A few weeks ago I received a Facebook message from a high school classmate. He is the Pastor of Crossroads Church somewhere in Indiana. He’s a nice guy. He means well. He offered me a link to a 2 minute video originating on a Facebook site called “Uplift Post.” I’ve transcribed the presented text below:
Here’s something you may not know about Denzel Washington. Remember this the next time you walk up to the ticket window of your movie theater with $10 in your hand. The media (accidentally?) missed this one. The troops overseas would like you to tell everybody you know. Subject: Denzel Washington and Brooks Army Medical Center. Don’t know whether you heard about this but Denzel Washington and his family visited the troops at Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, the other day. This is where soldiers who have been evacuated from Germany come to be hospitalized in the United States, especially burn victims. The Fisher House is a Hotel where soldier’s families can stay for little or no charge while their soldier is staying in the Hospital. BAMC has quite a few of these houses on base, but as you can imagine, they are almost filled most of the time. While Denzel Washington was visiting BAMC, they gave him a tour of one of the Fisher Houses. He asked how much one of them would cost to build. Days later Fisher Houses received a huge donation for an undisclosed amount from Denzel Washington. The soldiers overseas were amazed to hear this story and want to get the word out to the American public because it warmed their hearts to hear it. The question is do: Beyonce, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Tom Cruise, the Kardashians and other Hollywood fluff make front page news with their ridiculous antics and Denzel Washington’s Patriotism doesn’t even make page 3 in the Metro section of the any newspaper except the local newspaper in San Antonio. A true American and a friend to all in uniform. This needs as wide a distribution as we can create. Please share it.
Step back for a moment and consider what you just read. The hook, the vehicle, is a heartwarming parable of generosity woven around a beloved actor and his family visiting injured soldiers and their families and offering monetary assistance. You want to share this message of Good News, don’t you?
But that’s just the vehicle for an Us v. Them message. The propagandist has activated and re-enforced pre-constructed mental frames of sympathy for soldiers, veterans, and Patriots; anger toward the media in general; and suspicion and distrust of Hollywood (excepting Mr. Washington). This modified story is a message of division riding piggyback on a mostly factual story everyone tends to unquestioningly accept.
Warm fuzzy stories with nasty, divisive subtexts have been circulating by email since long before Facebook and Cambridge Analytica weaponized such messages. How many of you have read an email forward like this one from an otherwise benign friend and email correspondent? How many times have you quietly reacted to yourself, “Yuck. Where did that come from? Who was paid to write that?” How many times have you not written back to your friend, the forwarder, to ask them if they caught the subtext? Would they have told you the story with subtext included if you’d been talking face-to-face?
Here’s the unsettling thing: When I wrote back as blandly as I could to my high school classmate, the well-meaning Pastor of a church in Indiana. He responded, “Sorry I bothered you sir. I sent this because I had read it before and feel like he needed the recognition! I just wanted to pass this along to people who were not aware of that deed. Will not bother you again.” In my mind’s eye I saw him turn and disappear down his rabbit hole into the warren of his congregation where he could comfortably read such emails, pass them along to his parishioners, and not be bothered to consider the subtext or research the details of the real story. A visit to his current Facebook page is an unsettling experience.
My pastor friend is one reason I canvass here locally, knocking on doors, listening, interacting face-to-face, making it clear I share the angst people often express, making it clear the local Democrats are real people, their neighbors, people who, like they, feel the need to change the hateful, divisive direction our country seems headed.
Attend a canvass training, get out and meet people, show your face and your concern. You don’t need an answer to every (or any) political question. You just need to listen, be nice, be friendly. Contrary to what you’d think from the news, your fellow citizens are by far and away decent people. They do not bite. Having knocked on around a hundred doors, I have yet to encounter a nasty person. When I do, I’ll remember their nastiness is not about me, it’s about them…and it is not my task to engage their nastiness or fix their attitude. “Have a nice evening. Thanks for your time.” goes a long way.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. It turns out the real underlying story around Denzel Washington’s visit dates from 2004. You can read about it’s evolution to its current use here at Snopes.
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