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My dad became a Rotarian a number of years after I left home for college. He threw himself into his work with the organization with his typical enthusiasm because he cared about his local community.  He could never be accused of indifference.  Eventually, he became the leader of his local chapter.  After he died, the district Rotary organization invited my sisters and me to attend the year’s annual awards meeting.  There, we accepted an honor for my dad, the “Service Above Self Award” for his district.  I first became aware at that meeting of the Four-Way Test that members of Rotary recite every time they gather.  I was so struck with it that I printed it out and taped it to the bottom of my computer, where I see it every day.

The Four-Way Test

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

This is an elegant, flexible guide to encourage the worthiest words in all interactions.  I notice, however, an underlying assumption: this is for people who WANT these things (i.e., truth, fairness, goodwill, and better friendships). Plenty of people in the world unfortunately don’t.

We have seen two vivid examples of this recently.

Dear Donald

The first was a simply-worded ad written by Josh Tetrick, the CEO and Founder of Hampton Creek (a company, you’ll note, that has the words “guided by reason, justice and fairness” right at the top of their Twitter header). The ad, entitled “Dear Donald,” appeared in the New York Times and the Plain Dealer, a local paper located in Cleveland. The Republican National Convention, of course, is going on there right now. You can read the ad in its entirety here. In the ad, Tetrick chides Trump for his disparagement of women and ethnic minorities. (I think it is probably safe to say that Donald Trump does not often consider his words based on the principles behind Rotary’s Four-Way Test.)

Americans are frustrated and angry and scared. You’ve channeled this into your nomination.

Americans are also good. We’re generous and courageous and kind. That’s what you’ve missed.

The short letter finishes with the basis of Tetrick’s objection to the Trump campaign: its underlying values:

Turning away from you is a way to say who we are.

“His campaign doesn’t reflect basic American values,” Tetrick told CNNMoney. “We can disagree on a lot but there are certain things that everyone does agree with: You should respect women. Immigrants make this country better. We should be civil to each other. The KKK is a group that is the personification of evil. There are these basic things that we don’t need to argue about.” Interestingly enough Tetrick told CNN that the recent death of Elie Wiesel and a quote from his book, Night, was the big impetus for the ad campaign: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Considering Trump’s words, Tetrick reasoned that he couldn’t remain indifferent; he had to speak out in opposition.

The ad has struck a chord with many Americans, with hundreds texting Tetrick to offer their reflections and reactions, based on their own experiences, and their thanks.

Twitter and @Lesdoggg

The other striking example of what Elie Wiesel was talking about occurred on Twitter.  Leslie Jones, the actress starring the new Ghostbusters film who tweets at @lesdoggg, had a distressing series of tweets directed at her by racists who seemed to determined to drive her from the internet.  Jones fought back, retweeting some of the worst abusive tweets and images sent to her to shame the senders.  She briefly decided to leave Twitter entirely, but eventually she logged back, determined not to let the haters drive her away.

The abuse she received definitely and rightly enraged Jones, but she also clearly understood the basis of the problem beyond her tormentors. She called out  Breitbart editor and social media provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos for his incitement of hate speech and separately took Twitter to task for its indifference to abuse on its platform.  Twitter suspended Yiannopoulus’ account roughly 24 hours later.

Twitter definitely has an abuse problem, and women and minorities bear the brunt of it.  Twitter needs to overcome its apparent corporate indifference. At the very least it needs to pay attention when even non-celebrities report receiving abuse on the site.

[Note: this blog post has been delayed for a good week by computer problems. I hope my shiny new Mac Plus Pro means that my blogging will now be able to resume a regular schedule.]