Monday, August 18, 2014

Race Matters

In the year plus since I have last sat down and written something here there have been plenty of intense news stories to consider.  There have been mass shootings, and foreign policy crises, and all kinds of things that could have been discussed here.  I came close to posting when the street car extension went down in defeat, if nothing else to dance a little victory dance, but even then, no.  Too much other stuff in my life.  Just keeping up on the Facebook is hard enough sometimes.

But then on a Saturday afternoon, a man was shot by a police officer in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis--and life has been off the hook since. 

Partly it is because I have this amazing Facebook friend.  I've never met her in person, but she is a talented writer and the kind of person who stands up hard for what she believes in.  She even appeared on national television after a certain Facebook post about mommy fitness went viral and she presented an alternative message so well that the media wanted to interview her.  Well, my friend became very intense about what was going on in Ferguson, and posted stuff from non-MSM sources that were more reflective of the black experience.  Most of them I was in agreement with and some I realized were treading in land I could not, as a white person, access.  They aroused emotion and some argument.  Other places on the internet were ablaze with commentary, from national sites like CNN to local sites like Tony's Kansas City.  Of course I could not go just half way with this stuff, but plunged in head long as usual.  None of it has changed my mind about the way I feel about race matters--stuff I have blogged about years ago.  But everything has been brought up afresh with the events in Ferguson.  I find that unfortunate, since we have struggled hard in this country to make progress.

The main thing that I want to say here is that the old narrative that fueled the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s is broken and needs revision.  Now, I am not saying that it needs to be thrown out completely.  Slavery was real.  White European people came to see black African people as less than human, something that just boggles my mind (and a stream of thought that is very much alive today, alas), and because of this white people could see their way to treating black people very badly.  The Civil Rights movement swept aside all legal bits of this inhuman treatment, and even put in place some things to force equal treatment. 

So what happened?  Something did, because parts of American society are badly dysfunctional.  Especially black American society. 

Maybe it is not so much that the narrative is broken, but that it is misused.  It is used to deflect responsibility for one's actions.  It is used to jump to conclusions.  It is used to lump everyone in a given group all together in one monolithic stereotype.  It is used to lower expectations and to allow for failure to become acceptable.  It is used to avoid asking hard questions and hearing hard answers.  It is used as an excuse.

Racism, prejudice and bigotry are alive and very well in today's society.  We are not past Race Matters by any means.  There are certain things that as a white person I will never understand, no matter how empathic I can be.  Yet we have to stop and ask, Is this current narrative and what we say to ourselves as a country about race and the history of black and white people in this country working?  I would propose that what we say is not working, not working at all.  The proof is in Ferguson, Missouri, and it is playing out live on your TV, on your computer or smart phone, in comment sections and blog posts, in anger and fear, in destruction and distrust.  

I am pretty hard to scare.  I recognize that the MSM is manipulative with its "if it bleeds it leads" mantra.  I look at crime realistically, rarely allowing news stories to frighten me unduly, taking me past doing common sense crime prevention and simply being aware of my surroundings.  But Ferguson scares me.  The profile of Ferguson is not far off from suburban cities in Kansas City and even south KC itself.  Communities such as Raytown, Grandview, Ruskin and even the older parts of Overland Park and Olathe have experienced White Flight and significant population changes. Have their polity and politics kept up with the change?  Do their police forces relate to the community as it is composed now?  Could a mob come into my neighborhood and destroy what me and my family have worked for in a night of terror?  I look around and see a lot of positive signs:  The Grandview police department is light years ahead of where they were.  KCMO has a black mayor and police chief.  My neighborhood is integrated. I have good neighbors.

I would hate to have the powerful outside forces of racial politics and fear transform good neighbors into people I have to worry about harming our community structure in the name of race.  It is time for all races, tribes, groups and statuses to look realistically at the way we talk to ourselves about Race Matters and to take responsibility for our own sins and bad actions.  That is one way to snuff the fuse of the race bomb. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Put Them Away!

I have long maintained that the majority of crime is committed by a minority of people.  Crime, like so many other human endeavors, seems to follow the 80-20 rule.  The 80-20 rule, as stated for group activities like work, church and charitable work, is that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, and conversely, 80% of the people do 20% of the work.  So, in crime, a small percentage of people commit the bulk of the crime.

