Sunday, January 18, 2015

"...One Assumes It's Only A Matter Of Time Before NASCAR Will Be Expected To Stop Calling It A Race....."

There's a problem with pendulums.

The not so good thing about their swing in a few moments.

(CNN)You go for some target practice, look down the firing range and see at the other end that one of the targets is -- your brother, an old photo of him.

National Guardswoman Valerie Deant was devastated to see her brother Woody's image pierced by police sniper bullets, she told NBC6 in an exclusive report.
But his photo wasn't the only one of an African-American being used for target practice last November. There were six bullet-riddled mugshots of black males at the range.


No, says North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis. Two of his snipers were using them for target practice -- one of them is Hispanic, and the other a black male of Haitian descent. 

Their target, a row of black men, which the snipers left behind at the stand, was one of many. There are also groups of white males, Hispanic males and white women.

There are 22 images in all, including a white man holding a gun to a white woman's head and one of now-dead al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. "The same target inventory has been used for more than a decade," Dennis said in a statement.

The idea is to have an array of photos with faces that look similar, so the sniper can practice exactly picking out the right target and avoid killing the wrong person in a real-life situation, Dennis said.

The department uses mugshots of people they arrested 10 to 15 years ago, and Woody Deant was one of them. Deant told NBC6 that he was booked after a deadly drag race. He has walked the straight and narrow ever since, he said.

"I can sympathize with the family discovering their brother's photo on the target," Dennis said.
Dennis became aware of the family being upset in late December and ordered an investigation. It turned up no violations of law or department policy.

But things will change. "We realize how important this issue is during today's climate," Dennis said.
Snipers will no longer use mugshots of people they have arrested, but instead will buy practice pictures from commercial vendors.

And they are instructed from now on to destroy their targets after they're done.

There was, of course, a time when racism, in whatever form it happened to take, was not only prevalent but, arguably, intrinsic in the American way of life.

And, although all that needs to be overcome has yet to be overcome, we continue to hope and believe that it shall be overcome some day..

Not to mention that which has, to date, been overcome.

Given the history, so far, though, it's inevitable that society would have to experience some backlash, payback or, in a more family friendly term, a little swinging of the pendulum when it comes to racial 

It may be neither pleasant or appreciated, but when a group of people is required to shut the hell up and stay in the back of the bus for generation after generation, it's equally inevitable that when those shackles come off, there's going to be a lot of making up for lost time and diatribe.

To wit, the pendulum swings.

Martin Luther King articulated it very succinctly in 1955

And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression.  There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair.  There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life's July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November. There comes a time. 

That was 1955.

It's now 2015.

And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of every little stumble being trumpeted as yet another trampling by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of anything and everything, no matter how minute or trivial, being associated with some new attempt at racial humiliation, where those who read and hear those associations experience the annoyance of despair at being nagged. There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the sunlight of cooperation and humanity and left standing amid the piercing chill of yet another attempt to cry racism where none exists.

And there comes a time when those who make big deals out of absolutely nothing, who exploit every opportunity, who, in fact, even create opportunities where no reasonable person would think to create one, do a grave injustice to not only those who are still working tirelessly to eliminate that which divides us but to those who spent their entire lives doing just that.

There comes a time.

A time to take matters into our own hands.

And, even perhaps, grab a hold of that pendulum.

Stopping it's inevitable swing.

Because there's a problem with pendulums.

They simply cannot swing one way without swinging the other.

And, at some point, enough is enough.

There comes a time.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

"...There's A Reason We Use The Term 'Without Rhyme or Reason...."

12 people are shot to death in a Paris office.
The rest of us, obviously, react with shock, dismay, distress, fear, even a little anger.
And an almost instant need for answers.
Turns out that the fundamental answer is actually readily available.
The psychologically damaged zealots who carry out these heinous attacks cloak themselves in the robes of righteousness, screaming out their "allegiance" to their God (in this particular incident, with the terrorist's favorite trademark phrase that pays "Allahu Akbar") neatly, almost as if it were professionally scripted, between the gunshots that took a dozen lives.
The irony of the whole "righteous robe" metaphor, by the way, can't be lost on even the most obtuse observer when you factor in that these "brave defenders of the cause" always manage to include face masks that hide their identities in their execution/assassination/massacre wardrobe choices.
But, that's a cowardly lion of a different color. And a topic for another time.
In the case of the Charlie Hebdo killings, we naturally gravitate towards trying to unravel the complexities, examine the underlying causes, decipher the intricate psychology of what would drive any human being to inflict injury and death on such a horrific scale.
Turns out it's really not all that complicated.
Three gutless, tragically pathetic wastes of life's precious gifts killed someone because that someone made fun of something.
And then killed eleven more someones because they happened to be in the building at the time.
As with Aurora, as with Sandy Hook, for that matter, as with the killing of JFK fifty years ago, we are so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event that we almost instinctively seek, if not crave, deeply layered explanations.
When the fact is it's not at all complicated.
It ain't brain surgery.
And no DSM is required in order to understand what's going on here.
All you need is a dictionary.
noun: reason; plural noun: reasons
  1. 1.
    a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.

noun: excuse; plural noun: excuses
  1. 1.
    a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.

