Angry Atheists Shooting People

chapel hillI’m sure all have heard by now how an atheist shot three people. That such a story has been so popular as an atheist attack shows how unusual it is to find an atheist doing violence, much less one killing three people. I suppose it comes as little surprise to atheist feminists and simply sexism-aware people. They have seen the split in atheism from the facile “no gods” to full on derived social justice warrior, where sexist BS has been called free speech. Death threats have been too prevalent against them, fellow atheists. And they have made a lot of attention over it and created change. Religious people have had a field day saying aha, it’s true, atheism doesn’t provide a moral compass.

For one thing atheism isn’t a magic morality bullet that overcomes every immoral urge. In this case the guy had had problems for some time that weren’t properly treated. For which we can rightly blame the lousy health and counseling system in the US. He should have been treated long ago. For another we can blame the lack of support of background checking and licensing of weapons because somehow licensing is considered an abridgment of freedom. Finally, we can blame the rampant and mostly earned distrust in the police.

Much has been made of how these three Muslims were wonderful people but that matters little, we don’t evaluate murder based on the kindness of the victims. But that they were Muslims makes many want to to call this a hate crime. While that is questionable, it seems likely he could have killed others, it is more worrisome that it will fuel others to think it is OK to kill Muslims. This euology can be seen as a means  to show Muslims as being good people. It is also pathetic that the victims had been harassed before and did not feel they could ask the police for help–like so many others who know going to the police often yields little unless you’re ethnically and often gender appropriate.

The call against atheism is absurd in spite of the obvious rareness of atheist motivated crime. Where in an atheism-promoting text is there any advice to kill or harm people? Where are there any stories, allegories, or psychological truths that provide the slightest shred of motivation to harm people. The worst that can be said of the most extreme Anglo atheist literature is to mock. There is no atheist ideology that can be blamed. This incident is an easy opportunity to distract from the attention to their own violent and violence inducing sacred texts.

Jim Newman,

Vaxxing Love Shots, Vaccinations for Love

VaccinationThe recent outbreak of Measles has finally put educated, better-off liberals aswamp in the same sickening boat of denial shared by the likes of conservative hucksters Glenn Beck and Paul Rand. These New Age Hippie descendents share a common distrust of government at last; with the added bonus of hating Big Pharma. While they may assiduously upgrade recalled child seats and buy bicycle helmets for their tricycling four year olds they have no desire to stuff pins and needles into the bodies of their children enough times they would look like large, moving, organic pincushions if allowed to remain.

I certainly was there 20 years ago as I considered whether I could avoid the mass herding effect of the sheeple who like those who followed religion obeyed authority with the kind of blind trust and loyalty that led the 300 to their graves. Perhaps so many shots weren’t necessary. Perhaps we could delay them. Perhaps a bit more mature immunity system would resist possible reactions more surely. Perhaps some shots weren’t necessary. Certainly different ones would be required when they travelled abroad later in life, and they could catch up then.

For me encountering school programs as an adjunct to homeschooling stood me face to face with the evil nurse ratchets who mandated we vaccinate unless we could come up with a religious exemption, which was of course impossible in our case. I certainly wasn’t going to claim to belong to a secular religion. So they laid their hands on my son, strapping him to the bed with their erstwhile arms, and laid the needles to him to got him caught up. He did not die but I’m sure that memory remains embedded for life and not to my benefit.

Years later my family stood in front of the Supreme Court, quite by accident, on the same day as parents were protesting mandatory vaccinates. Always ready to join a good protest at hand I sought to go but my brilliant wife gave me a look so soundly negative that all the evidence I vaguely held in my head flew away and I knew she was right: the vaccination program is essential. It was a year or so later that the research by the fraud and huckster Wakefield came out as completely faked in order that he might gain fame and sell his alternate products.

