On Michael Brown and Public Reactions

In lieu of commenting on the countless uninformed social media posts I’ve seen, I’m just going to reply to them all at once. First off, get informed. Don’t read an article on CNN, or watch some segment on the news. If you’re going to talk about Ferguson or make assumptions on Ferguson, get informed. Get on twitter, follow the reporters and residents and politicians that are down there every night, posting pictures and videos and constant updates about everything that’s going on.

Secondly, regarding the looters and rioting. Contrary to popular belief, the protesters are not rioting. When there have been riots, they have been initiated by others, and in almost all instances the protesters have attempted to self-police and have been blocking entry to the stores and businesses that were broken into. Don’t for a second thing that this entire crowd just up and decided to break shit and burn shit as a protest. The people that actually give a fuck about this issue are against looting; against attacking cops; and against chaos. The people looting saw a golden opportunity to steal some shit while the cops were occupied. If you’re trying to claim that these crowds are one and the same, go get fucking educated. Or find some videos from Wednesday night when the people were protesting peacefully, sans looting, and the cops decided to fire tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd…not at all an excessive show of force. There’s a reason that the St Louis County PD was relieved by Highway Patrol the following day.

Third point, why is everyone pissed? Seven days ago a teenager was killed by a policeman. It took six days for the name to be released, and thus far that’s the only information that was provided. They’re pissed because there’s a rush to supply information about the kid, answering unasked questions like “did he have a criminal record?” and “was he in a gang?” and “is there anything he did to potentially deserve this?” Why else go out of your way to mention that this dead teenager was a suspect in a robbery when the officer in question didn’t know about it and stopped him for a completely unrelated reason? Oh, he stole some cigarillos? Yea that totally justifies his execution. Even though we don’t know the full details, it’s troubling that the version we’re hearing from police has a huge gap…it goes from a struggle in the car and a shot fired inside the vehicle to “A few moments later, Chief Belmar said, the officer allegedly fired multiple shots outside the vehicle that killed the suspect, about 35 feet from the cruiser.” Seven days later, and we’ve been given more irrelevant information about Michael Brown and still don’t have the officer’s account of what happened between the struggle in the vehicle and the actual shooting…it almost feels like the trigger-man is being sheltered, as if the full account might paint him in a negative light somehow.

Fourth point, those of you against protests in general. There isn’t much to say on this, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. But realize that this crime goes beyond race; this is about cops vs. civilians, and it’s not an isolated issue. When the people that are supposed to protect you are killing you instead, that’s a problem. When it’s happening with increasing regularity, that’s a problem. The whole criminal justice system is fucked, top to bottom, but that’s a much longer discussion for another day and another time. Though I highly suggest you do some research to learn more about law enforcement in this country, as well as excessive force and questionable shootings by police officers.

Fifth point…the crime might not be about race, but the reactions are. There’s a reason the media kept running the picture of Michael Brown throwing up a gang sign (unless it was a peace sign…but we can’t expect any sort of responsible reporting). There’s a reason that people have seized on the fact that he had just stolen a pack of cigarillos. There’s a reason that idiots are claiming that these protests are just an excuse for everyone to loot. What that reason is (if it’s not racism, whether blatant or subtle), I don’t know. But none of those things can be used to justify the shooting. Posing for a picture doesn’t excuse getting shot 8-10 times. Neither does petty theft. Neither does any looting (and I feel bad that I have to spell this out for some of y’all, but that happened AFTER THE FUCKING SHOOTING).

So why do people cling to it? Why are there folks frustrated with all of this, who can’t understand why anyone would bother getting this angry? Imagine that someone kills your child, or your friend…people witnessed it, everyone knows who did it, yet six days later, all they’re doing is talking about your kid. “Well when he was 15 he was charged for tagging a wall, and in the 6th grade he pushed a kid to the ground and stole his lunch money.” There’s absolutely no reason to get into any of that because it’s not relevant to the central fucking issue. A kid was killed. The man that pulled the trigger is being protected. Whether you think Michael Brown was a saint or a thug, at the end of the day he didn’t deserve what happened to him. Maybe if you give the people (including his parents) the answers that they’re seeking, instead of trying to shield the cop while you dish out any negative info you can find on Michael Brown, they won’t be so aggravated.

And once again, get informed.

