Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Black Lives Matter


A simple phrase. One that should go without saying. And yet, it needs to be said.

"But all lives matter!" you say. And you're right. But nobody needs to be told that about you and me. When cops stop us, they treat us like our lives matter. They don't make assumptions based on our skin and the neighborhood we're in, the car we're driving, or the outfit we're wearing. Chances are they didn't stop us first and look for a reason for the ticket second. And if we complain, they'll probably suck it up, maybe give us some lip back, and probably give us a ticket. But it's doubtful we'll wind up face down on the shoulder of the road.

"All lives matter!" But if a cop rolled up to a park with the knowledge that a young teenage me had a pistol in my hand, and was told that it was believed to be fake, would he pull up within feet of me and gun me down? We've seen multiple instances of young white men being gently handled after mass shootings, so it's tough to imagine a target on our backs in the situation above.

"All lives matter!" But when was the last time you got out of the way of a cop only to have him stop you for not signalling to change lanes? In 44 years I've watched numerous cops change lanes without signalling and seen them watch others do the same thing. I've probably even done it myself a time or two in front of a cop. I've never heard anyone stopped for it. And it's doubtful that if they smarted off they'd wind up in jail, much less swinging from a jail cell dead.

"All lives matter!" I have had one ticket in my life. I questioned why the cop stopped me. I got out of the car and walked back to look at his radar gun. He did not get angry. He did not threaten me. He sure as hell didn't decide to shoot me in the head when I unclicked my seatbelt to do so.

"All lives matter!" But chances are that undercover cops won't gun me down in a case of mistaken identity because I'm similar to the person they were looking for, or be able to blame me in the official investigation and suffer minimal consequences if they did.

Yes, all lives matter. But simply because of the color of my skin, police and government officials don't seem to need a reminder that my life matters. Tamir Rice, Sam Debose, Sandra Bland, Prince Jones Jr. Clifford Lewis Jr., Freddie Gray Jr., Eric Garner, and countless other people of color who are killed, injured, or treated unjustly because of the color of their skin are the reasons why #BlackLivesMatter is a rallying cry and will be until justice begins to be served.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Don't Talk Back To Cops?

It only took me three Twitter posts to find someone who watched the Sandra Bland video and concluded that if only she hadn't talked back, she'd have been fine.

Having watched a portion of the video, I see a person angry because she was stopped and doesn't understand why. It's not unreasonable to assume that she's concerned she's been stopped simply for "driving while black." Talk to any African-American person of any class or stature and it's almost certain they will have been stopped by cops or know someone who has been stopped for reasons that are never made clear.

"Don't talk back," we hear. I'm as white as this webpage and I once made the mistake of questioning an officer who stopped me. He wrote me a ticket and then when my car wouldn't start after the stop, left me in a deserted rural road at 1 AM to wait for my parents. He was kind enough to call them and scare the crap out of them for me before driving off.

"Don't talk back and don't get angry." My question is "why?" The police are paid by us to serve us. If they've done something that pissed us off, especially something undeserved, why do they get a pass from questions or some low level anger? It's not like cops are the only ones that have to take a bit of grief. If you walk into a bank, Walmart, or sit and listen in to any customer service line, you're going to hear customers talking with more anger and venom than Sandra Bland. And their anger is directed to people paid far less than most cops. If those employees react negatively, they're often fired, usually immediately.

The cop in this video is asked legitimate questions. It's obvious he feels no obligation to look at the stop from Sandra Bland's point of view, or to respond in a professional manner to her. Instead of working to diffuse the situation, he escalates it unprofessionally. Why? Because he's pissed.

Cops have a hard job to do and often take undeserved grief, but they're far from alone in that. Just ask any teacher. We shouldn't be afraid to demand that cops maintain a level of professionalism and courtesy even if the person they're dealing with isn't. No angry discussion should end with a cop starting a physical altercation. And we shouldn't be afraid to point this out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top Ten Ashley Madison Excuses

Here are the top ten excuses given by men and women whose use of Ashley Madison has been exposed in the latest hack.  

10.   I was trying to find Rupert Holmes to tell him how much I love his work.
  9.   Remember that time Internet Explorer was acting up?  
  8.   You hit one wrong key in Windows 8, and boom, it's signing you up for something you don't want.
  7.   I thought it was just a phony commercial they played on Howard Stern's Sirius show, but I had to be sure.  
  6.   I was trying to cast a vote for the woman I thought should be on the $10 bill.   Turns out I was actually thinking of Dolley Madison.  
  5.   I was trying to find you a birthday gift. Vera Wang?  Vera Bradley? Ashley Madison?  These things all sound very much alike.
  4.   Man, what are the odds that one of those Target credit card hackers looks exactly like me.   It's uncanny.    
  3.    Wow, I thought Ashley Madison was one of those overseas TV kids that you've always talked about adopting.  I need to dispute those charges right now.  
  2.    Do you know how hard it is to get Quaaludes these days, Camille?  
  1.    I was trying to get into the character of Batman, and Batman does self-destructive things.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Telling It Like It Is

This week a few Facebook Friends (just like your real friends, only scarier) posted videos and commentary about the recent shooting in Chattanooga and indicating the writer or speaker was "telling it like it is".

These videos and posts were lengthy screeds on how the shooter was a member of radical Islam and never should have been in the country. And of course, we should deport or block all people who are Muslim (or at least a member of "Radical" Islam). Most troubling was seeing a post like this by alleged Christian, Franklin Graham, which was followed by thousands of posts in agreement, including many with vile sentiments about the faith, its people, and the country's leaders.

Truthfully, we don't know yet why this young man did what he did yet, and it's not clear if "Radical Islam" is the real reason, or this mass shooting's version of video games, Stephen King novels, Satan, or other reasons that are pointed to for opening fire with guns and killing multiple people. Easy finger-pointing at his faith doesn't explain why so many who knew him seem puzzled and at a loss to explain why he did it. Perhaps the real reason was that he was disturbed, alone, or angry at something, and he found a reason to justify and act out on it.

The real "telling it like it is" with thought pieces and videos attacking Islam is the racism and hate buried within. They paint the faith and its people with broadbrush. They also never make it clear how you identify "radical" Islam in people who aren't flying an ISIS banner over their house. There are a few million members of the Islamic faith in the US, and many more who aren't, but are assumed to be in the eyes of people who "tell it like it is". How do we know which ones will snap, and which ones are "good"? I suspect the answer among this crowd is that we don't, and we should deport them all.

But if we're going to start deporting everyone who puts good Christian citizens in harms way, perhaps we better start looking at the statistics behind the mass shootings. Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and Dylann Roof were all young white males. Should we deport all of them as well? Certainly there is a long history of racism and hatred of the US Government in the South. Perhaps we should deport and close our borders to all white Christian people with ancestors tied to the southern states prior to 1965 after Dylann Roof's actions in Charleston. Can we include Kid Rock and Ted Nugent too?

And maybe we can start closing down all gun shops and manufacturers. After all, they're making the instruments of death that kill the large portion of people in homicides in this country. Yes, there may be many good gun owners in this country, but how do we tell the good gun people from Radical Assault Riflists?

People who "tell it like it is" often tell more about the speaker than the subject at hand. So please, Facebook friend, post away. You're making it that much easier to pare down my friends list.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates..."

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

- Anne Lamott
from Tumblr