In order to debate my antivax friends here in this odd hybrid of a small college town, in the backwaters of West Virginia, shadowed by DC a short hour and half away, I have complied a common set of questions and denials with short answers. They undoubtedly won’t work but it’s worth a try. I know because I tried them in my Facebook Universe. One, a friend for 17 years, stoutly called me a fool and shill for Big Pharma and he with others continued posting articles on how vax’s kill, cause cancer, dilute the species, or are completely unnecessary. Another continued posts where if one only feeds one’s children properly and maintains a positive attitude, all will be well. Goodness knows what we’ll do with the poor that can’t do such things.

  • Loving parents have to watch their children get what many kids call or feel or think is a bee sting near 40 times as vax’s. Sad but yes.
  • Loving parents have to see their children get welts, be uncomfortable many times from vax’s. Sad but true. Demand research for better delivery method.
  • Many involved, educated, better-paid parents feel the loss of autonomy over their children from the fetus on. Vaxxing seems like loss. No, too dangerous anyway.
  • Some have a chicken pox party for protection. Not possible for most and many get get too sick.
  • Since most people do them some don’t really need to because so many are protected. A privileged position few can follow.
  • Vaccinations are too new to know what they do. George Washington vaccinated his troops. Ben Franklin advised to do them.
  • Science seems like a fashion show, one year we deny fats, another we don’t; what’s bad for you this year might be Ok next year. Sympathetic but progress is made; vaccines are time tested.
  • Vaccinations make Big Pharma money. No, Vaccines are a loss or break even. High blood pressure, heart and stroke, acid-reflux, bipolar-schizhophrenia, and antidepressants are the most profitable with Lipitor first. New vaccines are beginning to make money which is good as we need more research.
  • Vaccines are about our personal freedom. And the freedom to infect others?
  • It’s impossible to make vaccinations mandatory. Vaccinations are mandatory in two states already, Mississippi and West Virginia.
  • Everyone is experiencing alienation loss of autonomy and control. Anti vaxxing seems like a safe rebellion. It isn’t, find another.
  • Many parents who see abortion as a woman’s autonomy issue, extend that to child rearing. Yet accept bike helmets and seat belts. True but so?
  • Flu vaccines are dirty and difficult to keep from being contaminated. Yes, but they still work and save lives and reduce income loss from sick days.
  • Some parents believe their faith will protect them and their children and if sickness occurs it was due to a lack of sincerity or good work. Reconsider how your faith works.
  • Thinking their child won’t travel or be exposed to other people outside of their small community lends a sense of safety. Kids do leave.
  • Many people believe food and well being stave off many problems and diseases; vax’s seem unnecessary if one does the right things. Many diseases thrive in healthy populations. Look at healthy Native populations that were decimated by communicable diseases.
  • Since there is no viewing of consequences when vax’s work, people lose sight and intensity of need until diseases return. More education is needed.
  • I have seen many kids get sick after a vaccination. There are so many vaccinations and kids get sick often enough that correlation seems like causation. The stress of a doctor visit and the child feeling your stress also adds to the difficulty.
  • Why do they have to give shots at birth or so many at once. Because they can’t be sure people will show up again. Change the health care process here.
  • For many people, news on whether or not to incorporate a new vaccine makes it seem like vaccinations are sometimes optional. Those that seem optional, that don’t save lives significantly, aren’t mandatory.
  • Your logic is insufficient–it doesn’t convince me. Look at photo’s of these people who have measles, it’s not mild. Look at these people with polio in iron lungs in the past. Listen to this sound of a baby with whooping cough.

Jim Newman,

Political Cartoons, Charlie Hebdo, and the Internet

political cartoonsThe most astonishing thing for me to arise from the recent massacre of Charlie Hebdo was my realization of how few political cartoonists remain in the United States. Gary Trudeau was the last of mainstream cartoonists. Cartoonists in general are a disappearing species. The New Yorker is an obvious example of a magazine that continues to employ them but there are few. I am not sure whether it was the conversion of print to digital where line art lagged in technological support–photo’s and text can be transferred easily and immediately–the lack of art being taught in public education, or Americans support of righteous and indignant political commentary but not humor. Are we all so damned sincere that we can’t be bothered with cartooning?