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Writing: The Process

I don’t give this blog nearly enough attention. I feel like I owe everyone (myself?) an explanation. It’s primarily a combination of two specific factors, the first of which is timing. Each of the few entries I’ve made started with an idea that came to me at work. Unfortunately I’m not able to just churn out entries sitting at my desk, so I keep a notebook where I can jot down anything interesting my mind happens to dig up (writing topics, lyrics, ideas, reminders, etc). But by the time I make it home, The idea that was once so clear has now become muddled. I can’t remember that specific point I wanted to make, or the exact phrasing I wanted to use. Maybe that’s on me for not taking more detailed notes (I typically just write the key topic, then maybe a few bullet points that I’d like to cover), but regardless…by the time I get home and I’m sitting here, locked in a staring contest with a blinking cursor, the idea has been warped. Not drastically, but just enough for me to know that it’s not the same…that it’s inferior to what I’d initially thought of.

Which brings me to my second point, the curse of all creative-types: Self-criticism. Often when I reach that point (where I know the best version of the entry has been lost, but still remain committed to write something), I’ll try my best to capture the ideas I originally had. But the entire time there’s this voice telling me “This is awful. You know that the other one was so much better. Why are you even wasting time with this?” And honestly, they’re all valid points. When I write (or make music…or do anything), I don’t like to half-ass the effort. But by putting out version 2.0 of random-blog-topic, that’s what I’m doing. I’m hitting “publish post” and sending out something that I know is far from the best I could do. Do I want to have this “eh” article represent my thoughts and opinions? Usually not, which is why I can tell you that numerous posts have been deleted and lost to the world. I wish I could change my thinking, or at least find some common ground, but as of this date it hasn’t happened yet. The only reason that this post exists is because the idea came to me shortly after waking up, and I still have 10 minutes before I need to start getting ready for work. I can’t let an idea sit on the bench, it needs to be given life immediately…there’s a very small window of opportunity.

Will this admission actually change anything? I have no idea. In the past, I’ve had a lot of success putting problems to paper. Once I finish writing, I’m able to step back and see the issue from an outside perspective, which allows me to come up with a logical solution that’s not weighed down by the emotional attachments. Maybe that’s my hope for this, but we’ll see. If I go another month or two without an update, you’ll know the reason why.

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The Rise of Negativity

This is a summary of something I’ve been meaning to write for a long time (hopefully I’ll be able to revisit it in the future and add more detail/structure):

  • Don’t be an asshole (this will be a recurring theme).
  • Snark is unnecessary. The internet has seemingly made it ok to be angry for no reason (“No shit, what the fuck do you think” as a reply to someone asking a question), and it doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not making myself out to be all high and mighty; I used to be like that, but there’s honestly no justification for it anymore.
  • On a related note, there’s too much negativity. Everything is a huge deal, everything warrants a complaint. People spend ten times as much effort telling you why they’re pissed off than they do telling you about something truly great in their lives. Sometimes I get happy and I just wanna tell everyone and share the joy. Why is it more fun to bitch? It’s 2014, the time to be a Maddox-clone has long since passed.
  • (I realize the irony as I sit here writing this) When you have a problem with an issue or you’re truly offended by it, getting on tumblr (or whatever avenue you use to share your thoughts) is pretty pointless. You’ll spend hours typing a gigantic dissertation that explains why ____ is a huge problem and how no one else seems to get it but you. Then you’ll get likes/reblogs/comments/kudos/etc from followers/people that feel the same way, and then everyone is patting themselves on the back. But in the end, what was accomplished? You essentially walked into a room of people that already agree with you, made a statement that was generally applauded, and felt good about yourself? You didn’t succeed in reaching your target audience (i.e., the parties responsible for the actual problem), and they probably have no idea that you went to such efforts. If you truly have a problem with something, get out there and actually make an effort to change it. There’s no sense in getting together with a crowd just so you can all complain about the same thing and agree with each other.
  • Guilt is a pretty big thing now, especially on the internet. I’ve “learned” about so many issues with the world that I wasn’t previously aware of. And then I was told that I should feel guilty. Guilty about my ignorance, guilty about my existence, guilty because if I’m not 100% with you then I’m against you and a horrible person. That’s a pretty shitty way to make a change and get someone to listen to you. Not every situation is black and white, and it’s pretty stupid to only see the world in absolutes. Honestly it reminds me of religion…you take something “normal” that most people don’t really give a second thought, tell them that it’s awful and how dare they not know the truth about ______. There’s no room for discussion, no arguments, no “well what about____” counterpoints. It’s wrong, and you’re wrong for having a different point of view. I’m told that despite my actual intentions when I say or do something (which I will understand better than anyone else ever could), I’ve actually got some subconscious malicious intent. So is free will nonexistent now? Why say or do anything if the meanings have already been pre-determined? We can all just wear stickers saying “Hi my name is ____ and I’m a _____” to save time and eliminate all those pesky “conversations” we all used to have. When there are people on both sides of a room yelling radical statements back and forth at each other, why would I be inclined to side with either one? Even if I agreed with your message, your over-the-top method of delivery is likely enough to push me away.
  • And to that, labels. Everything must be labeled and categorized, even if we have to make up new labels and combinations. The same folks complaining about being forced into roles and categories are the ones that have to immediately define something and put it in a box. “No, you’re ____. I don’t care what you think, you’re <b>wrong</b>, you’re _____, and that’s final.”
  • Most of this is just rehashing the same thing. Why the hostility, why the negativity. People can’t even have discussions without having them dissolve into full-on arguments. Let’s throw out some threats of bodily harm and insult a person’s intelligence/character because of a few words on the internet. Let’s claim we’re pro-peace and harmony while spewing some really vile shit and generalizing everything to falsely strengthen our arguments. The asshole has become the norm, and empathy and logic are endangered species. It’s an asshole’s world and unfortunately they’re growing in size.
  • This seems like the rant of an old man that doesn’t get the world anymore, and maybe it is. I look at things logically, and logic doesn’t really seem to apply anymore. I have no idea what’s going on or why, but I really really hope it’s not too late to undo some of this.
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Excessive Farce

