An Analysis of Racial Tension

In light of the recent protests in Ferguson, it prompted me to analyze the situations again. I’m not saying I am anywhere near a medical expert or have formal law training, I am just observing what I see in video and what I read in news articles. I’m sure everyone knows the incidents last summer with Michael Brown and Eric Garner and others across the country. I’m just going to say I think media and a few “bystanders” possibly saw what they wanted to see and made it about race, which then sparked the controversy and thus the violence and riots. I don’t believe Martin Luther King, Jr. would condone these violent protests. And he wanted the same thing that these protesters today want: equality, justice, and freedom.

The recent protests in Ferguson, MO resulted in protestors standing along the Interstate blocking traffic. In a story released August 14, there was reportedly gunfire and another black 18-year-old was shot. The teen reportedly shot at police officers. You can read that story below.

Ferguson Protest

The protests erupted, I believe, partly over the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown. From what I read and heard about that shooting was once the media, or whoever actually labeled it as “police shoot an unarmed black teen,” that’s where it went crazy. The riots began and the violence started. I posted another blog a while back called “Rioting: What’s the point?” and I ask that here again. What’s the point? A supposedly violent act begets more violence? What does that really solve?

It seems after about four days of protesting in Ferguson, law enforcement seemingly maintained peace and prevented further acts of violence in the area, according to St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. The county, city, law enforcement and surely the public are probably more at ease now that there is peace in the area. That crisis averted. But who’s to say something similar won’t happen again? With the state of mind of some people, I’d almost guarantee it.

A note on Michael Brown. I believe, based on reports I’ve read, Officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defense and I believe any officer in the same situation would have acted in a similar way. I’m not excusing Wilson’s actions or condoning them in any way. I’m also not saying that what happened to the 18-year-old Brown is tragic, because it is. But if you’re going to break the law, however minor it is, just do what you’re asked. Sometimes it’s not worth it to “pick a fight” or “resist” in any way.

Do I believe some police officers abuse their power? Yes I do. Do I believe some may be racist or “bad cops?” Yes I do. This seems to happen in more populated areas and bigger cities. But, that does not mean all police or law enforcement officials are “bad.” Although, I do not have proof of this. It is just a feeling I have that there are “good cops” and “bad cops.” Just like there are “good people” and “bad people.”

Now, what happened to Eric Garner is tragic as well. But according to reports, Garner was not totally innocent. Apparently he had numerous arrests over the past several years, and many around the area in what would be the fatal showdown that took place last summer. A story about that appears below.

Garner Story

Again, no matter how big the crime, you’re still breaking the law. Additionally, with his criminal background and reports indicating that he was, at some point, selling untaxed cigarettes on that day, police have a duty to question suspects. Garner may not have been doing anything illegal at the time, but he was still suspected of selling those cigarettes. I have an understanding of how it must feel being accused of something and believing you are innocent or thinking that you have done nothing wrong, but sometimes it might just be easier to comply at the time. I know no one really wants to be accused of something that you believe you didn’t do and have to be “harassed” by police, but sometimes things happen beyond our control.

There is a video below showing the Garner incident and there are a few things to point out from the video. These are my observations and my opinions only. First, before the video started Garner had broken up a fight between two other individuals prior to the police stopping and begun questioning Garner. There were reports Garner was selling these illegal cigarettes and he fit the description police had. I’m assuming because of his prior criminal action and description, officers stopped and approached Garner. The video begins with officers questioning him and trying to arrest him, or at least bring him in for questioning. Garner stood up for himself and was denying any wrongdoing. Another thing about the video is Garner never really gets physically combative with the officers, but essentially he is resisting. He continues to yell and tell them to “get your hands off me.” He tells them “don’t touch me,” while trying to move away. That is resisting, plain and simple. The officers slowly approached him to make the arrest and that’s where it started. He was not complying so Officer Daniel Pantaleo attempted to bring him down with a “chokehold.” I don’t believe Pantaleo intended to put a chokehold on him, but it’s what happened. Thirdly, I don’t feel the other officers “swarming” around Garner after Pantaleo put the hold on him was an aggressive action by the officers. I think they went around him in order to bring him down safely so Garner wouldn’t hurt himself or others because he was not a small man. Next, Pantaleo released his “chokehold,” which only lasted about 12 or 13 seconds, and then put his face to the ground in an aggressive manner. However, I do not think he slammed his head to the pavement as some media and bystanders might have suggested it was. Next, the phrase “I can’t breathe” came out. If you notice in the video, Garner seemingly began saying the phrase after he was released from the “chokehold.” According to reports, he was still alive at the scene. He apparently died in transit to the hospital and was pronounced dead about an hour later.

