Analogies Regarding Who Matters

Black Lives Matter is overreacting. Why are they protesting in such damaging ways.? It isn’t helping their cause at all. They haven’t even finished their investigation. Why can’t they wait for the facts before condemning the police? You can’t condemn all police for what  one or two do. 99% of all police do a wonderful job of protecting and serving their communities. All lives matter.

Those are among the more civilized responses to black protests of police brutality. There are other, much less civil responses that most of you know and I won’t go into them here. If you like, comment that you wish me to go there and I will. But for now let’s concentrate on why most white people don’t understand Black Lives matter protests. I myself don’t fully understand and as a white person can’t fully understand. I want to look at why.

If you have never removed a dead body from a crime scene you can speculate on what it feels like. You can empathize in the most humble and sensitive way. But you will still never know how it really feels. Only the medical examiner and their staff truly know. They are privileged. They have medical examiner privilege. They are able to cross the yellow tape of a crime scene and you aren’t. They are allowed to carry a dead body to the medical examiner’s van and you aren’t. They are allowed to carry the body into the morgue and you aren’t. Even if you are given permission to carry a dead body to the morgue or do it yourself unilaterally they are going to do everything in their power to prevent you from doing so because that is their job and always has been.

They have privilege but I’m sure they have never thought about it in that way. But if you make a good case for letting you transport, and reveal that it is privilege that is stopping you you are met with anger. How dare you call me privileged. I work hard being a public servant. You make a good case for your issue; you go to the media and ask why you can’t transport a corpse to the morgue when you are already at the crime scene with your van, and the forensics people are done, and the media decide it’s not a newsworthy event.

The people gathered ask why you want this particular body when what you told the media was that all bodies could be transported by concerned citizens. Even when you ask the police for permission to take the body they tell you you aren’t allowed to and besides, the medical examiner’s van and people are already here. They brusquely push you back behind the yellow tape.

People are outraged that you would even ask to do such a thing. Everybody knows that it is the medical examiner’s job. The next day you tell the media that your concerns haven’t been listened to and you surround the morgue with your supporters, arms locked together, and do not let any dead bodies in or out. People are outraged that dead bodies are going be left to fester out in the street and nobody will be able to walk to where they are going without either smelling death or going out of their way. What if someone from a rich family dies and they insist the police arrest the protesters because they want their relative embalmed immediately.

Aren’t the protesters going overboard? Aren’t they being idiots and hurting their cause by over reacting to one crime scene incident? Aren’t they being criminal in making innocent citizens late for work and appointments? Aren’t they threatening the vital needs of important people? Some would say so. Some would say they are ruining their chances to be heard.

What the protesters are doing is what they feel they must do to make society recognize that they are serious about this issue and want active and honest dialogue about the issue. They are tired of being subject to medical examiner privilege, even if everyone is unaware that it even exists. And no, the medical examine isn’t responsible for his privilege. He has just always had it. The mayor isn’t a bad person for not recognizing the privilege. The mayor is always looking for things that hurt the people but this one is invisible, and may not even be legal.

What the protesters want is for the people in power to simply understand their issue and support their right to petition to change policy, allowing anyone, under certain circumstances, to transport bodies to the morgue. Let the process work and bring applicable laws  before the courts. Don’t squash the issue simply because it might not be vitally important. Serve the people like your job description indicates

Now this is a ridiculous analogy but I think it gives us a vague approximation of the dynamic of my point. In this instance the protesters aren’t blaming the individual trained medical examiner employees, who are there to carry the body to the morgue, for having the privilege of transporting that body, even though the examiners enjoy that privilege. The employees in that van are only symptom of the problem. The real problem, to the protesters, is that the issue is systemic, institutional. The medical examiner has always been the only one allowed to transport dead bodies, and they have been supported by government and the people for years without ever giving regular citizens the chance to do so. The protesters  are serious about the issue, believe it is vital to the health of the city and want to make government and the people face it head on and do something about it.

I do apologize for this poor analogy. But it addresses, somewhat inadequately, the often complex relationship between the individual person or action and the group/society that I believe is germane to this issue. Most human issues, when boiled down to their essence, involve some aspect of the rights, duties, privileges and responsibilities of the individual and those of society, the two in conflict. What makes this issue so difficult is that there is confusion, sometimes on both sides, but more often on the side of privilege on who and what is involved in the essential issue at hand. Who is to blame, the system or the individual actor?