http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20130910/NEWS/130910009/

Go read that story (and make sure you watch the video), then come back here.

Done? Ok, good.

Do you believe that was excessive force? Do you believe the officers in that video were far more forceful than they needed to be in trying to handcuff a 130lb woman? I’m just gonna go ahead and assume that your answer was “yes.” If you disagree, well that’s your opinion, and you are entitled to it despite the fact that you’re an idiot. The girl, the city, the cops; they’re all interchangeable. This is something that happens throughout the country on a regular basis, and despite the (completely warranted) outrage, nothing seems to change. I mean, think about it. Why, if you’re a police officer, would you so blatantly assault a person, knowing that the entire incident is being recorded on your dashboard camera? Because you know that you’re probably gonna get away with it.

It doesn’t help the situation when your union says things like:

“They were absolutely justified in doing what was called a takedown and that’s what they did here, and in fact they would have been justified in going all the way up in the use of chemical weapons, or a taser, using a baton, they wouldn’t have been justified in using deadly force,”

In what has to be a front runner for understatement of the year, Ms. West’s attorney replied with the following:

“For the P.B.A. to take the position that it would have been appropriate and justified to use a baton, taser, or chemical weapons to subdue a 120 pound woman with five officers on scene, in my opinion, identifies the severity of the problem within the department.”

Somehow, the FBPA watched that video and came to the conclusion that not only was it okay, but it might’ve even been kinda lenient. Shit, who knows what would’ve happened if that cop had been in a bad mood? Bust out the taser, those cries sound like someone’s resisting arrest.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that not every cop believes this shit, and I’m not trying to paint them all with the same brush. But just because a problem isn’t widespread (relatively speaking; one instance of police brutality is already over the limit), doesn’t mean that we accept it and/or ignore it. Yet what keeps happening? Cops feel like assaulting someone and lying about it. But it’s okay; even if there’s video evidence they’ll probably just get away with it.

And don’t assume that these are isolated incidents; this shit is common, and this shit is excessive (maybe not the best word to use; seems like it’s easy to forget the definition). But the question, again, is why? Why does it happen? Why does it keep happening? Why do cops keep getting away with it? Do they think that their actions will be deterrents against future crimes? The only thing that I’ve learned from all of this is that if I ever feel the need to shoot an unarmed man 41 times (stopping to reload twice), I should make sure I’m wearing a badge.

I mean honestly? Do what you want. Your union and police chief will back you up, always stating that your actions were justified and not at all excessive (again, 41 shots…). Half the time, you’ll just get acquitted (and that’s if they even bother pressing charges).

But wait a second, we can’t criticize the police! They’re the law, and we have to respect that. It’s not as if they’d charge someone with a felony for distributing public information, right? And they definitely wouldn’t punish a man that made the grave mistake of clenching his buttcheeks by forcing him to undergo an x-ray, two rectal exams, three enemas, a second x-ray, and a colonoscopy.

