Recently I read on Facebook a feed commenting on the news article talking about the dropping of the case against the remaining police officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death. There was a whole lot of talking and labeling and pointing out that it was the wrong decision, that the officers were still wrong, that they should be punished and fired at the very least. That this is systemic racism because of the makeup of the court and jury. There were lots of reasons listed why the judicial system failed.
Yet apparently there was not enough evidence to show that the officers did anything legally wrong. Improper maybe, but no violation of the law. And then there were those who cheered the result because, as they claimed, there was not the evidence the officers did anything wrong. They talked about what the media reported was not the whole truth. These folks comment that the media has stoked anger and has been partially responsible for the racial divide that is occurring. And they claim that Mr. Gray was not as innocent as he has been portrayed.
In another case, I saw plenty of comments talking about the FBI investigation surrounding Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. There was a whole lot of labeling and pointing out that it was the wrong decision, that the FBI director was wrong, that Hillary was being protected because she is a presidential candidate, that the Clintons are good at getting around the law, and that in a way, the Clintons have a systemic law abiding problem. There were arguments stating that she should go to jail for risking the security of the nation. Lots of reasons why the FBI failed.
Yet there was not enough evidence to show that she did anything legally wrong. Improper and stupid maybe, but no violation of the law. Supporters of hers claimed that other people in the same position have done the same thing without anyone raising a fuss. Supporters of the decision talked about how this was all just a witch hunt and a political case – there was nothing there. They talked about the fact that Clinton has been one of the most investigated people on the planet and has never been convicted of anything ever.
So I’m confused, am I supposed to be for fact finding, investigation, and the judicial process or against it? Does it work, or is there some kind of systemic problem?
The same people who are upset over the result of the Freddie Gray case are happy about the result of the Clinton case. Why? Maybe I shouldn’t be linking the two. Actually I’m not. I could have easily picked some other random case that draws a great deal of attention. Maybe I should have used two cases that involved just African-American males. I don’t know.
The same people who are upset over the result of the Clinton case see no problem with the result of the Freddie Gray case. Why? How systemic is the problem – is it only related to race?
I’m not looking for specific answers for these two cases. I’m asking a much broader question – why do we think we know more than the people who investigated and prosecuted the case? Why do we think we are right, even though we spend very little time in the case? Why do we think the people handling the case are wrong, given they have all the evidence in front of them.
Are we listening too much to our echo chambers which give us tweets, memes, rhetoric, and spin that fits our predetermined position on anything. As if any of these cases or issues we face are nice and easy with nice easy solutions and one liners. They aren’t. I’m sorry if I just burst your bubble on this. The world is not black and white. These cases are not easy. Anything involving human beings is never easy and never simple.
This is true for the challenges we face too. I can’t wait for the presidential “debates” when they come. Not. Each candidate is expected to give an answer to a complex problem right? Yeah, they are supposed to have the answer to how we fix Social Security…in a two-minute statement. Seriously? You can’t even begin to describe what the situation is, let alone start to even acknowledge the real challenges facing the system in an hour, yet these candidates are supposed to articulate solutions to complex problems in nice short sound bites. Yet that’s the format. Why? Is it because we are too damn lazy to think about these issues? Too busy to think about them? Too busy worrying about what’s going to happen on our favorite mind-numbing TV show? What, we can’t pay attention for more than two minutes? Have we devolved that much? Or is it because we’d rather be told what to think? We’d rather be given the answer in a quick sound bite?
Or maybe we’d rather not acknowledge that we don’t know the answer. That it’s complex and there is no easy solution. That it’s going to take work and be costly and take years. That it may mean we’ll have to turn the TV or computer off and start to talk face to face with people – even people who are labeled as our opponents or enemies. That we would have to listen, not in order to prepare responses that convince our opponents how right we are and how wrong they are, but rather we listen in order to understand and gain new insight.
I took one of those silly quizzes online that would show me how conservative and liberal I am. There were 10 questions. I did it against my better judgement. I hated ever single question. Rather, I hated all the answers. I did the best I could, but really, while I was answering the questions, I kept saying – “yeah, but that’s not it either. It’s more complex than this.” Every single one. There were good points in all of the answers and there were problems with all of the answers. The result, based on what I answered, showed that I was 50% conservative/50% liberal. Which is about as good as I could expect.
I don’t have the answer to any of this. Screw it – I have a piece of the answer. And guess what – so do you. And so does the person who you hate. Be honest about that for a minute. Let go of your desire to be right for a minute. Let go of the rhetoric and spin and loyalties. Let go of the tweets and memes and sound bites. Why don’t we try something different? Something which seems pretty difficult in our divided nation right now. How about we try listening to each other? One person speaks and the other listens. And the person listening summarizes what they heard. And then this person speaks and the other person listens and then they summarize what they heard. Let’s start with that. And maybe we could start with an easy topic – what the weather is for today. Not a debate on climate change, just the weather. Then we can move to dinner. Let’s see if we can get through these topics before we get to the really complicated ones like race, politics, and religion.
We might learn something from this process. We might learn that we don’t have all the answers. We might learn that the issues we face are complex and we need to face them together. We might learn that there are different ways to approach the same challenge and that there is no one right way to approach the challenge. We might learn that many of us have the same overall goals. We might learn how to live together. We might learn to start to trust one another again. We might actually start to change our culture and start to fix some of the challenges we face, and maybe in ways we never expected because we we’re open to new ideas. We might learn that our opponents and enemies aren’t what we thought they were.
Then again maybe I’m the crazy one. Maybe it’s just easier to pick sides and shout at each other. Maybe it’s more beneficial to listen to our echo chambers and repeat the rhetoric rather than see that there are people involved. Maybe. We can just sit down with our arms crossed and be right, but not actually do anything. Maybe we should just pack up our toys and go home.
If that’s what you choose, don’t be surprised if I ignore what you have to say. We don’t have time for that BS. I want to talk with the people who are open to discussion and new ideas. I mean real discussion. I am ready, are you? Let’s talk about racial issues in our country – by talking about people, the challenges that are faced, perceptions, history, etc. Let’s talk about politics – by talking about how people are affected by the policies, the actual challenges that people face, the realities of how policy is made, the reality of how power and the desire for power impact policy and government, etc. Let’s talk about serious issues that we face. Let’s talk and move forward. Let’s explore. Let’s try things. Let’s have our differences and share how we come to our conclusions. Let’s connect. Let’s get moving. Let’s do all of this so we make the world better for ourselves and our children and future generations. And when we are done talking, let’s get to work.