enough, on the same day, the radio played I Gotta' Line on You" they also played the Blackfoot song, "Train Train". Shortly after Mom and Dad sold the Club, it closed for good. I didn't hang out in the bars much then. Too busy being a worker and a Mom but then my friend, Linda, called needing a waitress. Linda managed The Warehouse. It had become the Club Royal of its era, the chosen place of music lovers and dancers and bikers and drinkers who just generally wanted to have fun. We'd made a tape of the best-loved songs of our customers and ourselves and played it while we were cleaning up. One of those songs was, "Train Train". 

I can hear the 3:00 a.m. sounds of it now blaring across a huge empty room except for us workers and a few regulars at the bar finishing up their last Jack and Coke, as well as the band roadies loading up equipment. I remember the tired sense of relief and satisfaction that another night of rowdy customers and screamed orders and caterwauling guitars and cracking pool balls was finally over. I can't even imagine how many tables I wiped down to the tune of  "Train Train" or how many glasses and bottles I carried back to the bar to its rhythms.

We associated all of our favorite bands with certain songs too. To me, Roadmaster was Stay with Me (Faces) and C.I.A. was Santana and Empire was Van Halen's, Jump and Slayer was Led Zeppelin - Rock and Roll.

The Warehouse closed and once again, I didn't go much to taverns until I got a job working second shift at a factory. Then my friend, Arlene, and I got in the habit of hitting the bars until closing time after our shift. We had a music age test then too. If we could still dance all the way through Ole Rocky Top without having a heart attack, we were still in our prime!

The staff at Market Street Grille always told us the Sheriff's Department had the jolliest Christmas parties of all. Those times are what I now consider the glory days of my working life when we all respected our Sheriff, loved our jobs and felt a feeling of kinship with our co-workers. This was the signature song Keith Walters played at those parties - Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train. If you don't remember those years the same way, don't tell me, because I like my memories as they are, thank you very much. 

Of course, there are thousands of other recollections associated with songs. Some I remember from live music some from albums, some from 8-tracks, some from cassettes, some from cds. I have followed music through its various incarnations (though I have so far resisted getting an I-Pod). I haven't even mentioned the Beatles or Janis Joplin or Jefferson Airplane, Peter Frampton or the Stones or Bob Seger, or, or, or......

I admit I have fallen behind in keep up with modern music. Even songs I consider "new" like Drops of Jupiter are now "old".

If I were going to have a funeral when I die (which I'm not), this is the song I would choose to play - I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash) - is it a "good" song from a musician's professional judgement? I don't know. I don't care. It makes me happy. It captures my point of view. It brings back good memories. That's what makes it a great song...for me.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Taking the Easy Way Out


Sometimes, I wish that every domestic political story would simply disappear from the television, from newspapers and magazines and from the internet. Instead, there would simply be a neutral recital of whatever congress was debating along with a list of how each one voted on each issue (perhaps on C-Span). Don't even add the D's and R's behind their names. Let us decide based on what we think, without being influenced by party. Just cut away all the crap of reporters explaining to us the political ramifications ("they had to vote this way to please their "base").

Put the text of each bill and how it is to be paid for right up there on the screen for those who care enough to read it, along with any amendments that go with it. I'm always hearing things like "the Republicans voted it down because the Democrats added 'pork'" or vice versa. Just tell me what it is and I'll determine whether I think it is "pork" or not. (Is repairing a bridge that is falling down in Ohio pork? - is research into why honey bees are dying pork?) Pork is in the eye of the beholder.

Just give us the facts without all the hyperbolic bullshit. All the "yeah, buts" as in -

Questioner: "Do you support Equal Pay for Equal Work?"

Answer: "Yeah, but....I couldn't vote for it because...."

Questioner: "That will be all, thank you, we have the wording of the legislation on the screen so people can decide for themselves if they approve of the bill or not."

I wonder how many of us would change our minds if we weren't able to simply follow our party? If we didn't depend on Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow to help us know what to think? If we didn't stick to our own prejudices and read both Breitbart and the Daily Kos and gave what they had to say equal consideration instead of reflexively supporting one and rejecting the other?

