Thursday, December 19, 2013

On the Duck Dynasty "Controversy"

Duck Dynasty: Here is a group of savvy entrepreneurs who can very conveniently and profitably appear to be a cozy, "salt of the earth" family of back country hicks.  Just plain folks all over the country have swallowed this act hook, line and sinker, and have put these reality stars on some kind of an "idolized everyman" pedestal.

The family patriarch made some statements on the record that reflect his personal morals.  Fine.  Who cares, really?  If his version of heaven is populated by people like him, I certainly wouldn't be caught dead there. 

But don't forget, this guy is an employee of the network, the network has sponsors, and sponsors react to this kind of thing.  I remember the days when the stars of TV shows actually DID the commercials for the sponsors.  They had to appear to use and love that sponsor's product, and they always had to comport themselves, on screen and off, in such a manner that the sponsors would be satisfied that the actors represented the image the sponsor wanted to convey.  That was part of the job.  The hard part, arguably;  perhaps even the part that made what they did WORTH the silly sums of money they got paid.  In return for keeping up the required appearances, stars got paid very handsomely and were the beneficiaries of a lifestyle few non-celebrities could enjoy.   TV personalities who did not toe that line were not TV personalities for very long.   

All you out there hollering about Mr. Duck Dynasty's "free speech" should think very hard about what kind of behavior a star--who is, in the end, merely an employee--should be required to display in exchange for the ridiculous amounts of money he rakes in purely for being "a star."  You say that an employer is not allowed to dictate what a person does outside of work?  How many teachers have been fired due to moral outrage over some behavior they have displayed either in their past (nude photos?) or private lives (gay teachers are routinely fired.)  For that matter, how many sports icons have lost lucrative sponsorship contracts due to the exposure of some kind of less-than-desirable off-the-field conduct?

The silliest part of this entire mish-mash is, Robertson hasn't been fired.  A & E can safely "suspend" the guy because they already have most of next season's episodes in the can.  Do you think the network would actually cease production on a (mystifyingly) wildly popular cultural phenomenon (!!?!?!) over this?  Not gonna happen.  Remember, for the networks, it's ALL about money.  A & E is simply trying to mollify sponsors while doing nothing to jeopardize their golden goose.

The real calamity in all this is not that A & E has violated Robertson's right to free speech.  It's the network's meaningless pretense of moral outrage over the situation.  The network is trying to pacify everyone, yet come out on the other side of the controversy with its money-maker still intact; and it looks ridiculous doing so.  Sigh!  A & E--once the network of "Pride and Prejudice" and "The Hornblower Saga,"  now an endless parade of outrageous "reality" shows designed to buy 100% into the dumbing down of the national dialogue.  How the mighty have fallen...   

Update:  Can I call them, or can I call them:  Phil Robertson Will Return to Duck Dynasty in January

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Never Forget: Newtown, December 14, 2012

The internet is a great place to "never forget" things.  Every September 11, the ether becomes clogged with misty photos of two tall straight buildings, overlaid with transparent images of a gently rippling star-spangled banner,  along with the stern words "Never Forget" in a bold and uncompromising font.

When December 7th rolls around, we are exhorted to never forget the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, even though that military atrocity took place almost seventy years ago, in a completely different world.  

There are folks in the southern US who have passed "never forgetting" the "War of Northern Aggression" down through generations like a cherished family heirloom.

We are sternly admonished to never forget any military attack upon our "innocent" selves by a political enemy.  We need to hold on to those feelings of shock, horror and hatred.  We need to cultivate them, tend them and cherish them, haul them out annually on the anniversary of the dastardly deed, and let the world know we Never Forget, so the world had better watch out.

I find it interesting--and appalling--that in a culture such as 21st-century America, where we seem to have the political attention span of a fruit fly, we nevertheless pour enormous amounts of energy into remembering decades-old acts of war, the better to nourish our personal hatreds, xenophobia and prejudices.

But when one of our own--a middle class white boy with a distorted life view and an assault rifle--shoots his way into a school building and assassinates twenty babies and six teachers who gave their own lives in an effort to protect the innocents, we forget.  

As soon as humanly possible, we forget.