This is a sensitive issue because on social media bullies and ignorant jerks have excused their viciousness by saying it’s all a joke. Death threats, rape threats, and many other promises of harm are dismissed by these bullies as jokes and can’t the victims just take a joke. A backlash has been the desire to have trigger warnings where anything remotely offensive would be flagged to prevent unnecessary harm. Another solution has been to eliminate anonymity as that is often the shield to hide the source of hideous remarks, drop a bomb from the dark.

Cartoons of criticism are quite different than threats of harm. A cartoon is posted for one to see as they wish. Threats are directed to others in comments and posts very specifically and personally. Social media is a kind of public space as a hyper public space. Never before has it been so easy to make personal remarks to people that otherwise one wouldn’t have access. Never before has it been so easy to mistake criticism for personal attack. Context vanishes in disconnected threads of discrete bubbles.  With the penchant for short sentences and comments how can one possibly communicate effectively with a simple “that’s great” or “that sucks” both of which easily morph to “you’re great” or “you suck”.

So much so that commenting on grammar and style is the new ray gun of lowest common denominator attack. We once laughed at people for how they dressed or looked and now we laugh at people for how their text looks. As if typo’s and grammar mistakes represented the content within. Business has spent considerable time demanding everyone to dress appropriately, dress for success, and only the marginalized creatives can vary. Appearance is so important in spite of insisting that appearance doesn’t count.

So much so that someone like J Lo can show up at an awards show with her breasts on near full display but no one should comment on them or that, like a challenge to not see the obvious under tacit agreement that appearance is everything and nothing. A kind of nuanced politics of sexuality that most people can’t get.

In my own experience, I have had remarks taken for criticisms when they weren’t. Especially in forums of women’s voices where nerves are raw from near constant abuse and the block finger is near bloody from needed use.

In reading comments of others so many are more of some sort of me-too echo than what I would call a comment. Just say anything to show you showed up. It has been noted that social media aggravates the tendency to build inclusive circles of like minded people insulated from outsiders if at all possible. For marginalized people it is good to find like minded friends. It also contributes to confirmation bias and balkanized politics.

Another result with such buttons as Like, Up, and Friend is the yielding of subtlety and nuance to yes-no polarity. You’re on the bus or off. Make a mistake and be defriended. Maybe that’s good as some of the threads I have followed have been so painfully and extravagantly drawn out that you just wish the damned discussion would be stopped and who cares who is right. It’s a pornographic discussion of distempered disagreement. At least interactively, face to face, communication could be more complete. Indeed facial expressions and vocal tone are often the most important part of a conversation.

The easy ability of access and criticism does cause too many to attack without any content. Bullies have quoted Diogenes thinking that peeing on people is good commentary when of course Diogenes was making specific coherent statements and not just peeing because it satisfies some inner desire for aggression and ego boosting. “I don’t like what you believe so I’ll just pee on you to show you’re wrong.” Hard to think about content when you’re wiping the pee off.

Since feminism has been a dear subject in my family I have seen where being a good feminist or discerning real feminism from not can occupy an incredible amount of time. Where ostracism of those who aren’t really feminists becomes too much like high school social battles where it’s nearly life and death to which clique one belongs.

Yet, social media bullying definitely can cause PTSD and it is understandable that at some point people say enough and build up shields and walls to keep them sane.

America really doesn’t have a good history of humor and political disagreement. Our Calvinistic background makes us so damned serious and sincere, because the issues are just so vital and important, that we can’t joke about them. Yes, people lie and exaggerate but that actually shows the intensity of belief–righteous indignation and offense leads to the ends justifying the means. If it isn’t true it should be true. If this case isn’t true then creating a case that isn’t real is still true because there is some such case somewhere.

Our religious background has also caused us to disallow criticism and certainly not humorous criticism. Which Abrahamic character laughs in the sacred texts? Rather, in spite of so called free will choices, the real issue is to obey and follow and not even think a sin much less whether or not to address its sinfulness. The pulchritude of democracy has been so vitiated that too many claim that cussing is as sinful as murder. Indeed, many Americans took to postmodernism as support that everything is relative and hence relatively equal, forgetting that postmodernism was to destabilize those chain-bound relations in the first place.

