Civility Redux.

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We leave this tiny blue dot to small hands. Let’s keep that in our thoughts and actions. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Let us talk you and I. Let us sit and converse about a subject of our choosing. One that maybe we differ on opinion. We may raise our voices, we may shout with glee, and laugh or giggle at our comments. We may get serious, may glower at each others points, wave a dismissive hand.

Yet, we will not make it personal. It will not spiral into name calling, or shouting in anger with our faces red and spittle flying from our mouths. We will not threaten each other with bodily harm. We will not seek vengeance against opinions that differ from ours.

Because in our discussion? All points are welcomed. The silly, the insane, the humble, the thoughtful. We are ignorant, and being ignorant? Is a good thing.

Ignorance is lack of knowledge. Everyone is ignorance on one thing or another. It’s part of being human. We can’t know everything, even those of us who are well versed on many subjects will admit their ignorance on a subject they know little to nothing about.

One thing that defines a good conversationalist, is knowing their ignorance, and doing something about it. Listening to others points of views, then doing a little research to find out more about the subject. Then the conversation can begin anew, with more detail to discuss the point.

On the opposite end of ignorance is stubbornness. Those that stick to a point despite evidence to the contrary. On opinions? This is fine. This is your opinion. Have at it. Yet on those subjects based upon facts and knowledge? The easiest way to deal with those that remain stubborn on the subject it is to remember the line from Max Ehrmann’s poem, Desiderata.

“Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.”

And with a smile and nod, bow out of the conversation. For it is better to let the conversation die than to argue with a fool. That fool being you, who is arguing with someone who will not see reason. We’ve seemed to have lost this train of thought in the social media age.

On Social Media.

If for some reason you believe the current troubles with civility are new, sorry, history is not on that side of the argument. Ancient Egyptian artist use to draw very unflattering pictures of their bosses to show their displeasure. Ancient Greeks and Romans wrote nasty, but very witty, comments about those who displeased them. When the printing press came along, that just upped the game. Pamphlets and even books were dedicated to tearing down ones foes. And let us not forget one of the most famous smack down letters, The Declaration of Independence, which, when it comes down to it, was a ‘stick it’ letter to King George III of England.

Yet with the advent of social media, our desire to shame those we do not agree with, to slam those who have different opinions has reached new heights. Gone are the days when you had to wait for the printing press. Now, the simple touch of the ‘Enter’ key will suffice.

Social Media is just a tool, it is not the cause of uncivil behavior, just the enabler. You can hide behind a false name, a fake account, and lash out at those you disagree with. Things can be said that you would probably never say to someone’s face in person. You may not even know the person. Personal attacks are rampant, with the full knowledge that accountability is not there.

Those who seek popularity or attention from social media can be the targets of the most vicious attacks. With horrible consequences as stories of online bullying and suicides from social media attacks grow.

The issue, is simple. It’s fast and numerous. Back in the day, bullying was only done by a small group, at school, the neighborhood, or work. It was more personal too, you knew your attackers. Unfavorable as it was, you could avoid those bullies. Now? They come from all over, nameless, faceless voices over the internet. While you may have had five to ten bullies at school, now there are hundreds who pile on you.

Of course Politics are going to enter this conversation.  

(Full disclosure: I love politics.)

In the United States of America politics are nearly a sport. We have our sides, many of us root for our team as we oppose the other side. It gets heated, and this is not new at all. Over our history we have had some doozy of arguments in the realm of politics. Many with disastrous consequences. In truth, the lack of civility in politics is common. Yet as of late, it has spilled over from the usual ‘rooting for our team’.

Enter the world of social media. President Obama was really the first social media president, and he was pummeled many times on social media, most stories were exaggerated claims to make him look like a tyrant.

Social media existed prior to 2009, but really took off during the Obama presidency. When President Trump came along in 2013, social media was in full swing. And things got weird quick.

So, if the other side won, do you think social media would be kind to President Hillary Clinton? Probably not. This begs the question, what will become of our next President? President 46? Will they get a pass on social media? Or will erroneous stories abound? I think if the trend continues, the next President is going to be tar and feathered every day they are in office, probably even after they leave office. In politics, civility is not just lacking, nor dead, but a zombie horde that hungers for brains of the masses.

Our Conversation. 

