Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Leaping to Conclusions

Years ago, here in Oregon, there was a terrible event: A young mother, out driving with her children in Springfield, saw a curly-haired stranger on the side of the road trying to flag her down,  so she pulled over, and he tried to carjack her. Wound up shooting her three children and her. Killed one child, paralyzed another, caused the third to have a stroke. Her wound, to the arm, was less serious, and she managed to escape, get back into the car and flee, driving to the hospital.

Local paper ran the story, and Geezus, ain't it awful? What is the world coming to?

At the time, I got a strong whiff of fishy. What is the rest of the story?

Fishy it was, more than a tuna factory on Friday afternoon. 

Eventually, it was determined that Diane Downs, the young mother, shot her children, and wounded herself, because she had a boyfriend who didn't want kids.

Some of the video footage of the woman is bone-chilling, how she reacted to the shootings, what she had to say, while smiling ...

She's still in prison, still sociopathic, and scary to see and hear.

A lot of crap going on in our country these days, people being shot, and while I don't attribute the madness of Diane Downs to anybody shooting now, there is, because we have access to cell phone videos and instant social networking, a lot of rushing to judgement based on sketchy information.

Yeah, I have watched the vids. And surely, some of them look like executions, but I am reminded of Diane Downs. There is going to be more to some of these stories, and that information is apt to find the stony ground of already-formed opinions based on insufficient data.

Seen a couple more videos this week. Some woman at a rally talking to a TV crew, she's calm and well-spoken, and all of a moment, police grab her and drag her off.

Another of a woman holding a sign that says "Love" at a rally, and the next image is of her being grabbed by the throat and arrested by armored cops.

And finally, a video of a perpetual motion machine. A small bladed fan, upon which somebody attaches magnets and metal plates and then spins it up to twirl without any source of power.

We aren't seeing the whole picture in any of these events. What happened before, or off-camera, and that makes a difference. Schrodinger's Cat.

This is not to say there aren't grievous injustices taking place. There are bad cops, and they do bad things, and there are psychotic killers, some of them religious nuts, I am not trying to excuse any of them. I am just pointing out that in many cases, what we are shown is only the tip of an iceberg, and before we think we know what happened, we ought to collect more information. 

The world is full of clickbait. Proceed with caution.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Shadow Knows

I was raised from the age of two to thirteen in Baton Rouge, in a middle-class neighborhood called Brookstown. Small houses, mostly blue-collar families, lots of kids and dogs and early 1950's sensibilities. (Look at Google Street View now? It's a barely-recognizable, impoverished third-world country, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. You can't go home again.)

In the summer, sometimes a friend and I would find a plum tree and, once the fruit was just past a particular shade of green, we would stage a raid. 

Hop the fence, put an old sheet on the ground under the tree, grab and vigorously shake a couple of branches, collect the sheet and flee with our stolen loot.

Something a nine-year-old-boy used to do without much thought about the legality of the process.

We knew it was wrong, but we did it anyhow.

One fine early summer day, my partner in theft, Ted Long, and I cased a yard. Plums were ready enough, we had our old sheet. We hopped the fence, laid out the collection cloth, and proceeded to start shaking branches.

"What are you doing?" a woman's voice came

Oh, crap! The homeowner! We were caught!

The woman looked at me. "What is your name?" she demanded.

We had not anticipated actually being caught. We had discussed the notion in theory. What if somebody catches us? 

Why, we figured, we would just give them a phony name, and be off and about our business.

We had not thought it through, but that seemed enough at the time.

Ah, but here we were, facing the irate owner of the plum tree, and the unexpected shock threw me into a full-blown panic. 

"What is your name?" she said, glaring at me.

And in my bowel-quivering fear, my mind went blank and I blurted out the only name not my own I could remember:

"T-T-T-Ted Long!"

You can imagine the expression on Ted's face. His shocked gaze at me. What?!

So, you can also guess what Ted said when she asked his name, can't you?

Thus I found that I was not cut out for a life of crime ...