Everyone needs to remember that at the end of the day, cops are people too. They aren’t better than us, they aren’t above the law, and they aren’t immune to (significant) lapses in judgement. An asshole with a badge is still an asshole. I want to reiterate that I’m not attacking all police officers, because there are plenty that perform their jobs admirably. But fuck the dirty cops, and fuck their peers that don’t speak up or lie to cover their buddies. Maybe instead of arresting people that film you when you fuck up, you should focus on…I dunno, not fucking up as much?

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Let’s play a game of madlibs

Citizens are up in arms over another case of police brutality, after an unarmed _______[city] resident was shot and killed. Officers claim that the victim was acting erratically and came at them with a _______[weapon], but witnesses dispute the facts provided, stating that the victim was not charging or rushing. The victim’s _______[relative] claims that “_________[Victim's name] ain’t have no weapon, he ain’t had nothin on him. Cops showed up, started yellin at him, and then just shot him. He didn’t charge, he wasn’t aggressive, and the only thing in his hand was ___________[harmless item].”

After conducting an internal investigation, the __________[city] police department has determined that the use of force was justified and stated that the officers responsible will not be charged for the ___________[illogically high number]th case of an unarmed citizen killed by law enforcement’s use of excessive force.

 

http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/330764/3/Family-of-man-shot-by-police-refute-officers-story

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/06/killed_over_a_movie_ticket_how_law_enforcement_hurts_people_with_disabilities/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/sammy-yatim-video-shooting-toronto-police_n_3671422.html

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/09/18/4323491/cmpd-chief-contradicts-lawyers.html#.UlaZPlBQE1M

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/27/israel-hernandez-lawsuit_n_3823813.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cases_of_police_brutality_in_the_United_States

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cases_of_police_brutality

 

*I’m aware that there are (hopefully) more good cops than bad, but the entire system needs a massive overhaul. Start with the training, and then take a look at the actual investigations into these incidents (such as deciding not to file charges despite video from a dashcam completely refuting the story given by police officers).

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Pedestrians suck. Cyclists suck. Drivers suck.

(Last time I wrote about this topic, I put a lot of effort into maintaining a respectful tone. That’s out the window right now. And don’t feel bad cyclists, you have company now!)

(Also this blog will not be filled with rants. Honestly, I hate the fact that everyone on the internet is still trying to rip off Maddox and play the “edgy” card, but I’m not gonna pretend I don’t get annoyed. You’ll get these posts once in a while, but there will be some more variety on the way.)

Pedestrians fucking suck. They don’t know how to walk and have as much awareness as a group of comatose sloths. Please explain why the following behavior is acceptable:

  • Randomly stopping in the middle of a sidewalk, forcing people in both directions to try and go around you;
  • Walking side by side with your friends as if you were in a parade, essentially stretching from wall to curb;
  • Managing NASCAR-levels of defense to keep anyone from passing you, despite moving about 1 mph;
  • Holding hands with your significant other, making me look like the asshole when you lumber into my path because you refuse to release each other for even the slightest of moments;
  • Blindly crossing the street despite the green light and oncoming traffic, then getting pissy and cursing out the driver because you couldn’t wait for a walk signal;
  • Walking down the sidewalk while looking at your cellphone/tablet/book.

Cyclists fucking suck too. Take my comments about awareness, throw them in a blender with an air of smugness and a willingness to point fingers at everyone else, and you’ve got the average asshole cyclists. These class acts are guilty of the following:

  • Ignoring traffic laws (red lights, stop signs, one-way streets, etc) and pedaling without a care in the world;
  • Or even worse, being completely unaware that such laws exist and/or apply to them (imagine someone getting in a car without knowing or caring about the rules of the road);
  • Not caring about other vehicles on the road (either in motion or stopped) and weaving in and out of traffic maniacally;
  • Racing through a line of pedestrians crossing the street instead of just waiting for the people to move;
  • Blaming drivers for hogging the road and being assholes when they’re being just as douchey;
  • Getting that exasperated look when they have to go around other cyclists that are actually obeying traffic laws.
  • Riding your bike on the sidewalk when there is an empty bike lane five fucking feet away on your left.

And then we come to drivers. There aren’t as many poor drivers as you think, but a shitty driver is far worse than a pedestrian or cyclist, because he or she actually has a license (most of the time). Road tests aren’t easy, and you have to be extremely responsible and cautious to pass, so it’s unfathomable that someone who does know the rules is guilty of the following:

  • Disregarding pedestrians, cyclists, cars, vans, 18-wheelers, etc;
  • Forgetting to use turn signals (the lever is right there, you don’t even have to move your hands, just flick your finger);
  • Ignoring red lights/stop signs/one-way streets;
  • Flipping off/cursing out a driver because you had to switch lanes to go 30 mph over the speed limit;
  • Using a turn signal at the last possible moment and crossing over 3-4 lanes of traffic to get to your exit;
  • Parking like an asshole and taking up two spaces;
  • DRIVING DRUNK (I shouldn’t even have to say this one but I can’t leave it off, because there’s nothing dumber a person can do behind the wheel).

