communication, Police, true crime

Waiting for “contact”…

There are a couple of hot news items I could write about today. Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict, while not at all surprising, is a story that begs to be written about. I’m sure a lot of people will write about him, but I won’t be among them today, except to state that I’m glad he got convicted. It doesn’t bring me pleasure to see anyone get handcuffed and led to prison, but I do think it was entirely justified in Chauvin’s case.

I could also write about the infuriating story I read yesterday about Karen Garner, an 80 pound 73 year old woman with dementia who, last June, tried to walk out of a Walmart in Loveland, Colorado with about $14 worth of unpaid for merchandise. She was stopped by store employees, forced back into the store where the items were recovered, and not allowed to pay for them. Then, as she was picking purple wildflowers in a nearby field, walking to her nearby home, she was stopped by police. They arrested her, breaking her arm and dislocating her shoulder as they violently cuffed the confused, elderly woman. She sat cuffed in a cell for hours before she was taken to jail, crying and terrified. Thankfully, the district attorney immediately dropped the charges against Karen Garner. Her family has sued.

Absolutely INFURIATING! And neither of these cops were fired or disciplined.

Yes… I could definitely write about that case, as I watched the infuriating body cam coverage. I’m so tired of reading about violent cops who hurt and kill people instead of helping them. I know it can be done, too, because I’ve seen it in action here in Europe. I get that cops never know what they’re going to encounter when they go on patrol, particularly in the United States, where so many people are armed. But this poor lady is going to suffer for the rest of her life because of the incompetent and, frankly, cruel treatment she received from the police officers who manhandled her last summer. I may write about Karen Garner later today or even tomorrow… or maybe not. This case really upset me.

Or, I could write about how, as Derek Chauvin’s verdict was being read yesterday, a teenaged Black girl in Columbus, Ohio was fatally shot by the police. I don’t know too much about that story yet, as I was going to bed as Chauvin’s fate was delivered yesterday. Evidently, the 15 (or 16– I’ve seen both ages listed) year old who was killed by the police was brandishing a knife and threatening another girl in the community. She was living in foster care and had evidently gotten into a fight with someone at her foster home. Supposedly, she had dropped the knife before a police officer killed her. Someone in the video footage said that she’d been shot four times, which does seem excessive to me. Seems like one shot should have been enough to incapacitate her, if the weapon was needed at all.

Or, I could write about Kimberly Potter, the cop who, inexplicably, confused her Glock service revolver for a Taser and fatally shot 20 year old Daunte Wright. How Potter confused a Taser for a gun, I will never know. I don’t make it a habit of using either device. At least, in her case, she was unpleasantly shocked at what she did and exclaimed, “Holy shit! I just shot him!” From those words, I can at least surmise that she hadn’t intended to shoot the man, but was obviously caught up in the tension of the moment. It doesn’t change the fact that a man is dead because of her negligent actions, but I don’t see her as cold-blooded as I do Derek Chauvin, who showed no mercy toward George Floyd as he knelt on the man’s neck and killed him in front of bystanders.

But… what I really want to write about today has nothing to do with police brutality. Regular readers of my blog probably know that I pay close attention to who is reading and what people find interesting. I do this because I’m genuinely curious about my readership, but also to see what subjects people enjoy. Sometimes, I write posts that are more for me or people who know me offline than the strangers who come across my blog. I enjoy writing the personal stories more than I do rants about current events. If I’m honest, writing about current events often makes me nervous. Why? Because I notice many people hitting my “contact” page.

Sometimes people hit the contact page multiple times after reading and re-reading some of my posts. I can see that they go to the page, probably looking for information about the person who shares these opinions… and wonder what kind of person I am. Or maybe they actually do feel like contacting me. The thought of that makes me kind of nervous, since you never know what people are going to write.

So far, the few people who have contacted me for reasons other than spam have been very nice. One guy, a German, wrote to ask me to make available a post I wrote about Erin McCay George I wrote for my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife. For some reason, her case has attracted many readers from around the world. I’m surprised I haven’t seen her case profiled on Snapped, although I don’t think she snapped as much as she became overcome by greed. So I reposted that article, as well as a lot of other articles I’ve written over the years.

I heard from Adam Barrows, author of the controversial New York Times love story involving his wife, who had anorexia nervosa. Barrows wrote about how he didn’t try to encourage his wife to seek treatment. I didn’t like all of the horrible negative appraisals of Barrows’ character, so I decided to write about his story. Barrows wrote to thank me. Even two months later, that post still gets a lot of hits. Barrows’ story really resonated with a lot of people, and obviously, people wanted to know how others felt about it. I’m not known for my conventional approaches to all matters. I often go against the grain of public opinion, which is why it makes me nervous when people haunt the contact page. I’m always afraid of getting a ton of hate mail. But, aside from one somewhat irate commenter who wanted to “correct” my opinions, the discussion on that post has been blessedly respectful, and I really appreciate that.

