Thursday, March 29, 2012


You guys knew I couldn't keep silent forever about the Trayvon Martin killing, but if you are expecting a blog post echoing the outrage that fills television news, you're sorely mistaken.

This post is about Trayvon. More, it's about what our society loses every time a child is killed. Trayvon makes headlines because of the unusual confluence of him wearing a hoodie, being armed with a box of Skittles and a can of iced tea, walking while black. It's about a law that allows people with guns to use them if they feel threatened. I don't know if George Zimmerman was attacked or felt threatened. I do know the police told him not to follow the boy. He made his choice.

More, though, it's about our loss of future leaders, workers, thinkers, fathers, mothers. Taking the life of a child damages our collective future. We lost more than just a single life. We lost all that single life could have contributed to his family, his community, his country. Children die violently nearly every day in the United States. In one weekend alone, more than a dozen children under the age of sixteen were murdered, died in gang violence, were the targets of vigilantes.

I'm guilty of crossing the street when four hoodie-wearing black teens walked toward me on Park Avenue. I was scared. I judged them by the color of their skin, the way they walked, their hoodies. I don't know if they were doing anything more than walking down the same sidewalk I was. I'll never know. I do know I'll never get over feeling guilty of judging them.

It's chilly today. I'm sitting here wearing a hoodie, but as an angry, 60+ white woman, I don't feel someone will shoot me for my fashion choice. It wasn't the fault of the hoodie. It was the fault of society for damning all hoodie-wearing young men to being a threat. We must learn that every life lost to violence diminishes society. We must protect ourselves, our communities, our children. When we do not, we put boys like Trayvon at risk of being a threat.

When does it stop? When do we value every life? When do we write laws that make sense? When do we enforce laws already on the books? When do we use common sense? Too often, common sense is a most uncommon commodity.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's All About Values and Ethics

It's all about values. It's all about ethics. It's all about wanting something so badly you're willing to compromise both values and ethics to get it.

This happens all the time in politics. The dreadful term, flip-flopper, haunts politicians from John Kerry to Mitt Romney to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum. The term itself implies no one can learn, no one can change his mind following the input of new data. Scientists change their positions all the time. With new experiments, new photographs from space, new studies into how drugs work in the body -- all allow thinking people to learn, modify their positions, and publish new findings that expand knowledge.

Sports teams want to win. Now we learn that the New Orleans Saints wanted to win so badly they put bounties on opponents with the goal of knocking the players out of the game. Players kicked in money to pay the "winner" who injured an opponent. Coaches knew about the bounties and did nothing to stop the system. The head coach, Sean Payton, wanted a Super Bowl so badly he was willing to compromise his value and ethics to get the ring.

Or did he? Is Sean Payton one of those coaches who would literally do anything to win? It looks like it. This isn't over. More information will come forth during investigations. Will that expand our knowledge? Will it help us learn from Payton's mistakes? Will Payton learn from his mistakes? Or will he try to blame someone else rather than taking responsibility for his team's actions? Will he admit he compromised his values and ethics? Will he apologize to the team's fans? Will the fans accept they had a rogue coach? Or did the fans also want the ring so badly they will overlook a few bumps and bruises that could have been career-ending for those on whom the bounty rested?

Have we compromised our ethics and values for so long that few see Payton and his coaches' behavior as wrong? Have we?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What the Hell Were They Thinking?

Yes, that's Dr. Phil's favorite question. It applies to two events recently that brought a ten-year debacle into focus for me. I've sat on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, hoping the furor in Afghanistan would dissipate. Instead, we learned of another event designed to incense the populace and defame our country's name.

A couple of weeks ago a group of American servicemen burned the Koran and other holy works, leading to riots, deaths among Afghans and Americans, and the wiping out of ten years worth of effort to win over the hearts and minds of the locals (if you listen to two different presidents). It took one thoughtless event, dumping books a group of servicemen mistook for trash into a fire, to turn too many Afghans against us. Servicemen died in the riots, including one young man from southwest Virginia, or were executed in a ministry where they worked to help the Afghans. Death by riot is one thing; death by a trusted co-worker is murder. Our soldiers are supposed to be trained in the sensibilities of the local population, particularly where it comes to religion, mosques and the Koran. What were they thinking?

And Sunday we woke up to a report that a serviceman left his operating base and went door to door in two villages, executing men, women and children. 16 lives gone. Nothing condones wanton killing. Yes, our servicemen and women are under incredible pressure. Yes, they crack, but to slaughter innocents in their homes is mass murder. The serviceman should be on the next plane home and tried in US courts. If he's left in Afghanistan, the government there will demand he be turned over to its jurisdiction. We refused to sign up to local jurisdiction in Iraq. We can't do it in Afghanistan. What was he thinking?

Don't even get me started about urinating on corpses. What were these soldiers thinking?

Our politicians and military world-wide will be asking the same question:  what were they thinking? How can we prevent incidents from wiping out all the blood, sweat and treasure spent in Afghanistan and Iraq? Is it by following some politicians and cutting and running from Afghanistan? Is it getting involved with strikes against Syria? Iran? What are the politicians thinking?

We need calm heads to guide our troops at this stressful time. We can't afford anymore "mistakes" or "lapses in judgment." We can't continue asking what were they thinking? The answer today seems to be:  they weren't.

Lots of people won't agree with my position. So be it. I can stand the heat, because I don't want another serviceman or woman to die in what is now a vain effort to help a country that doesn't want our help.