Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fakin' it in a tweetin' world

Tweet! Get it?!
Yes, I am one of those people who writes silly hashtags on my Facebook posts from time to time.  Another attempt to be witty and get a like or a virtual chuckle.  I really should consult a professional about this perpetual need for approval. 

But I was wondering what happens to all those fake hashtags I add as an afterthought to some posts. So I signed up with Twitter. For the sole purpose of investigating my hashtags.

This is monumental if you know that I swore I would never have a Twitter account.  Something about not wasting all my time on the Internet.  Yeah, that one worked out well.  And my mom actually had a Twitter account before me.  I know!

So there I am, eager to see my hashtags in the Twittersphere and...silence.  Virtual crickets chirping. 

A newsflash that will come as a surprise to no one except me- if you don't link Facebook and Twitter and make your posts public, your hashtag will fall silently in that deep forest that is in the Internet.

But I wouldn't let it go.  I was still curious if other people had used some of my "fake" hashtags.  So I searched for some of my more recent ones like: #toomanyfairytales or #shesgotapoint and #childlogic. And, bingo, a string of unrelated posts (not mine) of people saying these very same things.  Different situations but the same hashtag. 

And I felt an immediate kinship with these people.  Ok, we're not going out for coffee or anything, but I got a kick out of the fact that there are other people who were having some funny or frustrating moment in their lives and categorized it with the same feeling or phrase as me. 

And I got to thinking that Twitter, with its limited number of characters, is a bit like our modern day haiku.  And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Forcing us to condense ideas in a small space, adding a tag to label that moment.  To capture the essence.

So the take-home message is, there is no such thing as a fake hashtag.  Because we are the authors of the Internet and we are making this up as we go along. 

Recently there have been some funny and powerful uses of hashtags.  No doubt you've heard of the Muslim backlash against ISIS or Al Qaeda with #notinmyname. But there was also a slew of humorous cat tweets in the  #Brusselslockdown situation last weekend where Belgians posted cat pics instead of giving away information on police or military searches. 

Not to mention #MuslimID recently from Muslims posting their military, hospital or police badges in response to Donal Trump's suggestion that all Muslims have an ID or closer surveillance.  Or the husband who honored his deceased wife with #100lovenotes and inspired others to express their feelings to their loved ones.

Frankly, I love the idea that one person can come up with an idea and it can set fire to the Internet and spread a message so quickly.  So with all the ugliness in this world and all the futile stuff we can find on the Net, sometimes a little tag can go along way.  Will Twitter and hashtags last forever? #onlytimewilltell

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Message from a war zone

I woke up this morning because my husband was blowing his nose rather loudly.

My daughter came in shortly after and woke us up again (though we were already up).  We had a family cuddle and I gave her Eskimo and butterfly kisses. 

Then she opened the living room door letting the cat come and "wake us up" in his turn. 

I woke up to rain on a chillier autumn day than we have had recently. 

I woke up to three iMessages from my mom.  Asking me if I'd seen the news, was I ok. 

I woke up to the bad news that most of the rest of the world already knew.

I woke up to three messages on Facebook and several emails from concerned friends and family.

I woke up in a war zone of sorts.  I woke up to a France more terrorized than ever.  To a Paris that was mourning its dead and wondering what would happen next.

If my my small city two hours from Paris seemed spared this time, it is still all a little too close to home.   It is also a little too familiar after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January and the near miss of the Thalys train in August. 

Where I live, life goes on pretty much as before.  People gathered to light candles and observe about half an hour of silence.  But other than that, we are here for another day, shopping and driving and just living. 

And as with every attack before, we are saddened, and scratching our heads.  Wondering how people could kill innocents like that, kill themselves, all for a cause that is so perverted and so far from godly.

I have a dream, a lot like Marin Luther King, Jr.  A dream that Muslim children and Christian children play together.  A dream that kids play together no matter where their parents come from or what language they speak at home.  A dream that people from different backgrounds talk openly and see how very much they are alike.