I also heard from a guy in Virginia who was interested in my post about weird murder stories in Farmville, which is the town where I went to college. Farmville is a town that, at least in the 1990s, felt kind of like it was about 30 years behind the rest of Virginia. And yet, there have been some really fascinating true crime cases in that place. Maybe, in another life, I would have been like Ann Rule or Kathryn Casey, and become a true crime writer. I really do find the stories fascinating… better than any novelist could dream up, in a lot of cases.

And finally, I got a note from a lawyer in New Zealand who read my review of Jocelyn Zichterman’s controversial book, I Fired God, and hoped I would also write about Gloriavale Christian Community in New Zealand. I did recently read and review a book about that community, and I am currently reading another book about it.

For the first year, since I moved my blog to WordPress, it took a long time to re-establish a following. Now that this version of my blog is two years old, I’m getting more readers. So far, because I moderate comments, I get fewer flames from drive by readers who don’t like my opinions. But I also have lots of lurkers who haunt my contact page. They go back to it repeatedly. I’m sure curiosity is what takes them there. Maybe some of them would like to rip me a new one because they think I’ve gotten something “wrong”. I always remind people, though, that this blog is just a collection of my opinions and observations. I realize that not everyone agrees with me. I don’t expect everyone to agree, although it’s not very often that my mind is changed by an irate comment. I won’t say it never happens, though.

I remember a few years ago, I read a story about a woman who was murdered by her ex boyfriend, who had also killed three of the woman’s four children. It was a horrific case out of Newport News, Virginia detailing how the police had completely failed to protect the woman, who had just gotten a restraining order that hadn’t been served to her killer. I wrote a post about the story based only on what I read in the news. A relative of the victim wrote to me and asked me to revisit the story with more context thrown in. She was initially upset by my observations, but when I pointed out to her that I was only reacting to the news story and not trying to judge her, she calmed down and told me more about what happened. I was outraged by her account and wrote another post about it. She ended up thanking me. I still look back on that and really feel good that I was able to get more of the story out. In fact, since that story is coming up today, I will repost it after I’m finished writing this entry.

For some reason, true crime posts are the ones that really capture people’s interest the most. I’m always willing to hear from people who want more of the story explained. I’m sure there are some people who read my posts and are actually involved in the cases. Maybe they want to say something to me… or maybe they’re just curious. I don’t know. But I will admit, the contact page lurkers who repeatedly hit that page are a curiosity of mine, too. What are they looking for? There’s nothing on that page but a form, powered by WordPress. I can only think that they’re deliberating sending me a comment. I can’t blame them for that. I’m famous for turning comments into content. 😉

Well… here’s hoping the news gets better today. I am glad Derek Chauvin, at least, has gotten some well-deserved justice delivered to him. It doesn’t bring me joy to see anyone locked up, but I do think he got exactly what he asked for when he made the decision to brutalize and kill George Floyd, who was helpless and crying for his mother as he was dying. I’m sorry for all of Chauvin’s friends and loved ones, as well as his other victims. I also feel much for Floyd’s family, but am specifically mentioning Chauvin’s family and friends because they probably won’t get much sympathy. People never think about the perpetrator’s loved ones when something like this happens. They are suffering, too, and deserve some regard… although Floyd’s family rightfully deserves more attention right now.

It’s time for Chauvin to pay the piper and do his time. And, I will go on record now to state that I fervently hope the two cops who hurt Karen Garner are also made to answer for their brutality toward that poor woman. Watching that video and listening to those cops, seeing how they manhandled a frail and obviously confused lady, was horrifying to me. But even so, I try to keep in mind that cops have a tough job these days. I wish more of them had common sense and more humanity, though.

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bad TV, obits, Police, true crime

A veritable smorgasbord of topics today…

Where do I even start? I kind of hate it when I wake up in the morning with a bunch of different things I want to discuss. I could write multiple posts, and I may very well do that, not that people will read more than one. Or I could try to cover everything in less depth in this one post. Well, I guess I’ll just get started and see where my fingers and brain take me.

First off, I was saddened but not terribly surprised to read about the death of Dustin Diamond, who famously played Screech on Saved By The Bell. Diamond was recently in the news because he’d been admitted to a Florida hospital, having been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I read yesterday that the lung cancer was actually secondary to a different, undisclosed cancer that had metastasized.

