In this week’s photo challenge, capture an image that tells a full story in a single frame.
In this week’s photo challenge, capture an image that tells a full story in a single frame.
If you’ve ever worked as a reporter — or any kind of researcher — the instinct to follow a story persists. Sometimes, it pays off. For me, the turning point of this blog was when I got thousands of hits on a reblog about hurricane Sandy in November 2012.
November 2012 was something of a super month for bloggers. Between the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy, activity on the Internet was much greater than usual. Even people who were normally not especially interested were hopping online to follow current stories.
The thing was, the article that started bringing in all those hits was a reblog, or more accurately, a scoop. Anyone could have as easily read the same article on its original site. I was not at the top of a Google search. I tried using the phrase everyone else was using and Serendipity didn’t come up. At all. So people were seeking me out. Rather than reading the original article, they came to my site. Even giving me a point or two for attractive presentation, there were more than enough stories on the same subject all over the Internet. I’m not being modest. I wanted to know: why me?
I decided to analyze what I did better or differently than others. I looked at the total content for days when my numbers were very high. I realized all involved current events that were unusually high-profile. My best days involved Hurricane Sandy (November 2012), the blizzard Nemo (February 2013) and the days leading up to and immediately following the storms. Also the beginning of the new television season, the Oscars (before, after and during) and (of course) the election. And sadly, the bombing at the Boston Marathon (April 2013). Plus every time they play the première episode of Criminal Minds.
When major events occur, I write about them. Not one story, but a series of posts. I start with an article that covers the main story, then add to it. If the initial story was reblogged — often the case — I add graphics and photographs. I add commentary and analysis. My additions are typically longer and more detailed than the original. I don’t alter the original author’s text and I always give credit, but I build on it.
In this case, the original post was a reblogged (using ScoopIt) standalone post. Using it as a jumping off point, I followed a trail. I gathered pictures, stories about hurricanes and other storms. I wrote about them from my perspective, if I remembered them. Then, I asked Garry — my personal treasure trove of first-hand experiences — to talk about his experiences during the Blizzard of 1978 and other storms.
I roamed the web to see what was happening in various places being hit by the storm. Although I focused on Sandy and it’s impact on Coney Island, I discovered many other places along the coast which were equally affected. I posted what news I could gather about these areas.
I kept gathering and adding information, especially photographs, historical background and apocryphal stories. I just did what I always do when something interests me. I get into “bloodhound mode” and I followed the scent. The circles kept getting wider and including more locations, more events.
I eventually included stories not directly related to Sandy but which were thematically related. Other monster storms have paralyzed the Atlantic coast, some relatively recently. I love history so it was fun digging up historical information. Research can keep me glued to the computer for very long stretches. It’s how I learn.
I googled “hurricanes past 100 years East Coast” and could have filled an encyclopedia with the results. Research became stories. I hunted down historical photographs. I remembered stories I heard from relatives and friends about storms. My husband covered every storm to hit New England for more than 30 years, so he is a nearly bottomless repository of great first person experience.
I ultimately produced a series of stories over almost a week. News, mood and background stories, data, photographs. I stitched them together. Each post was separate, but they formed a continuity. One thing led to another. When I thought about this storm, I remembered other storms, wrote about the storm that hit on my birthday in 1888 … and I offered facts, stories, and historical background, sidebars, and photographs.
The combination worked. Folks came to read one story and stayed to read many more. Some of them signed on as followers. It turned out that I didn’t have such a huge volume of visitors, but everyone who did visit stayed and read as many as five or six stories. A lot of hits.
Since then, I have more visitors on a regular basis and most of them read at least two or more stories. It’s not complicated:
Ivory towers can lonely. If you want company, you need to associate with the rest of the world and pay at least some attention to what interests them. If you write entirely for yourself, it’s a diary, not a blog.
I got more than a thousand hits the other day, more than half for a reblog of Presidential Election: “Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation” ? The article resonated, so I picked it up as soon as I read it. I couldn’t have said it better and thus didn’t try. Apparently millions of other people felt the same way and the post went viral, which is good but not enough.
