Friday, July 8, 2016

Trends on Facebook Today, and Why I'm Scared for America

I confess, I have an unhealthy addiction to Facebook.

I like to know what's going on in the lives of my family and friends, obviously. I'm an introvert--increasingly so all the time, it seems--so Facebook is something of a lifeline for me in terms of maintaining relationships that are difficult to hold onto otherwise. I like to stay on top of current events. I enjoy clever memes. And, yeah, I gravitate toward spoilers and theories about The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. And quizzes about '90s music, iconic movies, and Stephen King books, which I usually ace. Go, me.

Usually, there is a pleasant balance of personal, educational, and entertainment offerings on Facebook to keep me going back.

Today, though...today was different. Where were the pics of cute kids wearing "3 months" stickers? The memes about dogs and thunder? Even Donald freaking Trump?

I guess the first thing is that there are many cancer scares going on in my circles. Tumors removed. Cells regrowing. Radiation therapy. Some of my peeps are sharing positive news, but in general the Big C is beating down many that I love. It's pretty depressing, yet I love that they have the courage to share their journeys when many don't. On any other day, it would make me pensive and thoughtful and probably increase my chats with God (yes, we have a relationship).

Today, though...

And the son of one of my sister's old friends was in a very bad car accident. A bright, handsome, kind-hearted boy who volunteered his time and openly loved his momma and baby sister now lays in a hospital bed with swelling in his brain, a brand new tracheostomy after removing the breathing tube didn't go well, and the real possibility of a permanent shunt. The boy is still unconscious, but it seems likely that there will be some degree of permanent damage. A lot? A little? Only God knows, and only time will tell. He is strong, and he's a fighter, but the hopeful tones of the daily updates have darkened a bit. I chat with God about Tyler, too.

Today, though...

People are angry about the shootings of African-American men Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota at the hands of police officers.  People are angry that a militant named Micah Johnson went to a peaceful demonstration against officer-involved shootings (and both Sterling and particularly Castile were pretty obviously victims of heavy-handed police officers, yet the demonstration was by all accounts peaceful until Johnson destroyed it) and killed five Dallas police officers. People are angry that President Obama is doing nothing, yet Obama characterized the Dallas shootings as "vicious" and "despicable" (further, he has tried desperately and taken much heat for trying to keep assault rifles out of the hands of people like Micah Johnson, but that's an inconvenient truth that nobody really wants to talk about). People are angry that "Black Lives Matter" has become "a thing". People are angry that "Black Lives Matter" has had to become "a thing". People are angry because they are incapable of seeing how you can be both appalled at the brutal murders of two men by police officers abusing their power yet hold police officers as an entity in the highest regard.

People are angry because they are scared. Philando Castile was trying to comply with an officer's request to get his ID after informing the officer that he had a license to carry and was armed when he was shot. In front of his girlfriend. And her four-year-old daughter. We want to tell ourselves that this doesn't happen in our country. It did, though...Castile's girlfriend had the presence of mind to videotape it.

And Sterling? A homeless man was harassing him for money. Threats were made. Police were called. Two officers had him on the ground. He had no gun in his hand (one of the officers took it out of the pocket of his pants). He was shot in the back multiple times. And what are people talking about? That he had a criminal record. Why? Because they are scared and shocked that this happened, and even though his prior criminal activities have nothing to do with this situation, it seems to make people feel better about his death to imply that he brought it upon himself, at least a little, through past bad acts.

I could never be a police officer, and I respect those that are tremendously. However, police officers that do go too far, that act without thinking, that kill before understanding the situation when there IS no pressing emergency requiring multiple bullet wounds in the back or shooting off the arm of a compliant cafeteria worker in front of a young child...it is a problem, and the dawning awkward reality that this is happening increasingly to African-Americans cannot be ignored.

All lives matter, and we need to make sure to focus on our black brothers as well as our blue brothers in the aftermath of this latest ugly chapter. All colors, all races, all people need to step up to the table and say, "What can my part be to solve this problem?"

Make no mistake. It IS a problem, and it's not going away. Instead of spewing hateful rhetoric on Facebook and Twitter, let's try to solve it together.

Any ideas?