Category: Choose Your Words Wisely

(At Least) 6 Steps to Evaluating Information.

I interrupt my originally-intended blog post to bring you this emergency post about how to evaluate the information you are constantly bombarded with on the Internet and elsewhere. This is by no stretch a conclusive list, but it’s a good jump-start to our common sense.
  1.  Is it a tabloid / gossip page? Tabloids are those trashy magazines in the supermarket checkout that rely on sensationalism to draw you in. If you answered yes, just throw it out now…all the way out. If not, move on to step two.
  2. Is it fact or opinion or fact? Some sources are really sneaky about trying to pass off opinion pieces as fact. If the writer uses first-person pronouns such as “I”, or otherwise injects him/herself into the story, it’s opinion. If it resorts to name calling, it’s an opinion. I personally believe it’s wise to consult the opinions of reliable sources, but even then they should be considered suggestion, not fact. Opinion is the spice of your research, not the meat. Approach it with caution and an open mind. Go to step three.
  3. Step two should also be applied to personal blogs, even this one. I only list blogs separately because they sometimes requite a bit of additional discernment. Arise Ink has a bit of a homemade feel, but there are plenty out there that have a slick, news-like aesthetic, and are still just someone’s opinion. You could also happen onto the professional blog of someone who is a legitimate authority in the subject you’re researching. Just pay attention to what you’re really dealing with, and go to step four (Apply the remaining steps to non-opinion pieces).
  4. Is it biased? For the sake of discussion, let’s use politics as an example. Does the article or website criticize or condemn one party or candidate exclusively? Is it written or owned by a specific party/candidate or anyone who is affiliated with, employed by or donates to them? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, remain skeptical and go to step five.
  5. Look for sources that use specific language.  For example, “The CEO earned $500,000 in 2015”, instead of “The CEO makes a lot of money”. The more specific the information, the easier it is to fact check and the more likely it is to be true. The most reliable material will cite sources, which you should also evaluate carefully.  Go to step six.
  6. Factual sources will generally not use overtly emotional language, like name calling or finger pointing (unless accompanied by documented facts. See #5). This kind of writing is intended to manipulate you. It’s relying on using your emotions to cloud your judgment.
My only intention is to give you some tools that will help you make better decisions about what you put into your brain and what your inflict on the people around you, on and off social medial. I’ve seen good people do so much damage with misinformation. You don’t want to be that person. Remember the truth seldom exists in extremes. The gray areas are always your best bet.

Are you an ableist?

Recently, someone questioned my use of the word “ableism” to describe society’s tendency to favor typical people over those with disabilities. It’s a real thing, y’all. For example, everyone can use a ramp (including people with handcarts, strollers, etc) but only the able-bodied can use stairs. In spite of this obvious fact, stairs are the rule rather than the exception, often limiting where people with disabilities can work, live, eat, shop, worship, go to school, socialize and pretty much everything everyone else does..

Inevitably, when I start talking about this sort of thing, someone will feel compelled to tell me a story about how their brother’s girlfriend’s neighbor knew a guy (not a guy, a kid. It’s always a kid), who overcame his disability and learned to drag himself up the stairs, and he’s SUCH an inspiration.

The only thing a story like that should inspire you to do is demand more practical accessibility standards so no one has to resort to becoming a spectacle.

We appreciate your support, but I’ll take dignity and independence over fleeting, warm fuzzy admiration any day.

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5 Suggested “Value Tales”