I feel obliged to point out to those who have failed to notice: THE ELECTION IS OVER.
Barack Obama won. Mitt Romney lost. The winner gets 4 years (or in this case, 4 more years) as President of the United States. The loser makes a gracious concession speech then retires, hopefully to serve his country in some other way and perhaps make another run for office down the road. For now, it’s over. The nation returns to normal.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But this time? Apparently not.
There’s a level of hysteria, anger, and raw racism I’ve never seen before. I’ve voted for candidates who won and voted for candidates who lost. I was upset and angry when G.W. Bush stole an election, but I got past it. I ground my teeth, survived 8 years of what I thought was a terrible presidency. When national elections came around, I voted for Barack Obama. That’s democracy.
The losing team this year can’t cope with defeat. They are having a temper tantrum, except their pique at losing seriously and negatively impacts the entire country. If a team was behaving like this because they lost the World Series or the Super Bowl, we’d be mortified at their lack of sportsmanship. They be sanctioned. The sports channels would be all over them and fans would be up in arms. Yet we put up with it from a major political party? Why? If this kind of behavior is unacceptable in a baseball team, how can it be okay for a political party?
Why the frenzy and desperation? Surely everyone who runs for office knows losing is a possibility. In politics and horse-racing, there’s no sure thing. Why the hysteria? Why not let the wounds heal and let everyone settle down and go back to living? NOTE: There are more than a few on the Liberal side of this shouting match who need to shut up too. Let it go. Even if I agree with you, I’ve had enough. We don’t need to raise temperatures any higher. You won. Stop crowing and beating the drums. Go home. Relax. Let us all take a break from the insanity.
If you look at a map of red versus blue states, the underlying reason is apparent. If anyone doubts for a minute that this election was about race, look at the map. Compare the map of the “red states” to the old lines of the confederacy. With minor changes, it’s the same old, same old. Just when you think you’ve gotten that piano out the door, it comes right back in through the window. 620,000 Americans died fighting the Civil War, more than all the losses we’ve taken in all the other wars we’ve ever fought, from the Revolution through Vietnam. Are we are still fighting it?
I hereby declare that not only is the election over, but the Civil War is over. It has been over for a long time and if there is a merciful God, we will never have another. The fundamental changes in our demographics have decided the issue for good and all. This nation will never be “white.” It never really was. The government was dominated by white people, but that’s finished. It will not return. Diehards may continue to try resurrecting it. They can keep disrupting the functioning of the government to the detriment of all, but it won’t restore the status quo they so dearly loved.
I’m grateful and if you examine the election results, so are most people. Splintering of the U.S. into groups who can’t even talk to each other just makes this an ugly place to live and undermines our credibility with other nations. Surely no one really wants that.
The United States of America is built on the premise that unity is strength. The motto “E pluribus unum” means “Out of many, one.” It is the phrase on the Seal of the United States and was adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782. “E pluribus unum” appears on the front of the Seal. Its image is used as the national emblem of the United States. It appears on official documents such as passports. It is on the seal of the President, as well as the seals of the Vice President, Congress, House of Representatives, United States Senate, and U.S. Supreme Court. It’s part of our national identity.
Is it obsolete? Are we ready to trash unity? And with what shall we replace it?
“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” is taken from Mark 3:25 “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” When Lincoln said it, he was referring to the division of the country between slave and free states. The “house divided” phrase has a long history in this country.
Lincoln used it in another context in 1843, most famously during the Senate debate on the Compromise of 1850. Sam Houston used it too, proclaiming: “A nation divided against itself cannot stand.” Thomas Paine, in his famous 1776 , in Common Sense said, “this hath all the distinctions of a house divided against itself . . .”
It’s hardly a new concept dating as it does back at least 2000 years. It is as true now as it was then. Those among us who continue to sow dissension are not patriots and are not working for the common good. They are stuck in the past. They cannot accept a changed world and try to play on the prejudices, fears, and passions of anyone willing to listen until they pull the house down around us.
