Make the Most of a Trifling Exception

I am a sucker for fireworks…a complete sucker…I revert to my little kid persona every time I see even a small fireworks display…and when it’s huge and beautiful, don’t ask!!

More – add big, loud, colorful patriotic music and I can barely contain myself….

For citizens of the United States, July 4th – Independence Day – is synonymous with fireworks…patriotic music…barbeques…sales…you know – the usual stuff of celebrating freedom and inspiring the world….

Cynicism aside – it is a day I take seriously in a family tradition that dates back to my late grandfather who escaped persecution in Russia, served in the US Army during WWI and was thankful every day of his life for the freedom he found…but was also cognizant of the need to protect it.

“No entitlement”…he taught us…“nobody owes you anything”…“In fact, it’s the opposite…you owe the world” – to be read hearing the very thick Russian accent he never lost….

I wonder how he would have felt about our world today…

A world of selfies and Snapchats – a world of anonymous hateful postings and easy global access to more hate…hate that comes with easy-to-use instructions to act upon…easy to join…harder to be tracked…

Consider the arrest of Dylann Roof, author of a recently discovered hateful anti-black online manifesto, arrested and charged with the Charleston killings:

As investigators comb through the data streams of Mr. Roof’s electronic equipment, a four-page manifesto apparently written by him before the killings offers a virtual road map to modern-day white supremacy… That manifesto has refocused attention on a shadowy movement that, for all its ideological connections to the white racists of the past, is more regionally diverse and sophisticated than its predecessors…They say it is capable, through its robust online presence, of reaching an audience far wider than the small number of actual members attributed to it.

Anonymity is dangerous.

The article continues:

The Anti-Defamation League has identified some 10,000 white supremacists on websites and on social media like Facebook. But many more are said to be more like Mr. Roof, invisible and surfacing online only to make anonymous comments. Stormfront claims 300,000 registered members, although Mr. Black said only a small fraction were active on the site. Some 95 percent of the site’s visitors, he said, are anonymous outsiders.

As my readers know I detest Online Anonymity — it is and always has been a platform for evil.

And yet, we live in a world where the ability to do good and share its power has never before been seen….

A world so interconnected and networked that we can live in Brooklyn and “be” in Bombay while walking the streets of Milan – but yet a world so siloed that it’s easy to feel loneliness in ways that are profoundly new and devastating.

So which is it?

The global matrix or the single data point?

Not to be a waffler – but both are…

But we will change the world only when we recognize that all that we do as individuals, all our technology, all our interconnectedness are meaningless unless we apply them to the whole…without entitlement or, as my grandfather might have said, as simple payback for being.

Or as John Andrew Holmes put it…listen:

“It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”

And there you have it – you and I are trifling exceptions with one big exception – we can change the world in ways that my grandfather could never have imagined…

With the same tools that are undeniably and easily spreading hatred and violence…

So as I sit here watching the fireworks and pool up over the swelling music, I am determined that my position as a “trifling exception” count…my pledge for a July 4th.

What do you think?



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