Making some sense of Ferguson

Creative Commons license used. Debra Sweet, 2014-Ferguson-GK on Flickr.

The events that have occurred in Ferguson have gotten my wife and me to think long and hard about why. We have had a lot of discussions between the two of us about the grand jury results, the protests, and what this means to society as a whole. We’ve seen debates on Facebook and Twitter, prayed, and sought God’s wisdom not only about what was happening, but our response.

But first, a little background about me if you are not familiar with who I am because my friend Luke pointed out that “our starting point matters.” I have usually identified myself as a right-wing, conservative Republican but have grown weary of many in that camp as I’ve seen most of the communication lean towards anti-Obama rhetoric instead of trying to make a difference in people’s lives. I believe that I serve a God who wants to make a difference in all of our lives. White, black, poor, rich, Hispanic…all of our lives. Therefore, I want what I do to reflect that same hope.

So this morning, because I have many conservative friends, I ran across an article with a very heavy right-wing slant ridiculing some young black men about their point of view regarding businesses that had been destroyed by some of the riots in Ferguson. One quote stood out, summarizing what I’ve learned about the actions not only in Ferguson but in many African-American communities in the United States.

Trey opined, “That’s why people loot: ’cause they can’t get no job.”

That quote in the article turned on a light bulb for me. To show you what I am seeing in that quote, however, I’d like to take it a step further: “That’s why people loot: ’cause they have no hope.”

As I mentioned before, our starting point matters. I am a white male living in a middle-class suburb of Phoenix. Because of that, I’d like to point out some of the differences I have with Trey and other young African-American males:

  • I believe that if I want something in life, I just need to come up with a plan and work for it. I believe this is possible because of the country I live in. Trey believes that as a black male in a racist society, it doesn’t matter what he does — he is resigned to his role in a lower class than other citizens who aren’t black. Who is right? Well, we both are. First, I realize that if you believe it, it’s either true now or will become true. Second, Trey has some additional obstacles that I will not have to face.
  • I believe now that I have lost some weight, my appearance does not immediately cause people to discriminate against me. Trey believes that many people will see his skin color and make assumptions about being a thug, lying, stealing, and he will not be judged fairly. Once again, we’re both right. Racism is alive and well. It may be hidden a lot more than before, but I believe that racism still influences many to deny opportunities to black people.
  • I believe that if I am pulled over by the police, I will be just fine if I comply with the officer’s directives and obey the law. Trey believes that an officer will already have judged him to be a criminal, and furthermore, his life may be in jeopardy. My own experience tells me this to be true. In addition to the many black friends I’ve had tell me stories about being pulled over for DWB (driving while black), I had an experience that taught me how well things go for me…and how badly they will likely go for others.

I was pulled over about a year ago for having one of the two license plate bulbs burn out. This wasn’t a safety issue — I think other drivers can see me just fine as all the other lights were functional. I thought this was a little picky of the police officer, but what happened next really concerned me after I thought about it. When the officer approached my car, he asked for license (but not registration or proof of insurance). He explained why he pulled me over, and I responded that I will get it fixed. He looked at my license briefly, then handed it back to me and told me to have a good night.

What was concerning to me is that I was pulled over for a minor, non-safety issue, and then he didn’t even run my license or check to see if I was driving without insurance. If this is the case, why bother to pull me over at all? Then I thought — I wonder what would have happened if I was black. Would he have run my license? Checked for insurance? Asked me if the car was stolen? Asked to search my car for drugs? Of course, we will never know, and anything I say is mere speculation. But I’d bet large amounts of money that if I had more melanin in my skin, the officer would have been a lot more critical.

I say all of that to say this: paradigm matters. I can only imagine what a black male has to endure, I can’t say that I know. But here are some topics to think about:

  • When the prosecutor in Ferguson revealed the findings of the grand jury, many whites (including myself, initially) said “see? The officer was justified. Michael Brown was a thug who caused his own death.”
    • Why did Michael Brown have a rap sheet?
    • Why did he steal cigars from a convenience store?
    • I believe it is because he had no hope.
  • When the results were carefully explained by the prosecutor, the crowds demonstrated and rioted anyway.
    • Why didn’t they listen to the reasons for not indicting Officer Wilson?
    • Why did they destroy their own community?
    • I believe it is because they had no hope.