And yet the internet has allowed many new cartoonists to express themselves but one has to hunt to find them. They won’t be on a corporation’s home page. Charlie Hebdo was dying and had little readership. I wonder if this last hurray isn’t just that. A good send off where everyone shows up, says they loved them, and then buries the entire project.

image source

Jim Newman,

Concert For Valor

concert for valor

This post has been revised to better reflect my intent.

Due to the incredible expense of music performances I haven’t taken my kids to many concerts, especially no big name performances. A sad loss considering the importance of music to culture, and their own culture they enjoy by listening to current pop standards. Unless supported by communities only the wealthy can enjoy well known arts and artists. When my daughter requested that we go to the free Concert for Valor the opportunity was welcome. It was to be held on the DC mall at 7 PM for hundreds of thousands. Estimates were as many as 800 thousand would show up. The concert billed artists they new like Jesse J, Rihanna, Eminem, Carrie Underwood, and Bruce Springsteen, and others they didn’t know like Metallica, the Black Keys, and the Zac Brown band. The Concert for Valor was billed to support veterans and their difficult issues after returning home.

I am not much of a war patriot. For me the Vietnam war was a mistake both in implementation and in dividing this country. I watched the first week of the Iraq war with great interest, horrified at Donald Rumsfeld, all too aware at the tenuousness of the presence of weapons of mass destruction, impressed at how quickly one can roll through a country and capture it, and more aware of the difficulties of maintaining a country once occupied. History is filled with far more stories of failed conquests than successful ones.

Yet, I have considered some wars to be necessary as defense and certainly WWI and WWII could not be avoided. When younger my line in the sand was are they coming after us, are they invading our country? My philosophy was like personal defense. Do not respond to aggression aggressively until all other means have been covered completely and then use the least amount of force necessary while pursuing other diplomatic and peaceful means with greater intensity. I might even let them land on soil if there were any way to stop the war some way other then knee-jerk defensive reaction. Sadly, historically, it has been too obvious that war is good for some of the population while dragging the rest of it down. Now with cyber and virtual war that line dissolves.

Six million have served since 9/11. When they have returned home they have not been supported. Many are homeless. They do not receive the medical, psychological, and economic aid they need and deserve. The two-faced hypocrisy of a military-industrial complex that is quick to send people away and slow to help them when they return is infuriating. You don’t have to support a war to know you must treat veterans well and help reintegrate them into society. More infuriating when war hawks have ignored the real plight of veterans while demanding a patriotic lip service of respect. Yeah, respect them with words while recruiting them and then ignore their real material needs when they need them. Hawks then say just get over those nightmares, missing or shattered body parts, aggressive reactions–toughen up, get a grip. That modern wars now do shock wave injury make many look whole on the outside while thoroughly damaged internally. Too often their families can’t help and they end up alone and on the street. Often the story of vets is the war was pointless. Their take is they think of war culture not as fighting the ideology of an enemy but the value of the relationships they made with fellow soldiers while they were there. The reasons for the war disappear and they most mourn the loss of their closest friends.

Supporting veterans also means prevention. Don’t go to war! I am sympathetic with the egregious inhumane offenses in other countries and have often said a rape, dismemberment, or death cry in Cairo sounds as plaintive as one in New York. I understood why Hitch wanted to change the world by force as it often seems the only way. A global, interconnected, no-person-is-an-island reality, forces us to consider deeply our international involvements, with tremendous doubts and concerns. At what point do we allow other countries to have autonomy even when in full violent anarchy? Would we want other countries to deem us wrong beyond redemption and attack?

