Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Breaking Point

Well, I had a nice, happy little post all queued up for today, but it feels inappropriate given all that's happening in the world. So let me just say a few things that are probably wildly obvious and not very enlightening.

First of all, we had protests in London yesterday prompted by George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis. The UK has its own ugly history of racism and police violence, and protesters took to the streets to remember not only Floyd but others who have died in police custody or in racial attacks, both here and in the states. I certainly stand with the protesters symbolically, but I didn't go myself, given the whole coronavirus situation. (And the fact that we're supposed to stay off public transport.)

Police violence is a long-standing problem. Honestly, it's probably existed as long as there have been police. That doesn't excuse it, of course, and we need to do something about inadequate or outdated training (not to mention institutional racism!) that leads to unsafe choke holds and methods of restraint. We need to fire officers who prove untrainable. Body cameras should be mandatory and must always be turned on.

As others have said, we also need to reverse the increased militarization of American police forces. The police should not resemble an army, and shouldn't accept the military's cast-off equipment as a matter of policy. Police do not need tanks to patrol American streets. Also, tone it down, guys! I was shocked myself by the images I saw of shield-bearing officers barging through crowds of demonstrators in Washington, D.C., hammering on people (journalists, even) and knocking them down. What happened to de-escalation?

We have got to get rid of Trump. The guy is poison. Of course he's not personally responsible for police activity in Minnesota, but his national leadership creates an environment where these incidents fester and explode. Yes, Ferguson happened on Obama's watch -- but the Floyd demonstrations are even bigger, and it seems inarguable that people now feel even less heard and less respected. Trump brings out the worst impulses in both his fans and his foes. His disdain for expertise and his tendency toward authoritarianism -- a perception that anyone who challenges him is an enemy, and that enemies must be cudgeled, dominated, destroyed -- are dangerous. We need a leader who can communicate, who can hear people, react constructively and build bridges.

It was so refreshing to hear Obama speak last night.

Finally, I think we all need to reconsider our use of social media. The 2016 elections showed us it's prone to hacking, and I still see friends re-posting information and articles from dubious sources. I read Facebook for a while last night and it just left me in knots. Conversations on social media are not conversations -- they're one-sided punches and tirades, unleavened by the interpersonal cues humans get when we speak face-to-face. (Twitter is even worse, in my opinion.) I enjoy Facebook and I'll continue using it, but we've all got to be careful about what we post and how we react to our friends.

And that's about all I can say. So here's a picture of a begonia, growing on our bathroom windowsill. It's another plant rescue -- a plant I picked up for free at Homebase when the store was closing several weeks ago. It bloomed for us, so apparently it's happy.

These are dark times, but we all have to find little reminders that the world is still beautiful.

(Top photo: Discarded chairs spotted on my walk on Monday.)


  1. I find it really refreshing that you write "we" - so often I read and hear what "they" should do or not do.
    I left FB ages ago and haven't missed it a day. I think I read Twitter purely out of Schadenfreude. Just to watch the aaaagh moments and gruesome stupid stuff.

  2. Well said. I echo your sentiments exactly. Australia, where I live, has its own pretty horrendous history of race relations going right back to the colonisation that began with the First Fleet in 1788. We (and I agree with you, definitely "we") need to do something proactively to fix the problem. But I can't see the problem disappearing quickly, try as we might. It will take several generations of re-education and cultural shift, and a lot more structural change I am afraid. I hope I am wrong.

  3. I have almost decided to stop posting on Facebook and may eventually delete my account. I think your ideas are sound but I also think that people should read and openly discuss the role white privilege plays in racism, We will not change as a country until we all shift our thinking and challenge perceptions and behavior.

  4. Your last sentence is so true Steve.

    To me it is such a shame that Joe Biden is the best that The Democrats can offer up to compete against The Great Dictator. What America needs right now is someone just like Barack Obama - intelligent, compassionate, willing to listen - possessing the kind of humanity that has clearly evaded the current incumbent of The White House. And someone who is not in his seventies!

