The Assault on Inquiry

Here’s a question for you: when did we become so opposed to questions? Question society. Question the government. Question the media. Question your parents. Question everything. It’s where the seeds of knowledge are planting—in asking questions.

And yet.

And yet many adults—and I assuredly include teachers in this—are put off by that almighty: “Why?” Have you noticed the infinite capacity children seem to maintain for that investigation? Why is the sky blue? What is the nature of a dream? Why don’t we have tails? When was the world born? How deep is the ocean?

From the deepest inquiry to the most innocuous query, we should relish the spark in youth that teaches them to wonder. I say this, because too often we don’t think—and furthermore don’t care—about these answers. We know—or think we know—some semblance of the answer, so we don’t plum them any deeper with “Whys”. And in turn, we take that obstinacy and apply it to those curious youths, answering them with irritation and distaste, ridicule or dismissal, and actively make them feel stupid for thinking outside the box, for pondering depth, or for not knowing what we take for granted.

There are, none of us, who stand omniscient. Mother may be God in the eyes of a child, but we need to remember that we are not, in fact, deified. Just because you don’t know something or don’t care, doesn’t grant an open-ended excuse to dismiss, exclude, or deride. Admit you don’t know. Children won’t hold it against you, and you may learn something new and exciting yourself—we should always be trying to learn. Don’t dismiss if you do know. Sit down and explain it to them. You never know what will strike a chord that resonates with them throughout the course of their lives.

Because likewise, your negativity rubs off. Children are not the idiots many make them out to be. As I said: they are filled with wonder, and more importantly, they learn. If they can’t learn what they asked of you, then they learn to recognize instead how the pursuit of knowledge annoys and aggravates…and thus they, too, come to avoid it. To walk the path to ignorance, and chastisement of those that bury themselves in the knowledge of the world. It only takes a few experiences to ruin them.

You realize we have libraries for a reason, right? And whatever happened to, “The stars are the limit, kid,” because telling them no is a one-way street, but telling them they should grow up to find out—to be the first to know something, well, that’s a whole hell of a lot more incentive than deprecation, isn’t it?

A Momentary Interlude to Discuss Violence in America

“Hands up, don’t shoot,”—a modern mantra.

Before the events of Aug. 9, it was a phrase that we all knew, a classic plea of self-defense. It shows surrender, peaceful surrender. Yet in Ferguson, that phrase has become a rallying cry, precisely because of how it did not work.

When you look at pictures on the news, it’s everywhere. On t-shirts. On posters. It is a jab at the police force there where, according to witness reports, Michael Brown, who raised his hands in surrender, was shot regardless by a white officer.

The end result hasn’t just been a slogan, though. Protests, riots, and an indefensible police response have been at the heart of news circuits over the course of the last week. Some outlets have come to refer to this St. Louis suburb as “Fergustan,” a not-so-veiled reference to the fact that we expect this sort of behavior more overseas—we just don’t expect to see it on the streets of what our leaders regularly proclaim, “The Greatest Nation on Earth.”

I write this message not because it’s not being covered. Lord knows, there’s round the clock coverage of this mess, both at home and abroad. Amnesty International is sending a team to its first ever American investigation for goodness sake, and it’s no longer unusual to see war correspondents on the scene. People are tense. People are watching. I’m writing this message as an appeal, and as an airing of details.

Last night, after the Missouri State Police finally relieved the Ferguson Police Department of their duties—following endless criticism of their overhanded efforts to dissolve protests—and hopeful speeches throughout the day, things took their darkest turn yet. Hours before a governor-imposed curfew, things turns violent when police attempted to disperse the crowds and “restore calm.”

The stated reasons: reports of gunfire, a protest a little too near to a police command center for their liking. The end result? Molotov cocktails, lines of riot police, tear gas, and as of this morning, a call for the National Guard.

Yes, that’s right, the National Guard. The people that are deployed against disasters have now found themselves in a situation they haven’t had to deal with since the 1960s—a need to quell raw, simmering rage, and restore order for those whose sole job should be to do so. Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order this morning deploying the U.S. state militia to the area, effectively dubbing Ferguson a disaster zone.

“Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk,” Nixon said in a statement on his website.

In contradiction, you have residents saying things like, “The smoke bombs were completely unprovoked,” said Anthony Ellis, 45. “It (the protest) was led by kids on bikes. Next you know they’re saying, ‘Go home, Go home!’” (Reuters)

State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson explained, in turn, that while most protesters were peaceful, the trouble came from “a few people bent on violence and destruction.” Elevating the level of the police response was, in his opinion, simply par for the course. Following that example, the state has now raised theirs, even as the Federal government steps in to autopsy Brown’s body (a third time it’s had to go through this, mind you), and supporting protests spring up in other cities.

In Ferguson, they’ve even closed schools today.

It’s out of control

So let’s break this down:

A week of protests.