Cancer sucks. It can strike with incredible speed and cruelty. We lost our dog, Zane, a week after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. My cousin, Karen, died very quickly after a relapse of cancer. So did another cousin’s spouse, who announced that he had stage four liver cancer in September of last year and was gone by October. I suppose the one kindness that comes out of something like this happening is that the suffering that comes from being so sick is somewhat curtailed.

CNN’s take on Dustin Diamond’s demise.

I never cared much for the Screech character on SBTB. Even though that show was a guilty pleasure for me, it wasn’t the most impressive showcase of anyone’s talents. I read Dustin’s book, Behind the Bell, years ago. I remember I read it because I was writing book reviews on Epinions.com and took great pleasure in reading certain bad books so others wouldn’t have to. I didn’t like the book and distinctly remember getting rid of it right after I reviewed it. I also remember seeing Dustin on Celebrity Fit Club back in 2007, while Bill was deployed to Iraq. I thought he was a massive jerk on that show, although the featured pic today came in handy when some random dick on Facebook asked me for a photo.

That all being said, at 44, Dustin Diamond was much too young to die, and I wouldn’t wish cancer on almost anyone. I think I can understand why Dustin seemed to be such a jerk as he aged out of childhood roles. He probably hated being Screech, the butt of everyone’s jokes. I mean, Saved By The Bell was kind of a shitty show, anyway. The character, Zack Morris (played by Mark Paul Gosselaar) was depicted as “cool”, but he was actually a massive jackass who was constantly looking for ways to screw over other people.

And poor Dustin, who was well paid for his work, was always the one getting dumped on. The writers on that show never let him be “normal”. He was always the one being made into a fool, while the other characters were “cool” and kind of “slumming” by being his friend. I wouldn’t say they really treated the Screech character like a friend. It’s not easy to always be the asshole.

I think having to play Screech would give anyone a complex. He was like a teenaged Weird Al Yankovic, but once that show was done, life got real. I think Dustin never really had a chance to be a normal person during his developmental years, and that probably made it much harder for him when he was an adult. Anyway… he’s out of pain now. I hope he’s in a better place. My good thoughts go out to his friends and loved ones.

Moving on…

Like a lot of other people, I happened to see the videos of the Rochester Police Department handcuffing and pepper spraying a nine year old child who was freaking out during a snowstorm. I certainly think what happened to that child is reprehensible. It looks to me like she was failed by many people, particularly her mom. I watched both body cam videos, which were included in the Washington Post article I linked. In the first one, you see the cop just trying to talk to the girl, who is running away from him. He seems to be trying to keep his cool, but she isn’t respecting his authority.

Then the mom comes out and starts yelling at the girl, using very abusive language which makes me think that things must be especially rough when the cops aren’t around. The girl starts to melt down, screaming. Next thing you know, she’s in handcuffs and the cops are trying to force her into the backseat of police cruiser. She finally gets pepper sprayed by a cop who has just had it with her and seems exasperated and impatient. I guess I can understand why the cop was impatient. It was freezing cold outside, and the girl was not cooperating. But if one of her parents or teachers had sprayed her with pepper spray, there would absolutely be hell to pay.

I’m not totally sure what led up to these events. There was something about the girl saying her mom stabbed her father. Her mom says the blood she saw was her blood, not her dad’s. And she refuses to cooperate with the police because she insists on seeing her dad. In the first video, her mom screams that she has custody and she is HER child and she will carry her ass into the house and deal with whatever’s coming. I felt very sad for that girl… especially when the cop tells her she’s acting like a child and she quite correctly points out that she IS a child!

I was impressed by how articulate and this girl was as she was screaming at the cop. She was also courageous. When I was her age, I know I would not have spoken to a cop the way she did. I would not have thought to demand anything, nor do I think I would have thought to tell the cop that I was a child when he accused me of “acting like a child”. I think I would have been scared out of my wits, not just because of the cop, but because I know my dad would have probably knocked the hell out of me for getting in trouble. Also, she appeared to be quite big for a nine year old. But, I will admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve been around children. Maybe nine year olds aren’t as small or shy as they were in my day.

This really went bad quickly. This is the second of two videos. I recommend watching both. Personally, I think the mother should have been arrested, but I base that only on what I saw in the videos.