Because to remember these babies, shot to pieces by a kid with a weapon that no private citizen should be able to get his hands on, would call upon us to act.  It would force you and me, Mr. and Mrs. Joe American Citizen, to make a stand.  Not just to be part of a grumbling mob of patriotic rabble-rousers that calls for an enemy's blood, and then huddles behind the young people who comprise our military and pushes THEM into harm's way. Remembering Newtown would call upon us to defy, every day, the forces in this country who have decided it is in their financial and/or ideological best interests to maintain a free flow of weapons of war into the general population. Remembering Newtown would cause us to live with the nearly unbearable knowledge that we ourselves could fall victim to a nut with an automatic weapon, anytime, anywhere.  And we aggressively do NOT want to know that.

No...  When it comes to events like Newtown or Columbine or Aurora, the best we can do is shout for a week or two about how these things would not happen if EVERYONE were allowed to carry loaded guns around. And then throw a blanket over that story, stomp on it to make sure it's dead, and hurry on to the Next Thing.   

If this is not a prime example of entirely misplaced priorities, I would like to know what is.  To hell with "never forgetting" wars and military attacks.  Get over it and move on.  But if there was ever a thing in the world to Never Forget, Newtown would be it.

Never Forget.

Let it sink into your bones and change your life.  Then do something.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On the Myth of the "Liberal Media"

Is there anyone out there who still entertains delusions of a "liberal media"?

Once upon a time, the media may well have been "liberal", in that it was not only free to but obligated to present a balanced representation of current events.  But that started to change after Reagan and the Republicans got their hands on things in the eighties.   At some point, some group of ultra-rich geniuses realized that media free of financial and ideological obligations to mega-corporate owners came off as way too liberal.  The media were free to report and develop stories not necessarily conducive to putting money in the pockets of those who already had more money than God, but nevertheless wanted to make sure that more--perhaps ALL--money was channeled in their direction.  Oh, it all seemed a very straightforward and "small government" philosophy.  They sold the action to the American public by declaring that "excessive" government regulation limited the rights and the freedoms of all Americans. 

In reality, government regulation often is put into place in order to control the rampant greed that is an unfortunate corollary of our capitalist system.  The GOP had no interest in protecting the freedoms of Average Joe Citizen.  What they had was an agenda to allow monied interests--almost always closely linked to the Republican Party--to purchase entire monopolies of media outlets, the better to disseminate their message to the American people.   So the concept of media deregulation was born.

And yet, the right still has the audacity to holler  "Liberal media bias!" at any story that might leak past the conservative blockade of corporate-controlled media.  And a shocking number of conservative sheep--I mean, average citizens--take up that cry and seem to really, truly believe it.  Sigh.  Don't think my theory has merit?  Let me just ask--why do you think conservatives are so publicly and adamantly anti government "subsidies" for public media outlets like NPR?  Because conservative big business interests can't control the message.  

Still believe in liberal media bias?  Here's the story that actually got me started on the subject this morning:  Dan Rather on the Difference Between Him and Lara Logan:  My Story Was True.    In case you've forgotten, Rather lost his job in 2004 in a flap created over a negative story about then president (and presidential candidate) George W. Bush's military service.  A story that was never proven untrue, never refuted by Bush Administration or campaign officials; a story that was shouted down so quickly and so thoroughly by the "liberal media" that Rather was forced to end an illustrious four-decade association with CBS news, skulking off with his tail between his legs.

Nine years later, Lara Logan screws the pooch on a story that would put an Obama Administration damning spin on the Benghazi "scandal,"--by using as her featured witness a "contractor" (read: mercenary) whose version of the story changes and enhances depending upon to whom he is requested to recount it.  In other words, she assembled a piece that was basically a pack of lies, in a bid to advance her own personal political agenda.  I have two questions: 1.)   Why, even though it has been almost a decade since the Rather debacle, would CBS allow one of their talking heads to go anywhere near a story with such flimsy basis in documentable fact?  and 2.)  Why would CBS air this story without properly vetting it?

Could it be that the primary consideration afforded the story was that it leaned in an anti-administration direction "approved" by someone with buckets full of money?  Did corporate owners actually believe they could sneak a Fox-esque collection of conjectures and untruths past a veteran audience that has been trained to hold a venerable news vehicle the like of "60 Minutes" to a much higher standard of truth and excellence in reporting?  CBS first endeavored to defuse the outrage over the story by having Logan appear on camera with an "apology."  When the controversy stubbornly refused to go away despite Logan's weak and disingenuous "my bad!" the network finally bowed to public pressure and asked Logan to "take a leave of absence."  I'm sure nobody was as surprised as CBS' corporate owners that a large enough portion of a less-than-conservative body of viewing public would make a loud enough stink about their cheesy, agenda-driven attempt at "fair and balanced coverage" that they would be forced to back-pedal as furiously as they have for the past month.

