Trailing the Goodness In Facebook (T.G.I.F)

The weather is still good out here—between high 30s and mid 40s F. Still weather thanksgiving_Fotorsafe from “The Coming Anarchy” – white, cold, frozen and gloomy! But who knows how long it will last! After all, we are in the Northern Hemisphere, on the North East coast of the good US of A. Not too far from British weather!

In fact, child of mine assured me today that, the United States and Europe touch each other, some where; don’t ask me where he is learning his second grade geography! For what I know, tomorrow might snow, or rain, or sleet or fog, or whatever…it might just…

Dear winter, could you please wait a little longer? I thank you, in anticipation. But, as long as the snow comes before the month ends, we’ll be fine…or Santa’s sledge will have trouble getting to us!

Talking about “The Coming [winter] Anarchy,” I have learned the same about Facebook. Sometimes, it can be a mixed bag, of unintended anarchies!

See, I joined Facebook for the ease of connection with family and friends on Facebook, whenever I am unable to pick up a phone, send an email, text or snail mail [yeah, “snail mail” is so ‘90s!]. I enjoy the quick regular updates on family and friends scattered across the globe.

Through Facebook, I have reconnected with friends not seen or talked to in ages. I have added new Facebook friends, via friends, social networking, and other social media. Here, I make a distinction between “friends on Facebook” and “Facebook friends”. The latter are those I met and friended on Facebook, probably never met all in person. The former are/were my friends before Facebook.

Facebook also gives me a chance to ’smear’ the world with my opinions, my craziness, and my family life and routines. It allows me to participate in intellectualism, and to salvage the world from itself!

I call Facebook the real United Nations, besides HONY —Humans of New York. Facebook is the school of International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, equivalent to an IR class. Am I being overoptimistic, presumption or simplistic?

I tend to think that Facebook is a good representation of the real world we live in, with all its discomforts, disagreements, verbal fist-fights, verbal and visual artillery, along with inconvenient truths, facts, great love, laughter and enjoyment.

So, I have learned not to take postings from Facebook friends personal, unless they intentionally seek to denigrate me, character assassinate or ridicule me on a personal level. Even then, I make exceptions!

Like one of my Facebook friends, who has no decency to bite his tongue, even when interacting with me. He has called me scrambled egg brains, delusional, namby-pamby, befuddled, any name under the moon and stars, whenever my view do not please him. At times, he is outright impudent, callously attacking people who have not engaged him. Sometimes, he is plain evil, projecting his inflated sense of entitlement to opine at anything/one that crosses his eyes!

Yet, I have not unfriended him, nor will I. In fact, we have constant exchange of opinions, with plenty of disagreements, but lots of laughter, too. We engage each other’s FB posts, and tag each other in our posts. Beyond the disagreements, verbal fights and mutual disdain for some of opinions each posts, we enjoy learning from each other. We enjoy the unique outlook on life, each of us projects, and have places of mutual convergence, interests, concern for social issues, and love of knowledge.

cropped-img_6577-e14121594949072.jpgBut that is not a unique case. Some of my Facebook friends post pictures of white people, putting their bare naked ar$e against Obama’s face on TV! Or religious scriptures and writings lampooning the president, as America’s worst evil. Yet, I still have not unfriended, blocked or berated them. Others post excessively derogatory and generalizing remarks against muslims. I often counter them, by reminding them that I have muslim family and friends, whom I do not recognize from their character assassination. Most importantly, I remind them that we are all members of the same global society.

Still, I have not unfriended anyone on Facebook; “blocking” is the worst I have gone. And that is only four people —two for being a misogynist, another for called me names, and another for repeatedly calling all black folks indolent.

I do not have patience for folks posing as intellectuals, when they cannot cite an academic writing or socially researched piece of writing to justify their arguments. Perpetually pandering personal opinions as “observed facts,” grounded in popular stereotypes drawn from the media and society. I do not wish to entertain anyone who builds a clout by dispensing personal views as facts and truths!

I am absolutely fine with opinions at par with mine. My personal conviction is that, our views and knowledge are largely shaped by our personal experiences, social relations and life trajectories. I am comfortable with counter arguing, defending and justifying my position with evidence. I do not believe that any of us possess the penultimate argument nor hold monopoly over the truth.

On my part, my vested commitment to reading, learning, listening and social networking, have opened my mind to a wealth of knowledge, diverse views and experiences about life. I do not take personal, any back and forth exchanges we have on Facebook because in my opinion, they are responses to my views/opinions/arguments, not personal attacks against me.

