Monthly Archives: March 2012

Hank for Senate

Who is Hank? Well folks, Hank is a cat, and Hank is running for Senate from the state of Virginia next fall. While Hank is not the first cat to run for public office he is one of the few to create  a counter cat fight, under the slogan “More Facts Less Fat Cats.”

Hank, a thick furred Maine Coon from down south, is running as a moderate  and prides himself on being “the voice of reason in a time of extremism!”
Okay, so we all know a cat is not going to be a Senator, but this viral spectacle has just the mockery of the current political status quo that I can get behind. Our current situation has become a joke, a never ending mad lib of political discourse. And, I appreciate that people have begun to speak out on this issue in the best form of protest, humor.
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Kony 2012, A Ugandan Bedtime Story?

Want to know how to create a viral sensation of bipartisan, politically ignorant glad-handers, shuffling half-turned spin from one dunce to another? Turn the indictment of a war criminal into what sounds like a Presidential Campaign and simplify the plight of a country into a bedtime story.

I would like to begin with my own initial reaction to the hype that is so misleadingly dubbed ‘Kony 2012’, because it is a quintessential example of what I believe to be one of many flaws in this campaign that bombed every social media platform without mercy.

During my adolescence, I came across the war in Uganda during a research project, and soon after got involved with Invisible Children. I became aware of Joseph Kony who, even by this point, was not at his height of power. That being said, when I first heard about Kony 2012, and all the uproar it was causing (before looking into it myself) I was under the impression Kony had produced a video, and it was a campaign created by him or his supporters. Stick with me — I don’t believe that is a ridiculous presumption. Kony 2012 sounds like a damn Presidential Campaign.

So, of course, when I then found out that Kony 2012 was an activist campaign created by Invisible Children I was quite confused as to why they were taking this approach. And then I saw the video.

“To make him famous,” the video said. To make him famous? My brow furrows at this notion. While I do respect and revere the mission of Invisible Children, and the fact that they have managed to pull to these atrocities to public discussion when many people had no idea were happening, the question remains: Is this the right approach?

Some critique is rooted in the fact that only 10 percent of the revenue from the “Action Kit” the video supports goes to “direct services.” And, while I personally have some issues with this sort of approach to aid, it may not be a fair critique. Invisible Children is an activist organization, not a direct aid organization and they’ve never claimed otherwise.

However, there are other issues at play. The LRA are not the power they were when most of this footage was filmed.  Joseph Kony, while still alive and active, is not current in Uganda, nor by any means the entirety of Uganda’s strife. Kony does need to be indicted, but the problem goes far beyond that. Invisible Children is creating this “ultimate goal” which will by no means solve many of the difficulties Uganda faces — and what happens after that? What happens in 2012 when this “video expires,” whether Kony has been arrested or not? Is the cause forgotten? Do we move on to our next heroic mission?

The people of Uganda are not helpless. Yes, there is no question that I believe we should be providing all the assistance possible, and yes it is an atrocity that their plight has gone unknown for so long, along with a plethora of African causes that tragically make better t-shirts than grass-roots campaigns. After all, it’s still a half-microwaved bowl of European imperialism. But, by painting them as helpless we are only taking away more of their power.

The intentions of Invisible Children and all active participants I believe are sincere, but I also think we need to take time to fully consider the consequences, outcomes, and end effects of this approach to aid and awareness.

I believe this campaign is very ethnocentric and could possibly be doing harm in the long run. This video takes a large and complex body of issues and lumps them all into one story with villain and one hero, (though every Facebook participant in the galaxy now thinks they qualify for the latter.)

But, while I have my opinions, I concede the following: I am just a 19-year-old white girl from good ol’ Miss-ur-uh.  I am incredibly under-qualified to speak on this subject with any authority, but I do want to elicit a little more critique on issues as complex as this, with careful thought, before jumping into the hype of it all.