In this case of protest it is not the individual actor being blamed, even if he is a bad actor and is booed off the stage. It is the playwright (the system) and his work, the play, (the situation of privilege) that is the problem. The actor has been given all the good lines and almost all of the time on stage and the chorus (the oppressed) has been given hardly any lines. This ruins the play, but the audience (privileged society) doesn’t know better, because all plays are the same. The chorus knows the play would be better if they had more lines. The audience members are shocked and angered when the chorus asks for more lines. The chorus is determined and desperate, they threaten not to perform the play. The audience is enraged at the chorus and demands the play be the same as it ever was . They blame the chorus for the ruination of the play

And herein is the essential issue. The play has been ruined. But by whom. Is it the oppressed chorus, because of their radical threat. Or is it the playwright and their play (the system and it’s situations of privilege).

The truth is we need both the actor and the chorus. The actor will still be important with less lines and the play will be better with the chorus having more lines. The playwright  must be made to write more balanced plays and show both actor and the chorus that he has evolved. The audience will enjoy the new play better than ever and realize it’s because the playwright has evolved. And who makes the playwright evolve?

The critic (you and me)

 

 

Do We Have Room for This Crate Of Kalishnikovs?

I think if people really take a close look at things they will see that the real reason people fight so desperately to keep access to semi automatic weapons is that they want to be the ones with the powerful guns and stockpiles of ammo when the government fails and the country descends into anarchy. And to be honest the chances of that happening are not insignificant.

Yes, economic chaos is a real possibility. Fostered  by the wealthy and powerful fools who control and manipulate our economy, and thus the world’s, through greedy risk taking and egoistic speculation, the whole thing could come crashing down on their, and our own heads any any moment. The resulting domino dynamo that follows will plunge the world into a dark age.

This is only one possibility among many. But instead of brushing it off as conspiracy it is a real enough threat that it must be considered and attempts to prepare for it are not folly. This is the course that the gun hoarding anarchist/survivalists expect and in fact desire. They feel persecuted by a government that oppresses them and won’t allow them the freedoms they think the constitution ensures. They want the chaos, because with the guns and ammo they will turn the tables on the “weak and corrupt” government and will become the rulers, as is their right.

This is the source of the NRA’s fringe hardcore stance on semi automatic weapons. They have no problems with folks owning rifles and handguns under the 2nd amendment for protection because they will either get them to join their merry band or will have superior fire power with which to dominate them. But they absolutely must be able to own as many dangerous weapons as they can find large elaborate glass case for. They have already banded together and have huge stockpiles of powerful weapons. They come from that same government they hate and fear, who has more firepower than it knows what to do with. Yes, we have “well regulated militias” out there. They are not regulated to protect government interests but to suborn them.

Now I don’t have an issue with a man protecting his home in any way he deems fit. And frankly I’m not afraid of the quasi-military organizations and lone wolf survivalists. Egoistically I believe my life skills will be appreciated in a world like that. That ego might get me killed anyway but I have no family save my daughter, who gets it, so I can take the risk. Anyway, I strongly believe their dreams of conquest and vilification of the government will be squashed by a military that still functions amid the madness. That’s what the military is designed to do. It’s superior firepower will prevail, until there nothing more than small pockets of resistance.

Conspiracy theory 101. I’m not above it.

So here is my proposal for the “I’ll show you. I’ll be running this place soon and then you’ll have to answer to me” crowd. Go ahead, have as many AK 47s and AR 15s as you want and a silo full of ammo to boot. have some salvage military weapons, rocket launched grenades and pounds of C4. Go ahead, protect your homestead. Wait lovingly for the apocalypse. But if you take one step over your property line with any semi automatic weapon, including pistols, any military weapon, or even the ammo for such weapons the penalties will be more than draconian. For example, a minimum of 40 years and up to life with no chance for parole. Same for anyone found in public with such a weapon. No license to carry. No concealed carry. How is that for a compromise?

In the event of a nationwide meltdown I’m confident that when these radical Libertarians  go against the semi-organized remnants of police and military forces they will create the battles they have craved, and come out as oppressed as they ever were. The ironic thing is they created the military. They were the ones who wanted America to be strong in the face of its enemies. They wanted drones and cruise missiles and stealth bombers and hardened tanks and everything that will keep them pacified in the chaos. They created  the militarized police forces by insisting that anyone could get a powerful semi automatic rifle, and use them in committing crimes. They screamed that police forces were outgunned. So the police got their own tanks and troop carriers and hand held rocket launchers.

The irony.

So sit and stare at your beautiful gun collection. But don’t you dare bring them anywhere near me.

Like my daddy always said, “keep in in your pants”.

I’m a Lousy Ally

I’m a lousy ally. I think I know what racism is. I think I know how to fix it. I think I know what black people are thinking. And I think I know how to tell them what to do about it. Are you kidding me? I don’t know anything about racism, really. Not firsthand. Not from experience or with any real knowledge.

So it’s back to pre-school for me and for the vast majority of white people in this country who don’t have the vaguest notion of why black people are responding the way they are to the individual acts of police violence that have plagued this nation for a very long time, but more poignantly (a really white adverb in this instance) recently.

