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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

An Injustice

Category: Society
Posted: 06/16/17 22:12

by Dave Mindeman

I. Do. Not. Understand.

The police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted in the shooting death of Philando Castile. I was stunned.

This was not a murder trial. The charge was involuntary manslaughter. An appropriate and just charge for the circumstances. But even with that, the officer was acquitted.

I have no personal grudge with Yanez. I am sure he is a decent officer who made a very bad mistake in judgment. But in another trial, in another state, a 17 year old girl was convicted on the same basic charge because she texted her boyfriend on a phone with a suggestion to get back in a carbon monoxide filled pickup and die. He still had a choice. She only made a suggestion. Philando Castile had no choice. He was shot by an officer of the law.

Make sense of any of that.

There is an assumption of innocence on the part of a police officer. I get that. I still believe that is probably appropriate. But maybe we need to take a serious look at what that means. Officers of the law go through years of training. They train for exact situations that Yanez faced. They are trained not to over react. To take everything into account.

And oddly enough, that all holds when an officer is involved with a white individual. Something goes terribly wrong, something changes, when an officer confronts a black person. I cannot look at these situations in any kind of denial. It is a truth. It happens. All too often.

And we have got to examine this for what it is. An inherent racism in our justice system. I don't think that police officers always have racism in their background. Many of them resist the temptation to treat races differently. I believe that. But working the streets of the cities...in urban settings...changes many of them. And we need to look at why that is.

Is it a cultural problem? Is it an urban concentration of black population? Is it a basic mistrust between the police and the black community that has developed over time? Do we have a community policing problem?

Those questions are basic to understanding all of this. But that does not change the injustice of this verdict. Of police shootings of black men (an occurrence which is much too common in this country), there are many degrees of culpability. But in the case of Philando Castile, justice was not served. Philando was an absolute victim. He deserved better than this.

Actually, we all deserved better than this. It was just wrong.
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A Day Of Just Living

Category: Society
Posted: 05/19/17 19:47

by Dave Mindeman

I was trying hard today to take my mind off of politics. So as I ran my errands, and I made some observations.

People and cell phones are a permanent condition. As I was waiting for an oil change, I watched some of the people sitting in the waiting area. None of them could notice me because their heads were down looking at their phone screen and whisking their thumbs back and forth.

Here's is where I show how outdated I am. I have a cell phone, but I only use it for actual phone calls. I don't watch movies. Don't get Netflix. Don't check my e-mail. Don't even text. I call somebody. Say what I want to say and I hang up. I know this is a very novel concept of communication and I freely admit that I am an historical relic, but that is all I have ever done with a cell phone. When I want to take a picture, I use an actual camera. You remember those? They still are useful for that purpose. It is digital, so I am not back in the Kodak Carousel slide era, but I do not use a phone for pictures. I realize that the vast majority of people can never go back to using more than one electronic device on their daily excursions, but this is just me.

While I sat in the waiting room, I wondered if anybody knew there was more than one person there. I would see people walk in the door - plop down on a chair and immediately resurrect their phone from various places on their bodies. It was like a Pavlovian response. If I would have stood up and said hi, I think I would have given them a heart attack. They remained in that position until they were called to pay the bill. Then they got in their car and probably plugged in their phone.

I had lunch at Baker's Square and noticed that there was a definite preponderance of gray hair in the clientele. Which was kind of surprising because it wasn't "pie" day. Still, during the day, restaurants seem to be pretty dependent on the older generation. Retirees meet each other at restaurants and socialize. I was in the restaurant for about 45 minutes and did not see one person leave. Is this an all day event? The older gentlemen get distinct pleasure out of teasing the waitresses while their wives scowl at them. But it is obviously a serious custom in some of these dine in restaurants. My son will pretty much only eat at Boston Market or Panera Bread. Other places take too long and have too many fried foods for his taste. When I suggest Olive Garden, or Red Lobster, or even Denny's, I get the college teen patented eye roll. So I don't suggest it much.