Please think about that statement. What would you do if you have no hope? Would you commit petty crimes? Would you resist a peace officer’s commands if you believed your life was in danger? Would you assault, rape, and kill? I firmly believe I would be a much different person if I lacked the hope that I have.

I want some things to be perfectly clear: I do not expect officers to put themselves in jeopardy by refusing to shoot if their lives are in danger. I do not expect us, as a society, to stop punishing criminal behavior. And I don’t expect that we just excuse bad behavior. However, what society is doing to discourage crime and rehabilitate offenders isn’t working:

  • Almost one third of black males in their 20s are either in prison, jail, parole, or probation.
  • Black men between 30 and 34 are incarcerated more often than any other race.
  • A black man born in 1991 has a 29% chance of being in prison some time in their life. Not jail, prison.

The solution: minorities need hope. They need to feel like society cares for them. They need to feel like an interaction with a police officer is not a direct threat to their freedom and life.

My part of the solution: I will stop acting like a victory has been won when an officer has been exonerated from liability in a fatal shooting. The end result is still a dead man or woman.

I welcome your ideas below to make America land of the free and home of the brave…for everyone.

Creative Commons license used. Debra Sweet, 2014-Ferguson-GK on Flickr.

Creative Commons license used. Debra Sweet, 2014-Ferguson-GK on Flickr.

Resurrecting an old blog

As part of starting a web development business, I figured that updating my old websites would be a good thing. I moved my most recent blog to The Better Bubba Blog, and I moved The Redneck Desert Dweller to my own hosting platform. I changed the theme and made some minor improvements.

I hope to be writing a lot more than I have in the past, and look forward to hearing what you have to say about some of my thoughts.

Category: Uncategorized

Goodbye, Cappuccino

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This weekend was a sad weekend as m’girl and I made the difficult (and necessary) decision to put an end to our cat’s suffering.

Cappuccino lived almost 17 years, and my wife was her owner for almost all of her life. To hear my mother-in-law talk about the first meeting, Cappuccino was the one that adopted my wife when, as a kitten, she hopped up on her cowboy hat and wouldn’t let go.

Cappy (as we have called her) moved from her birthplace of Texas to Arizona about 12 years ago. Since we’ve only been together for about 2 years, I don’t know much about her early life…so I’ll blather on about the time I had with her.

When I moved in with m’girl, Cappy didn’t warm up to me quickly. I started calling her “The Grumpy Old Curmudgeon” because when she wanted to be fed, she let me know. And if I tripped over her because it was dark, she reacted in a way that I imagined her calling me 4-letter words.

But like fungus, I eventually grew on her. She started rubbing up against my legs like a normal cat, and liked it when I petted her. But she didn’t turn into the nicest cat, either. She had a particular way she wanted to be petted…and if I didn’t follow suit as ordered, she’d try to nip me. She wasn’t mean, per se, but she had NO problem letting me know what she didn’t like.

Later, we moved her bed out from the closet to the corner of the bedroom next to my side of the bed. However, after finding out that MY big recliner was in front of HER much smaller bed…well, she’s a cat. She took over MY recliner.

And when I say took over, I don’t mean she just laid there on the seat. Every time I passed by, she made a sound closer to a growl than a meow. I may not know how to describe the sound, but I knew exactly what she was saying. “Pet me, dammit!” It didn’t matter if it was 9:00pm, 2:00am, 10:00, whenever. Every. single. time.

A couple of months ago we noticed she would make a weird howl at random times of the day (and sometimes the night). Concerned about any suffering she might be experiencing, we took her to the vet. After a few hundred dollars of testing, all they knew is that her kidney functions were getting worse.

Some time later, she started getting much worse. We went back to the vet to learn how to give Cappy subcutaneous fluids much like an IV but just under the skin, and not necessarily in a vein. That helped for a couple of days…but not for long.

