This post has been on my mind since I backpacked in 2015 only to become obsessed with Serial, like everyone else. I’d tap #adnanSyed into social media platforms to research what others thought about this shockingly viral case. Those hashtags made it clear that my singular obsession was actually, collective.
There are so many media outlets now, where people can essentially have an online vent session. They’re strangely engaging and leave room for dialogue with others around the planet, it’s fascinating if you really think about it. Not just talking about the usual suspects either — Facebook & Twitter, I’m saying Quora, Medium, Reddit and the myriad “chat rooms” that have thankfully advanced since the early 00’s.
Let me back up for a moment. I write this in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election while in NY/NJ, where people are absolutely trippin. Protests, false media, friends unfriending each other, text message threads with common conversational lines of “just delete my number now if you secretly voted for Trump,” and collegiate professors thinking it’s acceptable to spend class time on sharing cumulative disbelief in our national misfortune (this may become an additional post, to be honest, because I was really in my feelings about this). People were so deafeningly emotional, so full of rage and anger, and were poking me for my input. I let the conversations falter because I truly didn’t want to share my opinion, explain my opinion, defend my opinion and everything else others make us do.
This current tide of total negative emotion ripping through our country and quite possibly our world had me thinking. For those of you that may be unaware of Adnan’s story, the gist is this: teenage Adnan was dating Hae Min Lee in Maryland, they broke up in late 90s and several months later Hae’s body was found in the woods and Adnan is the sole/preferable suspect, he is tried and convicted to life + 30 years, and has been serving since 2000. His close family friend and confidant, Rabia Chaudry, has been seeking his innocence (while simultaneously becoming an attorney, having a family, and making several moves before settling back in MD) for decades when she stumbled upon a former Baltimore Sun investigative reporter, Sarah Koenig. Sarah made one of the most listened to podcasts to date and won a Peabody Award for her storytelling ability, as well as her exposition of all the gaping holes in this case. These holes make it abundantly clear to the layperson, as if they weren’t already aware, that the US criminal justice system is preposterously lacking in almost every way. Every conversation I started with fellow listeners was like a game of hot coals, they were opinionated about Adnan’s case and they were ready to pounce at any given moment.
Later, Rabia decided to 1. create her own podcast (Undisclosed) that viewed the case from the POV of attorneys at law and 2. pen a book about the tumultuousness of the case + social media. What’s my point? Adnan and his lawyers had tried twice and failed to obtain a retrial with new evidence after losing their post conviction relief appeal. Once Serial, (Undisclosed, Adnan’s Story) and an outrageous amount of fanfare, the State of Maryland opted to finally grant this trial in summer of 2016. In my opinion, very little else has shown the absolute power that the populous can have on dismantling the status quo.
Social media, with hashtags like #freeAdnan, or copious letters to the DA in Baltimore from total strangers around the world speak volumes to what we can change with positivity, progressive action, and persistence. Some may see all this as simply being able to change the course of just Adnan’s life, but this is major. This might even be unprecedented. The world is absolutely watching the US justice system and harshly criticizing the inadequacies that have gone unchecked for generations, possibly since its inception. People are waking up and it’s shaking the system – anything can happen. <– This point right here is why I decided to write about this today. If nothing else is surmised from this pioneering effort in change-making social media, it should be that we the people can make it happen even with every barrier up blocking our path. Rabia’s persistence was the seed that took over 20 years to sprout, but now? Now, she has shown the possibilities, and they are truly endless.
If Adnan’s story doesn’t resonate, how about these:
- 2016. The Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock was shockingly paused after the people stood together in the names of tradition, livelihood, environment, and anti-big oil. Shocking because this country is based upon some seriously embedded ideals and those definitely include big oil, big pharma, big money, big anything really. Not much, until now, has gotten in their way. People traveled to Standing Rock, set up goFundMe and Kickstarter campaigns for medical supplies, obtained tattoos for solidarity (like me), hashtagged HARD, sent letters, made calls, and quite honestly, the citizens of the US came together to such a degree for our Native Indian population, for the first time. #Major.
- 2014. #BringOurGirlsBack due to the 276 kidnapped girls in Nigeria by terrorist group, Boko Haram. Social media didn’t release all of those girls, but it did cause worldwide attention to be placed on this devastating issue and people are, day by day, waking up. I’m not saying social media is a panacea, but it is certainly something to have in your front pocket readied with appropriate ammo.
- 2016. Aleppo. This is still playing out, tragically, and could be another socially catastrophic event in the 21st century that is in the minds of people for a moment, only to be washed away with another crisis in the next. But, who knows, it could also be the start of everyday people taking the extra step in ensuring that all lives matter.
Awareness is usually the first step in creating grassroots change. Which I believe is what we must focus on because although the following may sound jaded for a 26 year old, it is true – we can not rely on lawmakers, governments, businesses, or even our doctors to have our best interests in mind. As my mom has always pontificated, two things make the world go round, sex & money, so find the bottom line and you’ll be better at navigating the road of life. When we rely on ourselves, we are awake in this depressingly numbed and asleep ass world.
Sadness, turmoil, devastation, and disease will all happen, in perpetuity, until the end of time – don’t you worry. But so will light, laughter, soul growth and general glimpses of happiness. Your state of mind is what is attracted to you and again, no one shows this more clearly, on a public sphere, than Adnan. Quietly, but consistently, he fought for his freedom, whether people believed him or not didn’t factor into his mind. As gleaned from Rabia’s book, he has maintained a clear conscience, steady demeanor, and positive attitude regardless of the weight that seeks to squash him. He had no idea that he or his case would gain fame and possibly alter the course of not only his life, but the lives of those weakening in our prison system. It’s possible to say that Adnan’s mindset attracted that far-fetched possibility of fame and law-of-attractioned it in slowly, but surely since 2000.
We can change the world and all these machines that are meant to keep us low to the ground and tired as all hell may start to find themselves on shaky terrain.