Anyway, I hope that girl gets the help she clearly needs. I wish the police hadn’t treated her the way they did, although something did have to be done. I think there should definitely be some reform. However, I also realize that being a police officer isn’t easy. They never know what they’re going to face on any shift. And sadly, people can be very dangerous, even when they’re super young. That doesn’t mean I think she should have been pepper sprayed, though. I think she needs some real, competent, support from someone who knows how to help kids like her. Many people were calling for social workers. Maybe a social worker could have helped, but again, speaking from experience, I will say that just like cops, social workers can be a mixed bag. No matter what, she needs some adults in her life who won’t fail her again.

The final topic I’m kind of inspired to address this morning is one that probably deserves its own post, as well as my undivided attention. Maybe I’ll get to it today. Maybe I won’t. For now, I just hope the weather gets better soon. This gray, cold, depressing rainy shit we have is beyond a drag.

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Police, politicians, politics, racism

Mike Pence is still sleeping, and others are not facing reality…

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post wondering if Mike Pence was finally “woke” (much as I hate that expression). He’s now made it clear that he’s still snoring. In a letter to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Pence wrote that he has no plans to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump from office.

I’m not surprised that Pence won’t cooperate. I had faint hope that he’d grow a spine, and my opinion of him did go up last week when he addressed all of the right wing whackaloons who stormed the Capitol last Wednesday, condemning them for their violence. But given that Trump has just a week left in office, it doesn’t surprise me that Pence would rather not be part of an action that would kick his boss out of office. It doesn’t matter, though, since Trump is going to be impeached for a second time, and he will be the first president in U.S. history to have such a “distinction”. I would be satisfied to know that Trump can’t run for office again.

Meanwhile, I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends are arguing amongst each other. I do still have some conservative friends on Facebook, and more than a couple of them have been engaging in a bit of “whataboutism” regarding last week’s riots versus the riots that occurred nationwide last summer, due to the Black Lives Matter movement.

I have not been getting involved in those arguments myself. I see them as different entities. BLM was supposed to be a movement bringing to light the injustices faced by people of color when they come into contact with law enforcement, as well as racially motivated violence. It’s a fact that many people of color have been injured or killed by police officers, and even if they aren’t arrested, people of color are more likely to be racially profiled. In 2013, many people were rightfully outraged that George Zimmerman, who was a private citizen, was acquitted of killing unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin, thanks to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Since then, there have been other cases of Black people being injured or killed in racially motivated altercations. For instance, George Floyd, was absolutely helpless last May when he was arrested by Minneapolis cop, Derick Chauvin, who had rear handcuffed Floyd and knelt on the man’s neck, resulting in his death. People were and still are rightfully pissed.

It’s also true that last summer, a number of demonstrations became violent and resulted in destruction of property and looting. I condemn the violence and criminal activity that arose from the BLM riots of last year. However, I support the movement itself, because I think there’s ample evidence that, on the whole, people of color have not been treated fairly. I absolutely think they have a right to protest, even if I don’t condone violence, theft, or destruction of property.

Last week’s riots in Washington, DC were not about peace or promoting fairness. They were about a large group of white people– many of them men, armed with weapons, wearing body armor, and carrying zip ties– who felt emboldened to disrupt democratic proceedings. They were engaging in treason and, in the process, also destroyed property, looted, and killed and injured people. For some reason, these folks can’t accept that Donald Trump lost the election and will no longer be in charge as of next week. They can’t fathom that over half the country does not want him to be the president anymore, and they’re trying to disenfranchise people who made their wishes known with their votes. They allowed an unhinged orange dude to rile them up and incite violence. And they don’t seem to understand that the orange guy isn’t going to help them, now that they’re facing the consequences of their stupidity.

Yesterday, I shook my head as I read about some of the people who were involved in last week’s uprising being arrested. The widely photographed Shaiman guy, 33 year old Jacob Chansley (aka Jake Angeli) is now sitting in an Arizona jail cell after turning himself in to federal authorities. I read a story about his mother complaining that her son hasn’t eaten anything since Friday, because he only eats organic food. You know, I’m not usually one to say things like, “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”, but maybe ManBearPig should have thought about his aversions to gross jailhouse food before he decided to storm the Capitol. He says he didn’t commit a crime, since the doors to the Capitol were “open”. Yes, but I think he knew full well he wasn’t supposed to go barging in there, right? And he was in Washington, DC to stir up trouble. And he sure did find it, didn’t he? I wonder if it was worth it to him and his cronies, now that they’re being arrested and charged with crimes.

