When Hashtags Rule The World

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My Grandmother once said, “You know Karen, you can’t save the world. Start worrying about yourself and stop worrying about everyone one else.”

When she started a sentence with, “You know Karen” and a pause, it meant I should listen because she is about to say something she wants me to hear. It took a long time, but eventually I was able to make decisions that were best for me; what I could handle and what I could afford – physically, emotionally and financially. If she were alive today, Gram would give many people the same advice.

We have become a media nation – we gauge what is trending and we run with it. Politics follow the same model.

Service members put their lives on the line daily for strangers. The intent of the military was to protect our country and our citizens, each day their role grows. Now they are sent to foreign lands to aid and protect other countries. Each deployment returns to us men and women missing limbs, suffering from PTSD or in a flag-draped box. They are no longer protecting us, they are protecting other countries. They are no longer an army, they are a search and rescue team.

These heroes also have families – wives, children, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. Ask yourself while you are sitting next to the person you love: are you willing to send them overseas to save someone else, knowing they may never come back? Are you willing to go yourself? Why haven’t you enlisted?

We sit and wave flags for our service members as we send them off to be the world police and when they come home, they are often jobless, homeless or ill. The flags have long stopped waving and we forget that we sent them.

We pick and choose our causes based on what appears to be the most inflammatory. What will be most popular in the media. Which hashtag is most viral. We all need drama. At the end of the day we need an outlet. We need something ‘safe’, something that isn’t that close to home.

Sending Americans into volatile situations costs money and people. We don’t have it. We cut salaries of police, fire fighters and soldiers because we can’t afford them. We retire military ships because we can’t afford them. Our soldiers sit in the desert relying on the generosity of others to send them basic needs. We can’t fix the problems in our own backyard, yet we are expected to patrol the world.

We are often up against an enemy we can’t see in a jungle we can’t navigate and it doesn’t end well. It can’t.

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There will be another tragedy tomorrow. How do we decide whether to help? Because the hashtag is trending?

In the last 4 hours, there were 50 tweets containing #usarmy, there were 56 in less than 10 minutes containing #bringbackourgirls.

When we have a tragedy – and there are plenty – who comes to our aid? No one. They think we can take care of ourselves. After all, we are a nation of wealth. So much wealth that we are scorned by the rest of the world when we don’t go help when others are facing tragedy. We are so wealthy, of COURSE we can help! Even as we saw our ships search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370, I wondered who was footing the bill.

Other countries sit idly by, watching the world go round and focusing on their own country.  If the U.S. did that for one year, would the world implode? I doubt it.

Humanity has put itself into a catch-22. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. With advances in technology and warfare, we can now see what the colonists, gladiators and cavemen couldn’t. There was a day when we could only aid what was within reach. There was a time when we knew help would arrive too late because there were no planes and the boats were too slow. We sometimes made moral decisions that weren’t always popular but had to be made.

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Today, the day after Memorial Day, a military official said “We’re being tweeted into combat.” Memorial Day, a day to honor troops killed in service to our country. If we go into a mission that we cannot possibly win, we will have more dead soldiers to honor next year.

When you are tweeting, think about what you are tweeting. What will happen if we go into combat? Who will pay the price? Not you. You are simply jumping on the hashtag bandwagon because it seems like the right thing to do. Public opinion appears to favor involvement, the pressure will mount and decisions we may later regret will be made because the hashtags give the appearance of an overwhelming public support.

What about the people that don’t agree? What are we supposed to tweet? #dontbringbacktheirgirls? We can’t. We would be bombarded with hate mail. We would be seen as people who care nothing for women, children and education. We would be seen as heartless, cold and uncaring. We are anything but. We are realistic and know that it is not that simple. If it were, the girls would be returned already.

As a mother, I can’t even think about something happening to my children. I begin to have panic attacks thinking that, someday, something could go wrong and they could end up hurt, missing or, God forbid, dead. I know millions of other parents face this daily, as well. One day – through sickness, accidents, or grotesque acts by other people – they may lose their child. If I don’t want to #bringbacktheirgirls, I will be a bad parent. If I send my child off to save their girls, I may be signing their death certificate.

I choose my child. I choose the hastag that is not trending.

We can’t save the world. More people will die. More people will be kidnapped and oppressed. We will never be able to stop it all. We can’t stop death in Chicago, how can we stop it in Nigeria?

I wish I had a magic formula, I don’t. I know when I see a train wreck coming; sometimes we’d rather head toward the wreck to soothe our conscience than accept there are some things we cannot fix.

One thing I do know, a soldier’s life should be worth more than a hashtag.

Political commentary is volatile and divisive. I promised my self I wouldn’t bring it to my blog. Sometimes promises are broken…

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