#FergusonDecision Blaming the Victims

Had Michael Brown not believed that he had the right to "strong arm" a shop owner from his own small community he might be alive today.

It was determined this officer was justified in this incident yet he'll never work as a cop again, he will have to move if not hide the rest of his life for doing his job !!!

And so it begins, the collective efforts to make sense out of Ferguson. As a professional social media manager, working to help the underserved and who has conservative friends, I had a pretty good idea about what would happen once the verdict was announce, and I chose to go to bed at 8:30 Monday evening. There would be time enough to hash things out later. So, now, it is time for me, like everyone else, to add my voice.

And so it begins, the predictable responses of blaming the victim and defending the victim. Michael Brown was the victim of the shooting, yet if he hadn’t been out that night, he wouldn’t have been shot. Would he have been shot if he were white? Would he have acted the way he did if it wasn’t for the way he was brought up? How much of this upbringing is the result of racial tensions that grew out of policies about segregation that dated back to before the Civil War?

From the Gateway Arch, the Dred Scott Case, to Torrington, CT’s John Brown participating in “Bleeding Kansas”, St. Louis and the surrounding area has been a key racial fault line for generations. Yes, Michael Brown was a victim, not only of a shooting, but of our history.

As one of my friends above notes, Daren Wilson is also a victim. His life is forever scarred. He probably never will work again as a police officer. He was a victim of the same racial tensions dating back over a century. If he hadn’t been out that night or had worked in a different place, he wouldn’t have killed Michael Brown. If he had had better training, perhaps he wouldn’t have killed Michael Brown. If there weren’t years of racial tension affecting how he saw the situation, perhaps he wouldn’t have killed Michael Brown.

Beyond this, we can look at the shop owners as also victims. Yes, they set up their businesses on this racial fault line, and they have had their livelihoods shaken, damaged, and in some cases destroyed.

In fact, John Donne’s words apply.

Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

We are all the victim of Ferguson and we are all to blame. We have not done enough to address racial tensions in our country. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

At the end of Romeo and Juliet the Prince says

See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish'd...

A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

The Hardest Places to Live

Lord, his daddy was an honest man, just a red dirt Georgia farmer
His momma lived her short life having kids and baling hay
He had fifteen years and an ache inside to wander
So he hopped a freight at Waycross and wound up in L.A.

Sometimes at dinner time, we have “YouTube Riff-Offs” where one person plays a song on YouTube, Spotify, or some other source, and the next person selects a song that they free associate with the previous. It may be that the first song makes reference to the second song, that they have similar riffs, or simply that they are related in terms of topic or performer.

Friday evening, Fiona started off with some current popular song about someone from Georgia. I don’t remember anything more about the song. Kim then played “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. I remembered a song I listened to a lot when I was younger. I remembered it was Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez singing about a “red dirt Georgia farmer”. With a little searching, I came up with “San Francisco Mabel Joy”.

It is a song with a story and character development. It reflects the complexity of life not often found in pop songs today.

Well the cold nights had no pity on that Waycross Georgia farm boy
Most days he went hungry, then the summer came

Today, a friend shared a link to the New York Times article, Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?

Los Angeles shows up 703 on the list of over 3000 counties. The areas around Waycross Georgia rank near the bottom of the list.

Yet all of this made me stop and wonder, what makes life hard?

A Joni Mitchell song comes to mind,

You read those books where luxury
Comes as a guest to take a slave
Books where artists in noble poverty
Go like virgins to the grave

I’m not going to as far as to suggest that life is harder for the wealthier, although Matthew 19:24 does come to mind. Yet I must question the assumptions made in the New York Times article.

The New York Times article looks at “six data points for each county in the United States: education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity.”

Is the percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree really a good measure of how hard a place is to live? The question too many philosopher majors end up asking comes to mind, “Would you like fries with that?” How significant is a bachelor’s degree in how hard life is?

