Sunday, July 1, 2018

I had to stop following George Takei...

Hi folks.  Bill and I just got back from our third "staycation" in Stuttgart.  We went there to see the Rolling Stones.  I wrote a three part series in my travel blog.  It was all about our experiences over the weekend.  We had an incredible time.  I don't regret spending $1200 on tickets.

Something else happened over the course of the weekend.  Yesterday morning, as Bill and I woke up to a bright, summer day, I noticed George Takei shared yet another post about Permit Patty.  I'm not sure if it's George himself who shares these posts or someone on a staff, but it seemed to me that it was about pushing mob justice.  While I've never been a big fan of random strangers punishing people they don't know for things that don't involve them, I felt a bit saturated when I read Takei's post and a few of the comments.  So many articles are being shared that seem to encourage people to manufacture karma.

Although I was pretty sure I'd live to regret it, I decided to add my two cents.  I basically said that I feel this particular situation with "Permit Patty" had been blown out of proportion.  I reiterated that I don't think a person who is annoyed by loud noise outside her window is necessarily a racist.  And I expressed sorrow that the people involved couldn't resolve their issues offline without turning it into a front page story.  Really, this whole thing should have involved and been resolved by just the two neighbors, not the whole fucking Internet.

Of course, a few people commented.  I read the first comment, which came from a black woman.  I didn't actually notice her race; it was Bill who told me that she has a different skin color than I have.  In any case, her tone was rather confrontational, because apparently she feels it's her right and duty to publicly flog people on social media whom she judges have done something wrong, and how dare I take exception to it?  I did respond to her, but when a couple of others chimed in, I decided it wasn't worth the effort of keeping the conversation going.  I really just wanted to say my piece-- which I did notice got several likes.  I also didn't want to spoil my mood ahead of last night's incredible concert.  So I didn't read their comments, although I noticed another one, left by an irate woman of color, started with words that told me from the get go she was going to "set me straight" about this issue.

On the way back home this morning, Bill and I were talking about it and I said, "You know, I think it's a problem that people are now telling white people, in particular, that they 'can't' or 'shouldn't' call the police on a person of color simply because of the potential for police violence."

Bill nodded as I went on.

"All people should feel free to call the police if they need help.  That's what the police are for.  I think the real issue is that people are calling the police and the police, for whatever reason, are killing some people.  And the people they're killing are disproportionately young black men who are unarmed."

Bill agreed and we started talking about how some police officers are overreacting in situations that don't call for the use of a weapon.  I'm sure that a big part of the reason why police officers seem to be killing more people has to do with the number of mass shootings that have happened in the past twenty years and the fact that it's not hard for Americans to get weapons.  And so, a police officer probably truly fears for his or her life with every shift.  But still, it does seem that too many innocent people are being killed and most of them are people who aren't white, even though a lot of the people doing the mass murdering are white men.

It seems that the solution, then, is to encourage people-- particularly white women-- not to call the police in situations that aren't life threatening.  I don't necessarily have an issue with that rationale, except everyone has a different perception of what is a life threatening situation.  And while I understand that cops are not necessarily going to be your "friend" per se, I do think people should be able to call for help whenever they feel they need it and for whatever reason.

I don't think the problem is that too many white women are calling the police.  I think the problem is, too many police officers are using deadly force inappropriately.  Of course, not all police are behaving unprofessionally.  There are a lot of good cops out there who care.  But you never know when you'll run into one that is trigger happy.  That being said, I do worry that those who hesitate to call the police when they need help may put themselves at risk.

Let's face it.  Most people are going to look after their own interests first.  In a situation that escalates to the point that someone feels compelled to call for law enforcement, it's likely that the person calling is not necessarily thinking of third and fourth order effects.  I think their primary goal is usually to get help, fast.  They call, and there is a small chance someone might end up getting killed.  However, it's still much more likely that no one will be killed.  I don't think we should be discouraging people who need help to ask for it.  I think that we should be encouraging law enforcement to use less violent means to control their suspects.  Moreover, if the end goal is to stop people from being racist, then we need to evolve to a point at which people stop noticing skin color and relate to others as fellow humans.  We're never going to get there as long as people are asking others to consider another person's race before they call the police.