The aforementioned gutless, tragically pathetic wastes of space who carried out this mass murder tried to cover up their gutlessness with the aforementioned standard wardrobe choices and outcries of supposed allegiance to their divine inspiration.
And the disrespect of others toward that divine inspiration was the reason they would give for their actions.
If they could shout a reason at us given that, of course, they have already been hunted down and most delightfully exterminated as pure evil always deserves.
They killed twelve people because those twelve people made fun of something.
At least, given the circumstances, that was what seems to be the reason.
When it, arguably, wasn't the reason at all.
They killed twelve people because those killers were gutless, tragically pathetic wastes of life's precious gifts who, for whatever reason, wanted to kill people.
And that those twelve people made fun of something was an excuse.
Not a reason.
There's no excuse for that.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

"....Sometimes Caution Shouldn't Be So Much Exercised As Given An Exhausting Workout...."

It's one thing to armchair quarterback when a game is lost.

It's quite another when a life is lost.

(CNN) -- The father-in-law of a mother fatally shot in an Idaho Walmart by her 2-year-old son says she didn't have a mean bone in her body.

"Everybody that met her, knew her, loved her," Terry Rutledge said about Veronica Rutledge, 29.
She died Tuesday after her young son grabbed a gun that was in her purse and shot her in an apparent accident, authorities have said. The two were out shopping with other family members when the shooting occurred.

Rutledge put herself through school and was a chemical engineer, Terry Rutledge said.
"She was a fun-loving, outgoing, outdoorsy person. Her family liked to camp, hike, do outdoorsy things. They loved being together," he said.
He added that she had carried a gun for years and had extensive training.
"I cannot put any blame on my daughter-in-law because I know her, the training she's had ... I don't take it lightly ... I cannot put any negligence on her part. It was a terrible accident," said Terry Rutledge.
He told CNN affiliate KREM 2 that the gun used in the shooting had been kept in a concealed zipper pouch in her purse.
One gun expert described what happened as a "perfect storm."
The toddler was able to unzip the pocket and grab the gun -- without being noticed. He was also able to grip the gun and exert sufficient force to fire, at least three pounds, Robin Ball, owner of Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop in Spokane, Washington, told KREM 2.
"Murphy's law just came into play today in so many ways and there are irreversible consequences for that," Ball said.
Almost before this young woman's body had been gurneyed out of the store, the piling on of second guessing and shoulda coulda woulda-ing began to sprout up on line like crabgrass at the first sign of spring.
Most of the Monday morning play by play consisted of criticism of the young lady's leaving herself vulnerable by allowing a gun and a two year old to be within such close proximity of each other.
Others, more gracious in their observations, simply agreed, in principle, with what the gun expert eloquently offered. It was a perfect, and tragic, storm.
There's something both poignant and pesky in the human condition that seems to trigger when we are faced with something undeniably horrific.
The term "trigger" of course both an applicable description and an unintentional pun.
We feel the need to make sense of it, ostensibly for those who have experienced the horror but, in the clear light of truth being told, mostly for ourselves.
And that need often presents as the expression of opinion which often presents itself in the form of, at best, critique and, at worst, outright criticism.
As if, of course, anybody asked.
Any "chastising" of Veronica Rutledge on my part is both inappropriate and disingenuous.
At the heart of the matter, it's really none of my business.
As to satisfying my own poignant, pesky human condition, though, I'm moved to offer this.

Between the calls for compassion and the cries of criticism in this tragedy lies a lesson.

For me, it takes the form of remembering that I treat, and have always treated, weapons with the
same attitude as I treated driving a motorcycle in the day (and, for that matter, driving a car to this day).

A single moment's lapse in attention and/or diligence can result in injury or death.

And I was, in a non-dramatic, non-morbid way, always aware of just enough fear of that possibility to stay out in front of the took on the form, of course, of assuming the worst, even "pessimistically" thinking of the ways in which things could go wrong and doing whatever I could to prevent them.

But, because of that mindset, I never had a bike accident (although others who weren't paying attention tried to change that stat only to be thwarted by my "assumption of their carelessness").

And, to date, I've never had to face the insanity of dealing with a loved one killed by a weapon in horrific and unexpected moment.

Life can be cruel. Even the most diligent of us can be blindsided.

Shit happens.

But if ever there is a time in our lives when it pays to be an alarmist and/or a pessimist and/or a cynic as opposed to relying on faith and optimism and good luck in life, it is when we start up the engine of that motorcycle that we are straddling.

When we put that car into "D" and put our foot on the gas.

And when we put a deadly weapon and a child anywhere near each other.