The Conservative wing of the GOP led their constituents down a road that turned out to be a dead-end. They believed that they could rouse enough ire to bring down the house, but they were wrong. They lost. Despite their wailing, it isn’t the end of the world. It’s a defeat, certainly, but a tragedy only if they make it so. It’s time for them to show a little class, accept their loss, take responsibility. Regroup. Rethink positions. Become a more inclusive party. Come up with some fresh ideas that appeal to a wider population. If they do that, maybe they won’t lose next time. That’s how it’s done in a Democracy. It’s the definition of a democracy. Republican cry babies, man up, repair your party and move on.
Hate and blame are easy. It’s harder to give up your personal agenda and seek common ground. Working with people who have different ideas will always be necessary because we will never have a consensus. No country has a consensus. Tyranny can force the appearance of consensus, but no one and nothing can make everyone agree. To govern in a nation founded on diversity requires intelligence and creativity, qualities that seem to be in short supply. For every voice calling for reconciliation and coöperation, there is another strident one trying to drown it out. It’s stupid. Time for solutions that include all kinds of people, not just grumpy white folks who feel threatened by the growing population of non-white citizens who expect their fair share of America.
That is the promise we make: everyone gets a piece of the American pie, regardless of race, religion, or country of origin. If we aren’t that country, what are we?
We’ve got a good thing going here. We used to have a common sense of purpose. We need to find it again, to discover what unites us rather than eternally focusing on issues that divide us. There have always been and always will be differences and disagreements. It’s up to us to get past them, to unite and be Americans.
In immortal words of Pogo (Walt Kelly): “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
After hearing that President Barack Obama had just been reelected to a second four-year-term as our nation’s president I turned to my laptop and watched as Facebook suddenly became a blur of emotions, with months of political discourse coming to a head and clashing in a sea of insults and joyous celebration.
For perspective, I posted this on my timeline:
“In 1981, my parents fled Poland two weeks before Martial law. I was 4, my sister was 8 months old. They left the only home they ever knew and came to America, because they knew it was filled with promise and opportunity rather than riddled with the side effects of Communism, like crappy health care and 5 hour-long lines for stale bread. Some are elated tonight, and some are downright depressed, but know this: we get to pick again in 4 years. Before you bad mouth our country, try living somewhere else, where there is No choice and truly No hope. Count your blessings America, because there are many.”
I awoke this morning knowing our country continued to be greatly divided and that emotions were running high and I checked in on my favorite social media sites to see how everyone was faring.
But my fascination quickly turned to disgust when I kept seeing the same status popping up over and over:
“A sad and tragic day for our nation.”
Disappointing? Sure, if your guy didn’t win, I’m sure you’re feeling disappointed.
Frustrated? Nervous? Deflated? If you were counting on a different outcome, then of course you’re likely to feel these things.
But to exclaim that this is a tragic day for our nation?
This is what TRAGIC looks like. Photo courtesy 9/11 Photos via Flickr.
If I sound like I’m scolding some of you, it’s because I am. Get it together people and gain some perspective. Because this country will go to hell in a hand basket not because of a single man, but because we allow ourselves to forget just how amazing and resilient and FREE our nation truly is.
Maybe you woke up this morning feeling frightened about your future because you were counting on the other guy to make things better. But you also woke up in the same country where you are Free to express your religious beliefs, Free to speak your mind, Free to choose where you want to live, and Free to think idiotic things such as “this is a tragic day for our nation.”
I urge you to find a way today to remind yourself just how good we have it, even if you’re facing economic strife or some sort of adversity. I can tell you this much: as a mom of a special needs child, there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be because I know that even though we have a long way to go in the way of awareness, accessibility, and acceptance, we are light years ahead of so many other countries in the world.
Today I un-friended the first person since the Presidential campaigns began. She threw a tantrum on Facebook and compared our President and those who voted for him to terrorists.
I draw the line there. Those photos above? That’s the handiwork of terrorists.