Garner Video

So, he did not die of the illegal chokehold at the scene. Preliminary reports from the M.E. stated that Garner died because of compressions to the neck and chest. That may have been a part of it, but I don’t believe it was the cause. Garner had numerous health problems including asthma, obesity, heart problems and others. I for one can say that if someone had severe asthma it does not take much to exert one self into an asthma attack, especially if the person is overweight and has health conditions as Garner did. It can cause compression of the airways and not allow a person to be able to breathe correctly.

In these cases, I don’t believe it was racially motivated. Nothing I’ve seen or read about the cases proves to me they were racially motivated. Not that race hasn’t probably played a part in some cases elsewhere, or the actions of overzealous officers being too quick and judgmental of a situation resulted in killing innocent people, but these cases – Brown and Garner – I don’t feel had any racial motivation. It seems it’s what people want to put into it. I believe all of the officers in both of these situations would have performed in a similar fashion towards the suspects.

If you were in Officer Wilson’s shoes and there was a six foot, 200 lb. man coming towards you and was not slowing down and would not stop, what would you do? If a six foot, 200 lb. man was not complying and resisting arrest, what would you do? Police officers have a difficult job. Sometimes they have to make split second decisions in order to maintain their own safety or the safety of others, regardless if a suspect is armed or unarmed. I feel some of the intentions are good but don’t always result in good outcomes. Perhaps if people could walk a little in a police officer’s shoes in situations such as these, maybe they wouldn’t be as quick to judge.

New “Vacation” Should Have Stayed Home

Rating 2/5

It seems there have been several reboots for film franchises recently. Or maybe it’s just my imagination. But at any rate, the latest reboot of “Vacation” (and I use the term loosely here as this could simply be another “long-awaited” sequel), has a grown up Rusty, played by Ed Helms, making that long family vacation trip to Walley World in order to reconnect with his wife and sons. The film even makes a reference to the “original” vacation as Helms assures his family that this vacation will be different because there are two sons instead of a son and daughter and probably several other differences along the way. He further states this new vacation “will stand on its own.” View the trailer below.

New Vacation Trailer

That being said, the film seems to try to emulate the comedy and style of the original 1983 classic, but with more crudeness and vulgarity than the original. Of course this is not the 80’s and the world is much different now, but I felt the writers tried a bit too hard to capture the comedy and feel of that first film and basically update the jokes and crude humor, which I don’t feel really worked well to sustain the film.

There are some humorous moments as Debbie Griswold (Christina Applegate), Rusty’s wife, takes on a Greek challenge at her old college in Tennessee on a stop along their trip. Or when elder son James (Skyler Gisondo) asks his dad what a ‘rim job’ is. Most of the crude humor comes from younger brother Kevin (Steele Stebbins) who appeared to have something rude and vulgar coming out of his mouth every other sentence or so. I found the comedy bits were a bit forced and some of them too similar to the original Chevy Chase classic. Chase and Beverly D’ Angelo do make cameo appearances in the film as the parents. They are now running a bed and breakfast in San Francisco so Rusty brings his family by and spend the night. This of course allows for a reconnection to his family and he decides to continue their journey onto Walley World. His parents still have the old green station wagon from the original and give it to Rusty so that he and his family can complete the journey to the famed theme park after losing their foreign rental car when it blew up.

Helms is decent here as a family man who is sort of an underachiever. His heart is in the right place, wanting to reconnect to his family. Applegate appeared to be less than a three dimensional character. She did have some motivation and character moments, but it just seemed her character did not have a rounded personality. Leslie Mann played Audrey Griswold and really seemed to be underused here. In a quick sequence of scenes, Rusty visits his sister and family. Mann just didn’t seem to appear enough in the scenes and it seemed like she could do more but the script did not apparently lend the character to more screen time, which allowed for a flatter character. Gisondo and Stebbins seemed to play off of each other as the rivaling siblings and the interaction between the two appeared genuine enough. Chris Hemsworth played Stone Crandall, Audrey’s husband, who was a rancher, weatherman, and was particularly well endowed, in one of the few true comedic scenes. His performance was a bit over the top and played more like an exaggerated caricature. (Which I guess is what a caricature is).

Whether you call this film a reboot or a long awaited sequel, it didn’t match the comedy and timing of the original. I think the film didn’t really stand on its own. “Vacation” was written and directed by John Francis Daley (stars in Bones, also a writer) and Jonathan M. Goldstein (producer, writer, “Horrible Bosses 1 & 2”), with characters created by John Hughes. The film was produced by Warner Brothers, runs 99 minutes and is Rated R.