I don’t see BLM and what happened last week as similar situations at all. The only thing that they have in common is that they attracted criminal behaviors among spun up, outraged people. It’s never okay to destroy property, steal things, or hurt or kill people in the name of a “movement”. But I think BLM is very different from “Stop The Steal”. It’s been repeatedly proven that our election was fair and there is no evidence that votes were tampered with. I think what we have right now is a bunch of white people who are pent up and legitimately fed up over COVID-19 restrictions, mixed with their own distrust and dislike of people who aren’t like them. They’re afraid their way of life is going to be disrupted. Well… it sure will be disrupted if they land in a jail cell, right? Violence is not the answer and won’t lead to positive resolutions or change. And while Mike Pence won’t acknowledge that Trump incited the riots, a whole lot of us know what he won’t admit. Donald Trump is directly responsible for the catastrophe that occurred last week. He egged on the most radicalized of his followers to try to overthrow the government, and that is not acceptable. Trump needs to face serious consequences for his actions. It’s too bad Mike Pence is too cowardly to do the right thing. But again, I am not surprised.

I have never in my life seen so much polarization caused by a political leader. I’ve seen many people breaking up friendships and even family relations over Trump. Last night, I was talking to my mom, who dislikes Trump as much as I do, telling her about how people on my dad’s side of the family are ardent Trump supporters. There are only a few of us on that side of the family who don’t support Trump. When we speak out, a few of the Trumpers on that side of the family can’t stop themselves from arguing. Just last week, one of my cousins, who is not a Trump fan, posted a rare status update on Facebook, denouncing the riots. Another cousin immediately took her to task about it. Then, when I commented in support of her statement, the same cousin tried to argue with me. I politely told him to fuck off. I mean, I didn’t actually say, “fuck off”, but I did politely ask him to leave me alone. There was a time when I really liked him a lot. He used to be one of my favorite relatives. Now, I can barely stand talking to him, because he won’t let people express themselves without overbearing commentary on why their opinions are “wrong”. He’s especially overbearing toward women. I’ve found that getting into arguments with people, rather than having a respectful conversation, rarely leads to anyone changing their views. It’s just annoying and aggravating, and it makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to look at him in the same way I used to, before Trump was a thing.

It’s depressing and sad to watch the news and worry about what kinds of violence and mayhem will occur next week. I hope the DC cops and military are prepared for what’s coming. I’ve read that it won’t just be DC that gets targeted. There are also “storms” planned for state capitals, which may be besieged by batshit crazy people who feel emboldened by Trump and want to disrupt peace in an especially difficult time for people around the world. I can only hope and pray that some of them wake up and get with the program.

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Police

Nowadays, even burgers are political…

A couple of days ago, I read about how several people working at Five Guys in Daphne, Alabama took it upon themselves not to serve some police officers who came in for dinner. Apparently, they cops didn’t have masks as they approached. They went back to their vehicles to get the masks and when they returned, one of the cops overheard a worker say, “I’m not serving them,” as other employees turned their backs on them. The officers took their business elsewhere, complained to the store’s management, and the incident became international news. The employees involved in the incident have all either been suspended or terminated, and everyone working at the Daphne, Alabama outlet of Five Guys has had to endure extra training.

I was left shaking my head as I read this story. I had originally shared it on my Facebook page with the comment, “Not cool.” A friend asked which part of the story wasn’t cool. My response was that the employees choosing not to serve the police officers wasn’t cool. He approved of that comment, as I figured he would. I have a feeling he thinks I’m a bleeding heart liberal through and through. The fact is, I’m really not that liberal about all things. I don’t like corrupt politicians, and there are plenty of those on either side of the political spectrum. Hell, I don’t like corrupt “PEOPLE”. I’m no Trump fan, as most people know, but that doesn’t mean I don’t embrace some conservative values, like doing one’s job when one is on the clock, being paid.

One of my very liberal friends decided to weigh in on the issue. She supported what the workers did, because of #blacklivesmatter and #defundthepolice. I had posted that not all cops are corrupt, but she maintained that the Five Guys workers had every right to turn the police officers’ mealtime into a political statement because some cops are corrupt. She also thinks that since this is now “news”, the people who decided to protest the police on company time have done a great service to the movement. I disagree, of course, and here’s why.

I don’t know much about Daphne, Alabama, and I know nothing about the people who chose to protest on company time. But I do know something about living in the South. A cursory look at Daphne on Google tells me that it’s kind of a suburb of Mobile, Alabama, which is a pretty good sized city. So maybe, if the people working in that restaurant have their own transportation, being fired from Five Guys isn’t a big deal. They can go out and get another job with ease. My friend also pointed out that it’s a “fast food” place, and those jobs are a dime a dozen, and that’s usually true, especially when you live in a city…

But it looks like Daphne isn’t the biggest town. I grew up in a town much the same size. I left there permanently over twenty years ago, and people there still remember me. That was BEFORE the Internet really took off, which has made the world a smaller place than it used to be. Although I haven’t seen the names or pictures of the people who protested, my guess is that local people know who was involved. That might make getting a new job in Daphne problematic for them. Consider, too, that the people in that town probably don’t appreciate such a stunt. Based on the negative comments on the restaurant’s Facebook page, it looks like maybe the “message” sent by the protest was lost on the local populace, who would be the people I would expect the protesters were targeting.