The thing is, that dream is already here.  I see it everyday in Juliette's school.  Her best friend is from a Muslim family.  Yesterday when I picked her up I did the cheek kisses with several moms, two of whom are Muslim, one of whom was wearing a scarf that let a few black strands of hair peek out. 

I heard the Syrian father who came to France with his family about a year ago and whose French is improving every day.  I saw his son come happily out of the schoolyard, speaking French like the other kids but his own language with his father.

So if it can work in the schoolyard in my little middle-class city neighborhood, and if it can work in so many Parisian offices and schools and park benches, why is this kind of evil still being perpetrated?  The terrorists attacked Paris, attacked the French everyday citizen.  But how many of those people are/were living out a peaceful coexistence with different faiths and cultures?

These terrorists picked the wrong target.  Not that there ever is a right target.  France, the way I see it, is already doing pretty well at integrating and accepting different nationalities and religions.  It's not perfect, but it's getting there. 

And I know, as the father of Juliette's best friend has told me time and again, this is not Islam.  Real Muslims don't kill in the name of their god.  And I know French Muslims weep today just as I am. 

And I know that my dream of different cultures living and working together will keep being played out.   We have to keep that dream alive.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How the French do Halloween

Candy and pumpkins, check!
I thought about calling this post "How the French DON'T do Halloween."  But that wouldn't be exactly true.  They do celebrate Halloween, just in there own way.  That is to say, not exactly how North Americans do.

I was looking for some type of accessory for Juliette to be a vampire for her day care party last week.  We were in the biggest supermarket in our city, where they had dedicated an aisle to costumes.  I was surprised that nearly all the costumes were of the scary or dark kind: witches, grim reapers, vampires, skeletons. There were a few pumpkin costumes for the little ones and some called "gothic dolls" which were more like Monster High "light" for young girls.  But what about pirates, cowboys, fairies?  If you want a costume like that in France, you have to go to the toy section, thank you very much.

That is the thing about the French and Halloween.  When they aren't dissing it for being an "American" holiday they are complaining about it only being scary and gory.  My other expat friends have noticed this, too.  No, I tell the French naysayers!  You can be anything you want for Halloween in the US.  When I was a little schoolgirl I was anything from a doctor, tooth fairy, witch or school teacher.  Halloween may indeed have its origins in ghosts and ghouls, but it is also about any costume and being anything you want, for just a day or night.  Kind of like a Halloween American Dream fusion.  And though I did see a few kids dressed in non-scary costumes, the majority of those I saw going door-to-door this year were in black and bloody attire.

Speaking of trick-or-treating, I think I am doing my American parenting thing wrong.  Living in an apartment, I have never actually taken Juliette door-to-door.  When we saw some kids out around 5 pm last Saturday, she was at first perplexed, then wondering why they were all dressed in scary things.  For the record, she was also a cowgirl for the home parties we attended and hosted.  The vampire outfit was more in honor of her favorite TV show du jour, Chica Vampiro.

Those French parents who do not let their kids do trick-or-treating may (rightfully) say it's kind of dangerous.  They might also tell you that they already have a holiday where kids dress up, and that it's not scary (oh, please, stop with the Halloween is scary thing!).  That would be carnaval, the equivalent of mardi gras.  During carnaval children dress as anything, knights and princesses and animals.

Besides, many of my French students tell me, Halloween is just an American thing to make money!  Well, not exactly.  It is Celtic and Anglo-Saxon, but not exclusively American.  Some students make a point in telling me they celebrate All Saints' Day, the day after Halloween, which is a religious holiday.  Ok, so not only is Halloween a money-making opportnity in their eyes, but they have to get all sanctimonious on me!

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on Halloween, as on so many things.  They will never exactly get my giddiness about dressing up at work for Halloween (Bollywood princess this year) and I will never understand their love of silly slapstick comedians like Jerry Lee Lewis.  Can't we all just get along?