Since the election, I have been overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by sadness, confusion and a need to understand what brought our country to the election of Donald Trump. And importantly, what made Trump’s election such a shock to so many of us. As a writer and a volunteer, I was paralyzed. There were so many directions I wanted to go in that instead, I went in none.
Now that a month has passed, I’ve gained some clarity. There are issues that are vitally important. Trump named a man with a loud racist voice to be his closest advisor. I will pay attention to him and what he says and does. Trump named a woman with a loud anti-public school voice to lead our Education Department. I will pay close attention to her and the changes that she recommends for our schools. Trump named a man who does not believe in the scientifically proven facts of global warming to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. I will pay attention to what he says and does.
In addition, Donald Trump continues to say things that I believe disqualify him to lead our country. This week, he spoke to a room full of people about the fact that Time Magazine’s Person of the Year used to be Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. In this speech he convinced his audience that it should still be such, even when a woman was honored.
In the month since the election, hate crimes in New York City are 30% higher than they were at this same time last year. I do not believe that this is a coincidence. Hateful people have been given a voice through a leader who preached prejudice and misogyny on the campaign trail.
All that said, I not believe that the issues I’ve cited are the most pressing issue we have before us. What scares me the most is not who Donald Trump is although that is terrifying or who Donald Trump is surrounding himself with although that is equally terrifying. The most pressing issue before us is how Donald Trump was elected. We have become an electorate that can not separate fact from fiction. An electorate who gets their news from Facebook and never checks the facts. An electorate who watches and listens to only the news channels that speak the truth we have chosen to believe.
And I am fully a part of this electorate. I clicked through to many articles on Facebook. I watched MSNBC, read The New York Times and listened to NPR almost exclusively in the months leading up to the election. And as a result, I was emotionally and physically shocked on November 8th. I was unable to get warm for days following. My body literally went into shock that we had elected Donald Trump.
So for this and many others reasons, I have decided that I will focus my confusion, anger, sadness and energy on media literacy. I believe there is one thing that we, as a united electorate, can agree on. We need to get our news from trusted sources. We need to read and believe facts. And we need to stop spreading falsehoods. I believe that people on both sides of the aisle need to re-learn how to read and understand and define ‘news.’
I feel lucky to call Michelle Cuilla Lipkin a friend. And I also feel lucky that she is the Executive Director of the National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). As president of our middle school’s Home and School Association, I invited Michelle to come and speak with our community last year. At the time, I was concerned about the impact of social media on our children. I hoped to learn how to guide the girls as they navigated their social worlds. I wanted to learn how to teach them to understand the truth of what they read and saw on-line. These things are still important but now there is more. So very much more.
NAMLE’s mission is as follows: ”to expand and improve the practice of media literacy education in the United States. We define both education and media broadly. Education includes both formal and informal settings, classrooms and living rooms, in school and after school, anywhere that lifelong learners can be reached. Media includes digital media, computers, video games, radio, television, mobile media, print, and communication technologies that we haven’t even dreamed of yet.”
I plan to learn much more about NAMLE and their work. I plan to support them in any way I can. For now, I have donated to the organization because like all non-profit organizations, NAMLE needs money to do their work and they don’t have enough. If you are so inclined, I know that you donation would be appreciated and put to good use.
There will be more to come on this topic for sure. For now, stay tuned.