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Monday, March 22, 2010

Some Mistakes are better classified as 'Learning Moments'

Several years ago I wrote an essay entitled ‘The Horror Driven Media’ which detailed the way the media had developed a bad habit of glorifying tragedy in a manner that was so predictable, Va Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho, was able to send an advance tape to the network (NBC) that distinguished itself in the horror media genre with its coverage of the Columbine Massacre. This sick and twisted soul had a preference for Brian Williams and the main stream media gold standard getting the inside scoop. Seung-Hui Cho’s cry for attention is product of this same horror driven media. Any event that occurs today is spun wildly out of control to the point that distortions often do not resemble fact or reality at all.

Unfortunately, as a writer, prognosticator and even a wonk of sorts, there’s nothing to be gained by assertions that manage to actually predate described events. Even more difficult to explain is pre-cognition but after a careful review of relevant chains of events you’d swear I could see into the future! Pre-cogs are not the threat. Quite the contrary. Pre-cogs see the car accident happening before it occurs but are powerless to do any more than yell. The internet only serves to get out a cautionary message out but cannot really stop anything. My challenge is to translate a relevant message into terms that the masses can relate to.

Works like ‘The Horror Driven Media’ are dark and generally only of interest to other wonks. Ironically, it took an ill-advised tweet to draw attention to several blogs that have been posted in the last several months. Thank God Above that I was thinking more clearly on January 18 of this year when I posted a blog that clearly indicates my hopes for the current Administration and my hope that Joe Biden is never President of the United States for even an hour.

That said, I’m still trying to figure out what manner of brain cramp, senior moment, mid-life crisis meltdown I had for what must have been 5-6 minutes. Maybe it was the result of mole spores or a temporary loss of oxygen to my brain but danggummit I opened my mouth and inserted my foot. America, I did a foolish thing and for this, I am sorry. What I did was wrong and reprehensible even if the comments were a mere compilation of two themes heard from strangers that I’ve interviewed over the last several months.

Invariably, voters have an opinion and are happy to share it especially to a black person who is able to say they are among the few Black Americans who did not vote for Barack Obama. I marvel at some of what my fellow White Americans think and say when they can speak freely. Being careful to avoid indelicacy – White Folks are upset. So much so that in my quest to push the envelope in an attempt to see how deep rooted the sentiment is, I punched a hole in the envelope that requires a delicate repair.

As an American, by example, I must claim my responsibility for the moment I created but my sense of appropriateness dictates that I accept this unfortunate mistake as a ‘Learning Moment’ rather than a simple mistake. Learning Moment, because it more accurately describes what I should hope to gain from the experience.

If it only ended there, life would be good and I could simply drink a beer and get over it. Unfortunately, for a regular American, things aren’t that simple these days. America has changed so fast, I am dizzy and I’m not the only one.

When the President alleged that the Cambridge Police Department acted stupidly, he put the entire force in danger and in particular the lone African-American that stood in the foreground of an infamous photo of the handcuffed and crippled professor. The President invites the officer and the professor to the White House in the aftermath, for a beer so he could use the opportunity as a “Teaching Moment”. I guess the bottom line is that there’s a new standard of conduct in America and as regular citizens we’ll just have to adapt but it won’t be easy for some and may be impossible for others.

Since my inappropriate posting, I’ve told not less than a half dozen people to refrain from saying things like those that wound up online. My curiosity still led me to attempt crafting a language that would enable onliners to respond to reading what Americans are saying on the street everyday. Sentiments expressed on my post should have been inserted in the body of a larger document that explained more clearly how and where the sentiments were gathered.

A little old lady at the pet store just fired from her $45,000/yr job, has a colostomy bag and is losing her insurance in another week. As soon as I identified a perfect subject I was able to go right through my normal interview process. I whispered to the woman, “Mam, did you vote for Barack Obama? She replied, “No, but didn’t you? I thought all Black people voted for Barack Obama.” Within moments, she uttered a sentiment similar to the one posted yesterday.

Though a little shocked at how blunt she was I managed to keep the conversation lively until it was necessary to remind her that some of her comments were quite inappropriate and by statute – illegal. This just seemed to embolden her even more. You can about imagine where this is going. Someone, who should remain nameless, came up with the bright idea to test her sentiment online using an altered language meant to take some to the sting out. Absent appropriate context, the reader had reason to assume the worst. Though I can continue to try to educate others about what is and is not appropriate language in casual conversation and online, I must accept that “first we learn – then we teach.”

And what about Wanda Sykes? She is definitely SOMEBODY as opposed to my being a relative unknown and in the presence of the White House Press Corp, the sitting President, Barack Obama and our Secret Service that protects him, Wanda Sykes suggested that former VP Dick Cheyney should contract an illness and die. After a few shrieks, oohs and ahhs the incident was all but ignored by the main stream media and only shown and discussed on Fox as an example of political double standards in this country. I haven’t seen on the internet anywhere that Wanda Sykes is being pursued for urging the former VP to contract a disease and die but is this not language that is worthy of governmental rebuke and public scorn? The President just sat there as one of his Presidential Brethren was under attack by a comedienne. I guess it’s all good as long as life and death talk is about George Bush or Dick Cheyney. Something seems inherently wrong with this.

I have always maintained that, as a writer, only certain forms of notoriety are acceptable. For instance, I would not appreciate becoming famous or selling books because I was made famous due to a mistake or an error in practical judgment. It’s like the guy who knew the rumor on the street that he’d slept with a girl in the neighborhood was false but allowed neighbors to believe it anyway. I would know the commercial success was not the result of successful labor but instead came as a result of inadvertent hysteria.

Lastly, as this ramble needs a worthwhile conclusion, Numerologists and life prognosticators empirically predict that August is a month for the President to lay low. No overseas travel, no hang gliding, no surfing, no parachuting etc and for God’s Sake he should limit air travel. Seriously. Given that no private U.S. citizens can influence these events - this can only be construed as a Presidential Pro-Life advisory.

The last thing any literate American wants is for Joe Biden to be President for even an hour.