So, I was caught off-guard when I learned, sometime last week, that a “Friend on Facebook” had unfriended me! I tried to tag her on a newspaper article published about her in the Uganda dailies, but her name did not come in my friend’s list. My initial reaction was, perhaps she was reorganizing her Facebook account or creating a new account, and forgot to add me back. So, I FB messaged her to ask, when she had unfriended me.

A few days later, she responded that she had unfriended me a year ago, to paraphrase:

“I could not stand the arguments we were having on FB."

Arguments? I was totally shocked, because I could not recall the arguments she was referring to. I did not even imagine, she could unfriend anyone whose views are contrary to her own!

She and I know each other from that not-so-square Cambridge, where we both attended school. As a celebrated “square” for scholarly rigor and intellectual stimulation, we both engaged in animated academic debates, not kissing up to each other. There were moments of discomfort, encountering strangers with opposing viewpoints, alien experience, hard talk and contradictions. Every engagement was not for the faint-hearted, but a battle ground for advancing one’s ideas. You had to be capable of taking in uncomfortable arguments, as well as stand by your own, similar to the everyday FB experience.

But, that’s life too! To each her/his own. No hard feelings toward her, nor anyone else “who got away” because they wanted to get out of the fire! For those who are still hanging out with me, I appreciate, knowing that we can still hangout together, probably for keeps. We will agree, disagree and agree to disagree; and that is how we roll in this world.

The only people surrounded by only their kind, or listening only to their type, are watching Faux News, listening to Lush Limbaugh Radio, breaking religious bread or fast together, and, as my mother told me, did not leave the hospital!

The rest of us will keep Trailing the Goodness of Facebook!

Happy Facebooking!

In Defense of “Strong Women” and “Out-of-the-Box” People

A thought to write “In Defense of “Strong Women” and “Out-of-the-Box” People came to me, following a fb discussion, into which I was co-opted to respond a couple of weeks ago. I was not exactly participating, nor had any intentions of commenting on the thread that I sensed would cause me more unwarranted rebuke and distraction.

Yet, my FB friend, who posted the thread on his [I will be specific, “he” is male] FB timeline tagged me, “Doreen What do you think?”

Immediately after, another one of his FB friends [co-FB friend] shot back, “No no no no!
The thread poster asked, “What is it?” [That is, why are you do opposed to her?]
His response went like, “From previous discussions, she believes all black outrage is because if racism and slavery.” To which he said that he vehemently disagrees!

Well, for one, I didn’t know that he had such strong distaste for my opinions. Two, I didn’t appreciate his generalization of my opinions about specific cases of black public outrage to my views on all black people outrage. The particular discussions I recall engaging in where he was involved concerned police brutality against blacks in America, and the place, conditions and perceptions of African Americans in America.

He expressed my displeasure at his claim, that “it was a knee jerk reaction.” But all too late; I was wounded. Particularly because I had no plans of engaging in that particular discussion on”death rates in Baltimore“, where my views would most likely be caricatured or ridiculed. I know to self-censor myself.

I have learned from my social interactions that I do not have to express an opinion on everything, just because I hold one. I don’t lose a thing from “speaking my truth quietly”, by not uttering a thing. In any case, I save so many heads and hearts from pain over my potentially not-so-popular or appealing views.

If there is anything I am an expert on, it would be not to generalize, pigeon-hole people and speak for others. I have learned from personal experience that our beliefs, knowledge, values are very much a reflection of our life’s trajectories. We cannot assume to know more than we have been exposed to or have exposed ourselves.

Moreover, my professional and academic career, at the intersection of law and social sciences, is very much the “epitome of anti-generalization”. In social sciences, we are required to state if the findings, writings and assertions are specific to a given study group, or representative [of a whole population], or involve everyone in the study population. So, I very much detest anyone who generalizes my opinions or accuses me of possessing “sound judgment” for causes into which I sink myself. Perhaps it is my strong personality, and conviction and out-of-the-box thinking which is a threat to those who are comfortable blinding themselves to social reasoning.

To pretend that the process of passing laws, making political decisions, economic transactions, and building and maintaining social relations does not embroiled in emotional, is to fool oneself that law is absolute of politics and political interference.

Then, what makes strong women and out-of the-box people so unpleasant to those who claim possession of “higher logical reasoning”? Perhaps, it is because strong women and out-of-the-box thinkers and writers allow their vulnerability to play out in the public domain, and are not afraid to of hard talk. They are not afraid of swimming with crocodiles, the fire in the kitchen or running with the wolves.