It’s depressing that people will spend decades alive without ever mastering the art of effective and efficient movement. Even if you aren’t guilty of these crimes against society, you probably know someone that is. Talk to your friends. Tell them to stop being assholes. Respect each other.

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Race and Justice

(This is a rambling mess, but I don’t really care…I’m just spewing words here).

Like everyone else, I’ve been following the Trayvon Martin trial. There are two things everyone keeps mentioning in the wake of the verdict: that the outcome was expected (true), and that race was not a factor (false). Let’s start with the first one, because that’s the real problem here.

The reason Zimmerman managed to elude conviction was Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. His defense team’s strategy of self-defense falls directly under it, so all they had to do was focus on that side of the argument. Regardless of what you think of him and what he did (and his apparent lack of remorse after the fact), George Zimmerman was found not guilty. He is not the problem, the law is the problem. SYG is a stupid, stupid fucking law, and because of it a 17 year old kid is dead and the man that pulled the trigger is free. 

Whenever there’s a big trial like with a surprising (or not surprising) verdict, everyone likes to think it’ll lead to change, that no one will want a repeat occurrence. Let’s not make the same mistake again, right? But that’s all we do.

22 years ago, Rodney King was excessively beaten with batons by several policeman. The incident was videotaped, four officers were tried, and four were acquitted. LA Riots, mayhem, etc..we know how the story goes. You would think that society learned from that mistake, that we’d never see something like that happen again. You’d be wrong. Years and years of politicians, police officers, and others saying one thing while their fists, feet, and weapons deliver a different message have eroded the trust we put in our elected officials and those around them. Millions are spent on campaigns to convince us that Candidate X is 110% committed to serving the citizens and being a voice for the people, only to spend his or her time in office ignoring the ones who provided that opportunity in the first place. Politicians serve their parties, and their parties serve those who open their checkbooks. Why should we trust them to protect us? Why should we assume they have our best interests at heart? If they happen to overlap, then sure…but for the most part, the needs of the people aren’t a blip on the radar. They serve greater masters than us. The entire political system in this country needs to be overhauled. The electoral college is a joke, a relic from the stone age that sticks around because it’s the easiest way to ensure that the people don’t truly have the power. We’re children caught between two squabbling parents, just trying to get someone to pay attention to us, but being constantly ignored. And the sad part is that it’s not going to change anytime soon.

Next up…race. I hate to generalize but I’m going to do it anyway. Many of the people saying that race has nothing to do with this are probably the same ones saying that racism no longer exists. Did race factor into the trial itself, and the evidence? Likely not, because as I mentioned above, SYG is what allowed Zimmerman to beat the charges. But pretending that the situation would have been exactly the same if Trayvon was white and Zimmerman was black (I’m aware that he’s half-white, half-hispanic) is ridiculous. For starters, there’s absolutely no way he wouldn’t have been arrested on the spot (It’s been awhile, people seem to forget that it wasn’t until six weeks after the shooting that Zimmerman was charged with murder). If it’s some white teenager walking down the street in a hoodie, does Zimmerman have the same suspicions? Does he consider that kid a “fucking punk” that “looks like he’s up to no good” like he did Martin? Don’t get me wrong, the first discussion we need to have in the wake of this trial is about the justice system, but ignoring the race factor would be stupid. I’m black; I can vouch for the fact that racism still exists, and the worst part of it for me is how easily everyone denies it. I live in Boston (technically Somerville, but I spent over 20 years in Boston and still work there), a city that claims to be liberal and accepting, and it’s honestly bullshit. It disgusts me how two-faced (some of) the residents are, refusing to admit what everyone else can easily see. But it’s not just here, it’s everywhere. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, I don’t go seeking the race angle everywhere. But it’s there. And there is no chance of society moving past it until everyone comes to terms with the fact that it still exists. And I’m not singling out white people, it exists on all sides

The only things we know for sure are they a man shot a teenage boy, was tried for murder, and was found not guilty. The law failed him. The law failed us, as it has time and time again. Society needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that changes are needed before something like this happens again.

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