  5. I can remember when the policeman was looked up to. They simply carried a truncheon that was hardly ever used and you felt that they were there to help.
    Over the past years I've had run ins with the police mainly when my Grandson (who was no angel) got into various kinds of trouble and they are mostly bigoted brutes who look down on the general public.
    I am at the other end of life now but dread to think what things will be like for my children and Grandchildren in the future.
    As you say Steve 'the world is still a beautiful place and we have to look to nature for our sustenance.

  6. I tend not to watch the "news", but caught Benjamin Zephaniah, and an American living in England on breakfast TV briefly. The latter pointed out that this is something happening every 30 years, and there is no point putting a sticking plaster over a deep cut, you need to deal with the cause. And as BZ said people of colour (indeed all colours) came to Britain with the Romans.... And traded with Britain long before example being the Phoenicians and tin from Cornwall.

    It is a mess and needs to be faced honestly

  7. Here's something I keep thinking- it's really not the job of people of color to change things. WE, the people of white privilege are the only ones who can change things. We created the damn problems and we need to fix them. However and sadly, we've had to be told that time is up- we can no longer just go along valuing black lives less than white. In some ways, it's as simple as that.
    Of course it's not simple at all. It's terribly complex and twisted and rooted into the deepest bedrock of our societies and cultures.
    So. We're being given notice. And the bill is way overdue.

  8. "The guy is poison", what a perfect description. He's been poisoning American society since he hit the campaign trail four years ago. You are so right that we have to get rid of him. Four more years of this would be the end of us all. We also need to face our racial issues head on. I'm tired of all the pretty words with no plans to correct the situation. It's time to take action....serious action. I quit using Facebook after the last Presidential election. I think social media played a major role in the political divisions we live with now.

  9. I believe we are poised for change IF we can get Trump out of the White House and take back the House and Senate. Vote, get out the vote.

  10. One of the reasons , of many, that Trump can not discuss things is that he has no ideas so does not know how to support his position . All the lies show he can not support his position. It will take a long time to clean this mess up.

  11. we are definitely at a critical point. Bill Barr deploying the justice department prison riot control force around the White House because the military refused to do so, but then I read this morning the active duty military have also been deployed. plus Trump is currently having another fence erected around the White House to keep protesters even farther away. If he gets re-elected we can kiss our democracy goodby. it's already hanging by a thread.

  12. These are dark times indeed and perhaps flowers are what really matter right now. I don't know anything anymore.

  13. Thank you for writing this down, Steve. We're all watching this chaos unfold with such speed and volatility. It's hard to stay calm and sane, but we give it our best. About social media, yesterday I posted something on Facebook that caused two of my "friends" to interact with each other in a way that broke my heart. I took down the post (it was just two photos I juxtaposed -- one of Biden in a church, taking a knee with black parishioners, the other was Trump holding the bible). Facebook is a broken place. That's why I will always love blogging.

  14. The problem seems to me to be that while we have people of goodwill across any "color" barriers, they are drowned out by the violent ones who don't care about anyone or anything other than their need to destroy. We have no one to vote for in this election. We desperately need term limits and some way to find people willing to work for peace for all.

  15. Twitter is the worst, a toxic wasteland, and yet it's where all the news hits first, fueled by millions upon millions of citizen journalists, eyes and ears everywhere. I often want to quit it, and Facebook, too, and yet I can't, or don't. Lovely color on that begonia.

  16. I just don't know what it's going to take. I'm reading a New Yorker article about how people are treated in the Louisiana "justice" system and it's just horrific. A person can be held on a material witness warrant for years. They're still doing it, despite the virus. The racism in this country is just everywhere, it's overwhelming.