To choose the opposite is to live a life of misery and lies to oneself. I would not trade myself for “fitting in”. I am as logical, as I am emotional. I do not sink myself into areas where I know next to nothing about. My commitment, my activism, my reason, my actions are very much influenced by my life trajectory, the relationships I have met and kept, the societies in which I have lived, the cultures [socio-cultural, socio-economic, socio-political, socio-intellectual] I have experienced.

Until death doeth me apart, I will continue in the lane of “Strong Women” and “Out-of-the-Box” people. I will not apologize for my critical thinking mind.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014: The Day Facebook ceased being indispensable [to me]

Today is Monday, October 13, 2014. It’s been thirteen days since I last logged onto my Facebook page. That means I have not been on FB since the beginning of this month of October!

Yes! I bet you cannot believe me. Especially if you know my ‘Facebook addition’. You have probably been thinking that I was earning ‘Zuckerbergers’, given my indefatigable dedication to FB. Or that I earn my living via FB social networking. Maybe you were convinced that I cannot hold to myself all the sharing and commenting on posts via friend’s FB pages. I have surprised myself as well that I can live without FB!

Granted, I have not completely ceased all FB social networking. After all, my tweets, Instagram[s] and Pins [from Pinterest] are automatically linked to my FB account. Truth be told, I have sometimes ceded to temptation, and responded to a few urgent “Messenger”, all because my FB account is automatically log in on my iPad and iPhone, whether I am active or not. That’s pretty much it, though.

But do not think I am completely keeping out of social interaction. My buddies  who need me, know how and here to get hold of me outside FB. Options like voice, email, text, FaceTime, Viber and Hangout still exist outside FB. Please believe me, I have even returned to Skype a couple of times! Though the fact still remains that during these last thirteen days, I have learned that FB is and can be dispensable.

At least to me! I do not always have to suffocate to the addiction. I am stronger than I thought. I do not have to be ‘plugged into’ what’s hot off my global friends’ profiles or timelines, nor be the first to share ‘breaking news’. Yes, I might miss out on who hit the jackpot, moved, got a new hairdo, new wheels, trotted the world, got married, engaged or died. I do not get to see who commented on my posts, who visited my page and left a comment or re-shared my posting. But I am learning that is ok too.

There are plenty more avenues to find news and information and be ‘in-the-know”. I have read lots of newsletters, newspapers, books, watched TV and radio news and read people and twitter feeds. But there is so much one can tolerate or enjoy on these more ‘literate’ platforms, but no comparable match for the amusement readings about other people’s status updates, quarrels or surprise finds. And it all offers great infotainment!

You may be wondering how I am managing to cure my procrastination? Fortunately for me, there is Klondike, whenever I am stuck trying to patch together a thought or sentence. Two or three rounds of this entertaining gamble and poker card game unfreeze my brain. Then I head back to the hustle of my fingers, brain or feet. Lest we forget that Evernote allows me to note my thoughts to self, without having to blast to the world, until I am ready! Then the thought and longing for FB comes haunting me again!

Especially, when I want to share about my son’s fundraiser for his Cub Scout Pack. My largest social network is on FB, as well as my biggest cheerleaders. I have run a couple of fundraisers in the past via FB, reaching friends, family and loved ones across the globe. While they are all connected via other fundraising sites like Go Fund Me, FundRaizr, they all merge at FB.

Perhaps that is my admission that, indeed FB is a global force to reckon with! Bigger than so many alternative social networking platforms. In this case, it is right about time to break my “fb exile” and return to the home that has made me, introduced me to strangers, turned strangers into friends, and into frienemies. Some have exited, been blocked, unfollowed, or re-friendshiped as cordial mature disagreeing parties. East or West, Facebook might be indispensable, but only for a couple of days!

In Praise of Teachers

I recently resumed private coaching, and it occurred to me that it is as well, I give a shout out to teachers!

The not-so-highly sang heroes! Without teachers, there would not be plenty of us! Teachers are pretty much held responsible for all things gone wrong in the school system, for students learning, poor school district performance, graduation rates, post-graduate career misfortunes and even market absorption of graduates! Too bad they do not have the fortune of economists and meteorologists, who no matter how many times their forecasts are wrong, they will never lose their job! Yet, teachers will be fired way before their welfare at school becomes a topic of concerted discussion. Nobody wants to talk about how salaries [or lack thereof] for teachers affect the classroom and school academics. Instead, many teachers are losing even the basic good of year-round employment as teachers.Thanks [again] to economists, plenty of our teachers are increasingly on “pay-per-hours worked. Never mind that teachers did not design the “summer vacation”, a fixture on the formal school calendar for generations immemorial! Do not be surprised when you run into your teacher, who is laid off in the summer, bagging groceries at Walmart, bursting tables at Red Lobster, delivering pizza from Pizza Hut or entertaining tourists in Time Square. S/he is trying to make ends meet, chasing the American Dream!