My Grandmama read “Value Tales” to me when I was little. There’s a whole set of them. Each story is about how real, historic figures and their theme-appropriate imaginary friends demonstrated a specific value like honesty, kindness, determination, etc. I’ve lived a little now, and had the chance to apply some of those lessons and a few others the books didn’t mention. Here’s some suggestions, in case they ever decide to expand the series:
1.The Value of Self-Awareness – You are entitled to every single one of your own feelings. You are also free to express them however you deem necessary, but as we know, to every action there is a reaction. So before you act or react, take a minute to name what you’re really feeling and evaluate what really made you feel that way. For example, maybe there’s somebody you think you don’t like. If that guy has done something to legitimately earn your hatred, you should be able to draw some pretty straight lines to why you feel that way. Do you actually dislike the person, or do you dislike the way you feel when he’s around? If you land on the latter, are you reacting to something that person did, or to some insecurity about yourself? It’s quite a labyrinth, and emotions often disguise themselves, but having that knowledge gives you power to construct your life! In the end, out lives aren’t made up of what happens to us, but how we FEEL about what happens and how we react.
2. The Value of Empathy – For better or worse, everybody filters the world through the lens of their own baggage. Every experience adds a layer that either clarifies or blurs everything that happens next. IT’s impossible to really communicate with someone without putting yourself in her shoes. I’m certain that would go a long way toward dissipating some of the world’s most insurmountable problems. We’d all be a lot nicer if we stopped to consider how it feels to be the other guy.
3. The Value of Personal Responsibility – OWN YOUR STUFF! What you love, what you hate, what you believe, how you feel, ALL of it. It’s your privilege AND your responsibility. Blaming others for your emotions and actions eats away at your integrity and hands them control over your life. It says a lot more about you than it does about them. Nothing in your life will improve until you take responsibility for it.
4. The Value of Trouble Shooting – Learn how to figure things out. Look for clues. Read the instructions. Ask questions. Seek information and put the pieces together. These steps translate to problems as minor as unjamming the copy machine to scarier situations like finding a job. There’s a lot of freedom and confidence to be gained by knowing you have some tools to help solve whatever you’re up against.
5. The Value of Discernment – We are living in a time of unprecedented access to information. Along with that comes exposure to the agendas and opinions of all kinds of folks who have no shame about twisting the facts in their favor. The trick is to develop a set of mental filters to help you sift through the baloney and get as close to the truth as you can. What the world needs now is way less deceit and misinformation. You can be part of the solution by refusing to accept everything that’s fed to you. Learn how to do your own research, and verify your sources. Don’t spread that stuff around; it’s quickly junking up the world…and that’s where I LIVE with the people I LOVE. The people you love live there too. STOP IT!
The difference between living a reactive life where you’re a slave to your circumstances, and having a deeper, more meaningful, productive experience is developing these tools.

 

Knowing is WAAAAY more than half the battle.

The tiniest shifts in our thinking could bring about big change. For example, the phrase “wheelchair bound” makes the chair seem like a ball and chain when it’s really a liberator. When I couldn’t walk at all, I was never more bound than when I was out of my chair because without it I couldn’t move around independently. Even though I can walk now, I still need my chair to do things like go to the grocery store. Think of it as a valuable tool rather than an unfortunate weight. I couldn’t function without it. It gives me independence and a larger degree of autonomy. Does that sound “bound” to you?

Let’s just get this out of the way.

 

I always wanted to be a writer. As luck would have it, my life has turned out to be one lesson after another, and someone really should write this stuff down. So many things have stopped me. Isn’t it kind of narcissistic to write about yourself? Many biographies and autobiographies become best-sellers, but they’re almost always about celebrities whose lives have already proven marketable. I’m afraid of being perceived as self-indulgent, trying to elevate my experiences as thought I think everything that’s ever happened to me is a big deal. I know a lot of people…many, many people…loads of them…have had much more meaningful and profound experiences than mine. Others have even had tragic experiences and handled them with infinitely more grace than I could ever muster, coming out stronger, triumphant and doing all kinds of good in the world. They’re more interesting than me, and probably even better people.

Above all, because so many of my experiences are colored by disability, I’m afraid you will:

• Immediately dismiss them because they don’t pertain to you (yet… God forbid!)

• Decide I think the world should cater to my every whim because I deserve it.

• Think I’m indulging self-pity.

• Apply the “angry cripple” stereotype to me, and refuse to give audience to what you perceive to be the chip on my shoulder.

• Make me into a pitiful (gulp) poster child.

• Get a slight case of the warm-fuzzy inspirationals, then not take any sort of action.

Furthermore, because my faith strongly influences many of the things I’ll write about, I fear you will:

• Apply your opinion of general Christianity to me

• Discount the way I demonstrate my spirituality because it doesn’t look like yours.

I bet this looks like I’m desperate for you to like me. I hope you do, but that’s not the case. It’s really that:

• I want you to give me a chance.

• I’m afraid of being the reason you to dismiss or minimize any social issue I write about, because it’s intensely important to me or I wouldn’t have risked it.

• I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you get mad…well, that’s up to you, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.

You probably think I’m insecure, but isn’t it the opposite of that to commit this kind of stuff to print? I’m just keeping it real. Now that I’ve addressed all my neuroses, I’m going to proceed to empty my head. If it resonates with you in any way, let it stick.