Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Police Murder in the Albuquerque Desert

I'm not as keen on second guessing police shootings of civilians as some, but I can't see ANY justification for this tragic police shooting of a homeless man camping illegally in the desert outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. What imminent threat to these officers' lives did this poor guy pose? Hell, he was even turning away rather than toward them when they shot him several times! It seems to me that the shooter(s) may deserve to be prosecuted rather than excused for murdering this man! They certainly should be investigated by more than a rubber-stamping board from the same agency as the officers who unleashed their ballistic barrage, and, as of this writing, there are encouraging signs that they may be.

And what's with the bean-bag shots and sicking the dog on the guy after he'd already been shot by assault rifle(s) five or six times and was lying immobile or even unconscious in his own blood? Even if he was still holding a knife, did they think he was going to jump up like Rambo, take a miraculous flying leap at them, and gut them like fish through their body armor before they could squeeze off any more rounds? 

Police officers need to be trained to handle the mentally ill and homeless without instantly and reflexively escalating to the overwhelming lethality of soldiers on the battlefield, and when they kill without good cause, they need to be brought to task for it. Yes, police officers are human, and human beings make mistakes under duress. But James Boyd was a human being too, and he too was under duress with heavily armed police barking orders at him, a big police dog menacing him, and a flash bang grenade exploding near him, all of which undoubtedly exacerbated his apparent mental illness that impeded his cooperation with the police officers' commands.

He didn't deserve to die the way he did, the police who killed him don't deserve a free pass, and police officers need to stop invariably acting like Navy SEALs on a search and destroy mission.

Monday, March 24, 2014

They Say It's My Birthday

My calendar says it's my birthday, and the Beatles tell me I'm "gonna have a good time," so I might as well oblige. After all, why not? I can't have too many more birthdays in my future, if any. It seems like every year, someone I knew in grade school or high school passes. One of my best friends from those days died years ago. I even wrote a blogpost about it.

But what kind of "good time" do I want to have? Do I want to spend the day sating myself with hedonistic pleasure by eating, drinking, and being "merry"? Well, I couldn't do that even if I wanted to. I have driving and chores to do, including getting a new passport photo taken for an upcoming trip to Thailand, and bowling league tonight. Besides, hedonism seems overrated to me. I'm more into happiness, which can be almost the antithesis of hedonistic indulgence.

Yes, I know there are philosophers and therapists who say happiness is overrated too, and that the more we pursue it, the faster it recedes from us. But my notion of happiness borrows from Aristotle's "Happiness is an activity of the soul in accord with perfect virtue."

In other words, happiness is doing like they sing in the old U.S. Army commercial: "Be all that you can be," or, at least, working diligently to do this. It's living a life of integrity in fulfillment of one's highest principles and in patient but steadfast pursuit of one's grandest goals. And, to my way of thinking, it's mindfully doing all of this with the love to which Augustine referred when he wrote, "Love and do what you will" and Mother Teresa spoke of when she said, "In this life, we cannot do great things; we can only do small things with great love."

Some people say love is overrated. I say it's not rated highly enough by enough people. Too many make excuses for not loving their fellow humans and animal and plant brethren. I don't make excuses. I just have trouble loving people. I always have. But here, early into my seventh decade of life, I want to love more and to find ways to do it. One way to do it, it seems to me, is to act in a loving way.

Psychologists tell us that if we can't feel the way we want to act, then we can act the way we want to feel and our emotions will tend to follow suit. I believe this. When I smile, I feel happier. When I carry myself with confidence, I feel more confident. When I walk and talk and comport myself in a more calmly deliberate manner, I feel more mindfully contemplative. So, I want to devote today to doing all of those things. To acting loving, confident, and contemplative, and to wearing a persistent smile on my face.

Hey, there are worse ways to spend one's birthday. So, Happy Birthday to me, yeah!