As I read the paper, I noticed another one of those "bathroom law" shenanigans was being introduced in another state. That's another thing I don't understand. When I'm in a public rest room, I never strike up conversations. I mean I really don't need to discuss why they are there, if they should be there, and what is their legal rights when there. Really? Does anybody really want to get into somebody's "business"? In a bathroom? When I go to a Twins game, somebody should just ask ball parks to end the "trough" method. A long trough on the floor and guys just lining up along it, urinating. If you want to make a law, get rid of those things. Just make more enclosed stalls. Keep it private, for everybody, and nobody gets hurt.

And one more thing. Do we really need all the trashy talk on the internet. The comments section have become verbal vomit. People like to point out mistakes with a bunch of name calling for good measure. If you disagree with someone, you need to question their heritage for some reason. Why is that? What kind of pleasure is derived from that kind of behavior? I love a good argument. I don't mind a civil disagreement - in fact I learn from that type of exchange. But the nastiness?. When I blog, I get Trump supporters whose idea of an argument is to spew an insult. Usually it has nothing to do with the topic or its relevance. Just an insult...which I have to assume must make them feel better for having said it. Because it serves no other purpose.

Well, I tried to stay apolitical, but these days that is pretty much impossible. I'm back home. Maybe I'll watch a Twins game and just veg out for awhile. I'm sure there will be plenty of drama soon enough.
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There Are Lessons To Be Learned In Being Politically Correct

Category: Society
Posted: 03/30/17 23:56, Edited: 03/30/17 23:57

by Dave Mindeman

Candidate Donald Trump got a lot of mileage out of ridiculing political correctness. It was his motto for the campaign and it was a mantra among his loyalists.

But political correctness does serve a useful purpose. And the loss of it's societal power has been a detriment to civil discourse.

Talking about race, gender, sexual orientation and other society norms have grown complicated over the years. And people grew tired of getting tripped up by the nuance of words and phrases that became part of the new moral lexicons.

But calling political correctness the new pariah has forced new problems in how we relate to each other - and with Trump, that takes a decided turn for the worse.

A lot of people in the older generation crowd (and I include myself in that group) can be embarrassed by the common phrases of our younger selves which now have taken on new meanings and sometimes give offense to people in ways we had never thought about.

But ignorance doesn't make it right. We are a species that needs to continually learn and understand our places in society. We should embrace learning politically correct norms, because they can teach us a lot about how our friends and neighbors feel about issues and how they deal with us. That is something worth learning and not something that should cause exasperation and anger.

Donald Trump has been an excuse for many to make our politically correct language so much simpler. Many people think it is admirable that he says things that are often racist or sexist or homophobic. His political success gives them carte blanche to do the same. To say how they "really feel"...to tell it like it is.

But using something as an excuse does not absolve anyone of violating a societal change. It does not absolve anyone of failing to correct a view that is simply morally wrong and no longer valid.

Racist ideas are never OK. Sexism is never right. Homophobia has finally been discovered to be what it is - a discriminatory dismissal of an entire group of people. We are still struggling with that last one.

But the "rules" of political correctness help us shape those moral codes. They let us evolve into a more welcoming and just society. Many of us are never ready to move ahead on those things. There are too many fears of the people who are different from us. Too many fears of change. Too many fears that our opinions are actually wrong.

Political correctness comes from changes in the rules that are catching up with a more diverse society. Some people fear diversity and political correctness often shames them into recognizing that diversity is a positive thing even if it makes them personally uncomfortable. But it is often much, much easier to criticize our PC society and treat it with disdain, rather than let it teach us something.

I have been embarrassed at times for using a phrase or a word that can potentially offend a person or a group of people. But my reaction is to learn from it. Find out why it offends. And to correct myself.

Political correctness is a useful educational tool. And our discourse can be improved if we use those lessons - and not fight or ignore them.
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