Monday, July 18, 2016

Pokémon Go and the Landscape of Hate

Our world, and my news feeds, seem schizophrenic lately. From giddy stories of capturing a rare Ninetails in New York City's Central Park

Look! How cute! seemingly endless stories of hate-fueled terrorism.

The mass shooting of patrons in an Orlando Gay Nightclub.

The bombing of Ramadan celebrants in downtown Baghdad.

The driving a truck into the crowds gathered to watch fireworks in Nice.

It made me think of a different mobile phone app someone might create, one that would show photos of the dead when you're at the location where they were murdered. Almost like ghosts, viewing the real-life scene through your phone would reveal photos of the people who had been killed, and maybe a bit of their life story, to honor them.

But I wonder if it would all be too overwhelming. In the past seven years, 1,933 transgender people were murdered worldwide. And just showing up somewhere where a terror attack occurred, like the site of the World Trade Center memorial, would show you 2,753 souls floating around the former twin towers.

And somewhere like Auschwitz, where they are memorializing the murder of 1.1 million people in its gas chambers, would ground anyone to a halt. 1.1 million photos of people whose lives were ended by hate. At least, it would stop short those visitors who weren't playing Pokémon Go on its grounds... (Yes, Auschwitz had to ask people to stop playing the game there!)

Pokémon at Auschwitz. Not Cute.

So much death. So much hate.

It seems our way of coping is to push it out of our minds - to jump on the latest craze (like Pokémon Go), and to have yesterday's tragic news replaced in the news cycle by today's newer tragedy. Like how no one talks about any of these ten attacks from 2015 anymore, which also says something about the lives lost being people of color and how prejudiced our media really is.

How can we respond to so much hate?

Maybe by standing up. By raising our voices. By voting, and speaking, and working for a better world.

Perhaps the app we really need is an UPstander! app. One that when you get on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, you see images of Rosa Parks and Bayard Rustin, and other civil rights activists who were arrested on segregated buses, and learn about their role in the civil rights movement.

An app where, when you visit the now-landmark status Stonewall Inn, you see images of the drag queens and other patrons who fought back against police brutality and stood up, marking a turning point in the modern struggle for LGBTQ rights. And you learn about their stories.

An app where, when you visit every house and office in Denmark where non-Jews hid their Jewish countrymen from the Nazis, you see that act of bravery honored and remembered.

And maybe THAT kind of app would inspire people to get out, walk around, and see our world differently (like Pokémon Go does)... and also inspire people to stand up to the hate.

Standing up is our power.

And we need to use it.


Thanks to Elizabeth for the Pokemon in Central Park photo, and to @astroehlein on twitter for the screen shot (and very appropriate "What the hell is wrong with people?" comment) of the Pokemon at Auschwitz.


Lori Snyder said...

Lee, I love you. This is beautiful. Thank you. Like all of us, I've really been struggling with the awfulness and sadness of so much lately. I love the idea of honoring the people who, as you say, stood up. Who said, "No more. Not here. Enough." Because those are the people who remind us how much we can accomplish when we stand together in love, and this is the energy we need in the and always.

Amy Ellerman said...

Thank you. I've been trying to comment for half an hour and just don't have the right words. Your observation of this disconnect between what matters and what doesn't, of where we invest our energy, what we talk about. . . Your post clarifies a cultural frustration for me, seeing so much violence and injustice, and yet noticing this widespread lack of agency to change anything. I appreciate your voice in this critical conversation. Thank you.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thank you, Amy and Lori,
It's been so challenging to figure out how to respond to the disconnect, and writing this helped me. It's very nice to know my thoughts resonated for you as well.