Median household income is another questionable number. I used to live in Fairfield County, where the median income is listed as $82,614. The median household income for the United States is $53,046. I’m not sure that life is that much easier if you’re making $53,000 or $82,000. In fact, the cost of living in places with higher median incomes makes life harder for those with low paying jobs. Perhaps a better indicator would be percentage of people below some poverty line.

I do agree that unemployment rate, if it properly includes discouraged and underemployed workers, disability rate, and life expectancy work pretty well as indicators of how hard life is, but I’d also question the obesity rate.

Yes, it can be a good indicator of how hard it is to get healthy food, but it may also reflect dietary and lifestyle choices, that while people can argue about how healthy those choices are, don’t necessarily indicate how hard life is.

My eldest daughter, when she was in South America had a guy comment to her about how she wasn’t very skinny. He meant it as a compliment. It indicated that she had access to food.

No, a better metric might be the number of people who go to bed hungry or don’t have access to healthy food.

The New York Times reflects a view of how hard life is based on an individual’s education and earnings. In a few days, people will rush to the stores to by junk which will show how well off they are. Perhaps we need to challenge these assumptions. Yet it is these assumptions that drive stores to advertise in the New York Times, so maybe they have a financial reason to encourage these assumptions.

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Don’t Just Shop, Make Something

With Black Friday encroaching on Thanksgiving Day, Small Business Saturday, and perhaps Giving Tuesday, it seems like now, more than ever, we need to rethink our priorities. Does your penitence on Black Friday.

Those of us who worship in the Abrahamic traditions, including Jews, Christians and Muslims, believe we are created in the image of our Creator. While people may argue what that really means, to me a key aspect is that we were created in the image of a creator, not a consumer.

Small Business Saturday, to me is a little better than Black Friday. At least it encourages us to be a little less removed from the creators and the creative process. Giving Tuesday, is in my mind, a much better day. It reflects the sort of thankfulness that seems so much more real and honest. We are thankful for the wonderful things we have been given and are called to give to others as a response. It ties us back to our creator and to the giving part of Thanksgiving.

Yet I want to come back to being a creator. This is an important part of my daughter’s calling, to help us all become more in touch with our creative sides. She written a book about it, Don’t Make Art, Just Make Something. She promotes the hashtag #WhatIMake

This takes me to Makers Monday. There is a Makers Monday Meetup where makers gather to share ideas. Another group has launched Makers Monday as the Monday after Thanksgiving to buy American Made products. This feels a bit like Small Business Saturday, getting consumers closer to the creators, but not making that important step of becoming creators.

So, borrowing from my daughter’s book title, Don’t Just Shop, Make Something.

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The Four Dollar Fermenter

Last night, I stopped at a local bar where I’ve been chatting with the own about brewing and he gave me two empty Petainerkegs. These are five gallon one-way disposable kegs with a sanke coupler, which seems to be a new trend for microbreweries.

I spent a bit of time trying to figure out how best to these a part. Most of the information I found was about removing the sanke coupler from metal kegs so you could clean them and reassemble them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any good instructions about disassembling the coupler, so I ended up cutting the bottom ring off of cap which holds the sanke coupler on the keg.

The plastic is pretty tough so it took a little bit. However, once I managed to cut part of the ring, other parts started breaking off fairly easily. Once most of the ring was broken off, the whole cap and coupler just lifted out.

With the cap removed, I found that the opening to the keg was about the size of a #10 or #10 ½ stopper. At the local brew store, you can pick up a #10 stopper with a hole in it for $2.50. For another $1.50 you can pick up a vapor lock. With those and the Petainerkeg with the cap cut off, you have what looks like it will be a nice, cheap, fermenter.

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All the Time in the World

Recently, people have shared some links on Facebook that combined with some other links make an interesting story. I’m sharing these links, without comment.

The Disease of Being Busy.
A ton of people didn’t vote because they couldn’t get time off from work
Connecticut voters defeat early voting measure
Gathering Time - Haleys Comet
Lowen And Navarro's All The Time in the World

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