Rolling Stone Tsarnaev “Glam” Cover

I haven’t yet read the article, but I think a lot of people are missing the point of the Rolling Stone cover.  My immediate reaction was “wow, this kid looks like so many average America kids I know” and thus how do you spot a terrorist?  Not all terrorist are going to fit the neat profile and stereotypes we’ve established.  How does a kid living in America with his entire life ahead of him become radicalized to commit an act of terror?  If you went “hey, what a cute rockstar!” and then didn’t go “oh damn, that’s a terrorist” then you didn’t pick up an the irony.  Sometimes a shocking juxtaposition can make a huge impact.
rolling_stone_AP13071714405_270x367
And the tagline “How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by his Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster” really clues you in.

Seriously, can’t a magazine follow something other than the People magazine format and style?

Not in CVS and Walgreen’s world!

Race

The next time I’m asked to identify my “race” on a form, I’m going to check “other” and write “human” in the blank.

In poking around and doing some research it turns out that race is mostly an archaic term that holds little scientific value. Race is roughly equated to sub-species, and in humans there is currently only one species with no sub-species. Geneticists and anthropologists are in near universal agreement that all humans came “out of Africa” and migrated to the other continents (and of course some stayed in Africa). But that consensus only came about in the early 1980’s via DNA analysis; before then it was thought that humans somehow evolved independently on each continent without a single origin. In response to the amount of ultraviolet light in different geographic locations, some humans evolved different skin pigmentation, but this genetic variation is way too slight to be considered a different race or sub-species. The genetic information regarding skin color is similar to that which dictates hair and eye color. Once you go deeper than the skin, all human tissues and fluids are the same color among the races. “All human brains are gray” one person wrote. If pressed to distinguish humans by physical traits and generic makeup, some scientists suggest that blood type is more significant than anything else. Geneticists remind us that there is just as much genetic diversity within a race as between races.

Race is really a sociological conceit that was conceived in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s mainly by Americans and Europeans to justify the exploitation of non-Americans and non-Europeans. Races were categorized into a hierarchy based on a supposed superiority that included attributes like intelligence and stamina. Every time you use the term race you are partly alluding to that hierarchy. Many scientist (and others) place the word race in quotes, as “race”, to delegitimize it as a term.

What I’ve just written may be top-of-mind obvious to some people. (“Duh, Lou”, I can already hear them say.) To others it may be more buried down in the subconscious. It’s a huge cliche to say “all humans are the same”. We live in a world where we think and speak constantly about race and race relations. There’s still a large disconnect between what we know and how we think and behave.

Like I said, the next time I’m asked to identify my “race” on a form, I’m going to check “other” and write “human” in the blank, just to remind myself.

George Zimmerman trial

Sure, Florida felt it had to go for second degree murder, but why didn’t it go for Harassment, Aggravated Assault, Felony Battery, Culpable Negligence, or some combo thereof?  Seems like any of those could have stuck.  When juror B37 says the jury was looking for something to find Zimmerman guilty of, maybe they would have felt one of these charges applied?

Trayvon’s Memory

Hmm, it occurs to me that Trayvon Martin’s memory and legacy might be better served if there is no federal trial. His character, as (well as George Zimmerman’s) will be dragged through the mud and back in a civil rights trial. Every bad thing he ever did will be exposed and exaggerated. He will become the boy bashing the head of another person into concrete, rather than the boy with candy and a soft drink walking home. His racial views will come up: what did he mean by “cracker” and was he profiling Zimmerman when he got into a fight with him, every off-color tweet or web posting he made will come up, if he ever said anything negative about any race it will be dug up and used to impeach his character, his weed use will be used to portray him as an out of control drug addict, and the harmless hyperbole and braggadocio that all teenagers engage in will be used to portray him as a thug. It will be ugly. And at the end, the trial will certainly show that Martin and Zimmerman were both flawed, imperfect people like us all. Then what?

Is it not enough that Martin is dead, he has to be subject to character assassination too?

Extremism

Here’s my problem with extremism, left/right, religious, or whatever: when you look at physics and nature, systems that are in balance are the ones that work and survive.  Extreme states are rare and usually transient.  Now of course, you cannot draw exact parallels between hard science and social science, but it’s certainly the best place to start, as humans are physical beings and are part of nature.  But balance ain’t too passionate and it’s hard to get excited about it!

Zimmerman Acquitted

There’s something of a an irony here. At first, George Zimmerman wasn’t even arrested. Then outcry from the public, civil rights groups, celebrities, and even a sports team created such a media storm that Florida felt immense pressure to do something and something big. So they arrested Zimmerman and threw the book at him, in the form of murder 2. That, for the most part, placated those who cried out. The trial ended with an acquittal and Zimmerman was free as before. (Except that his life has been forever changed for the worse, but in the eyes of the law he is “free”.) All of the effort, time, and money spent has left us nearly exactly where we were before Zimmerman’s arrest; the local police force seems vindicated in their initial impression that there wasn’t enough evidence to support murder and that the Zimmerman acted in self defense.

A few question (at least) come to mind:

1. Would those who pressured Florida to arrest and charge Zimmerman been satisfied with charges of manslaughter and aggregated assault with a deadly weapon?

2. If Florida built their case around those charges, would Zimmerman have been convicted?

3. Should Florida have gone with manslaughter and aggregated assault with a deadly weapon only despite the all the outcry?

4. Did all the outcry actually make the situation worse by calling for in terms of wanting to see Zimmerman put in jail?