If you had a choice, which would you choose:
- to be next to a rowdy campsite with drunken campers or
- to have the campers in the site next to you leave the campground but leave behind a blazing fire roaring away in the fire pit.
I got to thinking about this kind of question after our rounds this morning, cleaning up the usual Sunday Morning departures.
You know, we all make decisions about things we like and don’t like but I wonder sometimes about the choices we make. This weekend we had some 20-somethings in the campground who were in the area for a wedding. They were (almost predictably) noisy and probably drunk. Two other campers complained about their noise. The next day when we went through the campground after their departure the rowdy campers had left their site immaculate, and the complaining campers had left trash strewn around their site and the fire in their fire pit blazing away. And I said to myself, which is worse?
In one case it was the inconvenience of being around rude and disgusting behavior, in another case it was personal and public safety. And the real question I had to ask myself was this: As a human how do I feel about either situation?
To be clear, I am neither a tee-totoaler nor a drunk. I’m not opposed to drinking alcohol but I got “drunk” twice in my life and I hated the feeling so much that I have ever since been very careful about my consumption. There are 90 lb women who can drink me under the table. I have my one glass of wine a day, or on a really hot summer’s day I may have a beer (or if I’m craving salt that might be two beers) and that’s it. C’est Tu. Fini.
I know that alcohol is a huge decompression tool for many people. You can’t watch TV, or read a book or magazine without being reminded of just how popular alcohol is in this country, especially among the younger binging crowd, but on up there in age as well. People are going to drink. That’s a fact of our culture.
Most of our campers are pretty good about safety. But when it comes to things like fire, you don’t get points for being “pretty good” because you only need one person to cause a fire that will destroy hundreds or millions of dollars worth of resources and the lives of innocents. Whether in an apartment, or in a forest, fire is an unforgiving demon waiting to be set loose.
So, why it is that the person who is willing to complain about a drunk is also sloppy about their own behavior — putting others at risk. In one case it’s dealing with an inconvenience — a drunken neighbor. In the other case there is the risk of burning down your home, your neighbors’ home, your campsite, or the forest. Which is the worse complaint to have? And why, as humans do we choose one thing to complain about, and not the other. Or why are complaints even necessary — it’s not like we don’t all do things wrong from time to time and maybe we all need a little forgiveness from time to time. Shouldn’t we be a little less eager to complain about others if we realize we screw up too?
I say this because this morning I woke to news headlines of a very different nature, but which spoke to that whole what-do-I-complain-about issue. In our hometown of Milwaukee, the National Guard has once again been called out because of racial tensions and violence. I say Once Again because I was there in the 60’s when there were racial riots in town before and then too the National Guard was called out. It’s a ‘recurring theme’ I have watched all my life. Whites upset with blacks and blacks upset with whites.
The current violence seems to have been triggered because an armed black man was shot by police. There is the obvious question to be asked: why would anyone continue holding a gun when facing off against armed police. To even the simplest minded, that is foolhardy in the extreme. No matter who you are or what your skin color that’s pretty much guaranteed to get you in trouble. But what got stuck in my brain today was not the suspect’s action but the action of the public.
Before I even saw the news about the National Guard and rioting, I had been reading a news feed link to a BBC article about the differences between how Whites and Blacks see racial tensions and Why do US Police keep killing unarmed Black Men? That led me to a graphic that really hit me. The graphic is part of the MappingPoliceViolence.org project.
The question is I kept asking myself is why do we react to certain events as stimulii, and not react to others; or why do we see things/events as more important than others who may have be living under even more severe circumstances?
Residents of Milwaukee are upset about police violence there. I get it. But I wonder about the frequency of police violence in Milwaukee which is well below the national average compared to other cities. Why is it that violence has triggered rioting here and not in other cities with much higher rates?
Of course it has been triggered in other places. If you look up the chart you’ll see St. Louis over there with almost 4 times the per capita violence and certainly there was rioting and looting there. (who can forget the rioting in Ferguson?) But other places seem not to have reacted nearly as much, or at all? Even though their rate of violence is multiple times higher.
I’m not a social engineer. I don’t know how to solve problems on a societal scale — racial or violence. What I can do is to I live my own life in such a way as to be fair to everyone I come in contact with. And I say that knowing that almost all my life I lived in Milwaukee where there was a LOT of diversity but that since we’ve been RV’ing we have been living in areas with much less diversity. I’m not longer called upon to do much about interracial relationships.
Still, it fascinates and frustrates me that as a culture we seem more concerned about matters of politeness and behavior than we are about safety. In a campground it’s drunks versus fires and driving on flooded streets — the Eau Galle river above the dam floods a local bridge here and rangers have to keep closing the gates so that people won’t foolishly drive over a bridge when it’s overrun by the river. In a city it’s about violence, crime, and health… you name it. Why is it that so often people get all ramped up about the little slights their children suffer in school, or the neighbor who parks in front of our house instead of in their own driveway, and the social media light up when a celebrity does something stupid? We spend millions preparing athletes for the Olympics and covering the games. And yet basic issues of human rights, and fair treatment we keep shuffling under the rug because we can’t muster the human decency to see that all of our citizens are treated fairly? Or worse because we do not think other people deserve to be treated that way?
Why do we make the choices we make?
Why do some things offend us, while others do not.
And why us, and not someone else?
I’m doing what I can right here where I am. I know nothing about other neighborhoods, and other problems. It’s not my place to try to suggest solutions to problems I don’t understand. But I can be the change I want to see right here, right now. I have to be satisfied with that.
Thanks for stopping by, and why not check in tomorrow and see what’s on the platter?