Storms, COVID-19 and Politics

Several decades back, while I was living with my parents in Moorhead, Minnesota, a radio announcer read the day’s weather forecast.

Nothing unusual about that. The forecast was another matter. As I recall, the National Weather Service was telling us to expect severe thunderstorms, hail, torrential rains, mighty winds and an occasional tornado.

After finishing the official forecast, the announcer paused before rhetorically asking “what? No burning hail?” Or maybe it was “fiery hail.” Something like that.

Which raises an interesting, if hypothetical, question. If Egypt’s climate was like Minnesota’s, back when Moses couldn’t talk his way out of a diplomatic mission, what would it have taken to get Pharaoh’s attention?

Interesting to me, that is. Your experience may vary.

Same Old Same Old: Storms and Sunshine

Last night’s 24-hour weather forecast told me to expect a bright, sunny and thoroughly nice summer day today.

So far, we’ve had sincerely overcast skies, a severe thunderstorm warning southeast of Sauk Centre; and assurance that the excitement isn’t over.

And now, a few minutes later, the severe thunderstorm warning is south of us. Or maybe it’s a new warning.

Either way, I’m not surprised that yesterday’s forecast and today’s weather don’t match.

This is the Upper Midwest. I grew up in this part of the world, which may explain why I think weather in San Francisco is boring. Beautiful city, though, and that’s another topic.

Now the sun is shining on the corner of South Ash and 9th Street. And folks between Detroit Lakes and Moorhead had a tornado warning.

Minnesota’s weather is not boring. Occasionally lethal, but not boring.

Which is why I’ve been paying more attention to local and regional weather updates.

COVID-19, Death, Face Masks and All That

COVID-19 confirmed deaths in Minnesota, March 21 to July 11, 2020.
(From Minnesota Department of Health, used w/o permission.)
(Deaths in Minnesota due to COVID-19: March 21 to July 11, 2020.)

Maybe it’s the sudden and temporary sunshine, but I’m even almost upbeat about the COVID-19 pandemic. Folks here in Minnesota aren’t dying of the disease nearly as fast as we were a month or two ago.

But, like all things in this world, that’ll probably change.

Like the sunshine. Which is now fading. Probably because there’s another thunderstorm heading our way. Judging from NWS radar, it’ll probably go north of Sauk Centre.

'The Masked Minnesotan.' Or, wearing a face mask for practical, not political, reasons.The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet.

Which is why I still wear a face mask when I’ll be near folks who aren’t in this household.

The idea isn’t protecting myself from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. And I’m not making a political statement.

I see wearing a face mask as an easy and negligibly inconvenient way to support the common good. And, maybe, help slow down the pandemic’s progress. (June 12, 2020; May 23, 2020)

Politics and Flying Factional Fewmets

Headlines in my news feeds deliver the usual mix of dreadful pronouncements.

Mainly about the COVID-19 pandemic, politics: and pandemic politics.

As far as I know, nobody’s actually said “and we’re all gonna die.” Which is, arguably, good news.

The politics thing is pretty much inevitable. There’s a presidential election on, so sound and fury is the order of the day.

Ignoring the flying factional fewmets might be possible. But ignoring the looming election entirely isn’t an option.

Participating in public life is part of being Catholic. In today’s America, that includes voting. And thinking. (Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997), 1915, 2240; “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” USCCB)

That’s why I’ve requested a mail-in voting form. On the whole, I’d enjoy going to the usual polling place. But, like I said before, there’s a pandemic in progress.

I’ve talked about this before:

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Fourth of July and Virtual Fireworks

United States of America flag.

My Fourth of July plans include watching an episode or two of Marvel Ultimate Spider-Man, contemplating the whichness of what while sitting on the front stoop, relaxing and getting a few chores done.

And enjoying a virtual fireworks show. Probably one of these:

And let’s not forget digital sparklers:

I’ve been hearing unofficial and possibly-illegal private fireworks, here in Sauk Centre’s south side. That’s the closest we come to having Independence Day pyrotechnics.


(Updated July 4, 2020 evening)

I’ve been watching the Virtual Viewing of Fourth of July Fireworks at Walt Disney World Resort: recorded in 2018, running a little over 13 minutes.

Music, fireworks, a little narration: and the closest to a Disney resort I’m likely to get. All without leaving my desk. It’s a good way to celebrate Independence Day.


The Once and Future Sinclair Lewis Days Parade

Sauk Centre's Sinclair Lewis Days parade; July 20, 2013.

My town does its fireworks extravaganza during Sinclair Lewis Days. Which won’t happen this year. It’s been postponed to July 2021.

I’ll miss Sinclair Lewis Days, particularly the parade: which has been going past my corner of Sauk Centre for the last several years.

But the COVID-19 pandemic is still in progress. Which is emphatically not good news. On the ‘up’ side, we’ve learned a great deal since the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Including how to lower the odds that folks who are infected will spread the bug. I see that as good news.

Getting enough folks to use humanity’s lore and wisdom? That’s another topic.

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Celebrating during a Pandemic

This Saturday is the Fourth of July: America’s Independence Day.

It’s a day for picnics and parades, barbecues and ice cream. We celebrate with fireworks and carnivals, picnics and concerts, fairs and baseball games.

Usually.

This year will be different.


Plans and Parade Permits

COVID-19 pandemic map: cases per 100,000 population June 30, 2020The COVID-19 pandemic is still in progress.

I think we’ll eventually have a vaccine that can help folks avoid the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or not die when they’re infected. But a ‘someday’ vaccine won’t help us today.

I figure that helps explains why so many Fourth of July celebrations are being postponed or canceled.

The good news is that we’re living in the Information Age.

Folks in Seattle, or pretty much anywhere that’s connected to the Internet, can watch virtual fireworks. Gemma Alexander’s article talks about that.