It is easy for isolated instances to be deflected away from pointing at their systemic root causes. We hear “You are just playing the race card”. This isn’t a card game. It’s not an expletive game. The mantra is “I’m not a racist. I don’t see color”. I hate to burst your bubble Mr. Racist,  but black IS a color and if you don’t see it you damn well should.

Ok, I’ll admit it. I do about what some kinds of racism. What I really don’t know is how devastating it is to the people who face it on a daily basis. But painfully, another thing I do know is how people try to muddy the waters when the waves of truth batter them.

That 99.9% of all the police are good people is said. That we don’t know all the facts is said. That the victim(s) acted poorly is said. One or all of these things may or may not be true. But white people, myself included,  please hear this. These things have nothing to do with the issue. To better understand the real issue I must swallow my false pride at being so “liberal” and  “sympathetic” and listen. We must all listen to the voices of color, full of both pride and desperation that together can only tear at someone’s soul. Yes, I can see the tear but it is impossible to feel it without the recipient bearing witness. Just the attempt at trying to tell us about the rending is far more painful than my simple epiphany about racist deceit.

I need to hear and understand, so that I can become a true ally, and teach what I have learned to other white people, especially those who think they already know what racism is and what black people are thinking. And graduating from pre-school, realizing that we have another 13,14 years of school, or more, before we can graduate is humbling. Humility is a poor apology for the hubris of”knowing” racism.

Teach me well people of color. Teach me well Americans of color. I’m certain you aren’t sugar coating the facts.

I’m a lousy ally. But that is changing.

Robin

I usually try to create some sort of clever title for my posts, as is my wont. Not today. It has taken me several days to even allow the truth in so that I might process it. To me, Jonathan Winters was the greatest comedian of all time. And obviously second, only by a nose, was his disciple Robin Williams.

In late 1975 I, half hippie seeker and half glitter rocker, ventured to San Francisco to find enlightenment and that perfect gig in the sky.  Late in the same year I found a room in a lovely apartment in the Richmond district just north of Golden Gate Park. Several blocks away was a bar I would frequent to watch a band called Shadowfax. And several blocks further west on Clement St., the Richmond’s main drag, was a little place called the Holy City Zoo.  One night I discovered Shadowfax wasn’t playing because of a band member’s illness and decided to venture further down Clement, unexplored territory as it was. Sitting down with an adult beverage I saw on the stage a young comedian, a little raw but with immense talent. It wasn’t difficult to see he was s star in the making.

Robin Williams was true to the “Zoo” until it it closed nearly a decade later. He came back frequently to test out new material and see old friends. Because of the early exposure to this immense talent I followed his career closely. He starred in what is probably my favorite film, the drastically under appreciated “What Dreams May Come”. He had access to places we only dream of. With such access comes a terrible price. This price sometimes cannot be paid. He could easily be compared to Shadowfax, who bore the weight of great knowledge and remarkable magic on his back. His death is tragic in a Shakespearean sense.

I haven’t been able to say anything about this yet. I have been unsure of when I could. But a friend posted a reference to Russ Limbaugh contending that his “leftist worldview” played a part in Robin’s actions. I was furious and still am. I immediate fired of a comment, driven by my anger. As I read it over I knew this was my expression, this is what poured out of my heartbroken soul.

I am reprinting it here. I couldn’t possibly state it better.

Sarah, I can’t bring myself to “like” such sad commentary as yours, that necessarily illuminates the darker side of life. But thank you for not being suckered into accepting the easy dismissal of the serious nature of our failure to address the issues confronting the mentally disordered. You have refused to regurgitate the convenient and conventional condemnations that have been so casually and callously tossed about it the media. You don’t blindly accept the standard gutless and flimsy excuses. These are good things. Robin was not a coward. Rather we are the cowards for not having the guts and compassion to confront depression and other such mental disorders, such as the one I suffer from, Bipolar Disorder.

Last time I checked the brain was part of the body, and as such they are truly serious diseases of the body, like so many others, that require serious considerations for treatment. We have to fight the extant public stigma to the death. Our allegedly loving and compassionate society must give those who suffer mental dis-order our determined efforts to save them from the ravages of these serious illnesses, the same as we give cancer patients, to name but one example.

Am I angry? Damn straight I am. I was a hair’s breadth from the same fate as Robin. I have been inside the cauldron and I claim a modest right to address this issue with a humble level of authority. Some existentialists will say the only truly human decision to leave behind a hopelessly tormented, demented and unholy life is that one made by Robin. Yes, that decrepit life is rotting just around one of life’s corners, but there are many rooms in my father’s house, many other corners to peek around, hesitant and fearful, unsure of what lurks around them. And yet there are so many wonders waiting there for us, even for those who sometimes need to be pulled away from the darkest corners into the light. Every one of us needs to be pulled from the fire at least some time in their life.