The media even tells us how we feel. I often read on the conservative blogs about something that I, as a card-carrying liberal, am "foaming at the mouth" or "enraged" or "have gone ballistic" about when I'm not even close to foaming at the mouth or being enraged or going ballistic. I may disagree with whatever the issue is but it isn't "foaming at the mouth" disagreement.

Or I see that some Tea Party type has "schooled" or "smacked down" or "crushed" President Obama but when I watch the video clip that not what I see at all.

I'm sure conservatives can come up with examples of the same thing on their side and they are welcome to do so. I'll be glad to post their comments here but that's up to them, I'm not going to do their work for them.

I admit to my own biases but I believe the conservative side is way more dug into staying in their own ivory tower world and refusing to even consider that they may be wrong about anything whatsoever than liberals. I have blocked exactly two people on Facebook and in neither case did it have anything to do with their rabid political views (which I'll gladly debate all day long) but that they both descended into personal attacks. Meanwhile, I have been blocked by several Republican/conservatives simply because they couldn't stand to hear my thoughts. They aren't interested in debate, they just want to sing with their own choir. (Of course, there are liberals like this too...just not as many.)

You have to believe that some issues would simply be a given for working people - minimum wage, equal pay, expanding unemployment, even healthcare, if politics didn't rear its ugly head. Who thinks any family can live on $7.25 an hour? And yet facts (there are still some realities, believe it or not) prove that states that increase their minimum wage experience job gains not losses. So how could anyone not be for it? Well, because their political leaders tell them not to be.

We do not even recognize our own inconsistencies. We don't want the minimum wage increased (socialist interference in business, don't you know), yet we want fewer people on food stamps.

My conservative debaters tell me over and over what terrible shape America is in. In fact, it is barely even America anymore. We are descending into tyranny with our freedoms being taken away right and left. It's just awful. We might have to have another revolution. Terrorists and illegal immigrants are descending on  us in hordes, threatening to destroy us. And President Obama is encouraging them. In fact, you know, Obama has never done one single right thing since he's been president. Literally, everything he has ever done has been wrong. Even things you might have thought on the surface that seemed good, killing Osama bin Laden, for instance, really wasn't when you know the true story. Rescuing our soldier from the Taliban wasn't a good thing, it was actually treason! Finding the first Fort Hood shooter guilty and sentencing him to the death penalty wasn't a good thing because they called him by the wrong name!

So, the economy is still in the bottom of the pit, according to them, but those lazy moochers on unemployment could get a job if they really wanted to.

Conservatives remind me of Lewis Carroll who told Alice, "I try to believe six impossible things before breakfast."

What do I think about the shape America is in? I'm 67 and trust me, I've lived through worse times. It's not perfect but on the other hand, I look around and I don't notice that the sky is falling. I can't think of a freedom I've lost. I still have my guns. None of my friends have been hauled off to a FEMA camp. The Tea Partiers still seem perfectly free to say what they want, no matter how scurrilous it may be. Ditto, liberals.

It's interesting to imagine how our thought processes would change if we weren't swayed by parties or labels....not that we'll ever find out, of course.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Five Generations of Sliding Downhill

My mother had a phobia about little old ladies who shuffle. She always used to tell me, "if you see me shuffling, you tell me, 'pick up your feet, Jane', you're shuffling." Until the very last, she made a heroic effort not to shuffle.

I, personally, don't have that much of a fixation about shuffling. If I'm home, I'm barefoot and I guess being barefoot is not conducive to shuffling.

My father's pet peeve was women who didn't get dressed in the morning. He thought remaining in a robe was the epitome of shiftlessness. As a consequence, thirty years after he died, Mom still got dressed as soon as she finished her first cup of coffee. Meanwhile, I've been known to hang out at the computer in my robe, coffee and cigarettes at my side, until noon or later. Each generation seems to become more self-indulgent. Lazy robe-wearer that I am myself, I'm always kind of shocked when I see the next generation of girls at Village Pantry in their pajamas.

My grandmother was an immaculate little old lady. You never saw her that her (blue) hair wasn't styled. Her clothes matched her shoes which matched her purse which matched her jewelry which matched her fingernails. We cousins laughed about her penchant for color coordination sometimes.

"Who are you trying to impress, Grandma?" we'd ask.

"I'm not trying to impress anyone. I do it for my own sense of pride," she would say haughtily.