The not-so-good news is that humans are social critters. Which isn’t a bad thing, by itself.

But being social, we like getting together in big crowds. Most of us. Which isn’t good for individual or community health. Not when something like the SARS-CoV-2 virus is loose.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Fourth of July plans aren’t as irresponsible as they may seem.

I gather that this year they’re making their pyrotechnic display a three day affair: July third, fourth and fifth. With reservations required. The idea is to keep crowd density down to moderately safe levels.

And Arizona’s authorities might have cancelled fireworks shows anyway. Much of the state is tinder-dry. One wayward spark could start a wildfire.

Which brings me to Juneau, Alaska.


Blow Hot, Blow Cold

Jueau's harbor: boats and fireworks.
(From Heather Bryant, via KTOO, used w/o permission.)

I don’t envy folks in Juneau. They won’t have a Fourth of July parade this year. That seems to be a done deal.

The city’s annual fireworks show has been an on-again, off-again affair.

Fireworks

Juneau, Alaska, looking north on South Franklin Street.
(From Alan Wu, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Apparently Juneau’s civic leaders announced that they would put on the fireworks show.

Then they voted on an emergency ordinance that would have okayed the display and required folks at the show to wear face masks.

When the dust settled, the ordinance hadn’t passed.

Juneau’s leadership then announced that they wouldn’t have the Independence Day fireworks. That was on June 30, 2020.

Maybe they’ll change their minds again.

Or maybe not.

Parade Permit Perplexity

Juneau, Alaska: 2013 Fourth or July Parade color guard marching past City Hall.
(From Greg Culley/KTOO, used w/o permission.)
(Color guard marching past City Hall in Juneau’s 2013 Fourth of July parade.)

Meanwhile, someone in the Juneau area thought the city’s Fourth of July parade mattered.

When city hall cancelled the event, Ray Rusaw could have posted screed online, thrown rocks at city hall or quietly sulked.

Or he could have decided that Juneau’s leaders must be right: that the COVID-19 pandemic made a parade impossible.

Instead, he started organizing a short parade in the Mendenhall Valley. From the sounds of it, he followed proper procedure: talking to local non-government groups and asking the police department about getting a parade permit.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

“…But Rusaw said he must have misunderstood the Juneau Police Department when he originally reached out about his plans. At the time, he didn’t think he needed a permit.

“But as it turns out, he does. Police Lt. Krag Campbell told Rusaw last week the city will not issue him a parade permit….”
(Adelyn Baxter, KTOO)

A quick skim of the next few KTOO paragraphs told me that the Juneau PD’s lieutenant Krag threatened anyone caught parading with a citation.

Street Legal Vehicles and Skimmed News

Edison Lee comic: does anyone even know what truth looks like any more?Posting a screed, denouncing the Juneau PD’s threats against parades, free speech and folks having fun was an option.

So was re-reading the paragraphs, which is what I did.

Lieutenant Campbell wasn’t nearly as draconian as my skimmed version of the news suggested.

“…’In absence of (a) parade permit, what somebody could do though is they could have a line of vehicles that are … decorated, so long as they’re vehicles that are allowed to be on the roadway and they can just drive their normal route and just by obeying all the traffic laws,’ Campbell said.

“Campbell said anyone operating an unlicensed vehicle or walking in the road during the parade could be issued a citation….”
(Adelyn Baxter, KTOO)

A tip of the hat to Mr. Rusaw, saying that he must have misunderstood the Juneau PD.

He’s being diplomatic or cautious, or something else. My opinion of which it is depends partly on assumptions I make.

I could assume that whoever Mr. Rusaw communicated with at the Juneau PD told him that he didn’t need a permit.

Maybe because he wasn’t paying attention to Mr. Rusaw’s question, or spoke from ignorance, or lied. Or that the JPD decided to reverse its parade policy, or was ordered to.

Or I could assume that Mr. Rusaw has been warned about contradicting the official version of reality, and didn’t want to run afoul of Juneau’s rulers.

Or that I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion.

The first two options offer opportunities to develop my flair for the dramatic.

The third isn’t nearly as exciting. But I think acknowledging insufficient knowledge makes more sense.

Besides, I figure we’re exposed to quite enough baseless opinions and ersatz facts. Make that too much.


Vanilla Ice and Common Sense

Juneau, Alaska isn’t the only place with Fourth of July jitters and cancelled events.

I think MPR’s Matt Mikus article has good advice: including “If you feel sick, it’s better to opt out of the festivities and seek a COVID-19 test.”

And a tip of the hat to Trace William Cowen #BLACKLIVESMATTER, for updating his discussion of those who would “risk their lives and the lives of those around them by seeing Vanilla Ice perform on Friday in Austin, Texas.”

Seems that Vanilla Ice, Robert Matthew Van Winkle, decided to cancel. Considering what’s been happening lately, I’d say his move makes sense.


Patriotic? Me?!

United States of America flag.

I was born during the Truman administration and experienced the Sixties as a teen.

I wasn’t the craziest of ‘those crazy kids.’ But I wasn’t the most blandly conformist. By either or any side’s standards.

Definitions

Kill A Commie For Christ, plate sixteen from Peace is Patriotic; by William Weege. (1967)By the time I was in high school, the words “patriot” and “patriotic” had been hijacked by one bunch of American ideologues. I’m not sure when that happened.

The words had several meanings, depending on who used them.

Including, I think, the following.

  • Patriot
    1. A ‘real’ American, who fervently yearns for a yesteryear that never was
    2. A hate-filled member of the racist oppressor class
    3. “one who loves and defends his or her country”
      (Princeton’s WordNet)
  • Patriotic
    1. Inflamed by (self) righteous zeal against those who don’t agree with my side
    2. Driven by greed, ripping crusts of bread from the bleeding lips of wage slaves
    3. “Inspired by love for your country”
      (Princeton’s WordNet)

Definitions 1 and 2 for “patriot” and “patriotic” didn’t make sense to me in my teens. They still don’t, although I try to remember that zealots may feel that they are right. Or left, and that’s another topic. Topics.

