Category Archives: News

Us vs. Them – What Ferguson Teaches Us About Our Culture Today

Recent events around the country leave no doubt that the concept of “us vs. them” is alive and well in the United States. A young man sadly gets himself shot in the course of what was likely a drug-influenced mini-crime spree and his death, by all logical measures, was a reasonably expected outcome of his attack on a police officer. The knee-jerk reaction of local citizens and uninformed-but-opinionated celebrities is to blame it on the color of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson’s skin without the slightest regard for the completely different story told by the actual evidence. (It didn’t help that the distorted version of the incident originally tweeted by a “witness” who never saw the event and later recanted were retweeted ad naseam without a single thought toward their validity.) A 12-year-old boy waving a toy gun at police is immediately gunned down. It seems reasonable to believe his death was likely a combination of his bad judgment, a dispatcher’s failure to communicate a crucial detail and the color of his skin. But why? An entire community stands up and accuses the police nation-wide of excessive use of lethal force toward their race alone, when the greatest percentage of deaths caused by police arrest activity actually occur among 19 to 40 year-old white males based upon the last comprehensive study on the topic. There actually is currently no statistical evidence to support that any one race gets killed by police at a disproportionate rate, yet the media and hate-mongers have latched onto this theory like a barnacle on the bottom of a metal ship.

So why, in this day and age of enlightenment, equal opportunity laws and powerful diversity programs designed to bridge the gap, do so many still see the culture, the economy, and the enforcement of law a matter of whites vs. “minorities?”

I blame the government. More specifically, politicians and their handlers.

Not a day goes by that I don’t see some headline describing yet another battle between liberals vs. conservatives, Republicans vs. Democrats. Congress can’t seem to make a decision on a simple matter without drawing a dark red line between the two primary parties. A simple oil pipeline decision which should have been made based upon the overall benefit to the country and the expected impact on the environment became the focus of a hot debate pitting liberals against conservatives. Leaders on either side of the fence hurled insults and belittling remarks at the other side, while in the background the very people who were opposing the pipeline found it to have no likely impact on the environment. It was certainly not expected to be as damaging as transporting the oil over ground or sea via leaky gas-powered tankers, yet the vote on this decision became, yet again, a party-line decision. Ridiculous. And guess what? Dig into it and you’ll find that the ACTUAL motivation that drove the loud mouths to proclaim their stance and rally the troops was that, if it was approved, royalty owners would improve their income, rejected, and those with interests in the shipping companies currently transporting the oil continued their revenue stream. The fight was never about what was best for the environment nor the American people. It was purely about money, plain and simple.

The same could be said about almost every policy decision: budgetary, immigration, health care, energy. You name it, there is a party stance that must be strictly adhered to AND well-communicated to the American citizens who align with that party. We can’t watch a single major news network and get a balanced perspective on any issue. If, for whatever moment of brilliance, we Americans fail to fall in line, then some major issue is manufactured and we’re dragged into the fight. At the root of it all, the leaders of those fights are literally banking on our compliance.

In my opinion, this extremist political behavior has driven a mentality of hate-spewing “us vs. them” from the west coast to the east, northern border to the south. You are no longer an American citizen: you are a statistic and our government, or at least the career politicians who serve in it, want you to know that and behave accordingly. If it behooves their position, they drive Americans to align young vs. old, black vs. white, natural-born vs. immigrant, rich vs. poor. Our current administration continues to not-so-quietly foster the worst culture of intolerance to exist in this country since the 1960’s, and it’s a disturbing trend latched onto by every media outlet from sea to shining sea.

This truly saddens me. We HAD come so far and were making progress toward a culture of inclusion. But the divisive behavior of our President and the Democratic members of Congress toward their Republican “opponents” and vice versa has become the hallmark of a childish, power-hungry culture that will stop at nothing to keep that power in their hands. The American people no longer matter to them. We are simply tools to help them achieve their selfish aspirations toward greater power and the inevitable riches that follow.

So, the next time you feel that twinge of hate and consider flying to your social media account to let “THEM” know how you feel about them, remember this: we’re all equally victims of manipulation by a group of people bent upon controlling us through our hate. Stop, take a breath, get the facts. Use that large, complex organ sitting atop your neck to think it through for yourself. Is the party line REALLY in the best interest of the people? Is that loud-mouthed media monger telling you to blame an entire class of people for the behavior of one person likely to benefit from your indignity? Are they asking you to throw good judgment out the window to join their bandwagon? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then turn your hate toward the manipulator, not those that person or entity is trying to tell you to hate. Remember who the REAL enemy is. I assure you, it is NOT your neighbor who differs from you in some minor, cosmetic fashion, but likely that person trying to get his or her 15 minutes of fame by aligning you against your neighbor.

Oh, and if ANYONE tries to tell you “they’re all out to get us because they’re ________________” (fill in the blank with any group you choose), chances are that nut job is either paranoid or stands to benefit financially from the issue.