The same thing about third and fourth order effects can be said for people who decide "Permit Patty" needs to be taught a lesson.  They don't think of second, third, and fourth order effects of mob justice.  Consider this.  Permit Patty loses her job.  She can't find another one because no one will hire her, thanks to all the negative publicity she gets for calling the police and ending up viral on a YouTube video.  She can't pay her bills.  Because she can't pay her bills, her creditors have a problem.  Perhaps it affects their cash flow and they can't pay their own creditors or employees.  That causes a ripple effect to those who weren't paid or those whose cash flow was affected because not as much expected money was coming in.

These effects can also be expressed in terms other than financial.  Permit Patty loses her job.  On top of that, she gets threats from people.  Her friends and family members also get treated badly because of their association with her.  They withdraw, which causes Patty to become depressed.  Now it's even harder to "bounce back".  She becomes despondent and decides to kill herself.  She leaves behind grieving people who have to live with her decision to commit suicide.  Other people hear about the suicide and decide to copy her actions.

How about this example?  Permit Patty decides not to call the police the next time she feels like she needs their help.  Her house is burgled and she ends up being raped by the intruder, who escapes and robs another couple two doors down because Patty felt she shouldn't call the police.

I'm not saying that I would have called the police had I been in Permit Patty's situation, even to ask a question about the law about permits, which is what Patty says she did.  My threshold for asking for help is probably higher than Patty's is.  Either way, what we should be expecting is professional service from police officers with as little violence as possible and much less worry about being killed by them.  For whatever reason, that's not happening.  But it's easier for people to write open letters and blame white women for being too quick to call the police than it is to demand that police officers use their weapons only in extreme situations.  I write that realizing that the American police are in the same situation we are...  they are facing God knows what on every shift.

Here in Germany, I don't feel threatened by the police.  I've never heard about them killing unarmed people and I have observed that they are very polite, professional, and quicker to talk people down rather than threaten them with guns.  But then, here in Germany, most people don't own guns that they easily purchase and carry in public places.

I don't know what the answer is.  But I do know that it really bothers me that so many Americans think it's okay to harass people because of what they read online or hear in the news.  It bothers me that a situation between two neighbors has turned into a viral squabble that everyone knows about and judges.  Too many feel qualified to judge what happened and what consequences should follow.  They aren't realizing that the same kind of "mob justice" could one day happen to them.

I decided to unfollow George Takei's page because I've noticed too many stories from the same biased sources being disseminated and encouraging mob justice tactics.  I think it's wrong, and I don't want to encourage it.  So I clicked the unfollow button.  I'm sure he won't miss me.  Maybe this post will prompt some to unfollow me... which I guess is fine.  If you think mob justice is okay, maybe it's better if you don't follow me.  I don't want to be in your crosshairs.


  1. I'm sympathetic to the dangers faced by law enforcement personnel, but surely they don't really need to operate with such a trigger-happy mindset.

    The mob mentality is disturbing to me. When I was maybe nine years old, I had a doctor's appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist affiliated with Stanford. The doctor had multiple offices, but the office where my appointment was scheduled was in Redwood City. My mom happened to take a wrong exit, and we ended up in a traffic jam outside the courthouse as the Scott Peterson verdict was being read. There were what appeared to be thousands of people, most of whom likely never even met either Scott or Laci Peterson, hollering and carrying signs calling for Scott Peterson's head in one manner or another. I'm far from a fan of Scott Peterson, and I don't have a problem with the verdict the jurors returned, but I found it bizarre that so many people were willing to give up whatever was going on in their lives on that particular day in order to call for the blood of someone they didn't know personally over the killing of someone else they didn't know personally. It was a scary scene for me.

    My mother was informally involved in the pre-trial process and had some interest in the outcome, but she too, was horrified by what we saw.

    I'm not one to make many biblical analogies, especially since I really don't know the Bible all that well, but I used to find it a stretch of the bonds of credulity that essentially the same crowd that cheered the triumphant return of Jesus to Jerusalem would call for his death mere days later. After seeing the vitriol of the mob in Redwood City that, for the most part, had no vested interest in the outcome of the trial, I can believe that a mob is capable of almost anything. I'm not comfortable with it.

  2. Yeah, you summed up my feelings pretty well.


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