Princeton’s WordNet definitions strike me as more reasonable. I’d probably be more comfortable with “patriot” and “patriotism” if I hadn’t had the Sixties experience. I talked about that last year. (July 4, 2019)

Viewpoints and Obligations

Satellite composite image of the contiguous United States.On the whole, I like being an American.

But I don’t believe and broadcast current rumors of communist conspiracies.

Or demonize those who don’t share my fears and forebodings.

Maybe that brands me as a “patriot” in the pejorative sense. Or makes me look like a commie sympathizer, fifth columnist or whatever the current epithets are.

Or maybe not. I like to think that most folks, American and otherwise, aren’t batty.

“Communist conspiracies?!” I know: that sounds like something from the 1950s. But I still see strident warnings of the communist menace posted online. Along with America’s perennial End Times Bible Prophecies. Sometimes commie plots and End Times Bible Prophecies.

And that’s yet another topic.

So, am I patriotic?

Using the “inspired by love of your country” definition, and assuming that love of country stops well short of idolatry: yes, I’m patriotic. So I try to be a good citizen.

I could be a good citizen without being Catholic. But as a Catholic, being a good citizen isn’t an option. It’s an obligation.

Among other things, I’m expected to balance individual and community needs, and respect others. I should take an active part in public life, contributing to the good of society “in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997), 19051912, 1915, 2239. 2242)

I’m obliged to recognize humanity’s solidarity and respect authority. Within reason. (Catechism, 1778, 1915, 18971917, 19391942, 2199, 22382243)

It boils down to acting as if loving God and my neighbors matters, seeing everyone as my neighbor and treating others the way I want them to treat me. (Matthew 5:4344, 7:12, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

I think that’s a good idea. Not easy, but a good idea.


Big Country, Small World

DisneyWorld's It's a Small World attraction.
(From DisneyWorld, used w/o permission.)
(DisneyWorld’s “It’s a Small World,” in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park.)

“It’s a Small World (After All)” may be the single most-performed and most-translated piece of music on Earth.

“It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all…”
(“It’s a Small World After All,” via Metrolyrics)

I rather like the song, which is just as well. The chorus has been playing in my memory, ever since I started writing this bit. Playing over and over and over ….

Disney made the original Small World ride for the 1964 world’s fair. Since then, it’s been moved, remodeled and replicated in Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.1

The “Small World” theme of world peace and solidarity strikes me as a good idea. Which may help explain why I don’t mind living in a country where so many folks aren’t Minnesotans.

Living in Small Town Minnesota, and Loving It

American flag in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. July 2017I’ve been living in a central Minnesota town for roughly a third of century. Sauk Centre isn’t perfect. But I’d rather live here than anywhere else.

On the other hand, we experience some of the world’s problems.

Some folks around here have caught the COVID-19 disease. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we live and do business. My routine dental checkup this week, for example, involved face masks and old-school procedures that generate less airborne spray.

I’m not sure why we haven’t hosted riots.

Can’t say that I’ll be disappointed if we skip that sort of experience.

I was going somewhere with this. Let’s see. Independence Day and COVID-19. Canceled fireworks and Vanilla Ice. Defining patriotism. Disney’s “A Small World.” Right.

“…My Family Celebrating!”

'False Alarm on the Fourth' cartoon for Puck. (1902)
(From Udo Keppler, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

“A False Alarm on the Fourth,” Udo Keppler, Puck (1902)
“Uncle Sam — It’s all right! There’s no fighting! The noise you hear is just my family celebrating!”

The idea that an American isn’t necessarily English has been around for some time. With varying degrees of acceptance.

I think it’s a fine idea, but I would. Before crossing the Atlantic, my ancestors lived in Norway, Ireland and Scotland.

That may be why I like Udo Keppler’s 1902 cartoon.

Even though it doesn’t conform to contemporary shibboleths regarding how America, Americans and taboo technology must be depicted.

It doesn’t reflect the segregated America of my youth, either.

Neither of those offenses against propriety bother me.

The United States isn’t the world’s largest country by population or area. China and India have more citizens. China, Canada, Antarctica and Russia have more square miles. Or square kilometers, inches, furlongs, whatever.

Antarctica isn’t a country, but seven nations claim part of the continent. Argentina and Chile, Spain claimed Antarctic territory. And I’m drifting off-topic.

The point I was trying to make is that the United States is a big country. Not the biggest in the world, but extensive.

Ethnically, my country is about 73.1% white. Partly because many early immigrants came from Europe.2

And partly, I think, because many of us have forgotten how important Europe’s ethnic divisions were. To some of us. I’ve talked about that before. (June 28, 2020)

I think there’s considerable hope in so many of us seeing the Irish, Germans, Italians, Swiss, French, Danes and others as simply “white.” It’s arguably a step toward recognizing all of us as, well, as “us.”

That 73.1% slice of the American pie with congenital melanin deficiency may account for the notion that “American” is an ethnicity. Like Japanese or Polynesian.

I don’t see it that way.

Something I like about being an American is that I could be an American without having English ancestors. Or European ones.

I like living in a country where everyone doesn’t look pretty much like me. I’d be concerned if folks stopped trying to immigrate to America. And that’s yet again another topic.


Remembering


(From Currier and Ives, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Currier and Ives, “Washington’s entry into New York….” (ca. 1857))

America! Land of the burger and fries! Home of the Super Bowl and Hollywood Squares!

From the rockbound coast of Main to Florida’s shifting sands, from Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to the Seattle Center Monorail: once more, Americans celebrate our nation’s Independence Day.

