No. 1: #Ferguson
I’ve kept purposely quiet for a few reasons. 1 – This isn’t Long Island (a cop-out of which I’m aware), 2 – All of the facts aren’t in yet. We can speculate, but I don’t know what happened, although based on history and how the police have handled the fallout, we can make some safe assumptions. And 3 – Because who feels like jumping into the fray, with all of the inevitable backlash? In the past, I’ve felt empowered by righteous indignation to face off against any and all criticism or personal attacks that comes with writing about race and guns (well, most personal attacks.) (Well, some.). But in the aftermath of things I’ll address below, I’m having a tough time rolling up the window that protects me from feeling the sharpness of every mean, ignorant, racist, ugly comment. So I’ve chosen to stay out of it.
However, I was getting my hair cut Friday by the hairdresser I’ve been seeing for a little over a year. Run by a sweet older married couple, this salon is a throwback to old family-run businesses, the Cheers version of beautification, where everyone knows your name. As the shop owner snipped around my ears, she made some casual conversation, as hairdressers are wont to do.
“Did you hear what Oprah said?” she asked me, in a mock whisper and furtive glances left and right that alerted me that whatever came next out of her mouth would be offensive to black people. She saw none in the shop, so she felt safe to continue. “She said that because of what’s going on in Missouri, if they just killed all the white people, the whole problem would be solved!”
“Oprah said that?”
“Did you hear Oprah say that?”
“Yes,” she said, which was a lie, since as soon as I got my hands on my iPhone and did a little Googling, I saw that there was nothing in the news that could have even taken something Oprah said and twisted it into this gross interpretation. By saying she’d heard Oprah say that, she meant that someone had whispered the same thing to her, in the same chair in which I sat, imprisoned by a lady with a sharp scissor. “I’m not prejudiced,” she assured me, which pretty much settled that, “But they go around called us bigots?”
In the words of my friend Floyd, “Anyone who says, “Now, I’m not a racist, but… ” is a ginormous racist-y racist and is about to say something horrendously racist.
This. This is how the class warfare disguised as race riots are being interpreted by some Long Islanders. And why this is the number one thing you should be angry about this week.
A few weeks ago, the Press published an Op-Ed where I asserted that the NRA should be classified as a terrorist group in addition to the lobbyist label. While many agreed and commented in an Amen-type fashion, there was a healthy amount of dissension. But this guy, Kurt Hofmann of Jews for the Preservation of Gun Ownership, was so overtaken with how irrelevant my opinion was that he dedicated an entire blog post to it. He believes that when I said that KFC’s brilliant marketing strategy that dropped the word “fried” from their brand was influential to how gun manufacturers and the NRA that supports them attempted to change the definition of “school shootings” to sell the country on how not big a deal they are, it was just stupid. Because they were never called the “National Fried Rifle Association.” Checkmate, Kurt.
The discovery of his blog and this group (This is what I get when I Google myself. One of these days I’ll go blind) led me to dig a little deeper. I can appreciate the idea that gun confiscation could give rise to the fear that a tyrannical force could take over a defenseless populace (except you know, when it does), even if the idea that even military-grade weaponry would be any match for the US military coming for its citizens is not only silly and ill-informed, but dangerous.
Yet, this mindset gets blurry for me when they address children. We all saw Stephen Colbert ridicule the book “My Parents Open Carry,” but I had no idea this was a thing. The JPGO has their own version, complete with a gun-toting mascot names Brasco, The Liberty Bear. He has his own coloring book.
Because kids and guns go together like peanut butter and jelly. If peanut butter and jelly killed them.
If you’ve been on the Internet at all the last few weeks, you’ve been overrun by videos of first your friends, then your relatives and neighbors, and now celebrities and professional athletes, and ex-President George Bush participating in the ALS ice bucket challenge which has raised more than $31.5 million since its inception.
By now, you’ve also been subjected to the indignation of those who are faux outraged that this is a bullying tactic designed to coerce unwilling donations through public embarrassment. There are also people who are angry that the money is being raised for ALS and not some other disease that that particular friend on your newsfeed has deemed ever more worthy. Or that it’s just tiresome already. Or that it hasn’t raised enough money, because these bucket-dumpers forgot to include www.alsa.org for their Facebook friends who don’t know how to use the Internet.
To them I say: adjust your settings so that you don’t see any more Ice Bucket Challenges. Fair warning: you then won’t see any Ice Bucket Challenge fails, which will culminate in a giant loss on your part because seeing people get knocked on the head with coolers has not yet gotten old by any stretch.
Donate your money to whatever causes you deem appropriate. Brag about it on Facebook. Or do it anonymously. Or brag about how you do it anonymously.
But with all the divisiveness, war, tragedy, and strife in the world, I think we could all use a little cooling off.
I haven’t watched the YouTube video of the New Hampshire-born journalist James Foley’s murder in Syria this Tuesday, and I won’t. I haven’t been able to get the brutal execution of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was beheaded in Pakistan in 2002, out of my head. His pregnant wife’s stricken face has haunted me ever since. Foley, a journalist who knew bravery I’ll never truly understand, whose compulsion to get the story led him beyond the Turkish border into Syria, died a hero. We’ve come to recognize heroism in those running toward danger—firemen and cops rushing toward the burning World Trade Center towers—when the rest of us flee, either physically or mentally. His death makes us confront some ugly realities in a very complicated world.
And if you’re paying attention, it should make you very angry.
The death of Robin Williams hit us all in our collective guts. For some, they were completely blindsided. For the rest of us, we’d recognized something in the comedian that we’d seen in somebody we knew, and the sad news brought back a lot of bad, helpless feelings. He touched most of us, in one way or another, though memories disguised as laughter that followed us from childhoods of Mork and Mindy and Comic Relief specials on HBO to iconic and sometimes dramatic roles.
I feel a kinship with his daughter who’s been left with a well of unimaginable loss and a lot more questions than can ever be answered. She recently had to close her Twitter account, because the direct access to strangers that can and has been used as a binding thread to connect us, also lets in horrific images presented by anonymous trolls. Some of these trolls thought it would be a good idea to torment Williams’ daughter Zelda with Photoshopped pictures of her father’s head on other people’s dead bodies. From what I can gather, the impetus behind this is simply because it’s possible.
Eff you, trolls.