I take that back.  I can't say that nobody was as surprised as CBS over this flap.  I was surprised.  I was surprised that a blow was struck for truth and research and real investigative reporting, and against shoving ideological pablum disguised as "news" down the throats of the American people.  No kudos here for CBS.  High fives to the audience who stuck to their high standards, would not accept lame efforts at mollification, and held CBS and the reporter accountable.

It will be interesting to see where it all goes from here.    


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Understanding Dave Ramsey

I don’t know much about Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial guru to whom I referred in the previous post.  I’ve never listened to his radio show (probably because I gave up listening to the radio about fifteen years ago when it became overrun with right-wing talk shows.)  From what I can gather, he is a fifty-something southern guy who identifies as a “born-again Christian.”  He got rich in the 80’s, evidently by utilizing some questionable borrowing practices, and lost that fortune when a bank demanded repayment of over $1 million in short-term notes within 90 days, whereupon he declared bankruptcy. 

Here’s a man who got burned by the concept of “doing business with other people’s money” –a basic tenet of American business.  After that experience, it appears he got the “live debt-free” religion.  And like any convert, he is single-mindedly zealous about the concept.  Okay.  I get that. 

The problem is, he has combined his two passions—Christianity and “financial freedom”—into something that comes dangerously close to “prosperity gospel:”   that skewed theology that maintains that God wants Christians to be wealthy, and will generously bestow financial blessings upon believers who follow certain guidelines, like giving generously to Christian ministries.  Though Ramsey does not openly identify with the prosperity gospel movement, he does preach that God desires for believers to be happy (read “rich.”) Ramsey cherry-picks bible texts that bear out this theory, while studiously ignoring verses like Matthew 9:24:  “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”  Or Matthew 5:3:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  In fact, when Ramsey’s detractors quote these verses to him, he accuses them of “biblical nitpicking” and goes on his merry way.

But, as I said, I knew nothing of Dave Ramsey until I followed a link posted by one of my Facebook friends.  The link is to a CNN piece  that deals with a post on Ramsey’s web page for which he has received a windfall of criticism.  The essay in question, not written by Ramsey himself but apparently endorsed by him, is a list of twenty practices theoretically embraced by the rich and shunned by the poor that constitute, in the author’s mind, the fundamental reasoning behind why some folks are rich and some are poor.  Rich folks do all these wise and practical things!  That’s why they’re rich!  Poor folks aren’t smart (disciplined, determined, desperate ) enough to do these things!  That’s why they’re poor!

The long list is an unprecedented pile of poor-bashing hogwash.  You can find it here:  20 ThingsThe Rich Do Every Day It is a trumped up piece of capitalistic propaganda that cites “facts” and “figures” that look suspiciously like they were pulled right out of someone’s wealth-promoting ass:

"80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.
"76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this.
"63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people."   

What kind of “facts” are these?  Who did this research?  Who would care enough about any of these topics to DO the research?

The list is pure bullshit, and Ramsey did himself no favors posting it to his site.

As a result, a large enough hue and cry ensued that Ramsey was forced to respond.  Did he remove the post?  Did he acknowledge possible inaccuracies?  Did he challenge the author to cite his sources? 

No.  He responded with an ungrammatical and rambling diatribe of his own, (click on the link, scroll down past the original post; definitely worth reading) condemning his detractors as “politicized, immature and doctrinally illiterate.”  His response is, in itself, an amazing piece of self-promoting prattle that leaves one a bit shell-shocked and mystified at the logic of it all, but with no doubt as to the fact that Ramsey is shifting any perceived “blame” for the impropriety of the post from himself to his detractors.  In a nutshell, he is saying, “We haven’t done anything wrong, you just don’t GET us.  So we are just going to ignore you and keep doing what we are doing, because God is on OUR side.”  Ugh.

My favorite part of his convoluted logic is where he states: 

“My wife and I started our lives with almost nothing, eating off a card table and driving two cars that did not total $2,000 in value. We were broke…”

Broke, Dave.  Not POOR.  Broke.  There is a world of difference between the two.  “Broke” presupposes that you once had money, or you knew what it was like to have money.  “Eating off a card table and driving two cars…?”  That would be broke.  “Poor” would be having no food, no card table, possibly no room to put a card table IN, and almost certainly not in possession of ONE car, much less two.  Unless the car served as your living quarters.

