Archive for November, 2014

Thoughts on Complexity

I don’t know how or why our society has developed an intense aversion to complexity. I read through Twitter and Facebook posts disparaging the citizens of Ferguson. Blaming them for burning down their own city and snidely asking how they think looting and rioting will help their cause. It makes me feel sad for people like this who seem to have limited or no ability to invoke critical thinking at a time like this. I have been watching the news and live feeds of the riots. I’ve sadly seen peoples’ livelihoods burn to the ground. I have also seen people linking arms and protecting local businesses. I have seen hundreds, if not more, of the protesters kneeling on the ground with their arms in the air, chanting. All by myself, I was able to consider that just maybe these were two distinct groups of people in the same place trying to accomplish different things, even though they are the same race. It’s shocking how few people are able to distinguish between the two. I think it’s time to starting referring to them by different names; protesters and rioters (or disgusting opportunists).  Ferguson is not in the middle of nowhere. People from other places do have the ability to transport themselves there. It isn’t like the whole country wasn’t aware of what was going on or the potential for chaos. You honestly don’t think a few jerks from St.Louis or somewhere else nearby didn’t hop in a car or on a bus and head that way to take advantage of the situation?

I also think it is scary to hear the interview with the Ferguson cop. Did Michael Brown attack Darrin Wilson ferociously with intent to kill him; as Wilson claims? Did Darrin Wilson shoot Michael Brown while he was innocently standing 40 feet away with his hands in the air surrendering; as Brown’s friend claims? I wasn’t there so, I don’t know what the truth is or what it isn’t. I’ve always believed that there are two sides to every story but the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Are both Michael Brown and the Darrin Wilson to blame- from what it sounds like, to some extent- probably. However, during the interview Wilson seems incredibly certain; of everything. I find that concerning. When asked if he believed that he would have acted the same if the man was white or Asian he answers very quickly and firmly, “Yes!” Really? Because I don’t consider myself the least bit racist but I can’t say that on some subconscious level I’m not more afraid of a large black man following me down the street than a large white one. Psychological studies have proven that a person can be completely unaware of their of subconscious bias to a number of things including looks and race. When asked if he felt there was any thing he would have done differently again he firmly and without question claimed, “No!” I find that astonishing. I second guess my latest pants purchase for weeks. This guy killed someone and feels completely confident in it? Not even a, “I wish there could have been a non lethal option but there just wasn’t at the time.”?  Even soldiers who live in a daily, it’s them or me situation return home with difficulty coping with having to take a life and certainly for them it is not even a question- they had no other choice. But for Wilson it’s all perfectly clear? Believe it or not, I don’t blame Wilson for how the interview comes across. I’d be naive if I truly believed he wasn’t being told exactly what to say and how to say it. If you don’t think that this interview was practiced with him over and over again before he sat down then you need to wake up. Sadly, I doubt this gave the public any actual insight into what he is actually thinking about that day. If it is a true representation than that’s scary.

Living in Northeast Ohio I am also seeing a bombardment on both sides of the shooting of a 12 year old boy by a Cleveland cop. Again, I think about the family of the child and about the cop. Why is our society so unwilling to consider that maybe both are to blame. It has to be all the fault of one or the other? Of course, the boy should have done as he was told and put his hands up. He should not have been playing with a toy gun with the orange tip removed, obviously. But why don’t our cops have non lethal ways of dealing with a threat? Why does it have to be kill first ask questions later? I have great respect for police officers and I understand that they have a unique job that puts them in harm’s way and they need to be able to protect themselves. I would never take that away from them. However, you can protect yourself without the need to kill. But this is the only option they are being trained to do and being given. So, it is really their fault? It seems to me more like a system breakdown. Shouldn’t our police be trained how to protect citizens as well as themselves? It is starting to feel more and more like that isn’t the case. If a cop feels the least bit threatened the answer is to discharge their weapon. Again though, I have no doubt that this is their training. All you have to do is look at what is on their belt and how they are equipped. Military fatigues, M-16, tanks, mine resistant trucks and in the case of at least one police department a grenade launcher. I’m not lying, look it up. Can we blame the cops for going out on the streets and acting like they’re on tour in Fallujah?  Now, people are calling more and more for cops to wear body cameras, why? How is seeing how and why a 12 year old was killed a better answer than finding a way for the cop to be protected and the child to be alive? Wouldn’t it make more sense to demand that the whole training system be overhauled? Look, I don’t want it to be open season on our cops. I believe that it isn’t too much to find a way to train the police a way to keep themselves safe without first turning to lethal force. It doesn’t have to be them or us.

To me, this inability to find complexity in today’s events is not only sad but dangerous. More than one thing can be happening at a time, more than one person can be to blame in a tragedy like Ferguson or Cleveland. Being rabidly obsessed with only finding fault and assigning blame to one side or the other does little or nothing to prevent it from happening again. Americans need to open their eyes and their minds to more than one way of thinking and seeing things. Otherwise, we’ll be nothing than a teeter totter as the balance of power switches back and forth. We need to find balance and that is impossible without seeing and considering both sides.

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