Again– if the people involved have access to their own transportation, maybe it’s not a big deal. But what if one or more of them has to walk to and from work? It can be a real pisser if your commute by foot goes from a half a mile to two or three miles, especially in July in Alabama. Does Daphne have a bus system? I don’t know. Taxis can be very expensive. So is gas, especially if you don’t have a job. On the other hand, that could also work the other way. Perhaps it’s a minor point.

Of course, I don’t know anything about the ex employee protesters. Maybe the Five Guys gig was a second job that provided extra cash, rather than a main stream of income. Maybe they could afford to lose the job. But what if they couldn’t? Now they’ll probably have to look for new work during a pandemic. That might not be easy for them, and again, I’m not sure what they did really changed anyone’s hearts and minds about the police.

Another thing that occurred to me is that the workers were basically protesting unfair treatment and discrimination by the police toward black and brown people. It seems kind of strange to me that their response to that problem is to turn around and do the same thing. Fight discrimination by being discriminatory toward a group of people who do police work? Even if the police officers were exemplary cops who had made the town safer? And even now, a few days later, it’s not exactly clear to me if that was what they were doing when they turned their backs on the cops. At first, it seemed like the protest was about #blacklivesmatter, but then I saw something about face masks and how the cops didn’t have them at first. So were they being refused service due to a lack of masks? Or was this a statement on the corrupt nature of the police? Did they plan to do this in advance, or was this a spontaneous decision? What was the message?

Finally, the very essence of working in a fast food restaurant is service. If you’re a fast food worker who chooses not to serve someone simply on the basis of their employment, you’re not doing your job. For that reason, you deserve to be fired, and other employers would be within their rights not to hire you for a similar position. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe the people who got fired don’t want or need a similar position. BUT– my guess is that if they do decide they want to work at one of Five Guys’ competitors or any other service related job, this issue will arise anew. Cops are people too, and they have needs. If you’re unwilling or unable to serve them, then you’re not a good fit for the service industry.

I don’t blame people for being angry about the way some police officers have treated some people. I also know about a certain very famous football player who famously “takes a knee” when the “Star Spangled Banner” is played. Many people who take issue with Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel in protest say that he shouldn’t be protesting while on the clock. Personally, I don’t care one way or the other if he kneels, because I don’t follow football, and ultimately when he plays football, he is doing his job. Kneeling while the anthem plays may be disrespectful, but it doesn’t affect his actual work. However, Colin Kaepernick is also a famous football star, and he can probably afford to use his platform in such a way. Google tells me that he makes about $7 million a year, and I see that he recently signed a deal with Disney. He’s not easily replaced. People who work in fast food restaurants, unfortunately, are not usually quite so special.

As I write this, I am reminded of an incident that happened in Lexington, Virginia at a restaurant called The Red Hen. The proprietor there declined to serve Sarah Huckabee Sanders based on her employees’ reluctance. But, in that situation, the restaurant’s co-owner ultimately made the decision. It was her business, and therefore her right to make that call. The same is not true in the Five Guys situation. My family is actually from a community not far from Lexington; it’s the town where I got married. When I go back there, I plan to stop by The Red Hen.

In the Five Guys incident, the people who took a stand were employees of a franchise. Their decision to refuse to serve the police officers affects the chain as a whole, because it became international news. Moreover, it’s not like the owner of the restaurant said, “It’s alright with me if you protest on company time.” Those workers apparently took it upon themselves to make personal statements that affected their place of business. In the Red Hen incident, the employees had the backing of the person who had the most to lose. Also, Sarah Sanders Huckabee is a public figure– one person whose actions are definitely protest worthy. The police officers in Daphne are simply folks who do police work for a living. Maybe one or more of them have done protest worthy things, but it’s not clear from the news stories I’ve seen so far.

I do think that the United States criminal justice system must be reformed. People have every right to be angry that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have been killed by police officers. I see nothing wrong with protesting on one’s own time. The Five Guys employees had every right to protest. But doing it while on the job was just asking to be fired. Maybe they don’t care about that, but they might want to consider that it could affect their prospects of being hired by someone else. That might make it more difficult to be an effective protester in the long run.

