Terrorism of the Body and the Mind

The past ten days scattered our attention and focused my thoughts on the reason for Story Chip. Osama Bin Laden's death and the wave of spin coming from Washington, complaints about the use of the word “Geronimo” as a code by the Navy seals, the resignation of the President of the American College of Surgeons and Sprint pulling an advertisement showing a man in red dress all demonstrate how desperately we cling to the meaning of events and symbols. We fight to preserve the “proper” interpretation from our point of view. We make every effort to control the perceptions of others.

Collecting the stories, the history, of individuals serves an understanding that we can never control what others think. At best, we manage opportunities to negotiate the meaning of our lives. We negotiate from our experiences by telling our stories with the hope that lessons learned will survive and shape the future. Each of the stories in Story Chip provides a taste of someone's struggle to understand and maintain their own meaning and relationship to their culture.

The United States' assault in Afghanistan closes a chapter detailing two decades of violent attempts to reshape public policy. Bin Laden's papers mention his hope that a high enough body count will cause public opinion to demand that we avoid the violence in Europe, Africa and Asia by removing ourselves from that area. The Story Chip page devoted to the World Trade Center attacks (both of them) provides a negotiating tool for developing a meaning that is beyond the control of terrorist groups. How many people thought back to September a decade ago when they heard the news of bin Laden's death? I did; not with anger, but with sadness over using the lives of innocents to forge public opinion.

At the same time, questions have been raised about using the name of an Apache from our history as a code for events in Afghanistan. There are no stories about the battles fought by native Americans over a hundred years ago on Story Chip. I wish there were, dozens of them. As close as we come is a ghost story told about Comanches on Brushy Creek near Austin, Texas. The headlines from newspapers of the time have the tone of relating terrorists attacks in modern news accounts. Does the modern listener hear Geronimo as a terrorist? Or cultural leader?

A more successful effort effort in forcing an action came about after a Valentine's Day article discussing medical evidence that the chemistry of human reproduction assists in producing a feeling of well being in women and that the best Valentine's Day gift might be unprotected sex. The author chose to resign his position as the President elect of ACS rather than argue the meaning and intent of his message. Is there a relationship between being laughed at for being a girl who wanted to deliver newspapers and feeling the need to protect the image of women 50 years later? How many stories of living with biases of all kinds do we need to understand how these things feel and how we can overcome the injuries to our psyche?

Representatives of several alternative lifestyles have had quite a week trying to maintain their story. A professional hockey player has appeared in ads supporting a same sex marriage initiative in New York that has started name calling more resignations but more interesting is the case of Sprint. They hope to influence public opinion and regulatory agencies in deciding whether AT&T can merge with T Mobile. They created ads in opposition to the merger that feature a man in a red dress that suggests the red dress of a spokes model in T Mobile advertising. The ads were pulled when it was suggested that transvestites and the transgendered were offended by the depiction. More stories that are not yet in our archives.

All of these incidents have a common theme, terrorism, intellectual terrorism, but still terrorism. In each case, groups and individuals are acting to force a perceptual change. They have left behind the negotiation of meaning in an effort to force meaning on other groups. In comparison, the sit ins of the civil rights movement created stories that became the discussion in changing the meaning of the melting pot of American culture. Those stories, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, are the foundation of our current understanding. Getting access to public opinion leaders in the 50's was a much different challenge. Get an idea to go viral on the Internet and public opinion lays open at your feet. This accessibility both to information and audiences, promotes negotiating the meaning of events while increasing our uncertainty of the negotiations outcome.

Story Chip exists to foster that negotiation.

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