Which, for some of us, means buying Stars and Stripes Uncle Sam American Flag Coolers, Patriotic Malibu Sunglasses and LED Light-Up Patriotic USA Hats.

I checked, and those seasonal items are available again this year. Along with a variety of holiday-themed face masks.3

Cheez-It patriotic sculpture: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln; carved from 700 pounds of cheddar cheese.I looked for this year’s Cheez-It patriotic Independence Day sculpture.

Alas! It was not to be found. Not by me, at any rate.

Maybe the company decided that their Cheez-It Bowl gave them better publicity.

Or maybe they figured that commissioning a Independence Day statue would have an unfavorable benefit-risk ratio. Given today’s anti-statue sentiments.

And yet, I am undismayed!

There may come a day when patriotic cheese sculptures are forgotten.

But that day is not today.

There may come a day when LED patriotic hats no longer shine as a beacon of liberty.

But that day is not today.

There may come a day when Uncle Sam American Flag Coolers no longer keep their cool.

But that day is not today.

Today — or, rather, tomorrow — we shall gather once again to celebrate America’s founding. And, if we’re smart, wear a face mask while doing so.

And In Conclusion

American troops celebrating Independence Day Celebration in Paris, France, (1918)I was going to talk about another year when America’s Independence Day came during a pandemic: the 1918 “Spanish flu.”

That will wait for another day, since I want to get this post out on July 3.

Today, I’ll settle for saying that the H1N1 influenza A virus isn’t just like the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that we’ve learned a great deal since 1918: and haven’t stopped learning, which is a good thing.

Posts, vaguely-related and otherwise:


1 It’s a small Disney world:

2 Statistics, mostly:

3 Holiday kitsch:

Posted in discursive detours | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Floyd, Signs and Statues

Derek Chauvin, a police officer, killed George Floyd about a month ago.

I don’t know whether a court will call that homicide a murder, or assign some other label. I do know that there was and is no apparent excuse for ending Mr. Floyd’s life.

Floyd-themed protests started in Minneapolis, went national and then international.

I suspect that stress and isolation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic inspires at least some protestors, arsonists, vandals and looters. And that’s a can of worms I may open another day. Or maybe not.



News and Views

I am not happy that others have been killed since May 25, 2020.

Including a California sheriff’s deputy and Rayshard Brooks, who has achieved posthumous fame.


A Drive-Through Nap


(From KTVU FOX 2, used w/o permission.)
(Wendy’s: “Where’s the beef,” “you know when it’s real,” ‘call 911!’)

I’d also prefer that the Wendy’s where Mr. Brooks’s arrest went awry not have been torched.

That’s assuming that the “temporarily closed” Atlanta Wendy’s is the one Mr. Brooks selected for his drive-through nap.

The police version of what happened isn’t flattering to any of the parties involved.

Apart, maybe, from whoever decided to ask for help clearing a vehicle and its inert operator from the drive-thru lane.

I’ll assume that folks working at fast-food eateries generally aren’t trained or equipped to handle what might be a medical emergency or DUI incident. And that Atlanta’s police officers are.

Alcohol may have been a significant factor in the Atlanta debacle. I’ve talked about temperance, moderation, “Reefer Madness” and getting a grip before. (July 10, 2016)

Moving on.

The Mystery of the Transferred Tazer


(From Nathaniel Currier, via The Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Nathaniel Currier’s “The Drunkard’s Progress. From the Glass to the Grave” (ca. 1846.))

Someone who’s taking a nap while parked in a drive-through might be drunk. Or might be experiencing a medical event, like hypoglycemia.

It apparently took Atlanta officers several minutes to rouse Mr. Brooks. That would arguably support the assumption that something was amiss with him.

His watery eyes, slurred speech and cooperative but none-too-consistent behavior suggested that he’d had more than ‘maybe one-and-a-half’ drinks.

That, and his apparent decision to take a nap in a drive-through is probably why the responding officers gave him a breathalyzer test. That would help them determine whether he was drunk, or running dangerously low on blood sugar.

Atlanta’s legal limit for blood alcohol is 0.08. Mr. Brooks’ breathalyzer test result was 0.108, a bit above legal but not all that much.

It might, however, help explain why Mr. Brooks decided to take one of the responding officer’s Tazer. What’s less obvious, at least to me, is how a slightly-sozzled chap could steal a police officer’s Tazer: while the officer was holding it.

Maybe it’d be more obvious if I saw a video of the incident. Or maybe not.

What happened next varies, according to who’s telling the tale. Which, I gather, is par for the course in eyewitness accounts.

What’s more certain is that Mr. Brooks was shot in the back, twice. And then he died.

Some of the bad news is that Mr. Brooks is dead.

The good news, and I’m not saying it’s particularly good, is that the powers that be in Atlanta seem to be acting as if killing Mr. Brooks was a bad idea.1


Duality and Death


(From an anonymous witness, via KRON4, used w/o permission.)
(A message, written in blood: [illegible] “Stop the Duality”)

Santa Cruz deputy’s accused killer scrawled message in blood, witnesses say
Amy Larson, KRON4 (June 8, 2020)

“…The suspect, Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo, ‘is an angry man,’ Hart said. ‘His actions alone said a lot about him. He used to very heavy weapon to shoot our deputies. And threw incendiary devices. He was very intent on killing these police officers,’ [Sheriff Jim] Hart said….

“…While Carillo was still on the run and bleeding, he apparently scrawled a message in blood on the back of the white sedan that he fled in, photographs sent by a witness to KRON4 show.

“One message says, ‘Stop The Duality.’ The second message is illegible.