Now, some of the proverbial 20% of criminals are people are the creme de la creme of bad guys--smart, sociopathic folks who are extremely hard to catch.  And some of the 20% are like this guy, Marlyn Standifer, who for some reason have just managed to avoid being nailed to the wall by the prosecutor's office.  KCTV 5 told this creep-o's story, complete with a list of his rap sheet.  http://www.kctv5.com/story/23521240/home-invasion-suspect-just-released-from-prison

This is not uncommon that people with a murder rap are released from our jails and prisons, having not even served a full sentence.  However, in this situation, what is more troubling is the lack of heart and strength from the prosecutor's office. We see this in other crimes, when a 5 time DUI loser is set loose to drink and drive again.  How many times have we heard of such a person going on to kill someone with a car.

It may be time to clean house in the Jackson County Prosecutor's office, time to find someone who will make it worth while for witnesses to crime to take the time and risk to testify in court to facilitate a conviction.  A prosecution that will make it worthwhile for police to track down and arrest these repeat offenders.

We seem to have an ambivalence about what prison is for, if it is for punishment, rehab or deterrence.  One thing is true:  when violent criminals are in prison, their ability to commit violent crimes is reduced almost to nil.  Let's put more violent offenders behind bars for good; we know they will not use other citizens as human shields to press their criminal agendas.

Post Script:  While going to the KCTV web site to grab the link to the story about the repeat offender that I had read earlier, I noticed this story posted now.   http://www.kctv5.com/story/23528965/jackson-county-prosecutor-does-more-than-just-put-criminals-away  Did the prosecutor threaten KCTV behind the scenes because of the previous story?  My reaction to the title was immediate and visceral:   Just put the damn criminals away, Ms. Baker!!

Friday, April 5, 2013

So How Could Anything Go Wrong?


During the recent election, Hickman Mills C-1 elected two school board members.  They defeated the bids of two former members to rejoin the board, thus leaving the board with little institutional memory of life before provisional accreditation.

Now I have nothing personal against Shawn Kirkwood and Byron Townsend but I keep hearing stuff about affliations with people in the Kansas City School District, about Freedom, about Clinton Adams, and I am not thrilled about that.  It is not the mentality I think is going to bring back excellence, or even mere adequacy to education in Hickman Mills--too many cronies, too many people making hay on the backs of kids/students that are already needing to see that education means something and can be worthwhile to them.   So, a choice that makes me a bit apprehensive, and shows signs of the same mentalities that wrecked the Kansas City system are trying to infect the Hickman Mills system.

New blood on the School Board--so how is there anything wrong with that?  The potential for disaster is definitely there...

10 Mailers!

So you may have not thought too much about the recent election, but it sure seems that somebody thought it was pretty important!
So it ended up that about 10% of registered voters came out to vote in the April 2 election.  It is obvious that someone thought this vote important.  Otherwise how to explain the time and expense of all this advertising? Someone's hand is in the pocket of taxpayers.  Is anyone addressing how efficiently this money is being used?  Where was the newspaper on this?  No, to the Kansas City Star, all taxes are good.  Even taxes that go to non-profits that pay their CEOs over $900,000.

Something isn't working here...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mailers!

There is a vote coming up in Kansas City, believe it or not.  I am not attuned to politics in April.  March fits in my rhythm, from my days in Vermont and the tradition of Town Meeting Day on the first Tuesday of March.  So, on the day after April Fool's, we will be having some voting.  Hickman Mills, Raytown and Grandview school districts will vote in some School Board members and three questions are up for all to vote on.  Link to sample ballot right here.

So far, I have received these two mailers. Has anyone else gotten anything?  They're pretty big and ornate!

One large sheet--address side--plus a note from the mayor.

The message side...

Address side of folded and sealed 4 sided mailer...

Left side of inside

Right side of inside...
The other outside face of the mailer...
Tony's Kansas City has been on top of the health levy tax--revealing the rather large salaries of execs of Truman Medical Center and Swope Health Center--here is his latest post on the matter.
I would hate to do it at the expense of people who need help, but the folks at City Hall need to be reminded that they are accountable for the taxes they collect and how those monies are spent.  I would have preferred the message be sent with a defeat of the zoo tax or the street car tax.  Those opportunities passed us by and now we are left with the unpleasant choice of sending a "no more tax" message that may have some grave affects on people or allowing a political body the luxury of thinking that the electorate will pay for anything.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Star Spangled Banner