Joy has no meaning without sorrow. But if we can only know wisdom through suffering know that we do need not to suffer continuously. We intuit, with support from any and all scripture, as well as sane secular counsel, that we, as a society, can fight relentlessly to free us from the Sisyphus fate of being captured in cycles of pain, caused by any number of devastating dis-eases. We have, can and will defeat them. But can we, as a people, regain some of our inherent compassionate heritage and open our vision to include mental disorders in that litany of destructive cycles? I pray we can and do, sooner rather than later.

I feel lucky to still breathe the air and witness another daily sunrise. A door opened for me at the last moment and behold, there were instantly four new corners to explore, and one revealed a path that led to renewed life. How many of us have lost their way in the dark and could not find the door that led them to safety? Something as simple as a nightlight fashioned from empathy and love could save so many.

It is frightening and deadly dangerous to have the courage to venture into those areas of the mind that release such otherworldly talent but are also populated by monsters inconceivable to those of us incapable of even knowing those places exist. We suck in the entertaining energy of that talent’s expression. We bask in it’s light and laugh til it hurts. But do we give anything back? We all know you don’t miss the water til the well runs dry. We emptied Robin’s well even as we loved him. There was no water left to sustain him. We are complicit but blameless. Robin went there willingly. He chose that path. It was the corner of the room that shone brightest to him. He saw the demons there but was compelled to bring the shining joy back to us anyway. In the end the monsters won.

We cannot judge. When one is both courageous and a fool who are we to choose which he is? Not I, nor you, nor anyone. There is only one judge.

 

 

It’s Just Wrong

I have been busy caring for my nonagenarian father and trying to get an exceedingly good and moral man elected to Congress. I  have been putting my writing on the back burner. But an issue has arisen in the never-ending litany of crises that I must respond to. Actually it’s very inappropriate bordering on cruel to place it in a category of that nature, but the media has elevated, or dragged it down, to the level of its constant demand for crisis after crisis. I am speaking about the most recent “mass murder” in Isla Vista Ca. near the UCSB campus. Not to diminish the fact that this was a heinous crime of the first magnitude and certainly newsworthy I must find fault with a preponderance of the media coverage of this awful event.

Sadly, it became the latest incident in the chain of crises, some real and some not so real, to be exploited by news outlets ad nauseam, until the next crisis rears its ugly head. One feature of this style of journalism is the not-stop 24/7 saturation coverage done by all of the networks. I believe this is primarily designed to keep their audience from switching channels. What it gives rise to is meaningless fill featuring the same video footage over and over, often having little to do with the tragedy, and anchors asking a never-ending stream of alleged experts the same obvious questions over and over again with slightly different wording. They send lots of field reporters and cameras crews to the scene, desperately hunting down “exclusives” to be used as “breaking news” that can hopefully ace out the other networks and capture even more viewers. In lieu of finding such special content the reporters are constantly filmed in front of the relevant school or apartment or convenience store or hospital, “let’s go to xyz at 123”, and asked a slightly different battery of the same questions over and over, hopefully getting slightly different answers each time. They then return to the anchor who offers some speculation on the motive or cause, meaning or effect of the crisis.

There is a legitimate reason for this repetition, as new viewers, behind the news curve, turn on their sets and deserve to have the facts, limited as they are, reviewed for them. After a modest amount of time virtually everyone in the world has been made aware of the situation and further catch up is no longer needed. But they insist on airing more panels of new experts discussing the very things that have been discussed and discussed and discussed before. Then we see the obligatory, mostly useless, interviews with shell-shocked witnesses and relatives and my particular favorite, the filling of time waiting for the news conference scheduled for 7PM EST that everybody knows will not take place until 8:30.

Another disturbing aspect of this kind of broadcasting is the misleading and downright false information passed on by news staff reporting rumors, without substantiation, in a vain effort to outdo the other networks. These falsehoods can lead to all sorts of bad information reaching the public that at best is confusing and at worst cruel.

This irresponsibility can go on for days, depending on the perceived severity of the crisis. The networks go eye to eye with each other until somebody blinks and actually reports some of the other news that has unceremoniously piled up in the queue, a lot of which is pretty important, or the crisis of the moment is dramatically replaced by another, more horrible or timely crisis.

I know this all sounds terribly rude, unemotional, and mean-spirited. And it is. For that I sincerely apologize. But this sort of thing is omnipresent in today’s world of infotainment and I believe it does a huge disservice to the public, who deserve much more from the news outlets they depend on.

I have digressed into a topic that represents a severe irritant to me. I should have started with my main point but I got really distracted. Therefore I’m publishing this as a separate post and will start over in my next post.