After coming back home from Tucson on Saturday afternoon, we found that Cappy had been vomiting, and was now hiding under the bed and would not come out. When I went to retrieve her, I knew the end was near. We spent the night cleaning her up from a couple of accidents, and just held her.

Sunday morning we knew it was time. I won’t go into details except to say the Goodyear Animal Hospital went absolutely above and beyond what they had to do to accommodate us. We received a card in the mail yesterday, signed by everyone that was there that sad morning, expressing their condolences.

Today was the day I picked up the final step in our journey with Cappy. After we left, they made an imprint of Cappy’s paw in clay, fired it in a kiln, and painted it with her name.

With moist eyes and a heavy heart I say goodbye to the second cat we’ve lost during our short marriage. But I’m glad I knew you, you grumpy old curmudgeon.

Cappuccino

1994-2011

Category: Personal

Mother’s Day, Bubba Style

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I have always found family holidays like Mother’s Day a bit of a challenge. However, after years of lamenting that my family is more than a little dysfunctional, I’ve come to the realization that everyone has their challenges in this area. No longer are we the country that has mom within driving distance, or has both parents still married “after all these years”.

This year, I am going to celebrate Mother’s Day by telling you the four mothers I am blessed to have.

First of all, there is the woman that gave me birth. If you have been reading this for a while, you know that she lives about 2-3 hours away and is the closest blood relative that I have. I would talk to her and go see her except the fact that she wants nothing to do with me because, in her words, I am “strange.”

After four and a half decades of life on this earth, I have made peace with the fact that I may never see her again. The decision to estrange herself from me is hers, not mine; all I can do is accept it for what it is.

That being said, she is the woman that gave me life and for that she has my respect and my love, if not my presence.

The next woman that comes to mind on Mother’s Day is my stepmother. She married my dad over 25 years ago and has stuck it out with him for better and for worse. To say we didn’t get along when I was growing up is an understatement. I resented the fact that I didn’t have my “real” mother anymore, and I’m sure she resented the fact that she had four more kids in her house when my birth mother abandoned us by leaving us at our grandmother’s house for almost two months before dad drove eight hours to come get us.

Nonetheless, this is the woman I call “mom” the most. Not only has she stuck it out with dad all this time but she took care of us kids in the best manner she knew how to do. We were never forced to call her mom, but even then I recognized the sacrifices she made to guide us to adulthood.

For this, she is the main person I think of when I think of “mother.” And not only does she have my love and respect but my undying gratitude for filling a tough, demanding, and certainly thankless role.

The third woman is my ex-mother-in-law. Counting the time we dated, I was with her daughter for seven years. She always did her best to make me feel welcome when we were together. After we both got divorced in the same year, we became friends and support systems for each other. I was really worried about her when she divorced her husband of 37 years; she had always been a stay-at-home wife and mother and her identity was her husband’s wife and her children’s mother. Finding her identity has been a struggle, but she has grown tremendously since.

I am proud to call her not only friend but mom.

The last person that serves the role of mother to me is my current mother-in-law. To say this woman has the gift of hospitality would be an extreme understatement. She came to Arizona from Ohio when we got married, and spent almost every hour either baking cookies or doing something else to make things easier on everyone else.

My father-in-law has some health issues that require her to provide assistance every day, and she performs those responsibilities admirably. On top of all of that, she’s just a good person and friend.

For that, she’s someone I am proud to call my mom.

I guess I could still focus on the dysfunction of my life and have a negative attitude. Or I could recognize my situation for what it is: extremely blessed.

Thanks to all the moms: mine, yours, and everyone else’s, for making this world the wonderful place it is.

Family pic 2010

Category: Personal

The latest on Kobe: bad word, even worse excuse

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According to ESPN, Kobe Bryant has been fined $100,000 for mouthing a gay slur during a game after he was called for a technical foul. After attracting the ref’s attention by calling him by name, Kobe is then said to have mouthed the words “f**cking f*ggot.”

