“In a world full of hate, be a light.”*

Be A Light*

Please click the above link; the song is beautiful and Keith’s voice is perfection.

Light is an essential element in photography. Also essential in problem-solving.

“Covidiot!”  That clever and catchy portmanteau is the most recent insult I’ve received, written, no doubt, because of my belief in the strongest possible adherence to mask-wearing, social distancing, small tightly sealed bubbles and getting vaccinated just as soon as the serum is available.  ‘Though this attempt at digital shaming was offered with angry contempt and meant as abuse, in this instance I consider it a compliment and am accepting it as one would a medal of honour.  Still…

Everywhere on this earth people are suffering from the virus and its multiplicity of stress factors; loneliness, food and financial insecurity, physical and mental health issues, addiction struggles, pandemic anger and boredom.

That anger and boredom have spawned a significant uptick in digital shaming – it has become a popular diversion.  Sport even.  Public ridicule – based upon rapid, inappropriate and often mistaken judgments – seems to have the singular goal of provoking internet rage and animosity. It is usually successful.  And hurtful.  And insulting and rude and unkind and thoughtless and…  

Public shaming is not new but the forum has changed through the years.

Chances are, at a country fair, midway or amusement park, you’ve seen replicas of pillories.  Perhaps you’ve even poked your head and hands through for a campy photo op (or coerced your kiddos to do it for you).  The pillory and stocks in town squares, used throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were the original form of public shaming.

Other more recent forums for public shaming have included radio, newspapers, magazines and television but none of those ever delivered the type of widespread instant cruel vengeance we’ve seen on the internet this past year. 

Social media has become such an easy, convenient (and anonymous) repository for pandemic anger. Those seeking to shame are ultimately inciting and choreographing the spontaneously merciless responses of rapidly forming Internet mobs. Urging the piling on.

I’m willing to concede that in a very few instances (almost none, really), digital shaming has achieved a just outcome. #MeToo for instance, has revealed many predators who were once considered untouchable because of their position power – Harvey Weinstein and, just this week, Peter Nygard to name but two.  #MeToo shaming was, at its core, a fight for moral accountability and justice. 

Let’s be real, though, most on-line shaming, is mean and malicious.  A selfish outlet for pandemic anger. A diversion from boredom. 

Researching this essay I came across three new terms – covidiot, of course, but also doxing and toxic positivity.

When hackers gather personal and private information (home addresses, phone numbers, personal e-mail addresses, personal photos, etc.) and publish it with the sole vicious intent of igniting mass outrage and action, it is called doxing.  The plot against Michigan Governor, Ms Gretchen Whitmer, began with doxing and escalated enough that the FBI uncovered multiple credible threats of violence against her family.

In this pandemic year, the spread of toxic positivity is absolutely rampant. I’ve written about toxic positivity before – For maybe in another world.** – except back then I didn’t know the term for it. Social influencers refer to it as a form of gaslighting. What I know from talking with victims of too much toxic positivity is that this is essentially the use and over-use of platitudes – “Think positive thoughts.” or “We’re all in this together.” or “Everything is going to be okay.” – all meant to assuage, all failing miserably.

Let’s make a pact, dear readers:  Instead of dispensing any more toxic positivity (even well-intentioned), we’ll all try our level best to share love and understanding. How about simply saying: “I’m here for you – whatever you need, whenever you need it.”

“In a world full of hate, be a light.”*

So much polarization.  Too many absolutes.  Humanity cannot be separated into only two groups – good or bad.  Not every issue can be separated into two areas – black or white.  There is actually more grey in our world than anything else.  This is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to my dear friend S. and I hope she isn’t upset that I’ve reused it publicly:

This year, though, the entire media conglomeration (especially social media) seems determined to paint the entire world in two, stark, colours – good vs evil or love vs hate – allowing no room whatsoever for middle ground, that elusive grey area.  Lately I have been trying very hard to steer clear of that thinking; very few amongst us are all good or all bad, rather each one of us is some combination of the two.  Disagreeing philosophically or politically or religiously does not have to involve hatred, it simply means a divergent theory, opinion or belief. Avoiding that division of souls into absolutes – altruistic or wicked, reminding myself that almost no one is irrefutably one or the other, has calmed me, centred me, and given me a greater sense of peace each day.

“In a world full of hate, be a light.”*   

My research also unearthed a piece of pure gold from my files, a document I’d saved for many years knowing that one day…

Seven years ago a conversation took place between two elders – a bishop (age 77) and a statesman (age 89).  One a devout Catholic, the other an equally passionate Atheist yet their conversation was a study in gentle humour, tolerance and curiosity. It began with a cordial handshake and this exchange:

Pope Francis: “Some of my colleagues who know you told me that you will try to convert me.”
Eugenio Scalfari:  “It’s a joke. My friends think it is you want to convert me.

I feel there is so much for me to learn from the conversation between these wise men, from which came this wisdom:

“We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”**

Spread love, preach peace:  Be a light.

Unfortunately, none of us are immune to the challenges and anxiety spawned by the coronavirus so throughout this season of love and onward, please be mindful of others’ emotional fragility. Tread softly. Countenance peace. Be gentle with everyone. Not all struggles are obvious. Radiate peace.

“In a world full of hate, be a light.”*

‘Til next time, y’all…

**Pope Francis
Read the full article about the conversation between the Atheist (Eugenio Scalfari) and the Bishop of Rome (Pope Francis) here: la Repubblica 
Eugenio Scalfari is an Italian journalist, editor of the news magazine L’espresso, former member of parliament in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, co-founder of the newspaper La Repubblica and its editor from 1976 to 1996.

*Be A Light 

In a time full of war, be peace
In a time full of doubt, just believe
Yeah, there ain’t that much difference between you and me
In a time full of war, be peace
In a world full of hate, be a light
When you do somebody wrong, make it right
Don’t hide in the dark, you were born to shine
In a world full of hate, be a light
(La-la-la, la, la, la, la)
In a place that needs a change, make a difference
In a time full of noise, just listen
‘Cause life is but a breeze, better live it
In a place that needs a change, make a difference
In a world full of hate, be a light
When you do somebody wrong, make it right
Oh, don’t hide in the dark, you were born to shine
In a world full of hate, be a light
La-la-la, la, la, la, la
La-la-la, la, la, la, la
La-la-la, la, la, la, la
La-la-la, la, la, la, la
In a race that you can’t win, slow it down
Yeah, you only get one go around
‘Cause the finish line is six feet in the ground
In a race you can’t win, just slow it down
In a world full of hate, be a light (oh)
When you do somebody wrong, make it right (make it right)
Don’t hide in the dark (don’t hide in the dark), you were born to shine
In a world full of hate, be a light
Yeah, it’s hard to live in color, when you just see black and white
In a world full of hate, be a light

Songwriters:
Akins, Thomas Rhett
Dagstrem, Matthew Peters
Miller, Joshua
Thompson, Josh

Vocalists:
McEntire, Reba
Scott, Hillary
Tomlin, Chris
Urban, Keith

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