It Doesn’t All Have to be Black or White

Gun control? Mental illness? Less gun control? Religion? Media? In the wake of a tragedy, there seems to me arguing than coming together and appreciating anyone. It is infuriating. No matter what the opinion is, we’re all really trying to get to the same solution-less violent and tragic deaths. That seems like a pretty good thing to want, right? So why are we all fighting with everyone else who really just wants the same thing? 

Has it occurred to people, that perhaps there is more than one solution? And that fighting over which is better, we can actually discuss how to compromise and combine to make an even better end result than any one could ever have? In my personal opinion, I believe our country desperately needs stricter gun laws, better mental health education, and the media has got to get ahold of themselves. Here is why:

  • Gun control-There is absolutely no need for people to just have semi-automatic weapons. I mean really, why? These are weapons that are only used in war for the most part, why would you ever need one in your house? You don’t. Most of the mass shootings across the country have happened by people who have  obtained guns legally. It’s terrifying.
  • Mental Health Education-Our society doesn’t seem still to handle people who have health issues that aren’t worn on their sleeve. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If you grow up with a mental illness, your environment can truly affect how you react to it. You might be bullied, taunted, ignored, etc. The more people understand about mental illness, hopefully the better society can react, and the lives of those who must live with this can be better overall. As someone who has anxieties of my own, it can be truly inhibiting and also embarrassing to talk about. But why? It’s not embarrassing if you broke your leg, or have cancer. This is also something out of your control. We need better programs for those who have the illness, and education for those who don’t as well.
  • Media-What is wrong with the picture of forcing a microphone down the throat of a 5 year old in the most traumatic moments of their life? Is it really worth it to get the story? Is that what’s most important? And, do people really believe it’s a coincidence that once these tragedies occur more and more stories like them come out of the woodwork. Already they had threats in Oklahoma, Indiana, and even a church in Newtown, CT. If you make the suspects famous, it puts ideas into the heads of others. If they are already delusional, here’s a way they can go out with everyone knowing who they are. I spoke with a friend in Canada who said that their media refuses to report the name of the person who commits these crimes. Therefore, less people will try to copy the action with the idea of seeing their name become famous in all the headlines. All the media seems to care about is being the most successful in reporting. How about showing a human side and maybe even making a difference?

I do not believe less gun control is the answer, nor do i think religion is. Here’s why.

  • Less gun control-I have seen tweets saying that the solution would be to have 5 year olds carrying weapons. What? I personally would never want a gun, and as someone living in NYC, I would be terrified every single day knowing the millions around me have them. One argument for this solution is that if good people had guns, they could stop the bad people. The flaw? Not everyone wants to carry guns. For this theory to even have a chance of working, it’s almost like you would have to make a law obligating everyone to have to carry guns. Second, a gunman has never been stopped during a mass murder by someone with a gun to date…so why would it start now? Third, people panic.  I think that more people would be shot by racially profiling, missing the target, or jumping the gun (no pun intended) in a year than the amount of people who actually die in these tragedies to begin with. I also don’t think I would even trust my child’s teachers to have guns in the classroom. Accidents happen, kids get a hold of things, and teachers are people, some people make bad decisions.
  • Religion-I keep seeing posts saying that the reason this is happening is because we have taken God out of our classrooms and out of our laws, therefore letting evil in. These things have always happened. And if there is a God, I would surely hope that he would not cause harm to innocent people and children just to prove a point. That would make me very angry with him. 

Those are my personal thoughts. I think there are many things we can do to make a difference. Instead of arguing “gun control must change” “no mental health must be addressed”, why not both? Not everything is black and white, but our country has become so partisan that even during a crisis when we all really want what’s best for people, we are still viciously attacking each other. Can anyone have a rational conversation? And how do we look at Congress and get angry with them, when our country is doing the exact same thing: irrationally arguing and fighting wasting all our energy on negativity, and in the end coming up with nothing good so that we keep dealing with the same problems over and over.

I’ve seen it on my page. I am so sensitive to other people and all I want is to create a better world, a more fair world, for everyone. Yet on the way friends and family viciously attack what I post you would think that I was trying to actually make the world turn for the worse. I accept different opinions, and I even take time to think and consider them. But I do not accept rude attacks, especially at a time when we are all feeling sad and have the best intentions.  How can we expect to make a more peaceful world and country, when we are all so vicious with our words toward each other, especially when people just want to make things better, that will only discourage everyone. And what kind of example is that?

