Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Beating fear with common sense

Last week, a University of Cincinnati police officer shot and killed the driver of a car off-campus.  The officer white, the driver black.  Details were not released at the time of the shooting.  Today, Cincinnati waits with bated-breath for the release of the video later this afternoon.  The fact that the city manager has already said, "it doesn't look good" was compounded earlier today when UC closed its campuses in anticipation of the video's release.

I don't know the details and even after the video is released, I'm not going to spend any more time writing about it.  My point today was rather to remind all of us not to fall prey to fear.

Over the last year, blacks and whites are more afraid of one another than they have been in decades.  Even when the headlines aren't filled with news about the latest police shootings, we see headlines about the latest celebrity to have used racial slurs (Hulk Hogan for example).  If you are still not afraid, try headlines about the latest American to become indoctrinated by ISIS will have you convinced the next 9/11 is just around the corner.  Or perhaps you have been reading about the one thousand scientist who have signed a petition demanding the AI killing machines be prohibited (Terminator may not be the fiction that we think it is).

I am prudent by nature and don't believe you can ignore any of these topics and hope they will go away, however to become consumed by the hopeless and repetitive nature of the news is also unhelpful.  People are arming themselves at an increasing rate every day, which is a prudent thing in my opinion, but how many of these people have stopped to consider you are basically arming yourself against your fellow American?  Are we truly in that much peril or are we simply being manipulated into believing that we are?

In 1996, I was privileged to have been on one of the first delegations from the Ohio National Guard to visit the Hungarian Defence Force in Budapest.  The visit was part of the larger Partnership for Peace initiative seeking to increase democratic governments in former Warsaw Pact nations.  I got to see first hand Soviet weapon systems in a former Warsaw Pact nation (Hungary having had the reputation of being one of the best equipped and trained outside the Soviets).

When I first joined the USAF, I was trained as an intelligence analyst.  All of the analysis we were taught and read basically painted the Soviets and Warsaw Pact as 10-foot giants, with a numerical superiority that US forces could only hope to overcome by our superior technology.  What I learned back in 1996 was that in fact the Soviets and their allies were NOT 10-foot giants!  Their equipment, while durable and powerful, was not well maintained meaning there was really not going to be as great a numerical advantage as we thought.

Applying what I learned nearly 20 years ago to today, I don't believe the situation is a dire as we may feel.  Yes, race relations still need to be improved but we forget that we have also elected the first black President and the Civil Rights Act was signed into law over 50 years ago (or how about the first African-American prima ballerina Misty Copeland!).

Yes, we've had some morons who have been lured to ISIS ideology but look at how many other young people who have NOT been recruited and are going on with normal lives.  Yes policing needs to have an overhaul, focusing more on community-based policing and less of the macho, confrontational style that style exists in many departments.  Despite this, Americans of all races still want their neighborhoods safe and patrolled.  Americans want the police to arrest criminals (one only needs to look at what happened in Detroit to see what happens when you don't have police).

So follow this piece of advice from another blogger, James A. Keating in avoiding the pitfall of becoming too afraid;

"Human-ness" can be quite powerful if it is really understood to an extreme point - and no one understands it better than those most naturally human! Rejoice in your human-ness. Every cup of coffee should be savored. Each meal appreciated and prayed over in fervent thanks. Live each moment to it's richest apex of beingness and take it all in, soak it up and remember it. These "things" feed on fear and anxiety. So savor, enjoy, relax, appreciate, kick back, indulge, luxuriate, partake of life's pleasures. This shit just kills the "fear feeders". Center up and balance up, it's ok!

Keep up on the news but take it only in small doses.  Instead of eyeing up your neighbor with suspicion, offer them a helping hand.  If you feel the need to be armed follow your instincts.  Just be sure those are truly your instincts not the malarky being shown on the media.

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