Nobody is a villain in their own story. We’re all the heroes of our own stories. —George R. R. Martin
Given that I am totally immersed in Paris Fashion Week, I don’t stay on top of what is happening in our own country as much as I usually do. When I do have a chance to look at news stories, though, my preoccupation with Europe puts me a little closer to the perspective of an outsider. I hear what people in Paris and Milan are saying about us. How they react to stories from the US is often very different, and perhaps a little more objective than our own reactions.
We don’t always see stories and issues clearly when we are so close to them; when they are a part of our news cycle on a constant daily basis. Our attention spans are short. We look at stories for a few seconds and then move on to the next. Our opinions are formed not from a position of objectivity and consideration of the facts, but on emotion. We respond to how the headline made us feel. We look at pictures and decide from there whether to be upset and enraged or supportive or ambivalent.
As I’m looking through news stories this morning, I’m trying to keep some of the objectivity. I try to be persuaded more by the facts than the emotion. When I do, though, what I see is a country in decline, where our sense of right and wrong has decayed, where our national resolve is crumbling. Here are a few stories that seem to bother me more than they do other people.
No One Believes You When You’re Black
Violence against blacks in the US is not a new story. Multiple times a week we read of another unarmed black man being shot and killed by police. In our outrage, however, we overlook the fact that for people of color being mistreated is an everyday occurrence. Even doing normal things like buying groceries opens them up to abuse. Being the victim of a crime can even result in them being accused of committing the crime they’re reporting.
One of the interesting stories this morning comes from Business Insider, which is usually pretty good about tracking down its sources. In this case, unfortunately, all we have to go one is a set of third-person tweets relaying an incident that may or may not be true, but is far too typical to not be believed at least in part. The story goes like this:
Young black man comes out of the grocery store and realizes his car has been stolen. He uses his phone to check LoJac, the automobile tracking service. He locates his car moving down the street. His next move is probably what any of us would do: he calls 911. When police arrive, though, they pay no attention to the LoJac and instead frisk the young man. When he shows them on LoJac where the car is, they put him in the squad car and take him in. After some time, being processed and fingerprinted, he calls his mom and she raises holy hell. When they do get to his car, the window has been smashed.
We all know had he been white this wouldn’t have happened. The 14th Amendment is supposed to guarantee equal protection under the law, but it’s not working.
Oh Look, Another School Shooting
There was another school shooting yesterday, this time in Townville, South Carolina. A few years ago, we all would have been aghast. The story would have been the headline of every newspaper in the country. We would be screaming about gun control and keeping children safe. Instead, the story is barely visible. No students or teachers were killed, only the shooter’s father, so no big deal, right? The shooter, who is a homeschooled student, didn’t even get into the school building. A volunteer firefighter took the shooter down. Everything’s okay, right?
No, it isn’t. No school shooting is ever okay. Yet, so many of them have happened now that we callously shake our heads and then keep right on going with our day. If the incident doesn’t have a body count the size of Columbine we don’t pay any attention. There were no vigils last night. News outlets aren’t rushing to Townville. We’re more than willing to just let this one slide.
Stories like this prove that we’re not really serious about ending the problem. The problem in this instance definitely isn’t the fact that the boy had access to a weapon. Instead, what we’re going to find out is that the boy has serious mental issues that may or may not have been addressed. I’ve met kids like this before. I’ve disarmed kids like this before. They’re frequently homeschooled because they cannot safely attend public school.
Yet, we refuse to talk about mental health issues, and especially about mental health funding for the poor. Mental health has been a factor in almost every school shooting we’ve experienced, but we’d rather focus on the guns than actually addressing the root of the problem. We’re too easily distracted. We’re failing our children.
Voting Emotion Over Reason
We know the US Congress is not the most intelligent group of public servants ever elected to office. Yesterday, however, they proved just how insanely disconnected from reality they are when they overrode the President’s veto, enacting a law that allows families of victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia. This unquestionably has to be one of the most stupid stories I have ever encountered. Congress has now opened a Pandora’s box of problems that cannot be closed.
First, consider the FACT that there is no evidence Saudi Arabia ever participated in or funded in any way any portion the 9/11 attacks. CIA, NSA, and the US military have all cleared the country of any wrongdoing. So, anyone foolish enough to sue the sovereign nation is going to be severely disappointed.
Then, consider the ramifications of this law. Saudi Arabia has already said it would have to divest itself of billions of dollars in US holdings. Have we thought about the economic impact of that move? Why, no. Then, there’s this little matter of retribution. If we can sue them, they can sue us. Not just at a federal level, which would waste billions of tax-payer dollars, but at a personal level. Once the first individual from the US sues a sovereign nation, then every sovereign nation is going to give themselves the right to sue American citizens. Any of them. Including individual members of the Armed Forces. If you served in any country where combat activity took place, you can be sued by that government.
See why overriding the President’s veto was such an incredibly stupid idea? Of course, the next President and next Congress, both of which are inherently more stupid than the present group, get to deal with the fallout. Expect more stupidity to come.
Maybe We Should All Vote Naked
On the off chance you’ve not already seen the Funny or Die video featuring Katy Perry attempting to vote naked, then here, let me show you now:
That video was posted Tuesday and instantly became a viral hit. Then, the very next day, pop icon Madonna decided to get in on the act and posted a nude picture of herself supporting the Democratic nominee. I’d show you but the link has been taken down. Sad face.
With all the stories of government misdeeds and our complete failure to deal with our social problems, I’m thinking that mixing nudity and politics is a good thing. Voting naked as a form of protest makes it protected speech under the First Amendment, doesn’t it? Not that I necessarily want to be the one to run that issue through the courts. This is one of those things that if we all did it we’d probably be safe. If only one or two people do it then they just get laughed at.
We need to do something drastic. Too many of our stories do not have happy endings. Those from around the world who we suppose are our friends look at us and laugh. America is in a state of severe decay and we’re the only ones who can fix that problem. Time to think different and vote naked, metaphorically if not literally.