So if you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps today because Mitt Romney won’t be moving into the White House come January, remember that we live in a nation where you get to do this all over again in four years.
In the meantime, empower others by getting involved in your community somehow. Do something kind for someone. Be someone’s hero. Spread kindness and tolerance. Teach your children that diversity is the cornerstone of this country and show them that not only is it possible to lose with dignity and respect, it’s imperative if we’re to move forward as nation.
Then meet up with your coworkers at the water cooler or your friends at the bar, and talk about what an idiot you think Obama is.
Because you can.
UPDATE: I’m so happy to know that this post has resonated with so many of you. I wrote it from my heart and I feel the exact same way today. Of course, I wrote it hoping we could all join hands and sing Kumbaya while rainbow-colored unicorn poop fell from the sky, but alas, (and according to some of the comments) we just aren’t there yet. So in the meantime, if you have a comment, please remember to remain respectful or it will be deleted. Because unlike our fair nation, this website here is a straight up dictatorship.
See on joashline.com
Obama turned what could have been a stinging referendum on his economic stewardship into a pass-fail test on Romney’s character. A multi-million dollar media blitz casting aspersions on his extraordinary wealth and successful business career began weeks before Romney had even earned enough delegates to claim the nomination. In a campaign reminiscent of former President Bush’s takedown of John Kerry’s military record in 2004, Romney was not only stripped of his greatest asset in a race about how to stimulate economic growth, it became a liability.
“Obama won by thoroughly and completely trashing Mitt Romney and his reputation,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “It is the classic definition of winning ugly.”
But to exclusively blame the attacks from Obama and his super PAC allies for Romney’s defeat overlooks the Republican nominee’s own shortcomings. The smoothly coiffed, buttoned-down financier struggled to come across as a man of the people, a problem exacerbated by his vow to perpetuate tax breaks for the wealthy, several foot-in-mouth gaffes on the campaign trail, and a secretly recorded video of him at a tony fundraiser dismissing “47 percent” of Americans whom he said pay no income taxes and consider themselves “victims.”
The first African-American president also capitalized on an increasingly diverse electorate and used sophisticated turnout tools to make sure supporters, even casual ones, cast votes. “It’s like the demographic changes are making the old rules about unemployment sinking an incumbent obsolete,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. “The Obama campaign knew they weren’t supposed to get re-elected, so they figured out who they needed to register to vote and turn out to change that.”
Again, Romney didn’t help himself amid the changing demographics, alienating the fast-growing Hispanic community by shaking an iron fist at illegal immigrants during the GOP primaries. He would have persevered over his more conservative but politically implausible Republican rivals, anyway — though as a Mormon who had spearheaded a government-led overhaul of health care as governor of Massachusetts, Romney was ill-suited to tap into the energy of the social conservative and tea party movements. He accepted the nomination as the least popular nominee from a major party in decades. Wrong guy, wrong time.
Romney badly misread the electorate, assuming the dragging economy would automatically turn voters against the president. Yet many still blamed the recession on former President Bush and were growing accustomed to incremental economic growth. It was a pitiable recovery, but a recovery nonetheless. Offering few details about his economic agenda, Romney didn’t look like a tempting alternative.
“The Romney team was convinced it was a time when likability was a secondary factor,” said Republican strategist John Brabender, who advised Romney’s one-time GOP rival, Rick Santorum. “They forgot they had to give people a reason to vote for Romney, not just against Obama.”
While Romney was still fending off Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, Obama was quietly opening campaign offices all over the country, re-launching his vaunted ground game from 2008. Then the Obama campaign went into overdrive; from the time Romney emerged as the likely nominee in April through most of September,
Obama outgunned him on television nearly three times over with predominantly negative ads, according to Kantar Media CMAG. Republican super PACs evened the score but didn’t control the damage. The Obama campaign and its allies branded the former chief executive of Bain Capital as a tax-dodging, job-outsourcing villain who would shred the safety net holding up the elderly and the poor.
