Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The All or Nothing Narrative

When I was in college, I wrote a paper on how it was possible to be against the Iraq War and support the troops. I wrote it in response to the all or nothing coverage of some news channels and newspapers. There was this perception that not supporting the war meant that you were against the troops and it irritated me to no end. I believe that our troops are brave people and I respect what they do for our country, but let's face it, troops follow orders. I was against the orders, not the people who carried out those orders. 

I don't want to talk about international policies, though. I want to talk about America. Why must everything be all or nothing? I have seen all types of outrage over people (especially athletes) wearing "I Can't Breathe" shirts. Thinking that one police officer acted improperly does not mean that a person is anti-police. Many of the people wearing those shirts will happily tell you that they support most police. They know that police are just like all other groups of people: there are good officers and bad officers. They understand that sometimes police have to kill people. It's unfortunate, but it happens. When police shoot and kill an armed suspect who fired at them or pointed a gun at them, pretty much everyone agrees that the suspect got what they deserved. When a policeman uses a chokehold (based on their department's definition) on camera and then testifies that it wasn't a chokehold, people have the right to ask questions. When a policeman shoots and kills a man who is holding an air rifle pointed down, in an open carry state, in a store that sells said air rifle, people have the right to ask questions. 

I think that making it a black/white issue is a mistake. These cases are American issues. Are we okay with police accidentally choking a man to death because they think he might be selling loose cigarettes and he has the audacity to tell them that he isn't doing anything wrong? Are we okay with the police pulling up to an alleged "man" with a gun tucked in his waistband (in an open carry state) and opening fire before they get out of the car? Are we okay with police walking in to a store and killing a man, in an open carry state, simply because he has a gun? This isn't about pointing out that statistically more Native Americans are killed by police than black people or in terms of total numbers, more white people are killed by police than black people. This is about asking how many of those deaths could have been prevented with better training and better attitudes.

Criticizing the police is not synonymous with hating them so why do we put up with such foolish notions? You can dislike parts of a person, without disliking the whole person, much in the same way that you can dislike people in a community without disliking the whole community. We need police. They serve us and most of the time they protect us, but that doesn't mean that they are perfect, so stop acting like people hate the police, because the majority of Americans, even those protesting, support the police.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Only the Inhumane

If you cannot see the tragedy in what happened to Eric Garner, then you are inhumane. I don't know how else to put it. I'm not saying that you have to disagree with the grand jury's decision not to charge the officer, but you should be able to at least have empathy for his family. Failure to do that reflects poorly on you.

 I'd like to address a few comments that have rubbed me the wrong way.

1) "Eric Garner died because he was overweight." The coroner said that the chokehold caused the heart attack that killed Garner. The coroner ruled Garner's death a homicide. Yes, Garner was overweight, but he was overweight when he woke up that morning. He might have died from a heart attack one day, but his heart attack that day was caused by the chokehold. I didn't randomly decide that. A medical profession, who determines cause of death every day, decided that.

2) "Eric Garner was resisting arrest." On the video, Garner asked the police to leave him alone. When the officer grabbed Garner from behind, Garner put his hands up. As the officer dragged Garner to the ground, Garner did not fight back. Even if you want to argue that Garner's words were him resisting arrest, you still have to concede that once the policeman tried to subdue him, Garner peacefully complied.

3) "Garner was engaged in illegal activities." For starters, Garner was accused of selling loose cigarettes. No cigarettes were found on him, but he did have a history of selling loose cigarettes, so I'll play. This is usually where people make the comparison to the Bundy Ranch, but I'd like to take a different route. To argue that Garner was responsible for his death because he was committing a low level offense is to argue that a 21-year old who buys alcohol for his 19 year-old sibling is eligible for death. Petty crime is petty crime. You don't get to pick and choose who should be ticketed and released and who should pay with their life. If you believe that a petty crime is punishable by death then you are un-American and inhumane.

4) "Garner was a career criminal." This is America, even career criminals have rights.

Now, let's go on a tangent:

I sometimes watch MSNBC and Fox News, please don't judge me. I know that both channels are terrible for my mind. One is radically Liberal and the other is radically Conservative. Those are code words for "Democrat" and "Republican." For the record, there are conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, but they are pretty much ignored by both sides. That's not my point though. My point is that both extremes agree that what happened to Eric Garner was wrong. Let me repeat that, because surely hell hath frozen over and the devil is giving ice skating lessons: MSNBC and Fox News are in AGREEMENT. I never thought this day would come. These two stations are so vehemently opposed to one another that if one said, "yes," the other would yell, "no" out of reflex. (Yes, I realize that the stations believe the Garner incident is wrong for different reasons.)

Here is the point: When both MSNBC and Fox News agree that it was wrong, it's safe to say that it was wrong.