I even saw one post saying that “Liberals have no right to be sad about these deaths because they are fine with death through abortion.” How can we label people like that? We are all people. And maybe someone, like me, who is Liberal, only feels comfortable with abortion as a well-thought solution. You never know what is going on with people and why they decide what they do. Isn’t judgment supposed to be the worst sin? So why are people using religion as a means to judge everyone, including people like me who may have beliefs different from theirs, but still wants what’s best for everyone and even take their words into consideration. That is incredibly hateful and hurtful, how is that getting us anywhere?

Politics have become black and white, but they shouldn’t be. Not everyone who identifies with a party is exactly the same as everyone in that party. It has gotten ridiculous, and I think these past few days have really brought this to light. Learn to educate yourself, learn to listen, learn to discuss instead of argue, and please, respect people no matter what their opinion. We are all hurting during these difficult times. Being cruel to each other will not help anything.

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Young Professionals Amnesty International (YPAI) Puts On “Freedom of Expression in 140 Characters or Less”

“If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s third largest.”  Alex started the evening off with this shocking statistic that caught the audience’s attention right off the bat.  The first of many bi-monthly events for YPAI (Young Professionals Amnesty International) NYC had begun.  Our mission–to teach people how social media affects human rights both negatively and positively. We had been planning this event for months, allowing us to grow together as a team and build our skills in event organizing to put together an outcome that showcased each of our passions and areas of expertise. Thanks to Lolita Bar on the Lower East Side for being our venue, fellow human rights connoisseurs came together in the evening to mingle, sign the actions available, and drink the “Amnesty Special” that was put together by Lolita for the cause.

We were fortunate enough to have 3 amazing and inspiring speakers.  First, Kyra Stoddart, the Online Marketing Manager for Amnesty International USA in New York set the tone for social media and human rights by showcasing her experience and writing for the Human Rights Now blog.  She showed how people no longer have to rely on traditional media using examples such as Occupy Wall Street and Troy Davis where it was a tool to mobilize many people quickly and efficiently.  However, on the negative side, there are many countries where freedom of speech is not respected by the government.  Social media could be the only tool that citizens have to get information out and try to create a change.  However, since platforms such as Google Plus and Facebook make it necessary for people to use their real names, this information can become lost.  It is essential that a fake name is used to avoid being arrested, sadly.  This is where things can get complicated, but these companies are aware and working on a way to make expression possible.

Speakers (left to right): Kyra Stoddart, Raja Althaibani, Bryna Subherwal

Next, Raja Althaibani spoke.  She currently works at Witness, but before that spent time in Yemen covering the areas that needed change there and following the revolution.  She listed several issues with social media use in Yemen: access to internet is very low, it is difficult to mobilize with social media since the majority of users are the elite.  It was difficult for her to cover on the ground footage while she was there since the mainstream media is very secure-which is where citizen journalism becomes important.  However, even while she was there she found it was very difficult to gain the attention of the international community.  “Yemen was being pushed out of the light because of Egypt,” Althaibani said.  So how do you bring attention to an area that the world isn’t paying attention to?  “Social media gives faces to stories,” explained Althabani, “if 10 people died and you show who they are it will add context over statistics.”  However, in Yemen you are risking your life to push information through social media channels.  “People with cameras (like herself) were at risk of snipers, I had my SD cards confiscated and AK 47s aimed at my face,” Althaibani said.  She asked herself, “is this movement worth putting my life at risk?”  But when she saw the people and the faces first hand her answer was clear–“yes”.

Finally, Brenna Subherwal talked about the opportunity social media gives to create connections.  However, in the United States, it is common for facebook users to worry “my colleague or relatives are going to see this post” where in other places you would worry about police coming to your door and arresting you.  It’s even common for the government to make up charges to convict those who are using social media to portray their society negatively.  Obviously not the case in the United States where politics are freely  bashed and criticized commonly on the internet.  However, these individuals know they are risking their lives and freedom to stand up for what they believe in, and they still do it regardless.  So what can we do?  “We can tweet at other countries, stand in solidarity with those in prison,” Subherwal said.  She also stressed an important point, that social media can be a good tool for social media, but is not necessary.  For example, in Egypt the government cut of power, but sometimes these limitations on social media are what drive innovation.

After the event there was opportunity for actions to be signed.  We focused on three cases of injustice brought upon people due to human rights.  Please take a look and show your support for these three individuals who are currently in prison for expressing their rights:  Jabbar Savalan Shi Tao Maikel Sanad

The YPAI Board with speakers.

We encourage other New York City Young Professionals who are passionate for making a positive change in human rights to join us for our biweekly meetings. Please join YPAI NYC on Facebook and Meet Up to become involved. We thank everyone who came, our three speakers, and Lolita Bar for making our first of many events a success. We also ask-how do you use social media to make a difference?

Please check out our Flickr for additional photos from this and previous events!

All photos are credit of Kelly Samardak, we thank you for capturing this event for us!