Let us talk you and I, but let us avoid those subjects that might cause our stubborn sides to come out. So, we will not talk politics, we will not discuss climate change, nor shall we immigration. And, for the love of God, we will not discuss plastic straws. We shall not converse about Monsanto, nor abortion. Let us…well, let’s just not talk at all shall we? We shall not discuss those things that matter, those things that need our attention. Because we can’t talk. We can post memes to show our dissatisfaction. We can go on our Senators and Representatives Facebook pages and call them names. Saying vile things and even making personal threats. Because they aren’t human are they? They lack feeling and compassion because they have a different opinion than ours. We’ve become the zombies, and they have become the tasty treat for us. We do not offer our opinion, or a solutions or ideas. We offer contempt, hatred and damnation. How dare they, whoever they are, have a different opinion than ours.

Discussion is dying, and not a slow death, a quick one.

This is the price we pay for being uncivil. We shut down discussion and discourse. We stop the exchange of ideas and thus turn our ignorance into stubbornness. We are slowly killing ourselves because it is more entertaining to be snarky than it is to offer solutions.

And finally

On social media I came across a cartoon. The cartoon was about a jeopardy style show where the correct answer was wrong because it offended another player. A social commentary on how our culture is changing. Honestly? Sometime being offended by other’s opinions is a good thing. It makes your defend your opinion. As long as it is done in a civil manner, there is nothing wrong with it. So, I leave you with my answer to the post:

Offend Me.

Tell me I am wrong. I want you to articulate your argument so it challenges my status quo.

Never shy away from an argument (good discussion). Don’t be afraid to make your point.

I will not learn from stodgy ideas I have accumulated over these 55 years on this world. I will only learn when others challenge my point of view. And have me defend my views.

Be Nice. Be Courteous. Understand not everyone shares your views or opinions. Don’t succumb to pettiness and name calling.

Rise above that.

Challenge Me. ALWAYS.

 

Of course, this post is just my opinion. Tell me yours.

 

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The Inexplicable.

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Statue of a child reading to a dog. / Photo by KidZond.

 

So now what? It happened again, as it has happened before. A person with a grudge, or madness, or maybe just disconnected with humanity, took innocent lives.

Pundits abound, and yes, even me. Yet don’t expect answers from me. I don’t have any, only questions, many questions.

The first question I have is Gun Control. Logically, and let’s be real here, logically we should have stricter gun control. National Registry, more in-depth background checks, maybe even restricting who can have guns. You can’t possess alcohol in the United States until you are 21. Smoke until you are 18. Defend your Nation until you are 18. Why should children touch weapons until then? Logical question.

But we know the answer. Whether you are “Pro-Gun” or “Anti-Gun” the ability to control some 300 Million firearms is daunting, if not impossible. From lawsuits to skirting the law by schematics, to definitions as to what exactly is a dangerous firearm. Gun Control, as noble and lofty as is sounds, is impractical for prevention of gun violence.

The 2nd Amendment needs to be repealed argument comes up. Considering that we only have 27 Amendments in our “241 years” as a nation, should tell you something about how hard that would be. Yes some Amendments have been repealed, but the 2nd Amendment? That is not going to happen.

Of course Mental Illness has entered the discussion. With many using Mental Illness as a foil to this scourge just like others, who use an inanimate object as the foil. Obviously the teen in Texas had to be mad, because sane people do not just kill people. So goes the argument. Yet many suffer from mental illness and live out productive, well-adjusted lives, never once posing a threat to others, much less themselves.

And whether those who perpetrate these crimes are mentally ill or not, labeling a whole group, or suggesting this group alone is responsible, is damning to our society. Especially to sufferers who want nothing more than to be accepted. Try telling your boss you take medicine for depression and not have them start to ‘watch you’. Bantering about mental illness as the sole cause is absurd.

Then there are those who say it is societies fault. That if we just had fathers in those children’s home, or if we didn’t have video games full of violence, they would grow up just fine. However many people grow up in broken homes. Homes filled with violence, drugs, and alcohol. Yet they do not go out and murder people.

You could say this is all due to a lack of Faith. That God has been stricken from the classroom and demeaned to the point of being called a fairytale, and this is the root cause. However it was religious zealots who took down the Twin Towers in New York City. Jim Jones, David Koresh, and dozens of examples exist to say that Religion doesn’t prevent mass killings. Of course Stalin wasn’t a very religious guy and he murdered millions. Individual shooters in recent events have not professed great faith or lack there of.

 

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Daniele Crespi – Cain Killing Abel/Wiki Commons.

 

One possibility to this issue can be found in an old archetype story from the Bible. The story of Cain and Able. The ‘First Murder’.

In the story Cain’s offerings to God are rejected. His brother Able’s are accepted. This implied jealousy finally drives Cain to murder his brother Able.

So the story goes.