Ah, the national anthem.  Two recent events have put the national song in the national conversation these past weeks;  singer Beyonce lip synching at the inauguration, and the quite long rendition by Alicia Keys in the just past Super Bowl.  It reminded my of something that happened to me about a year ago, when I traveled back to my home state of Vermont.
I really enjoy basketball, and I enjoy supporting school sports too.  My high school alma mater was playing at a nearby school while I was back in my home state for family matters last year.  So I took the short drive to this rival school to take in the game.  As was typical, the game was a boys/girls doubleheader.
Just like here, and most places in the United States, the national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner" proceeded the athletic endeavors of the evening.
Small town high school hoops.
Most places don't have the talent or wherewithal to do a live anthem for every game.  Usually a recording is used of someone singing, or a band playing an instrumental version.  That was what was on tap this chilly clear evening in a small Vermont town.
Except the tape/CD/record didn't work.  And didn't work.  The silence was painful.  Players were ready to play, spectators ready to cheer, but we could not start until "The Star Spangled Banner" was played.  Silence continued.
Until someone started:  "Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light..."  A capella   No accompaniment.  A little uncertain at first, then gaining confidence as other voices joined in.  "What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?  Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,"  The crowd gained momentum, carefully picking around the part of the song that had stumbled many talented singers.  "O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?  And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."  And finishing with the last words, not drawn out, but sung at the same crisp tempo as the start of the song:  "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"  After the last note fell silent, we all looked around at each other, athletic friend and foe, two small towns that had more in common than different.  Then we cheered, for the game was about to start.

Best. Rendition. Ever.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

One Nation Divided...

Boy, it's dusty around here.

It's funny, so many times as the world has gone on, I've thought, "Oh, I wrote about that in my blog."

I was just thinking to myself:  Has the world changed much since August of 2009 when I started this little enterprise?  In some ways, it has.  Some of the faces have changed.  We've had to live with the consequences of our decisions.  We haven't come together at all; if anything people are more divided in many ways.  The latest demonstration of this has been the gun debate that erupted after the shootings in Connecticut.  It's amazing how each side thinks the other side is scheming to cause the downfall of America.

It bugged me no end that the shooting of kids in Connecticut triggered this reaction about guns but no one seemed to turn a hair about the ongoing carnage in the poor sections of cities like Chicago and Kansas City. Midtown Miscreant blew the dust off his own blog and nailed it here.  Yes, it would be great to get some of the guns off the streets of our country, but how, without disarming the law abiding only?

What else has been interesting is how everyone is talking about the second amendment.  The hotness of the topic has revealed all the doublespeak that has been going on over the years, about how it was protecting the rights of hunters and sportsmen, and how it was insuring that people could protect themselves.  Now, people are going with a more literal meaning of the short-but-dense Second Amendment.  (To refresh your memory, the amendment reads as follows:  "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.")  Now, arms for citizens are seen as protection from the government.

Now, if you start unpacking opposition to the current government, especially the POTUS, you run head long into multiple manifestations of every division that has the potential to rend this country into bits:  Class, race and culture.  It is this that most deeply concerns me as a citizen of this nation, that our unity and identity as Americans has been lost.  Now we are Black and White (even more starkly in many ways then the 1960s, since we have lost the ability to talk frankly to one another without having the scarlet letter R [for Racist] applied.), Rich and Poor, Young and Old, Tax Payer and non-Tax Payer (which is a misnomer, since we all pay some type of taxes all the time), Taker and Giver and so on.  It is going to be tough to solve problems with all our divisions.

We are in uncharted waters for our nation, in my opinion.  We have no frontier to expand to, either geographic or technological.  We are trying to compete on a global stage but under unequal rules.  Our decisions to pay fair wages, protect our workers in the workplace, and care for our environment make it hard for us to compete on a world basis with countries that don't spend money on those things.  We've lost our bank of unskilled and semiskilled jobs (manufacturing type jobs mainly)  for those who are not as gifted with intellect and/or education.  At the same time, we struggle to educate our people to the level required by technology.  We are struggling with an economy that is not making jobs at a rate needed to reduce unemployment, plus the jobs being made pay less, and are less stable then the jobs that have been lost.  This cripples our consumer economy, plus stresses low cost rather then quality or supporting local companies when people do have the resources to buy something.

We are in a tough spot for sure.  And I don't have answers, nor am I convinced that anyone else has a clue either.  I think it is that frustration that stands behind some of the bluster from both the left and the right, from both Keynesian economists and Supply Side economists. The extremes of both sides are totally convinced of their rightness.

I frankly think no one has a real clue what will really set this nation back on a positive course.

I think that this discouragement is what has kept me from blogging very much lately.  Where is the answer and can we stop screaming at each other and name calling long enough to find it?

Thursday, November 8, 2012