The truth is, it is not easy being a teacher! Since becoming a parent, I am now more than aware that it is not easy teaching learners, particularly early learners! So a shout out to teachers is long overdue! And I have plenty of my own – right from Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, Elementary School, Junior High, High School, College, Summer School and Graduate School, apprenticeship, lifelong, personal and home improvement and the list goes on. I love all my teachers!

To that, I add my son’s teachers – I love them all so dearly! Yes! Mommy was the first teacher, right when child was still in the womb. “What to Expect When You Are Pregnant” became my household #1 best seller, read in the car, on the train, on the couch, at the midwife’s office, in bed and in the bathroom. It was everywhere. Yes! I read it to the child too, plus many other books about “bunny in the oven”. As a bonus, I had my Birth Coach, a professional school teacher and a mother [then] of two boys, a beautiful soul and formidable friend that made “becoming a mother” seem like a walk in the park! Post-birth, child had daddy, plenty of aunties, great gran, grans, friends and strangers. They all read or wanted to read to him. They taught him a lot -all about burping, tummy time, sitting, and following objects. Moments playing with Great Grandma, and getting lessons on reaching objects afar, were priceless!

At ten months, my ‘teacher’ friends convinced me to take child to a babysitter, for a couple of days a week, to allow a smooth transition if and when I went back to work outside the home. Our babysitter [bless her soul] taught him how to survive a few moments without mom. Given that she had more little ones to tend, she also equipped him with more skills in independent living, Skills that were contagious, and taught me to let go of my son, sometimes, have some “me-time”, and take care of myself. Moreover, those lessons come in handy, when after his first birthday, we shipped off to Norway, to start my graduate research scholarship at the University in Oslo. I felt quite comfortable dropping him off to pre-school every morning, assured his ‘separation anxiety’ would have waned off, into happy moments with his classmates, by the time I picked up every afternoon. Kudos to our teachers at Kringsjå Barnehage, who took on the child with ease, taught him to eat meatballs (even after telling them Child does not eat meat), took him out for a daily stroll in the brutal winters, played in the sandpit and gave him a chance to enjoy painting and coloring! Bless their pretty souls for putting up with his constant constipation, patiently waiting, sometimes 30 minutes before Child finally released #2. Until that one time when all had failed, and they had to pick up the phone, to tell me, we needed Emergency Room intervention to get #2!

Half-a year-later, we were in South Africa, with another daycare and another group of teachers in Cape Town. I still remember the daily smiles on their faces. If they had any bad days, they did not show that to me. They were happy and excited to receive the child everyday, and always assembled the entire class to sing cheerful songs to the ever so crying child every morning! Lucky for us, we shared the adrenaline of #WorldCup2010 with them, right in Cape Town! Until we left for our next stop in Kampala, Uganda, where the most transformative experiences happened. The child grew up in age, and had the most amazing teachers! Initially doubted doubted when they told me that the child would stop crying every morning Child got to school. I had come to accept it as “part of his growing up”, perhaps until the ‘age of maturity’, whenever that would be. But, “Teachers Know Best”, and t it came to pass. They taught child to learn to learn and enjoy doing it, rather than regurgitate. They prepared him to be the unsolicited but every-so willing “Teacher of the Day” in his classes, and outside school to his little cousin in Uganda and the US! The Child learned to read, to write, to sing, to dance to Taekwondo, to cub scout, to swim, all happening at school. While Child was the youngest in all the classes, Child excelled, thrived and grew in each class, from Playgroup -Nursery-Kindergarten-Pre-Primary! Child did not just have teachers, but parents and friends.