“Carrillo was also heard yelling ‘stop the duality’ in a cellphone video recorded as he was being led away in handcuffs by deputies. He’s also recorded berating the deputies during his arrest, telling them, ‘This is why I’m sick of these god d**n police. This is what I’m sick of.’…

“…One witness, Mark Kowalski, said he talked to Carrillo as he was hiding from deputies during the manhunt. Kowalski was working at Redwood Coast Dispensary off Highway 9 when he heard that a deputy had just been shot and the gunman was at large. When he walked outside, he found himself face-to-face with Carrillo.

“Kowalski said, ‘He looked and me and I looked at him. He said, “I’m not a bad guy. I’m just sick of all the duality bullsh*t.”‘…”

I generally keep my ‘in the news’ excerpts short.

But San Francisco’s KRON4 reporter quoted a sheriff, a witness/participant, and the suspect involved in the June 6, 2020, incident.

That’s three viewpoints under one headline. Going over my usual limit seemed like a good idea. Your experience may vary.


St. Cloud, Minnesota: An Arrest, Social Media and Riots


(From KARE11, used w/o permission.)

Chief, community leaders praise officer for not using deadly force in St. Cloud shooting
Diane Sandberg, KARE11 (June 15, 2020)

“The St. Cloud Chief of Police, the head of the St. Cloud NAACP and the local faith community are praising an officer for not using deadly force in a Monday morning arrest.

“St. Cloud Police say that just after midnight, two officers were trying to stop and detain an 18-year-old man. He ran, and police caught him in the 1000 block of 10th Ave. South. Police believed the suspect had a firearm.

“Police say the man resisted arrest, and during a physical struggle with officers the suspect produced a handgun and fired it once. The arresting officer was struck in the hand….”

St. Cloud, Minnesota, isn’t just like Minneapolis or Atlanta. Or Sauk Centre, the town I call home. But it’s not all that different, either.2

Some folks act badly in all four. Occasionally.

I figure that’s why we have police departments.

I’m also quite sure that some folks would act badly even if we abolished our police.

And that police departments aren’t mainly staffed by homicidal bigots waiting for an excuse to slay someone.

Good Neighbors and Ersatz Facts

I think most folks here in Sauk Centre are good neighbors and good citizens.

I figure that’s true pretty much everywhere.

And I figure most police officers aren’t apt to commit random homicide.

Or non-random homicide.

Otherwise, incidents like the Floyd and Brooks killings would be routine, barely worth putting on a newspaper’s back pages.

I also think we’re not all good citizens. Not all the time, at any rate.

And some of us apparently prefer rumors to facts, presenting ersatz facts as the real deal.

“…In a Monday morning press conference, Chief Anderson noted one of the reasons for speaking was what he referred to as ‘that devil,’ social media.

“A video circulated on social media Monday morning claiming that two black teenagers had been fatally shot by St. Cloud Police….”
(Diane Sandberg, KARE 11 (June 15, 2020))

I didn’t hear the Monday morning press conference, and haven’t seen a transcript, so I don’t know the context of Chief Anderson’s “that devil” statement.

I could assume that he condemned all social media. Then I could rant about free speech, bias, censorship and technophobia.

Or I could compose a bitter screed against those who spread falsehoods, inciting chaos and destruction.

Or claim that Chief Anderson and the rumormongers were in cahoots. Or that they’re minions of the Illuminati-Leprechaun-Pixie Alliance: ILPA. (Which is fictional, made up, not real.)

But I figure there’s no sense in adding more sound and fury to the verbal fewmets being flung. Although ILPA could be a catchy acronym. And that’s another topic.

Next, I’ll indulge in two more excerpts from the news. One of them’s longish.

My excuse this time is that the KSTP article describes some of Monday night’s events, and that KNSI’s summarizes events related to the Monday morning arrest.

Rumors and Looting


(From KSTP, used w/o permission.)

2nd night of unrest in St. Cloud after social media rumors, 40 arrested
KSTP (June 16, 2020)

“…This all began early Monday, after an incident in which a police officer was shot in the hand and an 18-year-old was arrested….

“…Police said, at about 10:20 p.m., officers responded to a report of multiple gunshots in the area of Ninth Avenue and University Drive. Multiple people fled the area when officers arrived but police didn’t locate any victims. While they investigated, people began gathering in the area.

“By 10:50 p.m., police estimated about 200 people were gathered and were blocking traffic. Officers also saw people throwing rocks at officers and passing vehicles.

“At 11 p.m., police said some people began breaking the front door glass of Southtown Liquor and looting the store. Officers stepped in to stop those individuals and also gave the crowd a mandatory notice to disperse….”

That was Tuesday, June 16.

And now, Friday’s news.

St. Cloud Officer Shot ID’d
Jake Judd, KNSI (June 19, 2020)

“…The arrest of the 18-year-old led to false social media rumors that police shot two black men.

“Those rumors led two several nights of rioting in St. Cloud resulting in damage to several businesses, the police department, and the Community OutPost….”

It’s not all bad news.

Nobody, as far as I’ve heard, has been killed in St. Cloud’s post-arrest riots.

The police officer with a wounded hand left St. Cloud Hospital on Monday. He’s “on standard paid administrative leave.” The Monday morning incident is being investigated.

I don’t know who started the ‘cops killed two blacks’ rumors, or what the motive was.

It could have been a St. Cloud University student who thought it’d be funny.

Or someone who really believed that St. Cloud police had committed murder.

Or someone with another motive.


Fear and NASCAR Flags


(From Getty Images, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(Nascar drivers stood behind Bubba Wallace and his car during Monday’s Geico 500 (BBC News))

News hasn’t been all bad lately. Some of it’s been simply weird.

Or potentially embarrassing.

Bubba Wallace: ‘No crime committed’ as FBI ends noose investigation
BBC News (23 June 2020)

“The noose found in Nascar driver Bubba Wallace’s garage on Sunday was actually a handle on a garage door and had been there since last year, an FBI investigation concluded.