A few of the songs were antiwar songs and the crowd boo’d and social media comments spoke of inappropriateness. Can we not take care of vet’s without talking about removing the cause? Our society is so incredibly concerned now with safety and health yet harm from war seems to be an inevitable curse that we ignore. Eminem and Rihanna, both misogynists or enablers, are poetic yet emblematic of a form of this reaction as it expresses itself in tolerating or promoting abuse. My younger daughter liked Rihanna’s “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place” (not done at concert) as a means of dealing with difficulty but did not get it was about staying in an abusive relationship. Who can say when another should leave? The problem is too many stay without change of the situation. “The Monster” likewise which is a concern that fame and fortune change one for the worse; how does one preserve their sanity amidst such ego grooming. The many women around us sang along with “Diamonds” with such fervor I had to wonder at the deep need of finding self worth, otherwise absent. The song is almost a drone that you are as beautiful as the diamonds. These songs do serve as therapy and celebration for many people who are seeking self-worth. Such songs serve as a means to encourage their own well being. Such songs do transfer to general issues of transcending one’s issues rather than maintaining emotional ghettos.

The reason these songs along with others were important to much of the audience was entertainment. Current pop hits attract more followers. The audience was young. If you want them to come you don’t play Bing Crosby tunes.

Really though a lesson we can’t seem to learn is when we support human rights in other countries the country often turns against us. Just as the police knocking down the door in a domestic abuse case often have both sides turn against them in anger. The only thing worse than fighting is to have another interfere, as if they have all of the answers. While some would have every abusive relationship dissolve, isn’t the real issue to stop the abuse and if possible to save the relationship? To shun and balkanize every abusive relationship is more punitive than restorative.

I found it ironic, as Jack Black said, that soldiers, often country music fans, listen to Metallica more than any other group, often to energize themselves before duty. How many white kids have used Metal, Thrash, and Punk, angry white-boy music, for consolation and energy. We need to pay attention to this meaning and expression or miss the conversation.

The comments after the show were quite negative about Eminem cursing but no one in the press noted or reacted to George Lopez cursing. Yet, the vernacular of military soldiers has always been rather expressive. The duplicity of people who curse in normal conversation but do not reveal it otherwise is not polite or respectful but deceitful without redemption. Should we insist that only one vernacular be allowed?

The performance of John Fogerty’s “Fortunate One” by Springsteen, Grohl, and the Zac Brown band was outstanding in its energy and content. Springsteen was boo’d yet he has done more to support their causes than most artists. Certainly one can support vets without accepting the causes that made them vets.

I brought Tom Holland’s “Rubicon” to read during the long day of waiting–being two back from the front meant staying put and not crowd watching or wandering. It is about the last of the Roman Empire, a society that worshipped war for competition, civic pride, personal gain, authoritarianism, and traditionalism. Just too many similarities with, granted, a lot less death now, but we’re on the edge of global annihilation. The cold war has returned so don’t get too comfortable. Again and again societies fall prey to greed and competitive status at the expense of the masses. The masses have never been important except as a means to the success of others. It sounds horrible until you realize the masses often have no clue or even desire to know and understand politics. We pretend everyone wants a democracy but frankly most would rather live their close circle of life and not be bothered with politics, which often takes too much work to understand. Representative government was created to help but then the people turn and want some direct say even though they have lost the ability to be relevant.

Caesar finished off the Republic after Sulla did most of the work but it’s clear that any form of government that tries to implement a democratic, egalitarian, or even representative government is fighting constant decay. The many spoken comments at the Concert for Valor were about freedom but freedom is fleeting, and freedom to many means the freedom to fleece with the belief that people will rise to fight oppression. It’s easy to understand why a Jesus would be fabricated to somehow contain the wanton greed and bloodlust of the last century of  the Roman Empire, an experiment of seven centuries that couldn’t broaden or maintain its ideals. An old joke about about being passive and loving runs “the meek may inherit the Earth but not until the rest of us are finished with it.”

I am cynical about voting too though I have reconsidered my own position to the positive. Holland quotes Cicero early in “Rubicon,”

In the Republic “there was nothing more fickle than the masses, nothing more impenetrable than the people’s wishes, nothing more likely to baffle expectation than the entire system of voting.”