My mom who is a teacher agreed, “they mastered the art of Early Childhood Education and Development.” I had no regrets for any penny that I invested. The child learned phonics reading, which has been a great asset going forward! The child, previously scared of anyone but mom taking off his pants to potty train, finally subsequently allowed class teachers to help out, so Child would not come back home again with a bladder full of pee. The Child learned to trust others in my family taking him to school when I was not available. And child thrived in Uganda, and onto Edinburgh, Scotland where we were shortly before returning to America. The Child’s Kindergarten experience at the new US school, SEC, added to the memories of the school experience; we loved our teachers and classmates! The transition was not too bad; handwriting improved, learning to write both last name, as well, and becoming a Ninja with plenty of magic tricks. Moreover, Child now has a larger teacher network, who include cousins, who are sometimes more exciting than mama. No worries, if the learning continues with lots of playtime.  And Child has never stopped teaching; for which I say, “Thank You Bebe for all the lessons you have and keep teaching me, for all the experiences you have allowed, and allows me time to sink myself into the places we have never been. The adjustments to my life and the words you have inspired me to say or not to say because of you.”

No doubt, all this was made possible with the opportunity of walking and working close to Child. Thanks to a strong foundation of teachers who came before Child, before me and ingrained in my the value of teaching.

1) My Kindergarten Teacher, Ms. Nak; wherever you are – I do not know how you taught me to learn. For I do not remember anything about phonics, but you brought me this far.
2) My Mother was my first teacher from womb to birth to growing up. She still is, I guess, through plenty of inspirations and lessons learned, plenty I am passing on to Child. Most vividly, I remember you reading to me, including that one day when government soldiers found us sitting outside the house, led themselves into our house and robbed everything they could lay their hands on. You also taught me the love and value of healthy living: Natural is best for cooking, eating and treatment of ailments. Yes! I feed the Child Aloe Vera juice made straight-up from the plant. Ginger, lemon and honey treat coughs in our household too, combined with plenty of fruits and veggies. My foods are eaten raw, boiled, steamed, grilled or baked. Stir fry is the ‘special treatment’, sometimes! Most of all, you are my #1Super-Teacher for Mothering and Hustling for a living!
3) My Best Friends Forever, I have two. One passed on in 2012 (R.I.Eternal. Peacefulness), but left a permanent seed of forgiving and loving endlessly and unconditionally implanted in me and her ever-so jovial godchild. I still catch myself saying, “No! You are still here!” You were the epitome of humanness! The true human spirit! My living BFF in Edinburgh, SCOT, a university teacher herself, and a great writing and publishing partner. We share many fond memories spanning over fifteen years, of fights, make up, but never had a serious break-up!
4) My College Professors, most memorable is one at the School of Law’s Human Rights and Peace Center. Gave me my first career, trained me as a human rights activist, allowed me to turn my dreams into reality, as the Founder of a students human rights advocacy project for prisoners, and gave me the professional backing to solicit funding, free legal services and free media publicity and entry into national human rights programs. I was the name to reckon with, back then! All the opportunities to traveled the world free, learn to write fellowships and grants requests, meet with high-level staff at various institutions around the world, my professor passed onto me. I also learned to write and publish academically.
5) My American Employer, founder of the refugee studies center at the University of Oxford, the first refugee studies program in the world! My professor, who got me into the world of refugees, broadened my scope of understanding and engaging with human rights. Yes! Taught me and afforded me the ability to get published, as well as continue to travel and discover the world. Introduced me to people from all walks of life, that for a long time were [and some like my BFF still are] part of my “inner scholarly circle”.
6) My graduate school professors of Micro Economics, Petroleum in the Global Economy, Law & Development and International Human Rights Law, still remain memorable to this day. I should add my professor of Minority Groups & the Right to Self-Determination, who had great memorable things to say about me, high compliments! I appreciate.
7) Who could I forget my Writing Tutees, who trusted that I could teach them all about Graduate Research and Writing Methodology. They were great students! Plenty from Japan, with super mastery of the English language. All they needed was editing their essays. I learned a lot from them.
8) Facebook deserves a mention here, as my teacher of “Speak Your Truth Quietly”, “It is not about being right all the time”, “Silence is Golden”. I have learned to diffuse many fires in me, thanks to Facebook! I close my mind when opening it might injure a soul.
Obviously, because

And a lot of learning has come with being a mother, being a parent, and being a part of my child’s family by default. I have learned to teach the Child, learn the way Child learns, and inspire other kids to learn. I have now learned, even more, not to take for granted that children learn or mature at the same level. I should already know, right? After all, I am not at the same ranking as all my peers. I guess, being a parents makes it surreal, when you have too many expectations from your own child, and think everyone around is doing much better. Yet, interacting, exposure, homeschooling and coaching other kids has taught me that some kids require much more extra effort to perform and function. Third-graders cannot spell simple words like “pail”, when my Kindergartner was moving on to Chapter Book words! Kids his age cannot focus