“It added that ‘no federal crime was committed’.

“Wallace, the sole full-time black driver in Nascar, successfully pushed to ban the Confederate flag from races.

“Nascar said it was ‘thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba’….”

I can’t say that I blame NASCAR officials for banning racist flags from their event.

And their expressions of thanksgiving, upon learning that the garage door handle crisis wasn’t intentionally racist.

My hat’s also off to Mr. Wallace, for praising NASCAR’s decisions.

I’m not sure what to think about other responses.

Prudence and Perspective

Based on what I’ve seen in the news, taking Mr. Wallace’s report of a “noose” seriously makes sense.

Folks at or near the fringe of various political continua can’t be expected to refrain from the occasional violent outburst.

That’s not an excuse for mayhem, and that’s yet another topic.

Mr. Wallace’s ancestry and Floyd-inspired activity would reasonably suggest that a threat had been made.

It’s as if a doctor attending a 1955 vaccination conference found a “FIGHT COMMUNISTIC WORLD GOVERNMENT” flier in his hotel room.

The hypothetical doctor might reasonably regard it as a threat.

And hypothetical 1955 conference organizers might reasonably decide to ask for a full investigation. Of the doctor. If for no other reason than to avoid being blacklisted.

Times change. We don’t, quite, have a contemporary equivalent of the HUAC.3 I see that as a good thing.

Next, news from June 22 and 25, 2020, and NASCAR’s noose.

“A Highly Charged and Emotional Time”


(From NASCAR/Reuters, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“The photo released by Nascar of the noose at the team garage used by Bubba Wallace during the Geico 500 at Talladega” (Motorsport, BBC News (June 25, 2020)))

FBI investigating noose found in garage of black US racing driver
BBC News (June 22, 2020)

The FBI and the US Justice Department are investigating the discovery of a noose in the garage stall of African-American race car driver Bubba Wallace.

“…The news follows Nascar’s own pledge to investigate the ‘heinous’ act.

“In a statement, the US-based organisation condemned the act at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama….”

Three days later, NASCAR’s president says they did the right thing.

Bubba Wallace: Nascar president said it was right to fear hate crime
Motorsport, BBC News (June 25, 2020)

“Nascar said it was right to fear a hate crime had been committed against driver Bubba Wallace, which was later dismissed after an FBI investigation.

“… ‘Upon learning of and seeing the noose, our reaction was to protect Bubba,’ said Nascar president Steve Phelps.

“‘We’re living in a highly charged and emotional time.’…”

NASCAR’s Steve Phelps saying that his outfit acted properly makes sense. And I think he’s right about this being “a highly charged and emotional time.”

I also don’t blame Mr. Wallace for assuming that a loop he saw in a garage was a racist threat.

There’s been a mess of angst in news and op-ed pieces, telling Americans that racism is rampant and we should all feel scared and/or guilty.

And some of us have personal, family or cultural reasons for heightened caution.

I’m not sure what to make of the photo. Maybe it’s my marketing background, but the Kroger truck’s presence reminds me of product placement. That, and the Talladega curse, are more topics.4


Freudian Slips, a “Cavalier” Comment and Taking Offense

Freudian slips happen. Whether they’re what Freudian theory said they are, or something else, is yet again another topic.

A currently-noteworthy American politico may eventually become as famous for his gaffes as for his achievements.

And for getting, or being put, back on his feet after tripping over his slips.

Biden regrets saying black voters considering Trump ‘ain’t black’
US Election 2020, BBC News (May 23, 2020)

Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden is in damage limitation mode after saying African Americans ‘ain’t black’ if they even consider voting for President Donald Trump over him.

“Gaffe-prone Mr Biden made the remark in an interview on Friday with a prominent black radio host, Charlamagne Tha God, about his outreach to black voters.

“Mr Biden later expressed regret for the ‘cavalier’ comment….”(emphasis on lead paragraph BBC’s, their typical format.)

I’ll accept Mr. Biden’s description of his “ain’t black” comment as “cavalier.” The “disdain” sense of the word. I don’t think anyone seriously believes that Mr. Biden supports England’s Charles I. Not many folks, at least.

I also suspect that Mr. Biden inadvertently expressed a perhaps-unconscious belief that a particular voting block belonged to him and his party. Maybe.

On the other hand, I can’t tell what’s going on inside another person’s head. All I can do is see what comes out. See, hear, observe, whatever.

Moral Panic, Then and Now


(From New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer C. M. Stieglitz, via Library of Congress and Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Robert Thompson and Benjamin J. Davis: accused of improper political views. (1949))

Back in my teens, expressing McCarthyism’s version of moral panic was a badge of honor among ‘real Americans.’

Their alternatively-rational rants encouraged me to admire communism.

I still think that ideology looks good. On paper. It might even work, in a society formed by folks who aren’t human. Maybe intelligent analogs to naked mole rats or ants. I’ll get back to that in another post.

Then the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia happened. That’s where the Czech Republic and Slovakia are now, and I’m drifting off-topic.

Where was I? Let me think. George Floyd. Riots. Rayshard Brooks. More riots. NASCAR. An arguably-Freudian slip. Remembering the ‘good old days’ that weren’t. Right.

The 1949-1958 Smith Act trials of Communist Party leaders were not among America’s shining moments. But it wasn’t all bad news. In 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court said that folks can be prosecuted for what they do, but not for what they believe.5

Times change. So have the establishment’s quirks. Exposing alleged communists is out, denouncing alleged racists is in.

“A Day of Reckoning:” He Said, She Said

America’s 2020 isn’t exactly like 1950.

But I think it’s not all that different, either.