Has anything changed? Well,  yes, there does seem to be less bloodshed and reason does remain so let’s continue to work to that. Reason really is the only cure but it’s not an easy one.

Nevertheless, it was an amazing concert. A great review of six musical genres on one stage. From rock to rap with some thrash and country in between. A rare mixture in musical venues.

You can find more typical reviews at (in no particular order)  Daily News, Entertainment Wise, BizPac, Washington Post, Time, another WaPo, NYT, ABC, and Washington CBS.

image source (errors)

Jim Newman,

James Foley Beheaded, Journalists Tease Death in War

James FoleyJournalists and medical staff have special access in war zones and should not receive harm. Many conventions have been developed to protect them. One of the lessons in war, odd though it may be, is the least harm you do, the more compassion you show the less hatred towards the oppressors. Since war is usually a divided issue, even within the country committing war, showing some sort of humanity indicates reluctance to just kill everyone period. It’s an odd dichotomy to be sure as some have said war is war. Yet, most are repugnant at shooting unarmed civilians, women, children, medical staff, and POWs. And journalists.

The Kurds have well utilized women as soldiers and Hamas has used civilian buildings and people to shield military personnel and weapons. Israel has used excessive force to sway the genocide sworn to them. In Japan, in WW II, from 100 to 200 thousand people died from nuclear bombs, and any other living thing that happened to be in the way, proving the US to also be ready to do what it takes with desperate and fearful abandon. Japan, fearing land evasion had begun filling its sea coastal caves with small boats carrying bombs, using citizens as suicide pilots.

Terrorists transgress humanity, long before the situation seems desperate, in the hopes they will shock people to compliance or scare others to stay away.

Hemingway wrote how grand it was to report on the Spanish war but since then the plethora of journalists risking their lives for a story has escalated dramatically. In 2001 Geraldo Rivera startled journalists by carrying a rifle in a war zone where 8 reporters had already died. His claim that he was in a dangerous place sounds ridiculous as how does carrying weapons make it less dangerous? Especially since modern war is not a place where you see your shooter and can shoot back like some face-to-face western. The best choice is to stay hidden or not be there, More radically it clouds the issue of whether a reporter is a combatant or not.

That journalists are not trained to fight in war makes it more difficult to understand why they would carry weapons or even be in war zones. When they are in danger, the military must decide whether to defend them and risk their own men or allow them the freedom to commit what can essentially be called passive suicide. It may seem reasonable that journalists should be allowed to make their own choices about engagement but they have a special privilege. The military does not allow sincere and willing citizens to catch a plane and join in combat or be bystanders to combat scenes.

The American desire for sensationalistic news and the rising competitiveness of young journalists to make a name in a difficult field encourages doing more and more dangerous activities. The old reporter who waits until the bullets lesson misses the story and photo that make the evening news. New reporters laugh at the old journalists still alive that wait at hotels having drinks until it’s safe to go out. It’s not quite like that but it is true that journalists are willing to take more risks than ever before.

65 journalists have died in Syria in 2012. 151 journalists died in Iraq. From 1992 to 2011 880 US journalists have died in war. Was the gripping photo worth it? Was receiving some news a little more early essential for the public’s assessment of what’s going on?

54 journalist died in World War II. A war that caused the death of between 50 and 80 million people, 20 to 25 million soldiers. It is an impossible comparison as no war since has begun to have that kind of death toll. By proportion the number is small.

The Islamic State has certainly capitalized on the capture and beheading of James Foley as yet another horror. They certainly must feel more important as the media blazes with anger and indignation.

The importance of getting the most immediate photos and story of war is balanced against a drama that elevates the status of terrorists to greater terror. Terrorists who were always willing to kill anything in their way.

Has it been worth it? Has the public benefited from the 1,000 deaths of journalists during the last 20 years? Do you feel better informed, more certain of the horrors of war, and more likely to make good decisions about any given war? For me, I would rather see them alive, returning  home, and continuing to support their families and society.