Brutal police tactics, from start to finish, including the shooting of a man they later released criminal details on, but which they knew nothing of at the time. Journalists have been arrested for nothing more than reporting on the details, and there has been a determined effort to keep the information gatherers out.

Local, state and federal agencies scrambling for a response.

Autopsy after autopsy after autopsy.

Those people taking the streets say there often is no other outlet for their objections, that they have no alternative but to protest until they are listened to. It’s a sad state to find oneself in, not just as an individual, but as a community. Young and old alike, they’ve put up with a lot, for a very long time—the thing breaking here in Ferguson is not a single man’s poor decision, but the latest in a long-running sense of one versus the other, of an outlook on a community that does no one any favors.

It wasn’t even until a few days ago that the police finally caved to Civil rights activists’ demands for the name of the officer who shot and killed Mr. Brown—ostensibly out of concern for his safety, and probably logically so, but nonetheless, a poor move which only served to fan the flames in the community.

Conclusion?

Police, Politicians, and fellow Citizens, we need to rethink how this whole society thing is working. Because if this is how things turn out, it’s not. We don’t want the United States of America to be the land of freedom under which terms and conditions may apply. None of us signed a terms and licensing agreement.

What’s more, this should be a wake up call. With the militarization of police forces across the USA, the buying of surplus military arms, and, if a concerted effort is not made to rein in what exactly is “the law,” what exactly is “right and wrong,” the capacity for what is happening in Ferguson could happen anywhere, and that’s a truly dark thought.

Communication, people. It makes the world go round. Let’s engage before we disintegrate.

Good News, Everybody!

Curse you, blue screen. Curse you.

For those who met my announcement a few weeks back with scorn, derision, or at least a quirked eyebrow or two, let it be known that the issues of technological explosiveness have since been corrected. After a few days of hyperventilating and making crude gesticulations at the fickle computer gods (You, Microsoft, are nothing if not Fickle; don’t ever tell me otherwise), the problem was identified, the cause rooted out, and my files secured. Also, a neat little back-up program was to (hopefully) prevent that terror from happening again, but it is what it is.

The writings have been saved. As has i-Tunes, though I suspect that interests you less. A fellow needs some Mumford and Sons for the writing process, though, among other things…

The Problem:

  1. Norton. Norton. NORTON! It expired. It was reinstalled. Somewhere in between it had a heart attack looking at itself in the mirror and caused the blue screen of death. Suffice to say, a shiny (other) antivirus has been hunted down and installed.
  2. Failure to back-up. My silly self (thoroughly chastised and thwacked at this point) had fallen into a regiment of “every month.” Well, when you get on a writing streak for a few weeks a month may not be enough now, huh?
  3. Solved thanks to: the excellence that is a tech-savvy brother (also a writer, whom you may remember me mentioning before…*hint hint*).

So what now? Well, more writing, certainly. Despite my moans and groans in our previous meet and greet, the scribbling kept up strong during the last few weeks. Note pads and journals–they are a writer’s friend. Several new short stories (mostly comical–an odd binge for me–some dark; some sci-fi, some fantasy) have arrived, along with ideas for a stack more. Where they came from, who knows, but when the muse dances a jig on my back I certainly don’t complain. Likewise, I’ve dispatched another batch of those scribbles to some SpecFic mags, whilst my editor drums his way through to the final notes on At Faith’s End.

Also amongst the good news:

  1. I got a gig that’s actually major-related! Huzzah! Copy editing was to be had during the week, of the freelance variety (coincidentally, hey, I’m on elance: https://www.elance.com/s/galfordc/), with a potential for more to come. Details on the lovely art and insights I got to see during that time will come once the end results are out and available for all to see. (Art Majors, be still your beating hearts.)
  2. Joblessness has been temporarily corrected, at least through the month of April. More editing, this time for schools. Cubicles, computers, and essays for the classic 9-5 (alright, actually 8-4, but you know what I mean). It’s a start.

Suffice to say, they’re needed boosts. While the computer thing was a blow this month, there’s other things lurking behind the scenes as well. General joblessness is enough to stand anyone’s hairs on end after a while, but when you toss in medical things (yes, some are related to the recent poem), a person starts to feel like their day is nails on the chalkboard. Another doctor’s appointment in a few hours that will (hopefully) lead to corrections of at least one of this brand’s downswings, though.

I realize there’s little physical substance going along with this article, but it’s an update piece–mostly wanted you all to know I hadn’t quite dropped off the face of the earth. With luck, I shall be doing some lurking about in days to come, and will have some more substantial posts to come. Meanwhile, hope everyone’s spring is gearing up (Wednesday, fools) for a better opening then it is here. In Michigan, they’re predicting the next four days shall be given over to the snow.

Point of reference: at this time of the year last year it was 80 degrees. Winter is determined to stalk me.

White Walkers optional. (24 Days of Christmas – The King in the North http://awhoreslies.tumblr.com/tagged/%2Achristmas)