She often told the story of her mother. My great-grandma committed the sin of sins - she fell in love with and married the hired man. Her family disowned her for this stain on the family honor but her father allowed the young couple to live in a fixed up chicken house on the farm. They eventually had several children. Rough as their living conditions were, my grandma made the point that none of her kids ever saw their mother not fully dressed with her long hair done up in a pompadour.

"She never left her bedroom until her toilette was complete."

The story did have a happy ending. One Christmas, great-great-grandpa told his wife, "I can't stand it anymore, Addie, those are our grand-children and I'm taking them Christmas."

So, he loaded up the sleigh with food and toys and other presents and rode down to where they lived. It took a while longer for his stiff-necked wife to give in but eventually she did and great-grandma was accepted back into the bosom of the family.

I always wondered if there was lingering bitterness that they allowed her and her husband and children to live for so long in a chicken house or if she was simply joyful to be part of them again. I asked Grandma but she didn't know.

But there you go - the history of self-discipline writ in five generations. A woman living in an old chicken coop with several children but who never let her own family see her en deshabille. To a woman who was perfectly dressed and coifed at all times. To a woman who worried about shuffling. To a shiftless barefoot robe-wearer. To a girl who feels comfortable wearing her p.j.s to the store.

Apparently, as females, we live in an era of lax intestinal fortitude. On the other hand, hardly any of us nowadays would cast out our daughter for marrying the hired man.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Beware the Terrorist Children.


Not since Bowe Bergdahl has any issue torn at my heart like this one. It's like picking a scab to keep discussing it when I know it is hopeless to change anyone's mind but I keep worrying it, thinking, "they surely don't really mean what they are saying, they can't be that heartless." But, yes, they answer again and again....they do mean it and yes, they are that heartless.

Typical was a demonstration against a supposed busload of refugee kids heading for a temporary home in a school for at-risk boys in Oracle, Arizona. Protesters were there to meet them with screams and signs and guns. "We don't want you here! You're not welcome!"

It turned out this was not a busload of refugees but rather a YMCA bus carrying American kids to an event. Oops. When they realized what the situation was, the protesters, of course, backed off. They stopped shouting and lowered their signs to smile and wave instead. In the video, one of the protesters could be heard saying, "we're going to scare these poor kids to death."

If good old Americans kids with nothing to fear were going to be scared to death, imagine how terrified refugee kids would feel? They've often left their parents behind to make a horrendous journey from their home country, through Mexico, possibly being beaten or raped along the way, to finally make it to the U.S. only to be met by people as scary and hostile as the gang and drug cartels at home.

And that was the point of the demonstration, wasn't it? The kids themselves have no autonomy. They were in the hands of the authorities who made the decisions for them so letting them know how despised and rejected they were would only accomplish one threaten and frighten them. Wow, terrifying children - makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, those two courageous macho men, Rick Perry and Sean Hannity are floating down the Rio Grande in a boat bristling with guns, single-handedly protecting us from 7-year-old kids. Some of my Facebook correspondents do believe that's the answer to this crisis - more guns, more tanks, more drones. I asked how they would handle it? Would they mow down anyone who tried to cross? Would they only shoot the adults, leaving the kids to fend for themselves on the Mexican side? If you're going to make these kinds of declarations, you have to think through how it would work, right?

One friend took me to task for insisting on referring to all the border crossers as children when obviously, they are not and I agreed that was true. I did tend to do that because the kids are my primary concern. But she is equally guilty of denouncing them all as gang and drug cartel members when obviously they are not that either. Many of my debaters simply refuse to believe that the information we get about the conditions in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala is not bogus. (Some kind of Obama plot).

I think the difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives are simply incapable of putting themselves in another's shoes to say, "what would I do if....", at least, with anything approaching reality.

Question: - "What would I do if my child was shot my a wannabe cop coming home the convenience store?"

Answer: - "That could never be my kid because he's not a thug."

Question: - "Can you imagine how horrible circumstances at home must be for a mother to be desperate enough to send her children off on such a terrible journey, never knowing if she'll see them again or whether they'll survived the trip (many don't)?"

Answer - "I would never do that."

I asked some of these people - "You guys claim to be Christians and often ask, WWJD. What do you think Jesus would do in this situation?"

