Osteria Ai PioppiOur 5 children and their spouses joined us in Northern Italy; a nearby yet forbidden land (mission travel rules) that beckoned us while on the mission with all manner of exotic adventures. Our first stop was Osteria Ai Pioppi.
|The group (sans our photographer, Britni) gathers after a day of play at the park.|
|Brennen and Amy play on the Tarzan swings.|
|I had to stop this thing because I was really worried that I was going to fall out and hit that solid green metal railing you see in the background.|
|This device is so sketchy that only three of us were willing to give it a try. Brayden was willing to spin me but had no interest in hopping in.|
And then there is the HAMSTER WHEEL. A fascinating contraption that stands at least 30 feet tall. You need a partner to ride this thing. Both of you climb up a ladder and take a position on opposite sides of the device. The device remains in balance as long as neither side moves (or there is not a huge weight inbalance).
|Dionne and I are in the wheel, perfectly balanced so that the device is not swaying.|
|Erica has hamster blood.|
|Mitch working the wheel in his Waldo shirt.|
Bosnia's Hamster WheelPermit me to use Osteria Ai Pioppi's hamster wheel as an analogy for Bosnia. Maybe it is self-deception. But the picture most Bosnians paint of their country prior to 1991 was one of peaceful balance between Catholics, Orthodox, and Muslims. Intermarriage was high. Most villages were mixed. Neighbors were friendly. Most Bosnians had good friends who were of other faiths.
|Iftar time in Bašćaršia.|
Russian Memes on FacebookWhich brings me to my final point. In May the Justice Department released 3,393 on-line ads and memes that Russian agents purchased on social media platforms to influence the election. While I saw this covered briefly by the news agencies, the story quickly disappeared. What a shame. Because the what Russia is trying to do in the U.S. is utterly fascinating. Most assumed that they were trying simply to promote Trump over Clinton. When they were released, Rashad Robinson of Color of Change issued a press release and claimed "these ads clearly show that the Russian government not only meddled in our election to sway the results in favor of Donald Trump but that they did so by promoting anti-Black hate speech, creating fake Black Lives Matter Facebook accounts, and stoking fears about Muslims, immigrants, and queer people." He could not be more wrong about what Russia is doing. Russia is encouraging hate speech of all types. Just like the speech from Mr. Robinson. Russia is encouraging ethnic tensions. They are stoking the fire from both sides. Many of the memes deal with race...some aimed at one audience arguing that we should "protect our officers" while others aimed at other audiences proclaiming that "cops are murderers." They are aggressively trying to promote dissension, distrust, and anger among Americans. In short, they are encouraging us to climb aboard the hamster wheel. And we have happily obliged.
|An example of a Russian sponsored ad that ran a few months before the election. Targeted at the African-American community, the intention is to reinforce the belief that "blacks" in this country can never be safe.|
|Conservatives where targeted with messages like this one. Fear for your job because of the invading hoards of illegal immigrants.|
|This is a more subtle post targeted to the African-American community. The point seems to that they should take pride simply because of their race.|
|Lots of tea party and constitution language targeted to conservatives. Who does not want to be a patriot?|
And it seems like we are swaying out of control. Too many of the people I know are convinced that they are right and everyone else who thinks otherwise are wrong. Social media and the internet has allowed us to self-select our knowledge reality. Today Kyrie Irving can believe that the earth is flat and limit his knowledge sphere to only those voices that support his. Too many of us do that. We listen to those who agree with us and make caricatures (or straw men) out of those who do not. I am not picking on anyone in particular but let me give some examples of some recent Facebook posts that some of my friends have shared.