The NFL is being boycotted in retaliation for some players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. The protests began as against police brutality, particularly against members of minorities.
There was another mass shooting, this time against a crowded open-air concert. Thoughts and prayers are being sent, and they’re being ridiculed by people demanding gun control — never mind that no practicable gun laws would have prevented this latest atrocity.
Marches and protests and riots. Tearing down statues. Congressional stalemate matches. Hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes. Bad economy, lousy job, sick parents and sick kids, student loans we can never pay back and an underwater mortgage.
Not just the country but the whole world is in rough shape, my friends, and small wonder there are protests. But I put it to you that there are better ways to fix things. Maybe we can’t solve the world’s problems all at once all by ourselves, but if a few of us act properly, intelligently, wisely, appropriately — we might be able to make things measurably better.
Organized marches and demonstrations and protests are a great way to stir public discussion, and that in turn is one of the few methods by which our lawmakers can be forced into action. But if it’s important enough to protest, it’s worth doing it right. And the first thing here is to remember that burning down local shops, beating each other up, and getting arrested is a lousy way to generate public sympathy.
The general public is asleep. They want to stay home in their cozy apartments playing Candy Crush and only come out long enough to go to work and pick up Chinese food. They want to see funny pictures of kittens on Facebook, and who can blame them? These are not people you can persuade by burning down their Starbucks, particularly if that’s where they work.
So march, or kneel, or persist — but whatever you do, do it peacefully, non-violently, and in an orderly fashion. And if you can, get a symbol as cute as those kittens.
Change Comes From Within
It’s wisdom from a self-help infomercial or a dumb joke on a cash register, and most of us hear the words without processing them. Change comes from within: Only you can change yourself, and you do so by deciding to change. It’s not mystic nonsense; it’s an accurate description of a universal process. And the next logical step is this: The only way to change any system is from inside it.
Here’s some examples:
If you don’t like a Congress that’s too partisan to get things done, perhaps you should get involved in your local political process. Not everyone can get elected, but there’s an awful lot of ways to help that aren’t out in front; each of these people have a huge staff, or they’d never get anywhere. Volunteer; fundraise; maybe even get a job with a campaign. From just outside, you can donate, put up lawn signs, attend town meetings, hold neighborhood political discussion groups.
(And don’t think Congressmen are somehow better than the rest of us. Most of them are just lawyers who couldn’t cut it in private practice and couldn’t stand the pressure of a major law firm. I’d rather have an eighth-grade social studies teacher voting for my district any day of the week.)
Police brutality is a major problem, but some excesses are unavoidable when we have huge sentences for crimes that many Americans don’t think are all that wrong. Remember: Most of our cops are good people trying to do an impossible job, and they have my utmost respect for it. Unfortunately, after years of fighting the general public for everything from traffic stops to drug busts, it’s inevitable that a police officer will acquire an “us against them” attitude. I don’t mind people protesting it, but what we need to do is work against it.
The best way? If you’re young, you might consider joining the police. The pay isn’t bad and the benefits are pretty good, but that’s not why. The people in the uniforms with the guns and riot shields are people just like you. And if you’re one of them, you can decide to act wisely. You can choose to not abuse the power of your badge. You can be sympathetic to the victim and open-minded about the accused, and you can do your best to do a hard job right. You can be the change you want to see. (And this is still true if you’re already a cop, you know; if it’s not, you need a new line of work.)
If you can’t join the Force, there’s community policing, neighborhood watch, the auxiliary forces, search-and-rescue groups. There’s community action committees, youth intervention and activities programs, the Police Athletic League, Covenant House, and Big Brother/Big Sister. You can make the world better where you are.
If you don’t like laws that are too oppressive, too restrictive, that forbid actions that don’t hurt anyone — you’ve got a vote, and you’ve got a voice. Participate in the political process; at the very least, be an informed voter. “Tough On Crime” never works; the “War On Drugs” is over and we lost. Read; educate yourself; take action. We live in a democracy, and if you don’t like the way things are going, it’s your right — your responsibility — to change them.
Volunteer And Donate Wisely
Every time there’s a major disaster, hundreds of scams blossom masquerading as charities. Do not donate to anyone you don’t know. And, if you’ll take my advice: Don’t ever donate to any political organization that’s just trying to capitalize on the situation, profiting off the misfortunes of others.
Instead, do what you can where you are. Give blood if you can; volunteer for local charities. On the off chance that you’re a skilled rescue worker, you might be useful in a disaster area; otherwise, you ought to stay as far away as possible so you don’t impede the efforts.
And if you’re a scam artist: Find a new line of work, jackass.
Don’t Be An Asshole
There’s always a reason people go postal, and it might be you. Stop and let that sink in a minute. If you’re bad at your job, usually the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll get fired. But if you’re a jerk to your customers, you might contribute to their road rage on the way home when they strike a pedestrian. If you yell at your employees, you spoil their day, and their subsequent bad mood may spoil someone else’s. And, if you randomly key someone’s car or break a window or throw garbage out a window or just cut someone off in traffic, you’ve just worked against all the people who took the extra time to be randomly kind or pleasant when they didn’t have to.
Even the jackass who takes a rifle and starts shooting random people started out as a human being. He got where he is somehow, and it might be you that pushes him over the edge. He’ll get all the headlines, but you’ll be partly responsible too, and you may not even realize it.
Bottom line? We’re all in this together, and you can help or hurt, just as you choose. You have the power to make the world a better place or a worse one. So maybe you can’t stop the next hurricane; so what? At the very least, you can fix things a little bit, and maybe even do your part to prevent the next awful headline from happening. If you succeed, nobody will ever know — and that’s a beautiful thing.
Comic courtesy Radio Free Babylon; reprinted with permission.