Ben Carson: Society Needs To ‘Grow Up’ And Stop Being Offended By Everything
Tim Hains, RealClearPolitics (June 14, 2020)

“BEN CARSON: You know, we’ve reached a point in our society where we dissect everything and try to ascribe some nefarious notion to it. We really need to move away from that. We need to move away from being offended by everything, of going through history and looking at everything, you know, of renaming everything — I mean, think about the fact that some of our universities, some of our prestigious universities, have a relationship with the slave trade. Should we go and rename those universities?”


WATCH: Ben Carson Says People Should ‘Grow Up’ and Stop Being Offended
Todd Neikirk HillReporter.com (June 14, 2020)

“Trump nominated Dr. Carson to head Housing and Urban Development prior to being inaugurated. With the high level of turnover in the Trump White House, the Doctor is both loyal and long-tenured. The former neurosurgeon displayed that loyalty on Sunday morning when he defended Trump by saying people get offended too easily….

“…Democratic lawmaker Stacey Abrams appeared on the show following Carson’s appearance. When asked about his comments, she said, ‘This isn’t about growing up. It’s about taking responsibility and having accountability for the actions that have been taken by this country and by people acting on behalf of this country. And we do have a day of reckoning and that day of reckoning is going to continue until we actually make change.’…”
[emphasis HillReporter.com’s]

Taking offense at HillReporter.com’s presentation is an option. But probably not a reasonable one. Neikirk, Abrams and all have an election year’s politics to consider.

And “day of reckoning” rhetoric aside, acting responsibly is a good idea.


Attitudes

Maybe I should have said this earlier.

I think murder and slavery are bad ideas. They’re always bad ideas. That’s not just my opinion. (Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997), 1756, 22582262, 2414)

“Hooray for Our Side”


(U.S. Army photo by Charles E. Spirtos, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Military police from the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th MEB supporting local law enforcement in Austin. (May 30, 2020))

There have been considerably more than “a thousand people in the street” since May 26, 2020.

But they’re mostly like the folks in Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth:” carrying signs that say “hooray for our side.”

That’s not a bad thing, by itself.

Holding a sign saying “down with our side?” That would be disturbing. And still another topic.

If I were carrying a sign, I’d prefer that the slogan make sense to me, and to folks who aren’t on the same page as I am.

Being short and easily readable would be nice, too.

Getting back to Floyd-themed protests.

They’re still daily headline news.

I don’t know if that’s good news or bad news. Maybe a bit of both.

But arson and looting have been noticeably lacking in most of the ones I’ve read about.

I’ll take that as good news.

“Arson and looting?” Maybe I should have said looting and arson. Setting a store on fire and then collecting free samples doesn’t strike me as practical. And that’s — you guessed it — another topic.

Protests, those considered newsworthy at any rate, have been sticking to the ‘some lives matter’ and ‘abolish police’ themes. With individual exceptions. Like the fellow holding a “black / queer / proud” sign.

Maybe someone’s done an analysis of Floyd-themed protest signs.

I haven’t, and probably won’t. Doing it right would mean digging into source material used by reporters and editors: not just the items they picked out. And collecting data on protests they didn’t cover.

That would require resources I don’t have, and time I’m unwilling to invest.


Irish Lives Matter???


(From H. Strickland Constable, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Constable’s illustration for “Ireland from One or Two Neglected Points of View.” (1899))

I’ve got reasons for not carrying an “Irish Lives Matter” sign.

For starters, “no Irish need apply” hasn’t been part of help-wanted ads for generations.

Granted, being Irish isn’t the same as being black. Or being part of any other perceived ethnic group.

I figure the Irish had an advantage over other alleged “low types.” Some of us look “Anglo-Teutonic.” That arguably helped us gain acceptance by ‘real’ Americans.

Not that “Anglo-Teutonic” Americans of yesteryear were all alike.

I figure some realized that an Irishman could be respectable.

But I know that some didn’t.

Including some of my ancestors.

They were, I figure, being good parents.

By their standards.

A charming but unsuitable young man was paying attention to their daughter.

When asked about the disreputable young man’s family, the decent young lady’s mother said “he doesn’t have family. He’s Irish.”

The kids got married anyway. One of their kids became my father.

I’m also half-Norwegian, and that’s almost another topic.

Cartoons, Slogans and Some Logic


(From Branford Clarke/Pillar of Fire Church, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Branford Clarke’s cartoon for the Pillar of Fire Church, showing self-identified patriotic Americans defending their country from people like me. (1929))

Thomas Nast, ‘Father of the American Cartoon,’ tried to warn his fellow-citizens about the Irish threat and creeping Catholicism.

Can’t say that I blame him.

Seems that he saw the Irish as violent drunkards and ignorant minions of the un-American Pope.

I don’t agree with that view. But I’m part-Irish and Catholic: so it’s not surprising.

Even if I thought the Irish were oppressed in today’s America, “Irish Lives Matter” probably wouldn’t be my favorite slogan.

True, it’s short and easily-remembered.

But someone who’s not Irish, and ambivalent toward the sons of Éire, might imagine that the slogan implied “and yours don’t.”

Particularly if folks who look like me had been been blaming our problems on folks with his or her ancestry.

Similar concerns may account for signs explaining that “all lives don’t/can’t matter until black lives do!!!”

On the plus side, that slogan clarifies the “black lives matter” version.

And, arguably, may be less likely to inspire perceptions that the more common slogan means ‘our lives matter and yours don’t.’

But with eight words, “all lives…” is at the edge of being too wordy. According to a rule of thumb I learned for writing headlines.

There’s logic in saying that if part of “all” lacks a quality, the quality does not apply to “all.”

But I still think it’s not the ideal slogan for promoting recognition of humanity’s dignity and the dignity of the human person.


Statue Panic?


(From EPA, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(Authorities covered up the slogan sprayed at the base of the monument (BBC News))

I figure that statues mostly just sit there, collecting dust and/or pigeon droppings.

