For Your Consideration (06/28/17)

A GOOD WALK SPOILED

Mark Twain once referred to the game of golf as, “A good walk, spoiled.”

I tend to agree. I suspect the enduring resonance of the quote demonstrates it to be a commonly held sentiment.

In truth, I’ve had a similar sentiment toward Malcolm Gladwell material—an under-gratifying expenditure of time. You know Malcom Gladwell! He wrote David and Goliath and The Tipping Point. His main schtick revolves around a certain manufactured eureka. (He’s been accused of being reductionistic. Oftentimes he strikes me as a bit pedantic.)

Still, I’m coming around. (Not to golf, but to Malcom Gladwell.) I’m coming to appreciate his doggedly egalitarian bias, and his willingness to question societal and institutional status quo. (There is no agreement on the plural for that latin phrase, I’ve found.)

Gladwell has just begun season 2 of his podcast Revisionist History, which I’ve come to enjoy. Episode 1 probes the the absurdity of golf, specifically private golf courses in Los Angeles and the unconscionable subsidies they enjoy from a city devoid of adequate public parks.

He does a good job of this.

You should listen if for no other reason than to be exposed to The Ship of Theseus (or Theseus’ Paradox), and the comparison of mereological vs spatiotemporal theories on identity. Think, “Why does the Hudson River remain the Hudson River even though it is constantly composed of different water particles?” How might this same paradox be applied to rich white men?

FIRING FROM FEAR

Many were distraught this week after a jury acquitted Minneapolis-area police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of motorist Philando Castile. I was also distraught.

Days later the dash-cam video was released. It is hard to watch. It is also hard to fathom how this was found to be anything but a criminal use of deadly force.

David French of The National Review penned a strong piece on the unwritten law equating fear with innocence in most police-involved shootings.

It’s imperative that juries understand that not all fear is reasonable, and some officers simply and wrongly panic…

When I saw that palpable panic, I immediately knew why he was acquitted. The unwritten law trumped the statutes on the books. The unwritten law is simple: When an officer is afraid, he’s permitted to shoot. Juries tend to believe that proof of fear equals proof of innocence.

He goes on to give other examples of this unwritten code, but asserts that juries must learn to differentiate between reasonable fear and reckless panic.

Absent corruption, incompetence, or malice, most officers are going to make reasonable choices in high-stress situations.

Some, however, will fail, and it’s imperative that juries understand that not all fear is reasonable, and some officers simply (and wrongly) panic. Perhaps some have unreasonable fear because of racial stereotypes. Perhaps some have unreasonable fears for other reasons. Perhaps some have a brutal habit of escalating force too quickly. But every officer must uphold the rule of reason, a rule that compels a degree of courage, a measure of discipline, and a tolerance for risk that is inherent in the job that they’ve chosen.

The vast majority of officers are up to that challenge. A few are not. They must be held accountable. Justice demands no less.

I would encourage you to read this, and to refine your own views on what must be expected of our police in order for them to not operate de facto above the law. Our nation is to be a place of law and justice. Police cannot operate outside of this, nor can our criminal justice system fail to offer meaningful accountability in those cases when they themselves violently violate those laws they are hired to uphold.

Once you finish that.

CONFRONTING THE MYTH OF POST-RACIAL AMERICA

American University (DC) history professor and author Ibram X. Kendi wrote an OpEd for New York Times on how our police-involved shootings (and the narratives we employ to explain them) expose whether we will hold a truthful or mythical opinion of our country; and that such race-based instances of violence always have.

He writes:

Black people were violent, not the slaveholder, not the lyncher, not the cop. Many Americans are still echoing that argument today.

This blaming of the black victim stands in the way of change that might prevent more victims of violent policing in the future. Could it be that some Americans would rather black people die than their perceptions of America?

It was probably the best piece I read on the Yanez verdict, and its aftermath.

I do not dislike America. But the widespread refusal to truthfully appraise our country is actually at odds with what we claim America to be; the myth is standing in the way of bringing to reality forward toward its aspirations! But, in the meantime, the human and social to toll is grievous to say the least.

The deeper answer is that black death matters. It matters to the life of America, by which I mean the blood flow of ideas that give life to Americans’ perceptions of their nation.

In these high-profile cases, it is not just police officers who are on trial. America is on trial. Either these deaths are justified, and therefore America is just, or these deaths are unjustified, and America is unjust.

I can relate to this felt need to see America as somehow better than it is. I want us to be the good guys! But I can also readily admit that this is too simplistic of a version. I must love truth more than untruth, even if that means loving something ugly over something fake-but-pretty. As a Christian, I actually think this is a key tenant of our profession of faith.

BEFORE THE INTERNET

On a much (much!) lighter note, my wife and I found ourselves smiling and nodding as we read Emma Rathbone‘s meandering anecdotal article for The New Yorker.

Each vignette is led with the phrase, “Before the internet…”

You’d be in some kind of arts center, wearing roomy overalls, looking at a tray of precious gems, and you’d say, “That’s cat’s-eye,” and your friend would say, “Nope. That’s opal.” And you’d say, “That’s definitely cat’s-eye.” And there would be no way to look it up, no way to prove who was right, except if someone had a little booklet. “Anyone got a little booklet?” you’d ask, looking around. “Is there a booklet on this shit?”

Then you’d walk outside and squint at the sky, just you in your body, not tethered to any network, adrift by yourself in a world of strangers in the sunlight.

Kinda true, right? Remember?

Before the Internet, you could laze around on a park bench in Chicago reading some Dean Koontz, and that would be a legit thing to do and no one would ever know you had done it unless you told them.

Go read it. C’mon. It’s short. Probably should have been longer. But it’s short and sweet and on the internet, so.

Speaking of the internet.

SOCIAL CURATE

I like these little info vids from Vox. After you watch this, I’d be curious if any of you would diagnose me with ADHD? If so, should I keep treating it with coffee or pills or nothing at all? I’m open to suggestions!

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