What is worse about this incident is the half-*ssed apology he issued for his outburst.

What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.

Well, then. I guess that makes it alright, because you did NOT mean to call the ref a homosexual in an unflattering light.

But wait a minute. If I was an NBA player frustrated at a ref for calling me for a technical foul, would it be OK if I called him a “f**king n***er” as long as I said later that I “should not be taken literally?”

I would hope not.

Hey, I’m not trying to crucify you for a mistake, Mr. Bryant. We all make mistakes. And God knows I am GLAD I don’t have a camera on me all the time, capturing every screw-up I make.

But here’s a tip: if you do something wrong and you’re called on it…apologize. Fully. Don’t offer excuses or try to explain it away. Just say yeah, I did it, and I’m sorry.

You may be a billionaire. You may have more money sitting in the change tray of your Hummer than I will make this year. But until you learn how to handle yourself as a gentleman, you’ll never get the respect you deserve for your ability to put a ball in a hoop.

Breast Cancer: A Male’s Perspective

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One of my female Facebook friends asked if we were thinking about breast cancer…specifically about how to help in the fight against it.

I have to say that the past three years has changed my perspective on breast cancer. When I enrolled in the Breast Cancer Three Day Walk in 2008,  I only knew one person that had breast cancer. Cathy battled it for 12 years before succumbing to the illness the winter before.

As I started training for the event, I started wearing t-shirts with pink, t-shirts with Race For The Cure, pink bandanas as a head scarf, and other things that indicated I was thinking about breast cancer.

Over time, women started coming up to me thanking me for my involvement. But then, something else started to happen: they started telling me they had breast cancer. “I was just diagnosed.” “I had it three years ago.” “My mother died from it.” It was almost always in a hushed, whispered tone…like they were telling me the most deep, darkest secret they had ever told someone else.

I was always amazed by the way someone told me their battles with breast cancer. I understand that breasts represent many things – including sexuality – and I believe that may be one of the reasons why men are not aware of the women in their lives battling this killer. Sure we’re aware if our wives are ill, or a close relative…but guys, you probably know a handful of women that either have or have had breast cancer. But you may never know it unless they can trust you.

My point in writing this: guys, if you don’t know a woman with breast cancer…get involved. Raise funds for research, go on a walk, a race, or just raise awareness. You will miss out if you don’t.

The 3 Day Walk

Race For The Cure

National Breast Cancer Foundation

Category: Personal

Stay Current AND Classy, America

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WARNING: Angry old curmudgeon rant follows.

Today is March 2, 2011. President Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009. He has held the office of President of the United States for approximately 770 days, give or take a week.

In the context of the Internet, 770 days ago is ancient history. I mean, if it’s 9pm and someone talks to me about something that happened this morning, I complain that they’re talking about old news.

Why do I say this? Because I believe it’s time to expect a little bit of context from our political discussion.

First of all, President George H. W. Bush has been out of office for over two years. To all of you still taking pot shots at him, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and anyone else in that administration: shut up. That administration is gone. If you’re still complaining about what they did, you need to grow up. They’re not going to be indicted for anything, and just because you didn’t agree with their decisions doesn’t mean that they lied about anything. Find something else to occupy your time.

And you Republicans, wipe the smug look off your faces. You are just as bad, if not worse, than Democrats. Those of you in the “birther” camps that believe that President Obama was born in Kenya: shut up. The state of Hawaii says he was born there. Just because they haven’t complied with your constant requests for a piece of paper called a birth certificate doesn’t mean there’s a huge conspiracy. The discussion is over. Even if he WAS born outside the United States, we’ll never achieve a smoking gun that proves it.

And now, just when I thought us Republicans couldn’t sink any lower, one of my state’s representatives is saying he’d support impeachment proceedings against President Obama because he won’t order the Attorney General to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Really? On what grounds would you impeach him? As President, he vowed to defend the Constitution. Believe what you want about non-traditional ideas of marriage (i.e. “gay marriage”), a sane and rational person would have to acknowledge that not allowing gay marriage could be seen as interfering with “the pursuit of happiness” whether or not you agree.