One response: - "he'd build a goddam fence!"

It makes me think of the Berlin Wall. People who are desperate do desperate things and many people were killed trying to climb or fly over or tunnel under that wall in a bid for freedom. When the wall came down, people flooded across from East Germany to find a better life in the West. We all celebrated that event but if it happened today on America's Mexico border, I guess we'd line our side with tanks and shoot them as they came across. We probably should have droned and drowned the Mariel boat people trying to escape from Cuba instead of making them all welcome.

America has never been as perfect as some people want to believe. Our history is one that includes both generosity of spirit mixed in with some truly shameful behavior. But through it all, I still thought of America as being the leader in enlightenment. Given time, we usually did the right thing.  We encouraged other countries to deal with their refugees with humanity and respect. We extended civil rights and worker's right. We cared for our poor and vulnerable. We helped write the Accords that banned torture. We outlawed "cruel and unusual" punishment and put our faith in due process.

And there are lots of us who still believe in all those American principles but many, it seems, no longer do. This cruelly conservative America is a country I don't even recognize anymore.

After all, unless you're a Native American, we're all just immigrants here.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Animals Are People Too



I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. So much of it is adversarial and acrimonious. It shows us just how divided into contentious enemy camps we have become in America. (I freely admit that I jump into those political wars with all four feet so I contribute to that problem).  People expound, what seem to me, to be fantastical conspiracy theories. I'm sometimes stunned by the cold-hearted cruelty some of my friends exhibit on Facebook. These are people I know to be kind and generous in "real life". Some play out their emotional dramas on the computer screen for all their friends to see.

On the other hand, Facebook has been the source of education and inspiration as well. I've learned about the most fabulous places in the world I never knew existed. I've discovered gorgeous flowers and birds and animals I'd never seen before. I've seen awesome talent that likely never would have been discovered without Facebook. I've  read incredible stories of heroism and hope. As I scroll down my newsfeed, my faith in human nature is first plunged to the depths and then raised to the sky from one post to the next.

If I had to select the most positive benefit of Facebook, I would say that has helped us see that animals are really often not so different than humans. For all of mankind's existence, we have held them to be far lesser creatures than ourselves and, therefore, we had no responsibility to treat them as sentient beings.

 "Oh, animals don't love the way we do."

"Animals don't hurt the way we do."

"Animal behavior is dictated by instinct and not consciousness."

We have come to see that none of that is true. Through pictures and videos, we've found that they do love and they do hurt and they do think.

Animals are loyal. Raise an orphan lion, release him to the wild, go back and find him long after and he will be overjoyed to see you. He will hug you and lick you and bring his mate to meet you.

Wild animal mothers will conquer their fear of people to come find a human to help rescue a trapped baby.

Save a whale or dolphin from the nets that have bound him and he will exhibit what certainly seems like gratitude in the ways that are possible to him. And sometimes these same animals will save you if you are in a bad situation.

Animals are capable of bonding with those we would normally consider their natural enemies as illustrated by the pictures above (and you can find many, many more). They suffer when they are separated from their friends and from their babies. Animal mommas will happily adopt infants not of their own species.

I have friends who operate an exotic bird rescue. (Shout out to Deb and Mark at Frosty and Friends!) I learned from them that the most supposedly vicious bird is usually a product of its inhumane environment. Mark and Deb have such rapport with them that they respond and soon become loving companions. Thanks to Facebook, Frosty and Friends has been able to get the word out to those interested in helping in ways they couldn't have BF (Before Facebook). So have many other animal rescue sites.

We still have a long way to go to have our consciousnesses raised regarding animals. Some will still insist, in their human arrogance, that it is all right to keep sows in tiny crates because they don't feel discomfort like we do. It's all right to eradicate wolves because they have no value to humans. It is all right to keep mares pregnant, then remove their foals, to produce our hormones. Circuses are all right and zoos are all right and marine shows are all right. Wiping out wild horse bands is all right because, after all, we need their range for our cows.

Anthropomorphism, or attributing human characteristics to animals, used to be derided as foolishness but more and more, we are finding that animals do, in fact, harbor many of the same qualities we pride in ourselves. Of course, acknowledging that truth means that our traditional definition of "stewardship" may mean something more profound.