And on that note, I will gladly direct you to more credible critiques:

Rosebell Kagumire, an award-winning Ugandan journalist with a Master’s in Media, Peace and Conflict Studies:

Adam Branch,  senior research fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research, Uganda, and author of Displacing Human Rights: War and Intervention in Northern Uganda:

Arthur Larok, Action Aid’s country director for Uganda, with a Master’s Degree in Governance and Development and nine years of service as the Director of Programmes at the Uganda National NGO Forum:

Anywar Ricky Richard, a former child soldier in the LRA and director of northern Ugandan organization Friends of Orphans

Probably won’t be seeing this pop up on the Facebook newsfeed anytime soon…asdfghjkl

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Seattle’s Best

No matter the local, family vacations all seem the same to me. My mother insists on picking a place where we can “equally experience both the city and nature.” But, in all reality she just wants to be able to pretend to be outdoorsy yet return to civilization by nightfall. My family has always been what I like to call “Eddie Bauer outdoorsy.” And this sense of “Eddie Bauer outdoorsy” has led us all over the Mid-West, but not last summer. Last summer the destination was Seattle, Washington.

Seattle had never been somewhere I particularly wanted to go. Maybe it was its reputation for the rain, maybe it was the long list of aviation museums my mom had already prepared, but my level of enthusiasm was struggling to reach apathetic.

But in the same way that a swamp can harvest the most exotic orchids, the streets of Seattle foster lunatics of a gentle breed, lost in the city and in their own minds. Dope-peddlers in torn leather jostling with the elderly, nine-hundred pound behemoths cradling tiny violins. The skies weep with understanding, not disappointment, upon the heads of every gnome in plaid, every dog wearing a hat.

Portland has found its niche as a meth-pumped psycho-pit of dreadlocked pandemonium, folksy to the outside eye but riddled with inner chaos. Seattle toes the line with much more charm and idiosyncrasy than allowed to be crammed into Northern Pacific expectations. Cobain is dead, Soundgarden fell apart, Pearl Jam sold out, and yet the underground still pulses with damp flannel and spit….and I love it.

Folks, here it is! A piece of Seattle’s Best:



(Please note, date on image is off due to incorrect camera settings)


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Pro-Life? Pro-Choice? Pro Civil Conversation.

“The hallmark of civil debate is when you can acknowledge that which is good in the position of the person you disagree with.”                                   –Sidney Callahan

A couple years back, NPR’s On Being with Kristen Tippet did an extended project called Civil Conversations. This project was a series of radio programs, and online tools to help facilitate conversation about tough topics in both families and communities, and provided ideas and tools for healing our disrupted civil spaces.

It is rare these days that political divides and contested ideologies are actually discussed with open minds and sensibility. I believe this is what conversation should be like in everyday realm, but it seems these debates are discussed with no more tact than shock jocking. I found one program in the project, Listening Beyond Life and Choice, especially influential on my approach the the issue. The piece features Frances Kissling, activist, ethicist, former Catholic nun and former head of Catholics for Choice. It did not focus on the actual issues so much as how to talk about the issues and more productive ways to discuss deep-rooted civil disagreements.

“I don’t understand how you can work on an issue for 35 years as complicated as this and never change your mind.”  –Frances Kissling

“Dialogue requires an enormous amount of discipline. You have to put up with things you don’t like.” –Frances Kissling 

For the full conversation:

I have always found myself very intrigued with the debate on abortion in both the legal and ethical realms. My own thoughts and opinions aside, it is quite amazing to see the dedication, passion and fury people both invest in and polarize this debate with. When coming back from taking pictures at the winery I discovered the Pro-Life Planned Parenthood protestors were back out. I had not seen them since winter began and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture them.

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Despite that I don’t necessarily agree with these individuals tactics or stance I found it incredibly easy to maintain a neutral presense. Although, the man in the first photo asked me a question when I was finishing up photographing him that had such genuine inquiry and good intent it  took me aback:

“Do you think we are helping at all?”

While I believe that to be a matter of opinion, I also think it is the strive to bring about greater utility that must be respected on both sides of any debate. Acknowledging that which is good in an opponent or adversary is the vital if one ever hopes to obtain a greater understanding of the other.

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