Therefore, he has every right as President to not defend the DOMA. If you are saying he should be impeached: shut up.

So, what am I saying in this rant? If you’re going to hold political discussions, talk about something that did not happen over two years ago, and stop having a hissy fit over everything someone else does that doesn’t line up with your political beliefs.

In other words, stay current AND classy, America.

Facebook https:FAIL

I haven’t seen this talked about anywhere else…so I thought I would bring this up. Please leave a comment with your findings, whether you experience the same thing I have or not.

As you have seen on many posts by now, I enabled the Facebook account option to use secure browsing (https:) when possible. However, as someone that plays games on Facebook, apps have proven to be a bit troublesome. When I go to Mafia Wars, Bejeweled Blitz, or some other app, I often get this message:

Not secure warning messageWell, I guess I understand. We can’t assume that Zynga or PopCap have configured their apps for secure access. Because I’m addicted to these games (just like you, admit it) I click on continue.

However, I guess I expected Facebook to switch me back to secure browsing after I was done with my time-wasters.

Nope.

I even made a bookmark for https://facebook.com and used it whenever I wanted to return to the home page. But when I went back to account settings, I found that the option for secure browsing was now unchecked. I have to assume that when I agreed to switch to a regular connection, it changed it permanently.

Is it really that hard, Facebook, to switch us back when we’re done playing games?

Until then, fellow gameaholics, if you play games, you will have to go back to account settings and reselect secure browsing.

Category: Personal

We Are No Longer A Democracy Reason #441

I apologize in advance, but Bubba is wearin’ his grumpy old curmudgeon hat this morning.

With a hat tip to Bluegrass Pundit, I found an article in the News & Observer this morning  about a citizen concerned about traffic conditions, prompting him to create a proposal to install two new traffic lights as part of a “planned widening” of a road.

Apparently, David N. Cox put a lot of time and effort into this proposal. So much so that when Kevin Lacy, chief traffic engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, saw the proposal he forwarded it to the NC Board of Examiners. The possible violation? “Practicing engineering without a license.”

Cox says that they were trying to “express our view about this.” He assembled an eight-page proposal to convince the state to reconsider their decision not to install the two traffic signals Cox and his neighbors thought was needed.

However, Lacy has a different point of view about Cox’s proposal. “Lacy says he filed the complaint because the report “appears to be engineering-level work” by someone who is not licensed as a professional engineer.”  Lacy goes on to say in the article that “”when you start applying the principles for trip generation and route assignment, applying judgments from engineering documents and national standards, and making recommendations,” that’s technical work a licensed engineer would do.”

Apparently we’ve all forgotten how to play nice. Or use our brains in a manner that would make sense.

So, Mr. Lacy, let me apply a little extended thinking to this. If I can do so without you charging me with practicing something without a license.

Mr. Cox is a citizen unhappy with the state’s decision not to install traffic lights. As a citizen, he has every right to do so. Why did you have him investigated? Seriously, would you have been happier if he had used crayon and poor grammar in his proposal? I would think that, in your position, you would rather read something well-written and researched than something based solely on opinion.

According to the article, Lacy advised the group headed up by Cox to hire an engineer to make their case. Mr. Lacy, not everyone has the money to hire a professional to express their concerns. Are you saying that if they don’t hire an engineer, don’t bother?

I will start out saying I do not advocate any action that will lead to overthrowing the government. However, actions like these are the reason people start considering radical actions. As Americans, we will find a way to make our voices heard. If government starts punishing people for voicing their opinions, they will find a way to make themselves heard. Whether you like them or not, today’s Tea Party has gained momentum because as a group these citizens feel disenfranchised.

In other words, North Carolina, tread very carefully if your actions can be interpreted as squelching dissension.

Category: Personal

What is the internet?

It has been 17 years since this clip. 17 years is a long time in some ways, sure. But today, if someone on TV asked “what is the internet?” they’d be institutionalized.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nTPX4JW_Ts[/youtube]
Category: Personal