Anyway, here in Germany, things are pretty good. There are problems here, but police officers are generally respected and respectable. And because people have been cooperating, the COVID-19 issue isn’t so bad here. Bill and I even got to enjoy a lovely lunch on Sunday… and we were told we did NOT need our masks AT ALL, even to go inside to use the rest room. That was really awesome– although as far as I know, masks are still required in shops and on public transportation.

I think Americans can take a lesson from the Germans. Mutual respect and consideration is a good thing and it leads to a better life for everyone.

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Police, social media

What would Jesus do?

I wrote a post yesterday that I decided to password protect several hours later. I didn’t share it on Facebook, as I usually do. I figured if I shared it, I might be inviting Internet infamy, and frankly my mental state right now can’t handle that. So, several hours after I wrote yesterday’s post, I decided to put it behind a password. I figured that if anyone wanted to read it, they would message me.

One person did want to read the post. I shared it with her. We disagreed, although we did so in a civil way. I appreciated that very much, since a couple of nights ago, I got attacked by two different people on Facebook for defending Amy Cooper. Now… when I say I “defended” her, I don’t mean I condoned what she did on Monday morning. I certainly don’t think her actions were right, but I don’t know much about her. All I know about her is what I’ve read in the papers and seen on video. I don’t like what I’ve read or seen, but I don’t know Amy Cooper personally. I think she’s guilty of acting like a racist. However, I don’t know enough about her to know if she is, in fact, a racist. She might very well be a racist. Or, she might have just lost all sense of decorum in a very stressful situation.

By stressful, I don’t just mean being confronted by a black man in a park. I mean stressful to include dealing with the global pandemic in a city that has been hit very hard by the coronavirus. Most of the world is under tremendous stress right now, and I wonder if that had anything to do with the way Ms. Cooper reacted on Monday.

A lot of people have concluded that by calling the police on birdwatcher Christian Cooper, the black man who confronted her in Central Park on Memorial Day morning, Amy Cooper is a horrible person to the core. She’s lost her job, her dog, and probably a lot of friends. Many people have said they think she should be arrested and spend time in prison, even though there is no law against calling the police. Granted, many people felt Amy Cooper was simply calling the cops because she’s a racist; but not having been there at the time, I can’t conclude that she didn’t feel scared or threatened. I honestly don’t know what she was feeling at the time. I can only make a presumption based on the video and news articles that have been shared and commented on repeatedly.

I have noticed that coming to a conclusion other than what the masses believe can be dangerous. Based on the hatred that was spewing Tuesday night and yesterday, it occurred to me that some self-righteous people wouldn’t mind if she just killed herself. That seems wrong to me, since Amy Cooper is a human being and I think most human beings are deserving of basic compassion and understanding, even when they don’t show it themselves. (and I will also admit that I can be hypocritical on this point, particularly when someone is hateful to me– but I am working on it)

I found the flow of vitriol toward Amy Cooper very depressing. It was bad enough that I considered getting off of Facebook. Between the constant back and forth preaching about social distancing and face mask wearing, the endless pictures of hateful white supremacists who have been toting their guns to state capitals and demanding their “rights”, and the shrill outrage expressed by thousands of people who don’t actually know anything about Amy Cooper or Christian Cooper or any of the other stories they were commenting on, it got to be too much… I was starting to feel horrible about myself, and I had nothing to do with any of these incidents.

Then I saw posts about George Floyd, the 46 year old black man who was arrested in Minneapolis and died handcuffed and begging for his life as a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, pinning him to the ground. I’ll admit, I haven’t read the details about that case yet, but I did see the horrifying pictures. I do think the officers who are responsible for killing Mr. Floyd should be prosecuted. There are far too many black men being killed by people who are supposed to be protecting and serving everyone. Ditto to the three men in Brunswick, Georgia– Gregory McMichael, 64, Travis McMichael, 34, and William Bryan, 50,– who are responsible for killing Ahmaud Arbery in February. Those men absolutely should stand trial for taking the law into their own hands and killing a black man who was simply out for a run.

I think it’s a problem that someone like Amy Cooper gets mobbed and automatically labeled a racist for calling the police. I think people should be able to call the police whenever they think they need help. No one should be able to “weaponize” the police. The police should be there to help resolve conflicts, protect and serve all people, and enforce laws. The fact that people think a middle aged white woman can call the police, resulting in a black man being killed by them, is a serious problem and something that our society must address. I think the fact that so many black men in America are being killed by cops is a much bigger issue than a white woman calling 911 when she didn’t really have to.