Perhaps Dave Ramsey’s problem is with semantics.  He seems to function under the assumption that those who are not rich are poor.  Perhaps he fundamentally does not get that the definition of “poverty” is NOT “not rich.”  Perhaps if all of Ramsey’s teachings, and even this heinous “20 Things” list he shared, were based on “rich vs broke” rather than “rich vs poor,” it could all make a lot more sense.  And be much less morally objectionable.   

Because we all know there are NOT only two personal economic realities.  Rich and poor are the opposite ends of the spectrum.  There is a lot of territory in between.  But I think Ramsey takes deliberate advantage of the negative connotation of the word “poor.”  He has reinforced that negative definition by posting this list that indicates that the “poor ” are folks who are too lazy, stupid, unmotivated, criminal or sinful to follow the “Biblical” path he sets forth to attain wealth.  The poor are suffering the consequences of their own “poor” choices.  No one who drinks the Ramsey kool-aid wants to be one of THOSE people.  This is how Dave Ramsey stays in business.

Ramsey makes all kinds of claims about how he and his group teach “giving” and “extraordinary generosity.”  I guess that’s his way of suggesting that the “20 Things” list, and indeed, his entire ministry, is not about poor-bashing.  He insinuates that his critics don’t know anything about him or his teachings…that they have just decided to attack him based on this one post and not on his total body of work. 

You’re right, Dave.  I didn’t know anything about your body of work prior to this.  But this controversy, and your way of dealing with it, do not entice me to get better acquainted with you and your teachings.  In fact, it makes me want to avoid you like the plague, and tell everyone I know to do the same.       

Saturday, November 30, 2013

SO Tired of Poor-Bashing

It is such a sign of our times that, in this season of thanks, we seem to be ramping up the "poor-bashing" to a truly unheard of level.  Are we all going for the Ebenezer Scrooge award or something?  Every day I read a new utterly objectionable quote or meme sent around by raving right wingers that literally drips with loathing for disadvantaged Americans.

Today, a friend pointed me in the direction of a Christian "prosperity prophet" who claims that the poor in first world countries really have no business being poor.  Opportunity here in the God-blessed U S of A is open to anyone.  Everyone.  Those who suffer from poverty in America are suffering the consequences of their own poor choices.  An unintended and definitely un-funny pun.

And the comments about the original piece were as clueless and vicious as the piece itself. "It's not Ramsey's fault that the divide (between rich and poor] is widening."  "No, certainly not his fault or responsibility!"  "I look around and see people who are smart and able sit on their butts and complain there is no opportunity."  "Americans are too proud to start at the bottom."


For every one person you might have seen sitting on his butt and complaining about lack of opportunity, I'll wager there are a hundred who work their asses off at multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  There may be those who are "too proud" to start at the bottom.  But there are thousands who break their necks every day and stretch up as far as they physically can to reach the bottom.  And use every ounce of their strength and resources just to hang on to that space on the bottom, to keep themselves from falling off into oblivion.

I wonder how many of the folks who cling to this prosperity guru's every word have any idea what real poverty is.  I suspect that most people who have Facebook accounts and computers do not know what real poverty is.   I do not know what real poverty is, yet I am not willing to bash those who live in it as being "too proud", too stupid, too lazy, or any of the other "too's" so easily bandied about, sitting there on your comfy recliner in front of your 300 channels on your flat-screen tv, to cure themselves of their economic ills.

In my comment on the post, I asserted:  "I am going to put this in all caps because, yes, I am yelling:  I AM GETTING REALLY TIRED OF POOR-BASHING.  And if all you can do is sit in judgment of these folks, tell them what to do, what not to do, and who is or is not responsible for the plight of the poor, YOU are part of the problem."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On Poverty, From the Inside

Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to a Huffington Post essay.  I followed that link, and what I read blew me away.  The piece was written by a young woman—Linda Tirado— who knows what it’s like to be poor.  It’s written in a voice that I knew existed, but had never heard quite so clearly.  In fact, I wasn’t aware that there was a poor person out there who could put together a piece of writing like this essay.  A piece of writing that slices open and pours out the guts of the “working poor,” in desolate language, dealing with the daily challenges of getting up every morning to face the same bleak reality.

"There's no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it's rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of."

This is the woman I want every troll who posts holier-than-thou comments on stories about the poor and the immigrants and the “entitlements” to hear and to know.  This is the woman who can get in your face and make you feel her poverty—not just her lack of means poverty, but the poverty of the spirit that is borne of it.

