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Posts Tagged ‘trust’

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Art: Andy Andersen via Hyperallergic
Andy Andersen’s depiction of Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as Saint Pantaleon the Healer. Andersen, a Los Angeles area illustrator, is one of many artists reimagining the doctor as pandemic cultural icon.

Don’t you love how creative people always find ways to have fun with current events, no matter how dire? Consider this charming story by Hakim Bishara at Hyperallergic, where we learn about the art community’s take on the doctor at the center of federal Covid-19 communications, the doctor that people trust.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, is by all accounts the man of the hour [and] being showered with praise and admiration, sometimes uncomfortably, as he became the most recognized voice in the United States on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On social media, Fauci is being celebrated with thousands of artistic tributes, from admiring portraits and cartoons to tattoos, sock puppets, and saint icons bearing his image.

“One of the most intricate tributes to Fauci belongs to Andy Andersen, an illustrator based outside of Los Angeles. His illustration depicts the famed doctor as the late-medieval Saint Pantaleon the healer. ‘Saint Fauci’ holds a box of medicine, flanked by angels of death and spikey coronaviruses.

“ ‘I based it on some of the classic saint iconography that exists,’ Andersen explained to Hyperallergic in an email. ‘The pose, the composition, the elements all reference those iconic images, but updated with references to the virus.’

“ ‘To me, Fauci is the calming, reassuring voice during this confusing and unpredictable time,’ Andersen wrote. ‘He reminds me of a grandfather who assures you that everything will be ok. It will be hard, it will most likely suck, and sh#!t will happen, but in the end, everything will be ok. The silver lining is that humanity has such a competent, intellectual powerhouse on its side.’

“Several other fans also elevated Fauci to saintdom. One of them created a ‘Saint Fauci’ votive candle with the caption: ‘Not all heroes wear capes! 🙏🙏🙏🙏’ [See @taintedsaint_ on Instagram.]

“One of the most famous public images of Fauci captures him facepalming … during a coronavirus briefing at the White House. For many Americans, the image highlighted Fauci as a voice of reason …

“Brad Albright, an artist and an illustrator based in Texas, decided to perpetuate Fauci’s facepalm with a sticker. ‘Somebody get this man some (more) medals, honors and awards!!! Seriously. He’s a saint,’ he wrote in the caption.

“In addition, there are myriad admiring portraits of Fauci online, from pencil sketches to paintings and GIFs. One such artwork, titled ‘The Explainer in Chief,’ captures Fauci explaining the disease to the press cameras. The artist, Phil Bateman, writes in the caption: ‘Who else but Anthony Fauci could tell you terrifying things and yet whose terrifying explanations made you feel better because you believed only him.’ …

“How does this intense level of attention affect Fauci himself? When asked in an interview with CBS’s Gayle King if he feels personal pressure he calmly answered, ‘It’s my job. This is the life I’ve chosen and I’m doing it.’ ”

Read Hyperallergic here. And for more on the curious manifestations of Fauci fandom, check out the Verge.

By the way, did you ever see the documentary How to Survive a Plague, about the AIDS crisis?  Dr. Fauci was in government back then, too, and in the the early 1980s, before his hair turned gray, he was definitely not considered a hero by terrified AIDS victims. Clearly, he has learned a lot. Which proves that there really are second chances in life.

Photo: Donut Crazy via the Hartford Courant
Donut Crazy has honored infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci with special doughnuts bearing his image.

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In our town, the library has launched a big campaign to raise money for an addition that will meet the evolving needs of library users. It’s already a wonderful library, and because it is the purview partly of the town and partly of an independent corporation, it has been protected from the budget cuts that have plagued many municipal libraries.

Libraries will always be important for books, but today they are also multiservice community centers that people trust. I think, for example, of the Ferguson Library, which sheltered frightened residents during days of violent clashes after the death of Michael Brown.

At the Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ), Steve Dubb adds, “Libraries have continued to grow as their role as community hubs deepens. Here at NPQ, we have profiled libraries that have become maker spaces, supported gardening, and rented out musical instruments. …

“Yet another growing role, Emily Nonko reports in Next City, is in social service provision. Nonko notes that up to 30 libraries nationally, including in places like Chicago, Brooklyn, Denver, San Francisco, and Washington DC, have social workers on staff. A Chicago Tribune article last year mentioned  that Justine Janis, a clinical social worker at the Chicago library, was leading a national monthly conference call of social service workers on library staff.

“Nonko in particular focuses on efforts in San Francisco and Denver. [For instance, in] 2019, Denver Public Library budgeted for a team of 10, including four social workers and six peer navigators. The team, Nonko adds, supports all 26 branch locations.