Unfortunately, somehow some police officers in the United States seem to have lost their way, and now they’ve become people that we collectively can’t trust. When a middle aged white woman like Alison Ettel, Jennifer Schulte, or Amy Cooper calls the police on someone of color, they become targets of rage and symbols of racism. People then feel free to cheer when their lives fall apart on a very public forum. The public becomes as bad as the offender. Seriously… I don’t think people who are outraged against Amy Cooper, wishing death or poverty or any other misfortune on her are a whole lot better than the racist they claim she is. Hate is hate. God forbid you present a different viewpoint, either. If you do, be prepared to be attacked and maligned, as I was a couple of nights ago.

And that brings me to the title of today’s post. I have never claimed to be a very religious person. I’m especially not a fan of organized religion because I’ve seen it hurt a lot of people. However, I am a fan of Jesus Christ… or at least the idea of being “Christ like”. I have been fortunate enough to run into a couple of people in my life who radiated serenity. A few years ago, I even wrote about a man I didn’t talk to, but simply noticed in a restaurant. I was in a bad mood at the time… hungry, tired, and irritable, and I noticed this man sitting at a table with several other people. He seemed to be so calm, loving, and gentle… perhaps a mere essence of who I think Christ would be if I were to meet him. The people who were with the man in the restaurant seemed enchanted by his humble demeanor and easy kindness.

My German friend, Susanne, found out who the man was. It turned out he was a Japanese Buddhist monk named Toyoshige Sekiguchi who had been traveling around the world to promote peace and nuclear disarmament. I never spoke to him, but simply seeing him in a crowded restaurant while I was “hangry” had the effect of calming me down and imparting peace. It occurred to me that someone like Toyoshige Sekiguchi would not hate Amy Cooper. He would most likely wish peace for her… something to soothe whatever it was inside of her that made her say what she said to Christian Cooper on Monday morning and take actions that led to her life being destroyed in a matter of hours.

I am a very long way from being like Toyoshige Sekiguchi. I am an even longer way from being like Jesus Christ. I have my moments of hatred, outrage, and judgment, just like everyone else does, although mine most often seem to come out against people who injure me or Bill personally. Still, I would like to be a kinder, more understanding person. Hating Amy Cooper is not a step in the right direction to meet that goal, even if I condemn her actions.

A wise professor once told me, having been the wife of an abusive alcoholic– you have to separate the person from the action. Most people occasionally say and do bad things, but that doesn’t necessarily make them inherently bad people. And… just for the record, I can name several people off the top of my head whom I think are much worse people than Amy Cooper is, and none of them have ever been outed, let alone fired or arrested. But what they did was never recorded on a camera phone and leaked to the press. Most of us could easily find ourselves making a very public mistake that gets put on blast. I doubt very much that any of us would want to have our lives upended and wrecked for having a couple of bad minutes of our lives recorded for posterity and shared with and judged by the masses.

For his part, Christian Cooper has publicly stated that he doesn’t think it’s right for Amy Cooper’s life to be upended. He said:

“Any of us can make — not necessarily a racist mistake, but a mistake… And to get that kind of tidal wave in such a compressed period of time, it’s got to hurt. It’s got to hurt.”

“I’m not excusing the racism,” he said. “But I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart.”

He opened his mouth to speak further and then stopped himself. He had been about to say the phrase, “that poor woman,” he later acknowledged, but he could not bring himself to complete the thought.

“She went racial. There are certain dark societal impulses that she, as a white woman facing in a conflict with a black man, that she thought she could marshal to her advantage,” he said.

“I don’t know if it was a conscious thing or not,” he added. “But she did it, and she went there.”

Christian Cooper says he doesn’t want to reconcile with Amy Cooper face to face, but he has expressed regret that she’s received death threats and that her life is being “destroyed”. He has acknowledged that by making her go viral, he played a part in (hopefully temporarily) destroying her life… even though many people feel that by calling the police, she could have ended his life. He even almost called her a “poor woman” as he spoke to the New York Times about the aftermath of making her go viral. I commend him for having compassion for Amy Cooper. The world would be a better place if more people did. I hope someday that Amy Cooper recovers from this incident and even gets her dog back, as long as she’s willing to keep him on a leash.

What I think is especially sad, though, is that we don’t have more faith in the New York City Police Department being able to do their jobs without killing someone. And that our lack of faith in New York City’s police is due to the all too frequent stories about black men being killed by cops in places like Minneapolis, Minnesota. That, to me, is a much bigger issue than Amy Cooper deciding to call the cops.

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