Don't be Silent

At the emergency protest against Trump's Executive Order targeting Muslims at JFK on Saturday night I had the chance to talk to some of the other protesters. The people there represented a wide swath of society from young to old, from light to dark and from hippie to professional and it was interesting to to talk to everyone but I had one conversation with a middle-aged Jewish woman that really made an impression on me.

I saw her standing alone at the edge of the main group with a small sign that she had obviously made in a hurry. She was neatly dressed, very quiet and she spoke considerately. I asked her what brought her out to the protest and she said, "I'm Jewish and we're just very worried we're seeing it again."

She said that she and her family and friends have been worried since before the election and they were very heartened by the turnout for the Women's March. The thing that concerns her the most is the role of Bannon and Pence in the Trump administration and some of their recent actions that have sparked alarm in her community. In particular she was troubled by the fact that the Executive Order targeting Muslims was announced on Holocaust Rememberance Day, made a specific exception for Christians and that the President's statement to commemorate the day did not mention "Jews". She thinks Muslims are the first target.

It would be unwise to think that we fully understand the intentions of the Trump administration or that we know conclusively where things are headed. History doesn't repeat itself or even rhyme and anybody who thinks they know exactly what's happening is delusional. However, we can learn from history and use it to expand our political imagination so it can help us to confront the present and make wise decisions about the future. [1]

One lesson we can learn from the past is that everyone must be engaged intellectually, read history, seek out voices of reason and use their own critical faculties to form a political opinion about the present. No particular individual knows what is best for humanity but by listening to each other and thinking things through critically we can reach the best understanding of the present and make wise decisions for the future.

However, the most important lesson we can learn is that you can't be silent. Silence itself is a political statement. If you feel something in your heart you have to speak up and be heard. Tell your friends and families how you feel, go to a protest and talk to people there, write your thoughts down and share them with your friends. Just don't be silent.

Millions of people are protesting now, actively engaged, putting their bodies on the line because they feel that things are not normal and they want their voices heard. They aren't being silent and neither should you.

Please don't be silent.



Delete Uber

Yesterday during the Muslim Ban protest at JFK, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance went on an hour-long strike to condemn Trump's Executive Order and they released this statement:

"By sanctioning bigotry with his unconstitutional and inhumane executive order banning Muslim refugees from seven countries, the president is putting professional drivers in more danger than they have been in any time since 9/11 when hate crimes against immigrants skyrocketed"

At the same time Uber continued to take customers to the airport and when the strike finished they turned off surge pricing at JFK which effectively undercut the taxi drivers.

In response, thousands of users started deleting their Uber accounts which prompted statements from Uber that were not very well received:

“We share your concern that this ban will impact many thousands of innocent people,” some responses read. “That’s why Uber is committed to financially compensating drivers affected by the ban, so that they can continue to support their families while they are prevented from returning to the U.S.”

This created a further uproar to which Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanik responded with a statement where he reiterated his decision to work with the Trump administration:

"[W]e’ve taken the view that in order to serve cities you need to give their citizens a voice, a seat at the table"

Kalanik's statement further angered users and only increased the number of app deletions.

Today I deleted my Uber account because I cannot support a company that treats its drivers callously, treats the Muslim Ban and refugee issue flippantly and who's CEO somehow still thinks working with Trump is an option.

After Week 1 it should be clear to anyone who values civil liberties, human rights, racial justice and democracy that collaborating with Trump is not an option.

Furthermore, many tech companies had tepid, self-interested responses to the Muslim Ban (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Amazon) and they also continue to want to work with Trump. Considering how much of our data they control and how Donald Trump and Steve Bannon intend to use the levers of power, collaboration is not an option and we need to send a strong message to other tech companies that we will punish them if they collaborate with Trump.

For those reasons I urge you to delete your Uber account and to spread the word.

Here are the instructions for how to delete your account:



It's Social Media, Stupid

I didn't realize how far apart our country was ideologically until the night Donald Trump won the election. Personally, I thought that the divide was between "Republicans" and "Democrats" when actually it was on much deeper lines that we don't even fully understand yet.

Since the election I've been engaging in the national conversation on Facebook and watching it happen on the news and on Twitter. It seems to me that the more we discuss and debate, the further apart we get. Each side wants to convince the other that they are right and somehow both sides just walk away more frustrated and more convinced that the other side is wrong. Hillary is corrupt! Trump is racist!

What we're witnessing are battle lines being drawn and everyone trying to find their tribe so they know who they can trust for the upcoming struggles. We're engaging other people not to find common ground but to build our trust networks.

How did we get here and how can we get out of this?

Over the past few years, starting with the Arab Spring, leading to ISIS, Brexit and now the election of Donald Trump we've seen one black swan event after another unfold. Each event was unique and occurred because of the specific conditions in each country but the one thing that was consistent was that social media acted as an accelerant in each case. It will take a while to fully understand the impact of social media on the American election but so far it seems that many voters were influenced by fake news that tapped into pre-conceived notions about the candidates.

We've been blessed with this incredible technology that has wired all of humanity together, and yet it is creating divisions so deep that, in a matter of days, we're throwing away bonds that took decades to build.

What we're dealing with is technology that we haven't figured out how to harness for good yet. Instead, we've watched it become weaponized and now see it causing wrenching change at an uncontrollable pace. Change is inevitable but I shudder to think what will happen if the rate of change increases even further and our divisions grow even deeper than they are now.

Humanity has often moved in dramatic directions when certain ideas circulate in a population and a charismatic leader seizes on them to rally people towards action. The Bolshevik Revolution started when Lenin mobilized the Russians around Communism, and we went into space when Kennedy harnessed our fear of the Russians to send us to the moon. Previously the battle of ideas took place in cafes and universities, now it's taking place on social media, and instead of having rational debates, we're having conversations with people who we already agree with and reading things that reinforce our world view and sharing them without fact checking them.

It's ironic that I'm writing this on the internet and sharing it using the very platform that I'm accusing of fueling the fire. It's also ironic that the platform was invented in the United States, and now that it's gone all the way around the globe, we're experiencing its power at home.

So America, now it's up to us to fix it and I think we can do it by doing what we know best: innovating and expressing ourselves. Let's build tools to help us connect in meaningful ways and let's have a vigorous debate about how to move forward as a country and as a world. When all is said and done there is more that holds us together than divides us. Let's use this moment in history to teach the world how to harness this incredible technology as a force for good that can continually remind us of our common humanity and move us forward together.