“[Denver social worker Elissa] Hardy explains the Denver program’s rationale: ‘In social work we have this term called a “protective factor.” The library is a protective factor for people, which is basically a place or a thing where we’re helping to support people, and not change things negatively for them.’

“Certainly, anything that increases social supports is likely to improve public health. As the Brookings Institution and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have argued, the US underspends on social supports (and overspends on clinical care). In the American Journal of Managed Care, Ara Ohanian notes that, ‘On average, OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] nations spend $1.70 on social services for every $1 on health services; whereas the US spends just 56 cents.’ …

“Libraries, of course, are just one piece of a larger puzzle, but they do make a difference. Leah Esguerra, who was the first clinical social worker hired by the San Francisco library system, tells Nonko that, ‘The idea was to reach out in a way that’s compassionate.’ Now, Nonko explains, the San Francisco Public Library now has a team of five that supports Esguerra. These social workers inform patrons about resources and services and have helped at least 130 people find stable housing.”

More at NPQ, here. My local library is not planning those kinds of services, but it’s positioning itself for the future. And to that end, it has interviewed an impressive range of constituencies, sometimes more than once. Very soon there will be new items available like seeds and tools you need only once in a while. There will be spaces just for teens or for adults to have coffee and chat. There will be improved areas for children, a shared garden, and more.

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Photo: Francis Pakes
The view from the Icelandic prison that a criminology reseacher asked to stay in.

Abusing people who commit crimes is no longer considered effective for keeping them on the straight and narrow after they serve their time. For a different approach, consider Iceland, where two of the five prisons actually have no locks.

Francis Pakes, a professor of criminology at the UK’s University of Portsmouth, took a firsthand look and wrote about his experience for the Conversation.

“Iceland is a small country tucked away on the edge of Europe. It has a population of only about 340,000 people. Iceland’s prisons are small too. There are only five, altogether housing fewer than 200 prisoners. Of these five, two are open prisons. …

“When I asked the prison authorities in Iceland if I could spend a week in each of the two open prisons they were surprisingly receptive. I got the impression that they quite liked the idea: a foreign academic who wanted to get under the skin of these places by assuming the role of a prisoner. They promised to keep a room free for me. I was grateful and excited. I was going to experience both prisons from the inside. …

“The absence of security features was striking. The first prison I stayed in, Kvíabryggja prison in the west of the country, had little in the way of perimeter security. There is, however, a sign instructing passers by to keep out – mainly aimed at tourists. I could simply drive up to the small, mostly single-storey building and park up. I then walked in (yes, the doors were open) and said hello. …

“It was clear from the outset that prisoners and staff do things together. Food is important in prisons and in Kvíabryggja the communal dining room is a central space. It is where prisoners have breakfast, lunch and dinner together with staff. Prisoners cook the food, and with an officer they do the weekly food shop in a nearby village. Food was plentiful and tasty. It is considered bad form not to thank the prisoner chefs for their efforts. And you have to clean up after yourself. …

“Prisoners have their own room keys but they leave their doors unlocked, pretty much at all times. This is a potent symbol: life in Kvíabryggja is all about trust. I found that difficult at first, knowing that my passport, rental car keys and research notes were all in my room. In the end I did what prisoners do and even slept with the door unlocked. I slept like a baby. …

“It was the informality of the interactions that struck me most. We watched football together. … I got teased a bit of course, as all prison researchers do. But prisoners also shared gossip and many prisoners and staff alike shared very personal, even intimate feelings and stories with me. When Pétur gained his freedom and his dad arrived to pick him up, he hugged many prisoners and staff goodbye, including me. We all got a bit emotional.

“Kvíabryggja is of course still a prison. Many prisoners feel frustrated, angry, anxious, struggle with their health and worry about the future. But the environment is safe and the food a delight. There is contact with the outside world, generous visiting arrangements, and there is always a listening ear. As prisons go, this means a lot.

“This remote prison and with no more than 20 prisoners, and around three staff around at most at any time, is a tiny community. Prisoners and staff smoke together in the cramped but ever busy smoking room. They need to get on.

“Life is defined by these informal interactions. This is not necessarily easy. This prison population is highly mixed. There are female prisoners, foreign nationals and prisoners of pensionable age or with a disability all mixed in together. …

“The importance of getting on is a take away message. This is far harder to achieve in large busy prisons where new prisoners arrive and leave every day. But just like community policing works best if most public interactions are friendly, a prison is a more positive place if most interactions are friendly and benign too.”

More at the Conversation, here.

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Photo: Clay Masters/IPR
Storm Lake Times Editor Art Cullen stands outside newspaper he started with his brother in 1990. The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize this year for its editorial writing.

I’ve been following a twitter discussion about why big newspapers are doing more reporting via video. Critics contend the move is about pleasing advertisers and is hurting quality.