In the end, the violence and destruction in Ferguson could easily have been averted if representatives of the community had simply been honest and kept the best interests of the residents in mind before standing up in front of the cameras. I assure you, those people appearing on the nightly news talking about how a “white officer shot an unarmed black teen” ARE lining their pockets with the spoils of a community in pain. If they REALLY cared about the people of Ferguson, they would have focused on fostering tolerance and improved relationships between the police and citizens, yet have done the opposite. They would have held their tongues until all the evidence had been presented and worked quietly with the family to help them through this difficult time. And they would certainly not have spread misinformation to continue their cause, which is EXACTLY what is still going on today. To those reporters who perpetuate the hate in the interest of drawing readers/watchers by repeating the white vs. black theme: shame on you! You are a blight on your profession and should find something more useful to do with your time.

Hey, and I know many of you are going to accuse me of forming an opinion based upon my skin color. Know this: I am of mixed descent. I have long been a public diversity champion because I personally know the pain of belonging everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I am also educated and well-equipped to read the court documents and evidence for myself and come to a logical conclusion, removing my emotions from the equation though my heart goes out to the families (Brown and Wilson) affected by that tragedy. Please do the same before you vilify me online. I welcome intelligent disagreement, but the one thing I won’t tolerate is intolerance, so save your hate speech for a website that is happy to make money from it. This is not that forum.

For now, if you want things to change, stop being a part of the problem. As long as you view ANY situation from an “us vs. them” perspective, you ARE part of the problem. Don’t be a puppet. Honor your culture, honor your country, and honor the fallen by being a member of the HUMAN race, nothing more, nothing less. Treat others equally and most will respond in kind. Those who don’t simply aren’t worth your time. And remember, hate will get you nowhere. Most of the people hurt by the hate-driven violence in Ferguson are members of that community. Black members of that community. They deserve better, and so do you.

Boston, Bombs, Breaking News and Kids

We live in a terrifying world.  Since the days man walked the earth with monster-sized beasts bent on devouring us, something has always lurked in the dark corners and shadows of our minds reminding us of our mortality and the fragility of life.  For children, those monsters usually hide under their beds or in their closets at night.  But in the daylight, public places filled with people and the protection of policemen – those places are safe.

Then, in the middle of a favorite TV show, a sour-faced news anchor breaks in and lets us know that one of the three casualties of the bombs in Boston was an eight-year-old boy.  The monster is out of the closet and staring at us in 65 inches of 1080p high contrast color.  HD images of people scattering, smoke billowing, and bloody limbs on gurneys suddenly supply vivid detail to what the monster is capable of doing.  And, by the way, if it is a terrorist, the monster could be visiting your town next week when the next big athletic event in the U.S. kicks off just around the corner.

Naturally, my eight-year-old was suddenly very concerned, and asking questions no child should ever have to ask.  What’s a terrorist?  Why would someone want to blow up trash cans?  Are we safe?

It would be so easy to tell her that Boston is a long, long way away and nothing like that could ever happen here.  But she’s a smart kid and would figure out soon enough that the “breaking news” about how security was being beefed up around the country and was likely to be tight for the kick off of the MS 150 coming up meant this was possible close to home.  Instead, we talked truthfully, though carefully, about how some people in this world seek attention by hurting others.  And that’s wrong.

She asked if anything like that ever happened here in Texas.  “No, honey, I don’t remember anything like that ever happening here.”

“Maybe that’s because Texans would never let someone do something like that,” she offered.

“Maybe.  The good thing about Texans is that our culture is to be kind and to help each other.”  It is true that Texans are notorious for being in everyone’s business and are significantly more likely to get involved if they see someone doing something wrong.  That is one thing I adore about the culture of the good ol’ South.  (You’d be an idiot to try anything too stupid in Texas.  Just ask Santa Anna.)  And the good people of Boston proved once again yesterday that the capacity to help each other in a crisis isn’t limited to the states bordering the Gulf Coast.

In the midst of the attention-mongering talking heads who repeatedly interrupted our regularly scheduled programming over the past 24 hours to tell us no one knows anything yet, the real story our kids need to hear went largely untold.  When your kids ask about the bombing, the best thing to talk about is not just how frightening this tragic event is, but how blessed we are to live in a country that repeatedly rises above.  My Texas princess was quick to explain how, if she saw someone putting something weird in a trash can or even trying to steal a purse from an old lady on the street, that she’d go ninja on them and then take them to the police.  While I nixed her first plan, I was happy to gush over what a brilliant idea it was to tell the authorities when she saw someone doing anything suspicious.

Although it may not prevent all crime, I guarantee if we all pay a little more attention to what’s going on around us and show just enough bravery to take appropriate action when we see something we know is wrong, we’ll breathe a little bit easier than most of us were on the morning of April 15th.

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