"The closest Planned Parenthood to me is three hours. That's a lot of money in gas. Lots of women can't afford that, and even if you live near one you probably don't want to be seen coming in and out in a lot of areas. We're aware that we are not "having kids," we're "breeding." We have kids for much the same reasons that I imagine rich people do. Urge to propagate and all. Nobody likes poor people procreating, but they judge abortion even harder."

What is wrong with us that we can’t allow people to have a hard life?  Why can’t we tolerate the idea of someone being unable to rise out of poverty?  Why in the world do we cling so desperately to that “American Dream”—the one where all you have to do is work hard, get an education, save your money and stay away from the temptations of the devil, and you will achieve success beyond your wildest dreams? 

We know damn well that’s a crock of crap.  We see it in our own lives—we work hard, we go (went) to college, we’ve stuck money in the stock market or a 401k, and we’re not getting rich.  In fact, we’re going backward.  Retirement is a pipe dream.  So why can’t we cut the poor some slack? If WE can’t get ahead, how much harder must it be for them?  Are we afraid that if we admit that the guy a few rungs lower on the food chain is never going to claw his way up, even to where we are, that we’re sealing our own fate?

"Especially since the Patriot Act passed, it's hard to get a bank account. But without one, you spend a lot of time figuring out where to cash a check and get money orders to pay bills. Most motels now have a no-credit-card-no-room policy. I wandered around SF for five hours in the rain once with nearly a thousand dollars on me and could not rent a room even if I gave them a $500 cash deposit and surrendered my cell phone to the desk to hold as surety."  

How meaningless, too, is all the hubbub surrounding “Obamacare” to the poor?  Every single one of us doing the arguing has at least some idea of what it is/was to have health insurance.   While we’re whining about the cost of our coverage going up or our shitty policies being canceled or having to wait an hour or two to get on a website, the poor are simply going without.  Or hauling themselves off to an emergency room when they’re so sick they cannot even stand.  For which we do nothing but give them a raft of shit.

"There's a clinic? Great! There's still a copay. We're not going. Besides, all they'll tell you at the clinic is that you need to see a specialist, which seriously? Might as well be located on Mars for how accessible it is. "Low-cost" and "sliding scale" sounds like "money you have to spend" to me, and they can't actually help you anyway." 

Why do we have to make judgments about poor people, about how they should or should not be “allowed” to spend the two pennies they have to rub together at any given time?  I’ll admit, even I have had trouble with the concept of poor people smoking.  I cannot believe how much a pack of cigarettes costs these days.  The smoke shop in town sells single cigarettes for $1 each.  Why would anyone need a nicotine fix so badly that they would spend their last buck on one cigarette?

"I smoke. It's expensive. It's also the best option. You see, I am always, always exhausted. It's a stimulant. When I am too tired to walk one more step, I can smoke and go for another hour. When I am enraged and beaten down and incapable of accomplishing one more thing, I can smoke and I feel a little better, just for a minute. It is the only relaxation I am allowed. It is not a good decision, but it is the only one that I have access to. It is the only thing I have found that keeps me from collapsing or exploding."

I have prized my liberal views.   Taken them out and polished them lovingly, displayed them proudly for all to see.  And yet, in dinner table conversations, I have been guilty of labeling as “trailer trash” those women who have a passel of kids, each with a different father, trailing around behind them; kids who grow up in that world of never having enough and never knowing quite where to go next to get more.  Why would anyone want to perpetuate that?  Why bring more souls into the world to eke out a life dominated by the inescapable want that you experience every day?

Poverty is bleak and cuts off your long-term brain. It's why you see people with four different babydaddies instead of one. You grab a bit of connection wherever you can to survive. You have no idea how strong the pull to feel worthwhile is. It's more basic than food. You go to these people who make you feel lovely for an hour that one time, and that's all you get. You're probably not compatible with them for anything long-term, but right this minute they can make you feel powerful and valuable.   

One thing I have noticed in the time I have spent hanging around these kinds of posts on the internet and reading the snarky comments posted afterward, is that the folks who seem to be the hardest on the poor are those who regard themselves as having been poor themselves.  They have these stories of overcoming adversity, of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps, of working hard and making sacrifices until they “made it” out of their definition of poverty.  There is this pervasive attitude of  “I did it and I am nobody special.  If I can do it, anybody can.  And if they don’t, they’re lazy, stupid or criminal.”  They made it, all by themselves; and by god, they’re not going to lift a finger or part with a dime to help out some slacker.

