Kindness Amidst Chaos

Tebow

There were two news stories yesterday about air travel. One was about the terrorist attack at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey. The other was about a man who had a heart attack during a flight he was taking with his wife and her friend. Which one would you guess had the most emotional impact on me?

It was the one about the man who had the heart attack.

The reason is that the man’s fellow passengers on the plane tried to help him. In particular, the former football player, now sports broadcaster, Tim Tebow, left his seat in business class and came to the man’s aid. He led prayers for the man along with other passengers around him while the man’s wife and her friend cried on his shoulders, picked up the family’s luggage when the plane landed and went with them to the hospital, staying until the family was told that the man had passed away.

You might think that it’s insensitive to not have a more emotional reaction to the terrorist attack. In fact, I thought that to myself after reading both stories. I think the reason the Tebow story impacted me more is because the terrorist attacks have become routine and have numbed my senses. Also, because there are so few positive stories that make the news. Indeed, I wonder if this story would have made the news were it not for the fact that a celebrity was involved. I suspect that there are many such occurrences every day that go unreported because the people engaging in such acts of kindness are regular, ordinary people, doing the right thing in obscurity.

That’s a shame, because I think that reading about acts of kindness promotes that type of behavior, just as the terrorists think that media coverage of their doings recruits some people to that type of behavior.

I wish the media would run a story about an act of kindness every day, not just when it involves a famous person. Maybe doing that would balance out the negative stuff and encourage the type of behavior the world desperately needs right now.

My thoughts, prayers, and condolences to all affected by the attack in Turkey.

The Frog Sings (Not)

MJF Not Singing

Just when I thought that some level of consensus had formed around the death of Eric Garner in New York, I got into quite a discussion while posting comments regarding an article someone forwarded to me.

If you don’t want to read the whole article, the author concludes that he “cannot in good conscience say there was insufficient probable cause to indict Officer Pantaleo for involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.” His conclusion is based on a standard of reasonableness as regards the use of force by the police.

So, I posted the following comment in response to the article:

“Thank you. I agree with your analysis. There was a point made on TV the other night, which is that he died as a result of the chokehold, but also chest compression from the weight of the other officers. But Pantaleo was the only one the grand jury looked at. That may be why they didn’t indict him, but it’s still a travesty. Forget, for a minute, about the reasonableness test for cops. I don’t see how anyone can watch that video, hear Garner saying repeatedly that he can’t breathe, and think that continuing the chokehold was OK. Did they think he was lying? If so, on what basis?”

Oh boy. Here’s the string of comments that ensued, along with my replies. The handles of the other posters have been changed.

Other Poster #1: “Did it occur to you that if he could talk he could breath?”

Me: “Yes, that does occur to me. I suppose he could have said “I’m having difficulty breathing.” But it wouldn’t have made any difference so far as the actions of the officer.”

Other Poster #1: “Their actions were the correct actions. He did not die as a result of any type of hold.”

Me: “Then why did the coroner’s report conclude that his death was a homicide? I don’t think the New York coroner’s office is engaging in some sort of subjective, conspiratorial scheme.”

Other Poster #1: “The coroner did not say it was due to a chokehold … And the Grand Jury found no wrongdoing on the part of police … So what would be your point?”

Me: “Homicide means he did not die of natural causes. So I guess my point is that he died as a result of the actions of the police. You can debate whether those actions were criminal, but can you at least acknowledge that their actions caused his death ( which would contradict your earlier post)?”

Other Poster #1: “I am not debating anything…if he complies he lives…he chose not to and was taken down in a very efficient manner…his bad health killed him…but it would have been so easy for him to live…the police are not the bad guys…”

Me: “Well, to me, the notion that it’s OK for the police to cause someone’s death trying to arrest them for selling loose cigarettes is debatable. I respectfully disagree with you, sir.”

Other Poster #2: “Are the police supposed to be psychic now? Were they supposed to just know that Mr. Garner was unarmed and going to have a heart-attack?”

Me: “They knew he was unarmed at the point when he was on the ground. The coroner ruled his death a homicide, which means he wouldn’t have had a heart attack at that particular moment but for the actions of the police.”

That’s the whole string. Is it just me or do these other posters seem completely out to lunch?

That’s Crazy

Choke Hold

So, this isn’t Ferguson. There are two major differences. First, I doubt that anyone will claim that the outcome of the grand jury investigation is racist. If they do make that claim, they really shouldn’t. We’re not talking about Missouri here (not to say that Missouri is racist). We’re talking about New York City, which is probably the most diverse city in the world. And in New York, when there is racism, it is overt and celebrated, as in the classic scene from Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.”

Second, we don’t need to guess about what happened, or rely on witness statements, or forensic evidence, or the judgement of the jurors. Why? Because there is video. Everyone can look at it and reach their own conclusion. I’ve looked at the video and it is difficult for me to believe that the officer will not be charged with a crime.

So if it isn’t a race issue, what is it? To me, it’s a broader indictment of a criminal justice system that is biased when it comes to the very people who are sworn to uphold the law.

Loving on Oakland

Oakland Lake

I have a co-worker who is originally from Chicago. I told him that I visited Chicago and thought it was a great city. He told me that he likes Oakland better, because in Chicago people are divided into ethnic enclaves, even if you’re caucasian. There’s an Italian neighborhood, a Polish neighborhood, etc. Since I’ve lived in California my whole life, that’s hard for me to imagine. At this point I’m going to share a somewhat non-sequiter funny picture of a concert poster.

Cake Poster

It’s a bear in sheep’s clothing. A riff on the California State flag.

Anyway, if it’s hard to imagine ethnic enclaves in California, it’s even harder to imagine them in Oakland, California. Oakland is eclectic. How eclectic?

I just went out for a coffee break. Down the street from where I work is a place called the Brown Coach Cafe. It is owned and operated by Muslims and the women behind the counter are wearing traditional headscarves. At one of the tables is a Caucasian woman conversing with an African American woman, next to a table with an Asian couple, next to a table with a Caucasian guy working on a laptop. The Brown Couch is right next door to an Afghan restaurant, run by Afghanis, which is across the street from a Japanese restaurant, run by Japanese, which is kitty-corner to a surf shop, run by a Caucasian surfer dude with blond hair. Two blocks away is Oakland’s Chinatown, which is as close as you can come to an ethnic enclave. People live there by choice, though, not because they aren’t integrated into the rest of the city. In fact, the current mayor of Oakland is of Chinese heritage.

Here’s a picture of a painting of Oakland’s shipping cranes that is hanging in the Brown Couch Cafe.

Cranes

It was painted by a local artist named Dave Platford.

The thing is, everyone gets along just fine. As my co-worker and I walk back to the office (we’re both Caucasian) an African American lady who we don’t know walks past us and greets us and says good morning. If you lined up various cultural niches along a spectrum, Oakland would be at the far opposite end from the words “sectarian violence.”

I’m posting this today because my last post mentioned the tragic situation in Syria and Iraq.

There is hope for this world and for humanity. Oakland is one of the places on Earth where that hope resides in warmth and comfort, nurtured by people who have come here from all over the planet.

When you are feeling down and wonder what the world is coming to, visit us. It will make you feel a whole lot better.

 

 

 

Cats and Dogs

cats&dogs

This morning I had a conversation with a consultant who specializes in conflict resolution. In the course of providing me examples of her work, she told me about an animal rescue non-profit that almost dissolved itself because the people running it couldn’t work together. Apparently, they would have work-related disagreements and become very abusive. She observed that it was ironic that these people treated their pets better than they did each other.

So, when she held conflict resolution sessions she had them bring their pets along. And it worked. I thought that was very imaginative.