However the story has other meanings that are missed. At one point, God warns Cain that Evil is ‘knocking at the door’ (paraphrasing the passage). God tells Cain to be wary of his feelings and attitude. Cain, ignores this and slays his brother.

And while there are many other metaphors that can be taken from this story, this warning from God stands out to me.

See, when it comes down to it, it is the individuals decision that casts the die. They are the ones that plan out their heinous acts. They are the only one who readies themselves. Who, if so inclined, has to confront what evil they plan to do. And if they have self-doubt, or find their humanity, and sanity to turn away from their deed, change their own mind and stop themselves.

No matter what we do as a society, what laws we pass, amendments we repeal, court ordered mental evaluations, those who wish to do harm to others, they, and only they, can stop themselves.

This doesn’t negate our responsibility as members of society. We should be vigilant to stop those who wander the path of Cain. We should exam all avenues that can prevent these terrible crimes, to protect the innocent, and make us safer.

No one political or ideological solution will solve this. Blaming others to make sense of these tragic events does not one damn bit of good. Finding solutions to stop future tragedies is not based on Gun Control, 2nd Amendment Rights, School Security, Mental Health, or Legal solutions. It is based on all of these combined, working in concert, to solve a greater issue. Stopping the inexplicable, less we find ourselves wandering in the land of Nod forever.

 

[Opinions expressed in this Blog are the Authors and the Authors alone.]
https://www.npr.org/2016/01/05/462017461/guns-in-america-by-the-numbers
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cain_and_Abel

 

Across the Thin Blue Line.

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A home with Blue Lights Photo by Jenelle Kendrick

By Js Kendrick

 

 

I have noticed something different about my city this week. Many of the standard white porch lights have been replaced by blue porch lights.

I first noticed this on my drive home from work at night, one here, one there. At first I wasn’t exactly sure of the reason. I knew that a tragic event had happened involving a Police Officer, yet I knew nothing of the blue lights.

As far as I can find out, the concept of the blue porch light to honor fallen officers began in 1989. It was started by Mrs. Dolly Craig who had lost her son-in-law in the line of duty on June 5, 1986 and her daughter in a car accident in August of 1989. The couple had left behind six children that were now without parents. Mrs. Craig wrote to the organization Concerns of Police Survivors that she was going to put two blue candles in her window that holiday season to honor both her son-in-law and daughter.

The idea caught on and candles were replaced by blue porch lights.

Then in 2014 a Virginia man, Daniel Jessup, came up with the idea to create a Blue Light Week, beginning January 1st 2015 till January 7th. It became an idea to show support for Law Enforcement, which at that time period, had been experiencing negative media coverage for incidents involving police shootings.

When the Major of my city, Tom McNamara, had the lights over a bridge changed to blue. It started the movement in my city. Soon people were buying blue lights left and right. So much so that stores ran out of stock. He wanted to show respect for the fallen officer, asking people to put up blue lights, and ordered the flags in our city flown at half mast.

The sad reason for all this happened on November 5th, 2017 at 1 a.m. in the morning during a routine traffic stop.

Two men, who most likely had never met before, were to meet. And before too long both men would be dead. Leaving family and friends, and a city, grieving and wondering what had transpired to cause this tragedy.

Officer Jamie Cox, just 30 years old, a Veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard and who had previously worked for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, had joined the Rockford Police Department in 2016. He had been on the job as a police officer for just 11 months.

He had pulled over 49-year-old Eddie Patterson, a father and grandfather, a man who had for the last 14 years worked at a local event center in my city. He was driving a pick up truck with plates that didn’t match the truck.

What we do know at this time is very little. For reasons unknown Mr. Patterson decided to drive off. Officer Cox became entangled in Patterson’s truck and discharged his side arm killing Mr. Patterson whose truck crashed two blocks away from the original stop. Officer Cox was mortally wounded by the impact. He was able to call for assistance and was transported to a local hospital where he died a short time later.

There wasn’t a dash camera in the squad car, nor was Officer Cox wearing a body camera. As of this writing, no eye witnesses have come forward to give the police additional information. A Task Force has been assigned to determine exactly what transpired that night.

As the news and information came trickling out, many took to social media to ask how this could happen. Why did Mr. Patterson drive off? How did Officer Cox become entangled in Patterson’s truck? What caused this tragic event?

Unfortunately an added component to this tragedy is the factor of Race. Officer Cox was White. Mr. Patterson was Black. In an era of exacerbated racial tensions, this component wasn’t lost to those on social media. That Officer Cox shot Mr. Patterson, who to our knowledge was unarmed, and that Mr. Patterson drove off with Officer Cox attached, has the community asking questions. It also has the community taking sides.

