John Seven: Online tales of small victories counter flood of bad news

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NORTH ADAMS — It feels like there's not a lot of good news today, but of course there is. It's just that the magnitude of it is smaller than that of the horrible stuff.

That's often the case with good news, though. Good news is usually about small victories. Good news usually captures stories on a personal level, things that change the world for the better one human at a time, transforming intimate circles, families, maybe towns, possibly cities, hardly ever the world, unfortunately.

Like the following Facebook page, which brings a smile to my face every time I look at it.

My Stealthy Freedom (https://www.facebook.com/StealthyFreedom/) gives women in Iran a participatory page to let the world see their quiet rebellion against the status quo in the form of women sharing photos and videos of themselves revealing the person behind the veil.

Yes, this is selfie as revolutionary tool. Connected to the website of the same name, (http://mystealthyfreedom.net/en/), the movement itself was started by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad a year and a half ago to advocate for women's choice in whether or not to don a hijab. The result is a series of thrilling, joyous, liberating images by women showing true bravery. They are risking something by doing this and they deserve our support, or at the very least, or attention.

There are larger efforts for good news, though. One of the big complaints I hear in the public debate about terrorism is that followers of Islam do not do as much to decry terrorism as they should. The problem is that they do, it just doesn't get noticed especially for the reasons I just stated: that good news is about the little things that chip away at the bad.

One recent story in Seattle documented a Muslim effort that featured Syrian refugees among others in the community to help the city's homeless veterans through volunteerism (http://kuow.org/post/guess-whos-helping-seattle-homeless-veterans-syrian-refugees), with the idea of giving back to the country and the people who have saved their lives and given them safe haven.

On a larger scale, but still intimate enough that if you aren't inside the circles that would seek out this information you might miss it, is an Islamic movement from Indonesia called Nahdlatul Ulama, that is utilizing its 50 million members to actively denounce the Islamic State, and educate other Muslims why the horrible groups is not reflective of their faith (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/world/asia/indonesia-islam-nahdlatul-ulama.html?_r=0). It's a major effort that needs to go far and wide to create a counter-narrative to the one of hate that is being embraced by some on either side of this conflict.

But if Muslims loom big as boogeymen in some people's brains, Christian terrorists have stood as a similar threat within our borders. While officials have yet to determine a motive in last week's shooting at a Planned Parenthood, witnesses have said they believe he was motivated by his opposition to abortion.

The good news is that while there may be no mass exodus, individuals can walk away from hate disguised as spiritual thought, destruction masquerading as the love of a god. It can be done, and this is no better illustrated than in the thrilling, charming and ultimately hopeful story of Megan Phelps-Roper (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/conversion-via-twitter-westboro-baptist-church-megan-phelps-roper) a member of the Westboro Baptist Church through faith and family connections, who through a long process of awakening, turned her back on hate.

The story will also give you a newfound faith in the connections that are built online as being as important and transformative as any others you might encounter.

These are but small pieces, but encouraging ones. Embrace them and let them strengthen your outlook.

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at mister.j.seven@gmail.com or at vknid.com.


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