  17. Seems to always be said- "this is a pivotal moment" when important /stunning/ violent/ human activity takes a startling turn. This does feel different and Rump is a catalyst - did we realize what a toxic wasteland this country was ? I am in facebook jail for three days for stating that white folks suck ( a seventh grade knee jerk retort to be sure)- I could have posted something disgusting or violent but this is what got me thrown in the slammer. The break is good. I have been thinking to dump it after Isolation and covid19's vaca. Do not use twitter, do not need that grief. So, back to email and blogs , but without the fabulous world wide art offered on facebook , and the cheap entertainment factor/messaging- all of that.

  18. I read Twitter but only the major contributors in the line of politics and journalism whose views seem considered and measured and therefore worth reading. I can't bear to read the inane scribblings of Trump but get whiffs of his tweets from others who quote his latest missteps. I suppose those who are on Trump's side do the same. And so we all reinforce our own thinking. I think you've made an excellent point that social media has contributed to divisions, lack of intelligent thought and reinforcement of our own positions. Everybody has an opinion and everybody treats their opinion as fact.

  19. I've read your post more than once. It's easy to feel overwhelmed;happily for me I have no interest in Facebook, Twitter and their ilk. It reduces the incessant chatter.
    My basic thought is: talk's cheap, action's what we want.
    And as for the chairs in the photo - that sums up how I've felt most of this week - busted and broken and that my best days are well behind me.

    The ever cheerful Alphie

  20. Sabine: Well it's definitely a "we" problem, isn't it? Anyone who thinks they're not part of the problem is DEFINITELY part of the problem.

    David: It's definitely slow change. But think about how far we've come just in the last 50 years. I mean, the mere recognition that there is such a thing as "white privilege" (which admittedly some people still do not accept) is a huge thing.

    E: I think privilege is definitely part of the conversation, but what I wonder is how we employ practical steps to ameliorate that.

    YP: I agree that Biden is no Obama. But he's an experienced politician and leader and he's FAR better than what we've got!

    Briony: In the USA, the easy availability of weapons leaves policemen frankly fearing for their lives at every turn, which causes them to react defensively and too forcefully. Policing in the UK seems much milder, at least from where I'm sitting, although I know there are problems.

    GZ: Fortunately I think it IS being faced. Unfortunately we seem to require these paroxysms of violence to bring it all to the forefront once again.

    Ms Moon: Absolutely true. People of color unfortunately bear the brunt of the burden in pointing out these injustices and we must solve the damn problem.

    Sharon: He really is, isn't he? He was known around New York as an odious character for decades before he got elected. I'm amazed we're even in this position.

    Colette: Agreed!

    Red: He's all bluster. A puffed-up empty balloon of a man.

    Ellen: Whatever happened to government elected by the people, FOR the people?!

    Lilycedar: Flowers always help. :)

    Robin: I saw your Facebook post and it seemed harmless enough to me, but it's amazing what prompts people into angry exchanges these days. I just think I'm going to stick to posting pictures of the dog, unless I'm in a place where I can express myself more fully (like the blogosphere).

    Cheryl: It does seem that the violent get the attention, but that's partly why they're violent. They know that's the only way to be heard. I disagree we have no one to vote for. Biden isn't my first choice but he's capable and FAR better than what we've got, and there will be plenty of contenders for Congress who would be suitable replacements for Trump's lackeys.

    37P: I know. I sometimes feel I'm missing out by NOT being on Twitter, and every once in a while, when I look at someone's Twitter feed, I DO learn things. But I just can't stand it.

    Allison: If we're all in the basement on the racism question, Louisiana is the sub-basement.

    Linda Sue: You got suspended from Facebook?! Wow! You may be my only friend who's achieved that milestone. :)

    Jenny-O: The problem with Twitter is that measured and considered responses get drowned out. They don't "go viral" like the outrageous ones do. So Twitter fuels outrage. You know?

    Alphie: I thought those chairs were a suitable photo for this post. Broken, broken, broken. Unfortunately they're beyond repair, but WE'RE not.