Thursday, September 10, 2020

Hope For A Burning World


I haven't posted here for a while.  I've been working on a political piece about the systematic erosion of our constitution, but I find myself not caring about the subject at the moment. 

|Subject: Conditions outside Newburg, Oregon home during wild fires | Date: 09/09/2020 | Photographer: Kyle Jordan |

Crimson clouds of smoke have filled Oregon skies, carrying with them blankets of thick ash.  Flames have devoured Cherry Grove & Detroit, Oregon as several other populations listen for evacuation orders they pray will never be issued. 

As series of wildfires (some caused by accident, some not) has gripped the entire west coast in fear. 

With two months to go until the general election, I expected to be writing a myriad of political pieces designed to help oust Trump from the White House.  Yet, right now all I can think  about is how little that stuff matters. 

While partisan power brokers are busily tossing campaign slogans back & forth, everyday people are doing everything the can to help their neighbors during a genuine time of crisis.  I only have to glance at my Facebook feed to see notice after notice from people offering to open their homes to people with nowhere else to go.  They're offering food, shelter, and basic first aid to people in need. 

No  one cares who's a democrat and who's a republican, or which  God somebody worships.  None of that matters right now, if it ever really did.  People are simply helping people.  That simple fact and glorious truth gives me hope for the future of our country. 

In about eight weeks our leaders will be vying for power and challenging results.  Meanwhile, everyday people will be showing kindness, mercy, and generosity to one another.  When I look at the flag from now on, I won't see it as a symbol of politics or political leaders spouting promises and skewed truths.  From now on, my eyes will see a representation of a compassionate populace I can take pride in belonging to.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Good Cop Bad Cop

  • On May 25, 2020, Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on George Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds; 2 minutes and 53 seconds of which occurred after Floyd became unresponsive with no pulse.
  • On June 12, 2020, Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by police after stealing a taser from an officer while resisting arrest.
  • Last August, Elijah McClain was fatally shot by police on his way home from a convenience store while wearing a ski mask. 

| Subject - "Thin blue line," pro-police flag representing the police standing between order & chaos |
These, and other avoidably tragic events lead to a series of protests calling for the police to be "defunded," as if such a thing could be accomplished with the stroke of a pen, without compromising public safety.  That was eight weeks ago.  Portlanders are still protesting. 

In response to these extended protests, President Trump has mobilized a federal paramilitary task force to subdue protesters.  Utilizing tear gas, pepper spray, abduction, and other Gestapo-esc tactics the agents have only succeeded in increasing the level of violence during the protests. 

Uuugh..., where do I begin? 

OK, first of all, POLICE ARE NOT THE BAD GUYS!  Yes, the actions of, apparently, racist officers have resulted in the wrongful deaths of American citizens.  Yet, defunding law enforcement, reducing their ability to respond to legitimate emergencies, will do nothing to discourage the presence of racism within law enforcement.  Sadly, there will always be racist law enforcement officers just a there will always be racist soldiers, lawyers, grocers, doctors, fire fighters, etc...

Racism isn't a law enforcement problem, it's a societal problem.  I believe a minority of Americans are racists, but said minority permeates all walks of life. 

At this point I must confess to a bit of bias on my part.  During the late 90s and early 2000s I did volunteer work for the Sheriff's Department of Washington County in Oregon.  I was, admittedly pro-police when I started, and my time only made me more pro-police. 

Every officer I got to know struck me as someone who wanted to help people and make their community a better place.  

Are there outliers who want to wear a badge so they can bash ni##&%$?  Of course there are.  And when these idiots let their machismo call the shots, and they hurt, or worse yet kill, a citizen of color, are their crimes too often swept under the rug?  No question. 

Yet, the answer isn't to vilify the police as a whole.  The answer lies in giving personality tests to cadets to weed out possible racists before they're given a badge.  It also makes sense to create an independent civilian agency which  can investigate crimes committed by police and hold bad actors accountable. 

As for the Portland protests themselves, at this point they have nothing to do with George Floyd.  Protesters are determined not to back down from federal soldiers, and the paramilitary agents aren't going to capitulate to ultra liberal trouble makers.  The situation has devolved into a game of, "Who's Man Part Is Bigger."
I was in the middle of writing this piece when Oregon's Governor, Kate Brown, negotiated a withdrawal of Federal troops from Portland in exchange for a promise to deploy state police to protect the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse. 

On a personal level, I was a tiny bit annoyed by the news of the agreed upon withdrawal since it meant I had to rewrite the end of this blog.  My blogging schedule aside though, the agreement may be a sign that tensions are on the verge of easing. 

