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Using selfies to defeat blind patriotism

Locations: Opinion Published

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” -Edward Abbey

Aah, the Fourth of July: independence, freedom, hamburgers, hot dogs, flags waving over children separated from their parents and kept in cages.

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What is happening right now in this country is hard to believe, and easy to ignore, especially when the major “news” channels don’t cover it. Won’t cover it. Maybe if celebrities on the YouTube and Twitter started taking selfies at the border, it would generate the attention this crisis demands.

Selfies are annoying, yet in less time than it takes for compassion to die, we have all jumped on the #lookatmybreakfast bandwagon. But maybe, despite its annoying presence, social media will end up saving the essence of journalism.

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Wait, hear me out. Just like oil and gas is handing the energy baton to solar and wind, (albeit reluctantly) everyone having the means to share their individual story can shape the collective story to be more inclusive and humane.

In the past, the majority of our news came filtered through white male sexagenarians who worked for more white male sexagenarians who ran major networks. Now, everyone has a recording device in their pocket and we are inundated daily with different perspectives. This means our news is now delivered from varied vantage points, and if we keep an open mind, we can literally watch ourselves walk in another’s shoes.

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While not without narcissistic tendencies, at the core, selfies are born of a desire to share: information, theory, judgement, humor… Never before have we had such intimate access to people on the other side of the tracks — or the planet. While the growing pains may be awkward and unsightly, I believe this selfie movement could bring about amazing awareness and acceptance.

Speaking of awkward and unsightly, when I was fifteen, I traveled to Kenya as an exchange student. I was over the top excited to be going so far away from home, and all of my senses were heightened as I waited in the lobby of the Nairobi hotel for my host family to pick me up. At first meeting, I was alarmed because I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, but I quickly deciphered their heavy Kenyan-British accents.

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My new family took me to a favorite game park to see the animals, to their tennis club, to a friend’s house for dinner and a movie on a huge projector that took up half the living room. (Star Wars. In hindsight, I should have been more appreciative, as I’m sure it wasn’t all that easy to get their hands on the George Lucas classic.) They made an effort to let me in, to share their foreign world with me, and to make me feel comfortable. By the end of my stay, I felt at home even though I was thousands of miles away from my actual home.

After our individual family stays, all the students ventured out of Nairobi (chaperoned) to stay in a village where some of the people had not seen white skin before. This was 1985, and I will never forget the look on the villagers faces as they touched my arm, lightly rubbing their fingers over my freckles as though trying to rub dirt off a window. This experience definitely helped shape me into the person I am today, and I always try to put myself in another’s shoes before deciding which way I would walk.

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I am constantly amazed at how the world’s contact has changed in the last 35 years, and I can only imagine how it will change in the next 35. Instead of locking people up at the border, and doing irreparable damage to them emotionally, we would be wise to share our ideals with them, thereby protecting the America Dream for future generations. We certainly have enough of everything to go around: opportunity, liberty, the pursuit of indoor/outdoor holiday decorations…

On this Fourth of July, as I spend the day eating watermelon in the shade with friends and family, I imagine being in a cage in the heat of the desert because I seek the very freedom everyone is celebrating.

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