Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Has the World Gone Crazy?

 Between the recent killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, the resulting tension between Mayor DeBlasio and the New York Police Department, and now the senseless killings of several staff members of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, you could be forgiven for thinking that the world has gone crazy.
I suppose it all started back in July, when some New York police officers choked Eric Garner to death while arresting him for selling lose cigarettes on a sidewalk in Staten Island.
When a grand jury decided not to indict the police officers, people took to the street in (mostly) peaceful protests.
Then, just when it appeared as if a constructive dialogue might actually happen, a mentally ill man from Maryland shot two innocent police officers who were sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn.
He said that the shooting was in response to Eric Garner’s death, but this was a man who tried to commit suicide and shot his ex-girlfriend before he shot the two police officers. This was clearly not a rational person.
In his remarks after the grand jury decision, Mayor DeBlasio said that he had had a talk with his son about how he should behave in front of police officers. This apparently offended the NYPD so greatly that PBA president Patrick Lynch declared that the Mayor had “blood on his hands” for the murder of the two police officers.
Some police officers then responded by turning their backs on the Mayor at the two slain officers’ funerals (despite explicit instructions from their commissioner, William Bratton, not to do so) and instituting a work slow-down.
In the ensuing debate, I’ve felt like I’ve had to prove that I’m not “anti-cop” by saying things which I think we can all agree on: namely that the execution-style murder of two innocent police officers is horrific, and that one should respect police officers, do what they say and not argue with them.
But some people (especially those in the conservative press) have created a false dichotomy whereby, if you’re against police brutality, you’re somehow “anti-cop.”
The situation really came to a head for me yesterday when I read two diametrically opposed editorials in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. (There was a scarily similar dual reaction the same day on Twitter to a documentary on PBS about the NRA called Gunned Down.)
I felt like I was staring in a funhouse mirror as I read The Wall Street Journal editorial and the comments that followed. Conservatives used the same tactics as liberals to give the exact opposite point-of-view. And the comments that followed were so uniform, it was as if the commenters were reading from a telemarketing script.
On Twitter, conservatives have the same clever sayings and the same clever graphics that liberals do.
And that raises another issue: The level of debate in this country (world?) has been reduced to 140 characters. Or an Internet meme on the level of Grumpy Cat or The Most Interesting Man in the World. (“I don’t always shoot people but when I do, I use an AK-47!”)
I fear we're becoming two societies (Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative) who only listen to those who agree with us.
I must admit, I'm sometimes guilty of that, as well. I’ve blocked some people from my Facebook news feed just because I can’t stand to read their misinformed comments. And I can’t even watch Fox News or else my head will explode.
Then this morning, I woke up to the news that Islamic terrorists had entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo and killed several staff members.
What seems obvious to me but not these cowards is that terrorism never works. Yes we’re profoundly sad that innocent lives were taken for no reason, but then we go on.
You can’t stop the free flow of information in the Age of the Internet. It’s about time these idiots figure that out.

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