In Polite Park51 Conversation

    Posted by Bonnie Kaufman

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    **Originally posted on  Bonnie Blogs **

    Hello friends. I'm sure you're all familiar with the old adage that warms against discussing two things: Religion and Politics. Well, that's pretty hard to do when discussing the proposed Park 51 Mosque. True, that warning traditionally applies to dinner parties and not blog writing, but it's a personal goal of mine to keep things 'festive' at all times. As such, we're going to stay neutral - or, at the very least, try. Lucky for me, there's plenty to discuss without getting (too) personal. Shall we?

    So, at this point, I'm going to assume that you're all familiar with the whole mosque situation. If you aren't: Wow. Congratulations on missing the most talked-about news story since they moved the cast of The Jersey Shore to Miami.* I, for one, haven't been able to avoid discussion of the proposed mosque, and that's what I'm here to talk about.

    Sure, it's old news that social media has changed the face of journalism, and the most recent presidential race made clear its role and impact in the world of politics, but it's been a long time since I've seen the internet ablaze with differing opinions on one subject the way I have in recent weeks. I consume information online from a number of sources each day, and all are teeming with positions on the proposed Park 51 mosque. Facebook friends write rants and link to fresh articles; Twitter users are packing amazing amounts of attitude into 140 character bursts; commenters on my favorite blogs are going to war over precariously worded posts. Our own Executive Managing Editor -- and the mastermind behind the BK Communique --, Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, shared his surprising stance on BK Community. Hell, my own parents are sending contradictory (and borderline inflammatory)** emails to their communal friends and family. This thing is everywhere!

    Now, before you get the notion that this is a complaint: It is not. Honestly, I think this is amazing. Have you read Share This? A recent book from media technologist Deanna Zandt, Share This?  shows how (and why) people can leverage social media in order to create social change. And look, that is clearly what's happening! When have we seen citizen involvement like this? Sure, some of it could be said to be founded in ignorance and prejudice, but still, I'll take that over apathy any day. It's important for people to get involved in this - and any - conversation, and nothing spurs involvement like outright disappointment and anger.

    While I'm not going to speculate as to the outcome of the Park 51 Mosque proposal, I will say that, in these discussions, I can see Zandt's concept in action. Social change is not necessarily revolution -- it happens on a small scale. Right now, social change is the slight re-shaping of opinion; it is the moment when he first realize how much we care about something. Social change is the shock of the unexpected standpoint, the realization that a 'friend' sees something differently than you thought they might. Social change is the intergenerational sharing of Daily Show clips. And it is beautiful!

    So, share away! Take advantage of our new found access to information and opinion - just be nice to one another, okay? We're all in this together - let's keep it festive.

    *Note: This was written prior to both Obama's Oval Office Address and the Emmy Awards.

    ** Just kidding! I know you read this...