Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What's Wrong with the World Mama?

I've decided to keep adding to this blog, even though the journeys have temporarily paused, because it remains a good place for me to dissect my thoughts on things beyond a Facebook post or casual conversation over Chipotle. This has literally nothing to do with traveling, but I figure in the future, I'll want to remember the in-betweens as well.

I'm sitting at my favorite Starbucks in Cherry Creek, the sun is shining, it's 60 degrees, and the Apple Store only gave me a two hour wait time for my computer.  Life is calm and beautiful here in sunny Colorado, but it feels facetiously mocking of the rest of the world. In Nepal, the earth is vindictively crumbling in on itself, weighed down by factories, people, and progress.  In Chile, the ground is exploding in an passionate expression of protest against the domesticity of the wild.  And in Baltimore, the city's on fire.

As I was reading Obama's remarks on the recent rioting, I was struck by the continuing narrative of scapegoating one particular public department, in this case the police, for the problems of a nation. Our society has chosen to blame the police for discriminative brutality against young, black men, and of course, there is serious responsibility to be laid at their feet; but, this type of popularized anger is eerily reminiscent of the same blame our society placed on teachers and administrators for the increasing prevalence of drugs and violence terrorizing our cities.  According to the popularized social thread of our American brain, bad teachers, intent on exploiting a systematically contrived pension system, are (were) to blame for the drugs, violence and failure that both cause and result from the massive economic disparity between the races.  Now racist police officers, protected by a historically racist justice system, have become responsible for the oppression of these same young, black men who were the victims of these exploitative teachers.

The common denominator is not the generally well-meaning public officials who choose to dedicate their talents, time and lives to public service and safety; but rather the system.  We scapegoat police officers, as we scapegoat teachers, for participating in a capitalist system that is designed to segment our country into winners and losers. By segmenting the justice system from the education system from the health system from the tax system we create misaligned lanes of injustice that, at best, create traffic jams, and at worst, fatal accidents. Moreover, by blaming the teachers and the police officers, we choose to scapegoat the individuals who drive within the painted lines when the real culprits are those that designed and painted them in the first place. Limited by the scope of our headlights, we fail to address the underlying, venn diagram of a system that does systematically oppress young, black, males in a ridiculously disproportionate fashion.

Our president says it best himself:

"And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents -- often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves -- can't do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college.  In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks -- in those environments, if we think that we're just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we're not going to solve this problem.  And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual."

In other news, an 80 year old man just came up to me in Starbucks and invited me to his apartment for "personal/social time". Props to Lisa Packard for saving me with that phone call. It's a strange world out there, folks. 

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