What I don't know generally outweighs what I do know for a lot of shit that goes down in this world and when that's the case I tend to ask more questions, listen as hard as I can, read as much as I can and try my best to understand. I don't- generally- express my opinions on social media because I have never in my life seen an well-reasoned, thoughtful, intelligent debate ever happen on Facebook or Twitter.
Trying to understand is sort of the best I can do. I'm a straight, white male, solidly middle-class and I have no idea whatsoever what it's like to be a minority in this country. I don't want to say things like 'I understand the rage and the pain' because I don't. And saying that makes it about me instead of about the people who live with this stuff on a day to day basis and I don't want to do that either.
But I also work in Law Enforcement. I'm not a cop, but I know cops. I see them go out and do their job every day and I'm fortunate to know and privileged to work with some excellent law enforcement professionals that live up to the ideals of what I think everyone in this country would want their police officers to be. There are thousands of cops out there that do the job right every day and work their hardest to connect with their community and give back in amazing ways that few, if any ever hear about. Their failures are very public. Their successes are, by and large unnoticed- and what knocks me down about police officers- they keep doing the job. It's far and away the most thankless job I can think of in this day and age and any sane person would run screaming from the hours, the schedule and all the bullshit that comes along with it- but they don't. They go home, the put on the uniform and they do it all again. Every day.
I've struggled to wrap my head around the events of the past week- like pretty much everyone else has and initially, I had nothing, but the more I watched and read, the more it bugged me. No one seems to care about facts any more and it has this annoying tendency to obscure meaningful debate and conversation on these issues. The media doesn't help matters any. I get it- they're in a business and the sole purpose of being in a business to is to make money and that means you go where the ratings are. So looking at CNN, it seems like the world is going to hell in a handbasket. You find yourself wondering if agoraphobics might be onto something- and maybe not leaving your house would be a rational choice- but in order to find truth, you need to break through the sensationalist, muck-racking bullshit and read between the lines.* Finding facts and something resembling the truth means learning to be a critical consumer of media.** Which is why I retweeted the shit out of this link.
But what you did find- which was comforting after the horrors of this week, was that people are, by and large, not awful to each other. There's hope. Hours before the shooting, Dallas PD was posting pictures of their officers posing with protesters for photos***- smiling and in uniform- not full combat gear. Reports of protesters helping police and police covering protesters when the shots rang out were all over Twitter. Maybe there's hope for us yet.
The other thing that kept going through my head last night... what's going to change? Marching, expressing outrage- all of those things I can understand in the wake of what has happened. But until someone sits down and comes up with like ten, solid policy proposals and shoves them at the politicians and says 'do this. Fix this. Or we'll vote your ass out' what's going to move the needle on these conversations? While I think there are some politicians who live up to the label of 'public servant' among our leaders, anyone will act if people organize enough. Any one of them will do what they have to do if their job is dangled in front of them.
I always see the same clips from The West Wing floating around after mass shootings, but there's another one that I wish I could find- where Josh is meeting with Jeff Breckenridge, a lawyer they want to hire for the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department. There's a wee bit of a problem, though- Mr. Breckenridge supports the idea of reparations for slavery. Long story short though, there's the point at the end where he pulls out a dollar bill and shows Josh the unfinished pyramid on the back- a symbol from the foundation of this country that the work of building that more perfect union is never complete.
That sentiment rings very true to me. While the ideal of the country- a more perfect union for all its citizens- has yet to be achieved, the legacy of this country's foundation is that it's incumbent upon all of us to continue to work toward building that more perfect union.
Whether it's in large ways or small, we can all work harder at that.
*William Randolph Hearst would have been right at home in today's media, I think.
**I'm becoming increasingly convinced that critical analysis of the media should be taught from Junior High on. Don't know if that would help or not, but if you can teach people not to swallow whatever bullshit the media (whether left or right) is trying to shove down their throats, it might help.
***Wrap your head around that. Protesting police brutality and they're posing for pictures with police officers.