Judging from a recent National Public Radio (NPR) story on small-town newspapers, I think the big outlets would be better off focusing on building trust with readers.

Clay Masters reported, “Large media outlets could learn from small town newspapers about being authentic and winning the trust of readers. …

“Take the Storm Lake Times [in Iowa], for example. It recently gained national attention when this twice-a-week newspaper for this town of around 11,000 people won a Pulitzer Prize for its editorials. They won the prestigious journalism award for challenging powerful corporate agribusiness interests in the state.

” ‘We inform each other through the newspaper about the reality of Storm Lake,” says Editor Art Cullen. …

“Their classified section is pretty robust … and there’s even a section devoted to local birthdays. Art Cullen says newspapers like his are the thread that holds the fabric of a small town together.

” ‘They know we’re honest and they know we love Storm Lake … that we stick to the facts of a story, and we will argue, argue, argue on our editorial page.’ …

“One of the big differences between larger metro newspapers and community journalism is the staff has to face its audience every day.

” ‘People have no problem coming up to me and telling me what they think of the newspaper,’ says Jim Johnson, who owns newspapers in Kalona and Anamosa, two small newspapers in eastern Iowa. …

“Johnson has the advantage of owning small town newspapers near metro areas. When this former Omaha World-Herald editor bought the papers in Kalona and Anamosa, he wanted to show community newspapers can do just as good or better than large papers.”

More at NPR, here.

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In spring 2008, during a sometimes distressing primary season, an African American coworker and I decided to try something under the radar at work.

We decided to invite other colleagues of good will to help create a monthly lunch-hour discussion group on Race in America.

At first it was slow going. Some people we invited were suspicious. Would we be seen as troublemakers? Was it “legal”? Would it be just a gripe fest about our workplace?

My friend was supervising our high school interns at the time, and several of those showed up. One or two white employees came. Black colleagues were more wary. On days that no one came, one of us was bound to say to the other, Maybe this isn’t going to work. At which point, the other would say, Let’s give it another month.

Little by little, attendance grew. We kept the focus on topics in the news and participants’ life experiences. There was no agenda. We’d say, Does anyone have a topic they want to discuss today? There were always topics. We agreed to keep what was said inside our basement meeting room. There was zero hierarchy. What everyone brought to the table was openness and a willingness to listen.

We listened. We asked questions. We argued, with respect. We laughed. We worried. We learned. There were so many gradations of opinions, based on individuals’ experiences. There was never unanimity of one race versus another.

One participant said last year the monthly discussions had really opened his eyes and changed some of his views profoundly.

My friend retired a couple years ago and I left in January, but the group is still going strong under new leaders. I really miss it. I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to hear what members have to say about something in the news or something I see in my town. I feel like I hardly know my own views without adding the nuances of what my former colleagues are thinking and feeling.

This past week, I’ve read lots of advice about what people of good will can do about race relations and injustice: join demonstrations and meetings, write government representatives, open their hearts to losses on both sides, listen to young activists, stand on their right not to show an I.D. (Fifth Amendment). Maybe some of those ideas are good.

But I still love the idea of creating a group where people of different races and backgrounds listen to one another’s way of seeing things. Over the eight years, Race in America members have come and gone, but participants routinely say that the group works because of the trust that is built.

For getting started, it worked well that we were two friends — one identifying as African American, one as Caucasian. She needed me, and I needed her. I never felt I should go up to a black colleague I didn’t know and pitch a discussion on race. She was a star at that.

Maybe it’s a hopelessly small thing for combating what we see in the news. But I do think people of different races have too few opportunities to listen to one another about matters that touch the heart.

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bitcoin-machine-at-South-StationA friend is doing research on bitcoin and other virtual currencies.

Although it sounds like phoney money to me, I still honor the lesson I got in fourth grade about how a dollar represents trust. You trust when you receive it that it will be accepted by someone else in exchange for something you want. You trust the entity that backs it. Today people are using virtual currencies like real money, so trust is working so far.

But does it all remind you of the company that used to accept your money and promise to do your worrying for you? Or how about virtual gift giving, which enjoyed a flurry of attention in the media a while back. (The gift company will e-mail your friend that you “bought” a virtual gift. The concept is based on the premise that it’s the thought that counts. VirtualGifts4U.com, for one, just asks you to support its sponsors.)

I took this picture at Boston’s South Station, where, during specified hours, a friendly young man will explain how you can buy bitcoins at this machine. I haven’t chatted with him, so I don’t know if he also explains that the value of your bitcoins can not only go up in an hour or two but go way down.

There is no significance to the fact that the machine is located right next to an endlessly running “If you see something, say something” security video.

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