Those on both sides of the argument who are rushing to judgement to lay blame are doing a grave disservice to the memories of both Officer Cox and Mr. Patterson. The only people who truly know what happened that night are them. And sadly, neither one can tell us their story.

There is a Task Force that is investigating this incident. Yet others are asking for the Federal Government to investigate this incident. Concerns that the Police department would not be forthcoming. Another sign of our times, trust is a rare commodity these days.

Personally, I feel the story will end with the simplest of reasons. Human error, on both sides. For some reason Mr. Patterson panicked, and Officer Cox tried to stop him from driving off. Sadly, this human element of our nature, will most likely be the root cause of this tragedy. Yet, this is just my opinion, and all the facts are not known yet. And everyone should do the oddest of things, we should wait. Be patient.

In this day and age of instant information, being patient has become a problem with our society. We rarely have to wait for anything anymore. The world is at our fingertips, and news cycles usually exceed the facts. Facts take time, they take patience. People have become unaccustomed to waiting for information. They want it now. Yet this is not reality. Investigations, especially of this sort, take time. Rushing to judgement only polarize communities and creates an air of distrust and cover-up. None of which seems to be the case in this incident. The police are taking time, keeping silent, and going over the facts in a painstaking way. Social Media doesn’t really care for that. They want to know, and know now.

 

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Photo by Jenelle Kendrick

 

Till we know the full story, let the investigations play out, blue lights will adorn the porches of my city, Rockford Illinois, for the month of November. To honor the fallen Officer. Yet in a larger sense, it should stand as a reminder that two men lost their lives that night. That try as we might to be perfect, and not to make mistakes, we are only human. And that waiting, is truly the hardest part of this process.

 

 

 

Sources: http://www.nationalcops.org / http://www.sun-gazing.com / http://www.rrstar.com/news/20171106/

It Would Take a Million People…

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Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). / Photo by Wikipedia Commons.

By Js Kendrick.

 

Sometimes the news can be disconcerting for children. I usually have the news on my T.V. for background noise. Something in the morning to catch up on the day’s events at a glance, or late at night to keep me company while I write. On occasion, funny stories about pets, or local events, catch my children’s eye. They will point to the T.V. and tell me to look! or to rewind it back to see the story again. My children rarely pay attention to the news, and often ask if they can change the channel.

The news has been a bit serious lately in The United States of America. One story that came to the national spotlight was the story of Charlottesville, Virginia. A tragic story that opened up old wounds many of us had hoped had healed, yet found out painfully, they haven’t yet.

In the aftermath of that tragedy, many took to peaceful protest, some did not. It was the not that caught my youngest children’s attention. A group of protesters pulled down a statue in Durham, North Carolina. I was asked the simple question “why?” by my son, who is 6 years old.

Try having a go at explaining a Civil War, Slavery, and the Civil Rights Movement to a 6-year-old. If you read my last post, I had a helluva a time just explaining the eclipse. This was far more complicated and full of pitfalls. I am doing my best to raise my children to think of Humanity as One Race, which we truly are. That the minor differences in our species are just like frosting on a cake. Lick the icing, and we are still all cake inside. So after a quick explanation, I punted the question down the road.

I think I made a mistake on that.

I had no intention to write on this subject. Everyone else was, the news was full of stories on the subject of race relations, civil war monuments, etc.  My blogging was intended for fun family stories, little anecdotes to let you know that, yeah, everyone screws up as a parent, especially me, and together we can laugh at it. It wasn’t intended for discussing hot topics of the current news cycle, nor political / social controversies. Others could do that far better than me. So I didn’t write about it after my talk with my youngest children.

But you know? Life throws you a curve ball once in a while. Enter the Unwitting Racist.

It was at work, talking to a driver, that I started to form an opinion on a subject I originally wished to ignore.

We were commiserating on the conditions of our respective semi trucks, both in need of repair. Then he told me that his companies mechanic…well lets just say he repaired the drivers truck not using proper methods. Jury-rigged is the polite and proper term, an old nautical term actually. Yet he didn’t use that term. He used a term I had not heard in years. A term loaded with racist overtones. I think my expression lead to his backpedaling.

After explaining to me that he has two granddaughters who are ‘half-black’ and that to use that word to describe something or an object, as he used it, was fine. He went on to say he would never use it toward a person. I believed he was sincere on that point. Yet I let him know I disagreed with the use of the word.