Romney also blew silver-platter opportunities, fumbling through a high-profile trip overseas and allowing a cringe-worthy bit by Clint Eastwood to overshadow an otherwise carefully choreographed convention. In contrast, Obama made hay of his accomplishments, touting the auto bailout to overcome resistance from blue-collar workers and brandishing Osama bin Laden’s death to shore up his party’s traditional vulnerabilities on national security.
Democrats also drove wedges between Romney and two influential swing voting blocs – women and Hispanics – with ads attacking his positions on abortion and immigration. The ads suggesting Romney opposed birth control and abortion even in cases of rape and incest simply weren’t true, but he, not Obama, paid the bigger price.
It wasn’t until after the convention in September that Romney got serious about investing in Spanish-language advertising, and it wasn’t until the October debates that the self-described “severely conservative” candidate narrowed the gender gap by pitching himself as a political moderate. Then came Hurricane Sandy. In the pivotal homestretch, the focus moved off of Romney’s momentum and onto Obama’s role as commander-in-chief.
In the end, the damaged wreaked by the storm on the New Jersey shore was an apt metaphor for what Obama and his allies had done to Romney’s reputation.
See on www.theatlantic.com
I voted for Obama four years ago and I don’t regret it. I thought we needed to do something different. I didn’t think that continuing to do the same things that had landed us in a mess were going to get us out of it. It’s foolish to believe that repeating the same behavior will eventually produce different results.
If Obama had lost and McCain had been elected, aside from living in fear that he’d die leaving us with Sara Palin, John McCain was qualified to be President of the United States. He was not my choice, but he was not ridiculous or evil, just not the guy I wanted as President.
This year is different. Rather than feeling like an election, it feels like a referendum, the results of which will define who we are as a nation. We are about to make a statement that will tell the world whether or not the U.S. retains a moral compass.
No government is entirely on the side of the angels, though every government will protest otherwise. Regardless, there are obviously better and worse governments. No one will argue that Germany under Hitler was merely expressing a difference of opinion with other nations, or that Idi Amin was a bit wrong-headed but his heart was in the right place.
I’ve studied, read, argued and reargued this issue for the past 50 years. You don’t have to agree with me, but I believe knowing right from wrong is the essence of being human. I think it has little or nothing to do with your upbringing. Bad kids come from good homes and good kids emerge from bad ones.
Here’s a personal example.
My husband was raised by Christian parents, attended church regularly. He credits many of the values that have guided his life to his upbringing. He doesn’t push his beliefs on anyone else, including me. He would never presume to force anyone to his way of thinking.
On the other hand, I was raised by wolves. I’m kidding. Only one of my parents was non-human and he was a snake, not a wolf. I like wolves.
My mother called herself an atheist, but blamed the God she claimed to not believe in for failing to prevent the world’s ills. We attended neither synagogue nor church. I have spent most of my life trying to understand why God seems to be persistently MIA when bad things happen to good people. I’m not an atheist, but I am a skeptic.
Garry and I have been married for 22 years. I don’t believe anyone who knows us who would call either of us immoral or without conscience. We hold different beliefs, but respect each other’s points of view.
Garry thinks he developed his morals, conscience and understanding of right and wrong because his parents provided positive role models. He also gives credit to his church. I, on the other hand, believe we are all hard-wired — designed by our Creator — to know right from wrong. I think that is what distinguishes human beings from other species. If we were created in the image of God, but God has no physical aspect, then in what other way than by our ability to know right from wrong could we resemble God?
I don’t think it matters whether you are brought up Christian, Jewish, Muslim Buddhist, nothing at all or any combination of the aforementioned. If you are human, you know it’s wrong to murder, steal, cheat, lie or for that matter, let your neighbor die of starvation or lack of medical care. Even — maybe especially — if it costs you something to save someone else, you know in your head, your heart, and your guts that it’s the right thing to do.
The irony — or perhaps one of many ironies — of this election is that a group of so-called Christian Conservative fundamentalist whack jobs are leading a charge against the very things that every religion on earth values. The very things that Jesus advocated are the things that these phony Christians would abolish.