Jim Newman,

Ferguson, a Different Day

ferguson highway patrolIt took a crazy week of photo’s, tweets, and ground-up response to get people to realize the situation, and create response to it. The result was the county police were replaced by the highway patrol (typically better trained); the military and police weapons were left in their lockers; and an ad hoc person-of-color police chief walked with the protestors.

Witnesses described how the entire attitude changed from rage, fear, and loathing to a block-party atmosphere where people were taking selflies with cops and the police looked relaxed and even participatory in their fulfillment to allow people to protest peacefully.

With at least three most-likely unjustified killings of people in a week this was a welcome change. Those of us who followed along on social media could finally sleep. Was my rest justified? I am not sure. Will this create change or be lost?

Racism is so systemic it’s hard to acknowledge baby steps as useful. I have to be grateful for what does happen to the positive? I have to replace my cynicism that it was peaceful because citizens were near ecstatic to be free from teargas and tanks coming their way they’d just about do anything? I have to think that community organization, peacemaking skills, and activities of respect and care were genuine, not tactical and temporary?

While libertarians were pathetically silent for a week, when they did finally raise their pundit heads they too spoke against militarization and excessive government interference in protests. Finally, except for those too racist or authoritarian  to care, there was a collective demand for change. The president spoke in whispers but nevertheless expressed his position towards legal, constitutional, and humane ways of dealing with protesting people. People who were justifiably angry at the police recalcitrance to be transparent about their activities, much less show concern to the reaction.

I have written how modern Euro-American slavery and racism were different from the past. In short. Until the advent of colonialism slavery was of conquered people, most often women and children, and not based on color of the skin. The commonality of a Greek or Persian enslaving another person of the same color was more easy to remediate; it still took a coupled thousand of years. No doubt this racism of skin color was very much encouraged (caused?) by the patriarchal, authoritarian, and xenophobic positions of Abrahamic religions. This makes it very difficult to eliminate racism.

But I am getting distracted. What can we learn from this.

Racism is alive and well in America. If you don’t get this… hmm … I am not posting statistics and recounts of extreme and everyday examples. Let Ferguson be the example for now.

Protesting is a positive tradition in America. From the individualist Thoreau’s Conscientious Civil Disobedience, to the union Homestead Steel Strike, to activist Rosa Parks our history is filled with protesting on all levels. Indeed, the very fabric of this began with stealing and tossing tea into the ocean, (an act the Tea party has stolen and misused.)

For those who allow oppressive responses because of looting, remember our country was founded on acts of looting. From John Smith capturing Native Americans to make them provide them food to modern corporations stealing labor value.

Taxation without representation is wrong. The incredible disparity between those who pay taxes and appropriate representation is astounding. What I mean is every political office should have equal representation of taxpayers.

Civil protests are not war. The ease with which humans can turn on each other is astounding. It has been tempting to say this has been for economics but invasions have often occurred for ego, greed, and blind aggression. A civil protest is not an invasion. Protestors are your family, your friends, and your citizens, who seek change, not destruction. We are all equal brothers and sisters in our democracy.

Tear gas, illegal in war, and militarization of the police is not only counterproductive and inhumane, it is illegal–war can only be declared by the president or the congress.

A republic representative represents its constituents. Representatives must be mindful of helping their members understand constitutionality, law, and due process (a triple redundancy.) Local governments follow suit with administration reflecting the demographics of their jurisdiction.

US constitutional democracy protects the rights and participation of the people. Martin Luther King reflected that every refrigerator should display the Bill of Rights. This is the glorious balance against tyranny of the majority and tyranny of the minority. These rights and philosophies insist on equality of representation regardless. The constitution is boring in its detail of voting process to ensure equality. Adjustment has been needed as racism and other inequities have slipped through its cracks. An example of this is gerrymandering where voting districts do not represent the people within.

In Ferguson, there were 53 police, three of whom were people of color. The mayor and police chief were white. Ferguson is 70% people of color, 50% women.

Both Senators are white. One of them is a woman. Missouri is 83% white and 51% female. However, since minority rights are protected and to be represented, even on the state level, concern and even deference must be made to nonwhites. It would seem obvious the goal of  50% of politicians over all levels should be women and one of five nonwhite.