We talked some more, falling off the subject that caused the tension and onto drivers in general. He talked about encountering drivers from our area in distance locations. That happens in trucking, it’s a little reminder how small the world really is. Yet the person in his chance encounter was a hispanic woman that he first met in a local store. She had her kids with her. They were very well-behaved he said, unlike other hispanic children that are usually wild in stores…because, well “You know what I’m talking about right?” was the quote. I let him know, with a raised eyebrow, that my kids are not hispanic and act up in the store too. Our conversation ended.

Although I thought about it that night, I didn’t want to blog about it. Figured, like me, he was up there in years. My generation, the Baby Boomers, have many carry over attitudes and phrases we inherited from our parents and grandparents. We were children during the Civil Rights movement. We witnessed it first hand. We had to adjust our opinions that were taught to us. The next generations will, thankfully, drop these leftovers into the trash as time marches on. No need to blog about that.

Then I was at school yesterday, eating lunch with my daughter Alexis, something both me and my wife do during the school year. At the table was a little girl, bright, funny, very polite, said something that put it all together for me. Here she was, but 9 years of age, a nexter generation talking to a group of nexters generation. The discussion was about family sizes, then she blurts out:

“She has a large family, because she Mexican, and Mexicans have a lot of children”.

I couldn’t help myself, and let out a chuckle. I told her that large families aren’t the result of ethnicity. There are lots of reasons people have large families. Although she nodded understanding my point, and since I wasn’t speaking in a admonishing way, she had no idea what she had just said. Not one bit. She had no clue she had just made a generalization about a group, some of her friends, those same friends sitting next to her. Who nodded in agreement with her observation about mexican families.

I was compelled to blog.

Right now, everyone in the United States has concerns about Neo-Nazi’s, the KKK, the Alt-Right and a slew of other groups that despise others for the silliest of reasons. Simply because they look different from the person they see in the mirror every day. We fret, we argue, we jump up and down over every little thing concerning race. We tear down statues we deem offensive. Because many of us believe is would be for the best to remove these reminders of a painful time in our country’s past. Objects that they see as glorify that time in our history. Others worry about history being forgotten. I personally believe that both points are valid.

Yet we ignore the elephant in the room.

Racism is rarely blatant. And if it is, we shoot it down (verbally) pretty quick. Those racists groups who marched in Charlottesville were a bunch of nutcases. Sorry folks, but those people were carrying Tiki Torches, and wanted to be taken seriously. No one took them seriously at first. Yet it ended tragically. And it proves that it only takes one nutcase to turn the world on end. We do need to take it seriously.

But they are obvious. We can spot them a mile away. They refuse to be polite to anyone who differs from them, from what they deem as ‘normal’ or ‘correct’ in their warped view of the world.

Yet they are not the problem. The problem is the unwitting racist. Those, like that semi truck driver, who believed nothing he said was incorrect. That it was okay to use a term that is morally repugnant to everyone else. Or the little nexter girl who makes a generalization on ethnic groups without even having a clue she did so.

This is the racism we need to worry about most. Not those groups who protested the removal of a statue. These modern-day jokers are looking for attention any way they can get it. People who think wearing white sheets and giving themselves names like ‘Grand Wizard’ make them cool. They are the symptom to the disease.

We like to think of ourselves as more evolved socially than our ancestors. To a degree we are. Yet not as far as we think. You’ve been on social media right? Seen some of those comments from opposing views? I’ve been waiting for Facebook to add a pointing finger emoji with the word ‘Witch!’ on it. I think it would get a lot of use.

People don’t go around being racist. Most people, even myself, don’t think they are racist. Nor do they think they harbor any thoughts or beliefs that are racist. We don’t actually, yet then again we do. It’s the little things, those minor points that we take for granted that are the most damaging. They add up and find their way into our culture, our schools, our work, and yes, even our homes. That need for generalization, for conformity, the need to assume because Johnny behaves this way. All Johnny’s must behave the same way.

We do this not just with race, but with shape, with dress, with speech, with gender, with sexuality, and even political views. Our need, as humans, to categorize everything into neat little packages and say ‘Well this is how it is’, has done more damage to societies than any political figure could ever do.

 

It would take a million people…

 

After explaining, badly, why people tore down the statue of the Confederate Solider in Durham North Carolina. My son looked at me, then glanced at the T.V.

“I hope they don’t tear down the Statue of Liberty, I like the Statue of Liberty, she’s beautiful” He said. I smiled at his concern.

“I don’t think anyone is going to tear the Statue of Liberty down Nick.” I said to him, still smiling. I liked the fact he was worried about a symbol of American Unity. That no matter where you came from, we are One people. The great melting pot.

“Yeah, that would take about a million people I think.” He said to me. “Maybe more, maybe everyone in the whole country!” He said.

 

I lost my smile at that point.