On 9/11/11, Focus On The Connections We Make

Social media is as unpredictable as any crowd, so it's little wonder that authorities' first reaction is to control as much as possible.

Conversely, the wrong connections tear us down, lead us astray, give us bad advice and don't come through for us when we really need them.

But human beings have always been free to make their own connections, to work at strengthening or breaking bonds as we need. For government agencies to step in and decide for us how and with whom to connect is the very kind of “nanny state” so many of us abhor.

Instead, government might choose to lead by example. As I wrote last month in the Dancing with Digital Natives blog (my book chapter “Native in Blue” discussed the changes which digital natives would bring to policing):

Perhaps what police and politicians fear is that the answers to any questions they ask will reflect problems they can’t control or at the very least, can’t talk about. Jobs creation, racism, religious tension and anger towards the “welfare class” or immigrants are not topics that police typically address, nor that politicians typically take responsibility for.

So what should they do with the answers?

Use them to learn, not about the problems, but about the community itself. Notice who does the talking, who does the organizing, who does the listening but then acts. Invite community members to continue the conversations offline, both one on one and in groups. Notice social dynamics there, too. Don’t just “engage” – build relationships. Through those, civic pride.

Remember the way we all came together in the days, weeks and months following 9/11? We flew our American flags with pride – they were everywhere, remember? – chanted “USA! USA!” at ballparks and concerts, treated each other with more kindness and genuinely made an effort to help each other out.

And at a time when many of us feel that our government leaders have failed us, we should remember the way we felt on 9/11, the way we sought each other out to cry and talk and not be alone with our thoughts and fears. We should be using the tools we have, again both online and off, to encourage our communities to reach out and connect with us – to come together rather than splinter apart.

This month I'm not asking “Where were you on 9/11/01?” but rather, “Where are you on 9/11/11?” Where are you, what are you doing, what connections will you make that day – and how will you use them to build your community stronger?


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About The Author:

Christa M. Miller is a freelance writer based in Greenville, S.C. She specializes in law enforcement and digital forensics and can be reached at christammiller@gmail.com.

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