I have no idea if the agreement will be honored, or for how long the protests will last.  If the protesters are waiting for police to be defunded before calling an end to their activities, I fear the protests will drag on for a while. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Life's Too Short

This week, a good friend of mine posted on Facebook that she is going to unfriend (yes, "unfriend" is a verb now) anyone who's going to vote for Trump.  Now, I'm a political animal, and a liberal one at that.  So, when I first saw the post my initial reaction was, "right on Babe!"  I was going to do the same. 

As I began to make my hit list I realized I was listing people who are near and dear to my heart.  I don't agree with these people about politics, religion, or even pandemic precautions, but I love 'em.  I agree with these people about the important things, namely how to treat people. 

Before you say it, just stop yourself.  Not everyone who supports Donald Trump is a racist.  They're not all like that.  People of good conscious and character can have differences of opinion which have been shaped by individual life experiences.  Voting for a particular candidate doesn't make a person evil or racist any more than going to a particular church makes a person good.

Do I think we have a selfish moron in the Oval Office right now.  Absolutely.  Is it worth ending friendships over?  Not even a little bit.  If I axe people from my life who don't agree with me, I'm out a friend and it's not going to change the outcome of the next election. 

Yes, we should blog and campaign for the people and causes we believe in.  Yet at the end of the day, life's too short to lose EVEN ONE friend over outcomes we have no control over.  Maybe, just maybe, if we all nurture our personal relationships we might wake up to a country which isn't arguing over which lives matter.  WE ALL MATTER!  

  • Black lives matter.  
  • White lives matter.  
  • Hispanic lives matter.  
  • Asian lives matter.  
  • Native American lives matter.  
  • Liberal lives matter.  
  • Conservative lives matter.  
  • Homeless lives matter.  
  • Veterans lives matter.  
  • We all matter, 
so lets not put what we can't control over the value of the people around us.  It's not worth it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

America Is On Fire

On May 25, 2020, Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on George Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds; 2 minutes and 53 seconds of which occurred after Floyd became unresponsive with no pulse.  As seen on videos, taken from multiple angles,  Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the road, while Chauvin had his knee on his neck. The three other arresting officers have been identified as Thomas K. Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng.  Officer Kueng held Floyd’s back while Lane held his legs, and Thao stood nearby and looked on.  The four officers were fired the next day, but charges were only brought against Chauvin on the 29th.
| A man stands on a burned out car on Thursday morning as fires burn behind him
in the Lake St area of Minneapolis, Minnesota. | Date: 05/28/2020 | Photographer: Lori Shaull
| This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. |

When charges weren't immediately brought against the officers, a series of protests morphed into a series of fiery riots.  I kind of vagueness understood when rioters burned the 3rd police precinct, in Minneapolis, as a symbol of police brutality.  I didn't like it, but I got it. 

The destruction didn't stop there though. The past few nights have seen property burned, looted, and destroyed in multiple cities across the United States of America.

It's been horrific.  Small businesses, already struggling because of the Corona crisis, have been mercilessly obliterated.  Millions of people have been subjected to curfews and martial law.  Countless lives have been thrown into chaos.  And lets not forget, people aren't staying six feet apart with masks on during these demonstrations. 

It's the year 2020, and African Americans are still being killed by law enforcement personnel whom aren't being held accountable for the murderers they've committed. Eric Garner, Terry Price, and Tyree Crawford are among the multitude of unarmed African Americans who've been slain by law enforcement since 2015.

It's hard to condemn people for fighting back against a system which has failed them so completely.  Yet, they're not attacking "the system," as much as they're destroying their own communities.  Burning cars and businesses does nothing but create unwarranted hardship for people who depend upon those cars and businesses for their livelihood.  

Before you say, "They're sticking it to the fat cats."  The "fat cats" who own the Target store are going to be able to absorb the loss a hell of a lot easier than the employees of the Target store who depend on those jobs to feed their families.

Do you want to know the real bitch of it?  Do you want to know the part that makes this story so monumentally stupid?  This farce ends shortly after the other three officers are brought up on, appropriate, charges.  The Minneapolis prosecutor says he needs more evidence to indict.  Yet, he has the murder on video from multiple angles.  African American singer Archie Williams spent 36 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit based on less evidence. 

This debacle isn't about evidence, it's about skin color. 

These are three organizations supporting meaningful change:

Black Lives Matter

American Civil Liberties Union

Campaign Zero