Saturday, November 29, 2014

Don't Give the Police an Excuse

Here I was – sounding off about how Michael Brown was unarmed and the only crime the police officer knew about was jaywalking – and then he shot him dead – emptied his gun into him.

A police officer explained to me that I was couch quarterbacking something I knew nothing about.

When a police officer, or anybody else is trained to use a gun for self-defense, the training includes -- don’t start shooting unless you feel threatened, but if you do feel threatened, – if you start shooting -- you keep shooting until the gun is empty. 

This makes sense. In a stressful situation, simple instructions are the easiest to follow.  

I get it.  Almost every day, a white police officer kills an African-American male. I get it. About 30% of African-American males are convicted felons.  I get it – drugs should be legal. I get it, prisons should not be run for profit.  I get it – there is tons wrong with our legal system.

But, being a police officer in a country where guns are easy to get is a dangerous job.  The purpose of guns is to kill.  Mistakes in judgement happen.

I’m a white female.   I was trained as a child – if the police ask you to do something – even something unreasonable – you do it – unless it is something illegal or something that could get you in more trouble later – for example, if a police officer asks you to pick up something that isn’t yours – don’t do it – don’t get your fingerprints on possible evidence.  Expect that the officer may hit you, but that’s better than doing jail time.

Apparently Michael Brown was not trained this way.   Jaywalking is not a lethal offense. Disobeying a legal request of a police officer is a lethal offense, especially if you are an African American male.

I’d like to start by making guns harder to get.  I’d like to start by making sure that everybody gets trained the way I was trained – do what the police say, unless it is illegal.

Vote.  Make sure that the police force in your city or town has representatives from all the races, ethnic groups, and economic groups.  Ferguson has an all white police force, and an all white government.  But the city is 64% African-American. 

And make sure that everybody knows – police are trained to empty their guns if they start shooting. Don’t give them an excuse to start.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Blue Cross, Blood and Sweat

Blue Cross wants Blood and Sweat.

Last August, Blue Cross sent me an email that I could have 15% off on my insurance for the year if I got a bunch of blood tests by the end of the month.  I hate being popped.  I hate discussing my results with a doctor who is out-of-date on the latest research and insists that high cholesterol is dangerous for women.  The latest research shows that high cholesterol is protective for women.  But, I got the tests. And I sent the latest articles to the doctor, who ignored them and told me to get more exercise.

I go to my gym at least 3 times a week.  Monday is elliptical.  Wednesday is tread mill. Friday is helix.  Plus any day is rowing, free weights, and mat exercise. I ride my bike all over town. And I do yoga at home, daily.  I’ve told the doc this, but he doesn’t listen.

Blue Cross has a deal that if I go to the gym 120 times in a year, they’ll pay me $150.  I thought I had plenty of time until the end of the year.  Then Blue Cross sent me a letter.  This year, I have to finish the 120 visits by December 12.  

I looked at the calendar.  I can make it.  If I don’t miss a day, I can do it by December 6.

I’m not going to do anything based on the blood tests.  I’m not sure why going to the gym every day for a few weeks matters to Blue Cross.

They’re crazy.  My blood and sweat don’t do them any good.  But, I’ll do what they want in order to save money.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Must Tigers Eat Only Vegetables?

I attended a Mindfulness Workshop at which the leaders read some of their favorite poems. Two lines have stuck with me:

For us to know peace, is it necessary that there be no war anywhere in the world?
For us to know peace, is it necessary that all tigers eat only vegetables?

I find the juxtaposition useful as well as charming.

It is easy to say that feeling responsible for the world is a good thing. 

It is less easy to give orders to tigers, and expect them to be obeyed.

The juxtaposition allows me to see the warmongers of the world as tigers.  This does not mean that war is okay.  It just means that I acknowledge war as part of this world, just like tigers.

I can vote and advocate for peace.

I can also admit that my life goes on just fine when I don’t read the newspaper and don’t inform myself about the wars.

The peace that really matters to me does not depend on wars or tigers, but on how I treat my fellow humans, be they warmongers or tigers, or other peace-lovers.

Friday, November 7, 2014

I've Become Part of the Problem

I have been known to make mistakes on my taxes. The feds and the state send me corrections to my taxes, usually in their favor. They show me where I made my errors, much like a school teacher.

So, this year, I was pleased when the city of Philadelphia put up a self-calculating tax form. All I had to do was copy numbers from my schedule C – total income and total profit.  The form calculated the rest.  I paid the city what it said I owed.  I thought I was done.

Yesterday, I got a letter.  Underpayment $29. Plus late fee and penalty.  Pay $32.87 by November 11, or the bill will go up.

No explanation.  No copy of my tax forms with corrections.  Just a bill.

And since they calculated the tax in the first place, it seems to me that if there is an error, they made it.   Yes, I did double check their math and I did calculate the same tax. It is unlikely that they and I would make the same mistake, if there is one.  So, I doubt there was an error. I suspect that the city wants more money and they know if they send every small business in the city a bill for a small enough amount that we’ll all pay it and not try to fight them.

I feel dishonest paying that bill.  I’ve become part of the problem – I no longer fight for my ideals if they cost $32.87.