What is it about having been down that makes you an expert on everybody else’s degree of “down?”  Or makes you think you have any idea of where “down” is, for someone who is not you, somewhere that is not where you are?  Maybe you were “down” in rural Montana.  Is that the same as being “down” in the inner city of Chicago?  Will the tools you used, the opportunities you grasped to pull yourself “up,” even be available to that other person you are calling lazy or stupid?  Would you make it for one minute, walking in their shoes? 

I am not asking for sympathy. I am just trying to explain, on a human level, how it is that people make what look from the outside like awful decisions. This is what our lives are like, and here are our defense mechanisms, and here is why we think differently. It's certainly self-defeating, but it's safer. That's all. I hope it helps make sense of it.

We live in a wacky, twisted 21st century world, where “reality” is rich housewives in Orange County having catfights over designer dresses and party invitations; but we accuse people of inventing or embellishing the suffering and hopelessness of living in poverty.  We want to be the Orange County housewives.  We don’t want anything to do with those exhausted, empty-eyed folks who live in the “bad neighborhoods” of our own towns.  In fact, we would like very much if the poor didn’t exist, because they serve as a sobering reminder of where we might ourselves be under less favorable circumstances, and we don’t want to know that.

Linda Tirado has kicked open the door of separation we’ve erected between ourselves and the people we don’t want to know, and shined a light on the stark reality of their lives.

What are we going to do about it?            

Saturday, November 23, 2013

On "The Knockout Game"

Thursday morning, I caught a story on CBS This Morning that was really disturbing.

It seems there is a new “game” being played by roaming gangs of inner-city teens.  CBS claims it’s called “the Knockout Game.”  The object of the game is to assault a random stranger on the street with one disabling punch.  If you knock that person out cold with one blow, you win.

CBS even showed surveillance camera video of teens in the act of delivering these punches.  A group of three or four kids is walking down the sidewalk, one breaks out of the formation, makes for a passing stranger and lets him (or her) have it.  The stranger goes down like a felled tree, and the little posse of kids just keeps walking.  A disturbing demonstration of truly frightening random violence.

The New York Times published a related piece today, in which the reporter disputed whether this phenomenon is actually as widespread as the CBS piece suggested, and even whether it is indeed an acknowledged “game.”  Seems law enforcement is reluctant to call it so.  I can see why.  Once it is labeled a game, will it sweep the nation via social media in the manner of the “choking game"--so popular among young teens across the country that it was once estimated that 6% of teens across the US had tried it? 

One can imagine a certain amount of reluctance in the hearts of police agencies to spread another such randomly destructive fad—this one manifesting itself as danger to unsuspecting strangers on the street rather than to the teens themselves.  Does the "knockout game" exist?  the police are asked.   Maybe.  Maybe not. We haven’t noticed teens talking it up on social media.  No one has come forward to give us details.

But still…there is this growing incidence of  one-punch assaults by teens—on men, women, young, old…some of which have proven fatal.

My first reaction to this story was, “Oh my god!  What is wrong with these children?  How can they be so randomly violent?  Why are they so angry?  What degree of rage could they possibly have experienced in their young lives that would turn them into sociopathic thugs before they turned 16?”

In the mind of this 50-something white suburban lady who has led a pretty damned sheltered life, this gets chalked up to drugs and gangs and the violent culture of blacks in the inner city.  It reinforces old stereotypes of black kids and bad neighborhoods and places you have never been and are now feeling pretty sure you will never go.  It destroys hope that there is a way out for these kids;  affirms that “their” culture is just too poisoned with hatred and violence for them to be saved.

But then, this 50-something white suburban lady experienced a sort of epiphany.  It occurred to me that maybe young blacks DO have a reason to be angry.  Maybe when "we" rail against their violent tendencies, it’s a prime example of the pot calling the kettle black.

What kind of kids would randomly assault strangers on the street?  I don’t know.

But what kind of society would allow a white man to confront an unarmed black teenager on a dark street in the middle of the night, beat the kid up, shoot him dead, and be convicted of no crime? 

What kind of society would take two weeks to make a case against a white man who shoots and kills an unarmed young black woman on his front porch?

To me, any outrage we expend in the direction of “the Knockout Game” sounds as disingenuous as the cries of “Why do they hate us?” wailed in the aftermath of 9/11. 

Really?  Why are they angry?  With images of Trayvon Martin and RenishaMcBride swimming around us, it’s a wonder we can even ask that question.