Political education, including gender and minority, is essential. An uninformed public cannot vote effectively. The government cannot demand that all senators and congressmen be 50% women or 12% POC, to reflect demographics, education must inculcate, yes I mean inculcate, the foundational thinking of our governance. It would seem obvious but since it is not there must be education and if necessary adjustments to balance. Equal Opportunity tried to do this, and the Equal Rights Amendment failed for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, equal divisions may not wish to run for office. This is not a wall but an indication of the ongoing need to structure politics and education to ensure representation.

These are political basics. Drilling down to political and human ethics there are several social and psychological processes we can learn from Ferguson.

Use no more police force than necessary. The overwhelming display of power and force by the Ferguson police created a pushback that could not possibly be equal except by theft and violence. Thank goodness more protesters were not armed, or chose to leave them at home. Raising hands was a brilliant display of cool headedness to demonstrate the desire for peaceful protest. If the police had responded likewise Ferguson might have been diffused.

Part of force is psychological. Had the police immediately suspended the offending officer, revealed his name, or admitted they might have done something wrong, or displayed efforts to remediation, the people might have trusted what justice could be done in a still racist society.

Understanding and countering the biases and prejudices in people helps clarify positions and create agreement.

Peacemaking skills are essential to police training and conflict resolution.

At the end of the week what prevented more deaths in Ferguson was the protestors stuck with peacefulness and the police began to use peacemaking skills. That along with a lot of outside pissed people demanding change.

As anger and retaliation escalates the appropriate response is to yield, find common ground, and demonstrate respect and care. The goal always is to lower levels of anger to create paths of communication and empathy both ways, towards change.

While weaponry may be essential it is the absolute last response. A person seeing a weapon aimed at them may see they have nothing left to lose to gain freedom and respond the only way they can, creating harm for themselves and others. Far better to not trap people and provide an exit.

This respect includes the trust that one person is not superior to another. By showing this, people will return respect. Was saving the face of a police officer worth the response? The officer involved expressed regret early on but this was hidden. In restorative justice, versus the too typical punitive justice, immediate communication and action to concern, care, and compassion gains valuable time and immediate response to concerns.

Understanding that long felt prejudices, whether you understand them or not, create hostility and what may seem inappropriate responses, shows willingness to listen and negotiate. Enfranchising people and empowering discourse creates a sense of safety that calms everyone down and allows all to participate.

Understanding that citizens are not trying to destroy their country lends tolerance of protesting and conscientious civil disobedience. The need for change and its expression is not always pleasant. Escalating that to a fear for public safety shutdowns all communication but the expressions of anger and violent demands for change.

Peacemaking skills acknowledge there will be disagreements, strong disagreements, and even, potentially, civil war. Peacemaking skills do not deny the importance of the disagreement and its passion but seek to create an environment of trust and care where both parties can communicate effectively towards a mutual goal or process.

This does not mean whitewashing or shoving issues under the table which can result in even greater pushback. It means providing some immediate satisfaction while working to long term solutions. It means allowing people to express themselves, taking the time to listen.

A common example of this, consider you have a car accident and kill someone. The one side feels you have killed a family member. You may have done it by accident or negligence. The common way is to not communicate and let the police and courts decide. A better way would be to immediately show remorse, empathy, support, and help participate in remediation long before the court dates where rage and defensiveness have festered, often for months, creating an entrenched view that will last a lifetime. Maybe help to pay for the funeral or other expenses. Stay away if that’s requested.

Since this process is difficult without intervention, the police, firemen, and rescue staff must be trained in interpersonal communication and effective negotiation. Community leaders can act as liaisons and facilitators.

That this failed in Ferguson is evidenced by the overwhelming response by many military and policemen that what went down was the worst possible response.

For myself, I am glad more people didn’t die. I encourage all of you to continue to fight racism on all levels, including, at least, everyday actions like eye contact, courtesy, and criticism of racist talk and actions.

Jim Newman,