That’s changed, as Floyd fever sweeps the world.

These days, statues apparently inspire vandalism and violence.

I try to remember that others often don’t share my viewpoints. But lately I’ve found myself paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Puck: “what mortals these fools be.”

Taking these headlines in order, briefly.

“Slavery code” caught my eye in a recent BBC News headline. My first assumption, based partly on having lived through an era when legislative “sunset provisions” were discussed, was that some legal code was overdue for revision.

Turns out that the vandalized statue commemorated Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Colbert was involved in writing the Code Noir: defining slavery and religion in the French colonial empire.

He worked for King Louis XIV. In the late 17th century. Before the French Revolution.6

Meanwhile, back in the States:

Public Safety and Making Sense


(From Getty Images, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(This statue may currently be in protective custody.)

New York’s American Museum of Natural History removed an equestrian statue of former president T. Roosevelt.

That makes sense, I think.

The statue shows Roosevelt on horseback, with an American standing at his right and an African at his left.

Neither of which are wearing three-piece business suits.

Current sound and fury being what it is, getting a potential flashpoint out of sight?

Like I said, it makes sense.

The Albuquerque headline is just plain sad.

The statue involved depicts Juan de Oñate, first Spanish Governor of New Mexico: a post he held from November 1598 to April 1606. He’s no poster child for wise and benevolent rule, but I gather that tales of his inhuman atrocities have grown over the years.7

News I’ve seen identifies this month’s Albuquerque victim as a protestor with African ancestors. Who seems to have survived, barely.

The alleged attacker is white and in custody. Where I hope he stays, for the sake of anyone near him.

The statue is out of sight.

Albuquerque’s mayor says he had it removed in the interest of public safety.

Which, in present circumstances, also makes sense.

Attacking statues? Tearing down reminders of history that I don’t like? Doing what I can to convince my neighbors that I really am a threat to their lives, property and culture?

That doesn’t strike me as entirely reasonable.

Emotionally cathartic at the moment, maybe. But not reasonable.


Minneapolis: [insert feared technology] Violence and the City Council


(From Google Maps, used w/o permission.)
(Temporarily closed businesses and death in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (June 21, 2020))

Saturday night, June 20, had become Sunday morning when someone killed someone else in Minneapolis. The last time I checked, police were investigating the homicide. And “gun violence” was in headlines again. Still.

So was Minneapolis leadership’s efforts to take down the city’s police department.

I’m not convinced that killing someone with a gun is worse than killing with a knife or a rope. Whatever technology is used, the victim is dead.

And I’m certainly not going to blame a particular tech for the recent Minneapolis homicide. I think tools can make doing something easier. But I’m quite sure tools, or weapons, don’t make us do things. (November 15, 2017)

About a week later, the homicide victim is still dead. Google Maps still lists businesses near one of that night’s hotspots as “temporarily closed.”

I haven’t read that protestors blamed the weekend’s death and destruction on law enforcement. Maybe nobody’s made that claim. But the Minneapolis City Council is still trying to protect their constituents from the police.

Minneapolis leaders may be on the right track. Or near it.

“‘Holistic’ Public Safety Force” ???

When I see the word “holistic,” it’s often used in the context of something like mystic crystal mood rings.

Or, perhaps less harmlessly, in connection with assorted flavors of alternative medicine.

About that: My family and I go to conventional medical doctors for checkups and treatment.

The closest we get to healing’s groovy fringe is a chiropractor. The sort that sees chiropractic as a system for sorting out musculoskeletal problems. Not something relying on 19th century spiritualism.

I gather that chiropractic is still officially “pseudoscientific.” Can’t say that I’m surprised.

Its founder was colorful. And chiropractors get results that ‘pill-and-injection’ doctors don’t, which wouldn’t endear them to the American Medical Association.

I’m wandering off-topic again.

In other than New Age contexts, “holistic” means something that looks at how a phenomenon’s parts relate to each other. Not at each part in isolation. I think that makes sense, but I also think I’m more than the sum total of my body’s chemicals.8

Maybe Minneapolis City Council members know what “holistic” means, and want to replace the city’s police department with something that looks at law enforcement as one part of a society. If so, like I said: I think they’re on the right track, or close to it.

If their goal is to replace their city’s police with psychology and sociology professors who supervise encounter groups and discussion panels? Maybe not so much.

Either way, I wish folks living in Minneapolis well; and am glad I don’t live there.


Choices

So: if I think guns don’t make people kill other people, and that crime isn’t the result of having police departments, why do I think folks occasionally act badly?

Four words: free will and consequences. Or two words: original sin. Which doesn’t mean that humanity is rotten to the core.

We were made “in the image of God,” and in charge of this world. (Genesis 1:2627)

We still are. (Catechism, 24152418)

The first of us executed a massive lapse in judgement. They decided that their preference was more important than what God wanted. That decision had consequences. (Genesis 3:119; Catechism, 390, 396401)

Our account of humanity’s rocky start is given in figurative language, and that’s even more topics. (Catechism, 390)

An important point here is that they, and we, have free will. (Catechism, 17301738)

Each of us can choose what actions we take. Or choose not to choose, acting on whatever daft impulse bounces across our consciousness. Not choosing is a choice of sorts, a decision to not use whatever good sense we have.

As I see it, our problems aren’t God’s fault. We’re dealing with consequences of a regrettable and regretted decision.

Part of our job is dealing with those consequences: respecting each other and humanity’s transcendent dignity, remembering that we’re supposed to help each other, and working for the common good. (Catechism, 19281942)

I’ve talked about that before. A lot:


1 Death in Atlanta:

2 Towns and cities:

3 Remembering McCarthyism:

4 NASCAR and spooks:

5 Science and not missing the ‘good old days:’

6 History:

7 Western North America, ca. 1600:

8 Getting a grip:

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