In a few weeks, we get to choose a president — and whether or not we are the kind of people who throw our elderly, sick, disabled, and just plain unlucky fellow citizens under the bus … or throw them a lifeline. We choose whether we will be ruled by fear, prejudice, and hate … or by our inherent understanding of right and wrong. It’s awful that we’ve come to a point where we are so divided along racial and religious lines that such a choice is part of the electoral process. We appear to be standing at the edge of a deep chasm . I’m not sure we could climb out of that hole once we are in it. No one is pushing us over that edge. If we wind up in the chasm, we get there because we chose to jump.
I have always loved elections. They are my favorite spectator sport. During Presidential election years, I am usually glued to the television watching debates, analyzing political advertisements, reading the latest poll numbers.
I have watched many candidates for whom I voted lose. I was not thrilled about it, but I wasn’t scared to death, either. We’ve had a lot of Chiefs of State that were not my choice, but that’s the way the process works. You win. You lose.
Losing is disappointing, not catastrophic, It is one of the reasons this country is great. In the United States, we peacefully pass the reins of power from one administration to another. We don’t need a revolution to change the composition of Congress or the President. Good choices or bad, we have always managed to retain our fundamental principles, our sense of purpose and identity. We have regularly scheduled elections at which time we can replace former elected officials with different ones. Between elections, we cope and get on with our lives. In the end, to quote Tip O’Neil, “All politics is local.” No matter who is president, we have local representatives to help us. Most of the time, all we need to do to get help, is to ask for it.
This year, it’s come down to moral choices about what kind of people we are. Do we really, truly not care if everyone suffers as long as we advance our own agendas? Are we actually willing to vote for someone entirely because of his skin color? Have we gone so far backward that we don’t remember that we fought a bloody war that was supposed to settle that issue?
You don’t have to agree with me and I don’t have to agree with you. I shouldn’t have to worry that you’ll kill me because I don’t agree with you or vice verse.
Except, this year it is different. The amount of hate in this campaign shows a massive failure of basic civility, of our fundamental sense of fairness. The willingness to believe anything as long as it supports our position without regard to facts, right, wrong, or common sense demonstrates how far we have NOT come.
How many people see that our first amendment right to freedom of religion is under attack? It’s as if we no longer have a constitution. The conservative fundamentalists who are pulling the strings in this election support the right of everyone to have a gun or, for that matter, an assault weapon, but not the separation of church and state. When did my rights go up for grabs? Didn’t we settle that 250 years ago? Didn’t we duke it out with Great Britain on this very subject? And yet, here we are again. What happened? How can we let ourselves be so manipulated and used to support an agenda that the vast majority of us disagree with?
I am trying to hang on to my belief that Americans are not fools, that we won’t elect a government whose principles are contrary to those of the nation we all love.
The system isn’t bullet proof. We can ignore our own better selves in the name of saving a few bucks. We can let our worst impulses, our hatred, our bigotry, our ignorance dominate our world. We can destroy ourselves. It isn’t easy, but it’s doable.
Here’s how. Instead of reasonable people, elect fanatics, haters, and folks with lots of loose screws. When the haters, fanatics and crazies comprise a group large enough to form a swing vote, they will be the ones who decide what laws are passed. They will tell us what we can do with our lives, what to believe, what we can do in our bedrooms and of course, with whom we can do it. They can upset the balance of powers to such a degree that the system stops working.However you choose, VOTE. Vote for principled men and women who take the job of governing seriously and will work for the common good. Vote for positive reasons, not out of hate. Never in human history has hate been the foundation for anything good. It does not work that way. Karma is a bitch. Finally, don’t assume your vote doesn’t matter. We are as strong as our willingness to participate in the process. We have a good system. Support it. Be part of it. Whatever your feelings, our current problems are a bump in the road. A big bump to be sure, but not the end of the world unless we make it so. Win or lose, it’s a good system. It is my system, your system. Treasure it. Keep it strong. .