Human beings are an odd species.
For years I have been fascinated by the psyche of the American public. I took several psychology classes and a philosophy class in college — not that I intended to be a shrink, but so that I could make heads or tails of the confounding behavior of those around me.
For example, look at how people treat charity. There are folks who will send money to an organization that helps starving kids in Africa, but don’t do anything about hungry kids right here in Surry County.
I know others who have written checks, but never raised a finger to help anyone their whole lives. They think money alone is enough. I suppose it’s better than nothing.
Then there are the folks who put in the time and effort to help, but demand attention. They will hold a coat drive for kids, but expect the newspaper to take photos and the recipients of the coats to be very grateful. They say they are donating time, but what they really want is payment in gratitude. I say that if it truly is charity, you shouldn’t expect anything in return.
Another thing that fascinates me is one that George Carlin picked up on two decades ago. Our interest in a tragedy is directly proportional to the distance from our front door. If something bad happens thousands of miles away, we shrug; but if that bad thing happens right in our faces, then suddenly we care.
As Carlin so ineloquently put it in an HBO special, the TV blares: Six thousand people die in an earthquake.
Where? Here in California?
Pakistan? F—- Pakistan!
Last week Americans all around the country remembered 9/11. Was this the first major terrorist attack in the world? Of course not, but it was the first foreign terrorist attack of this scale on U.S. soil, so it mattered.
On that fateful day, I was interviewing Lexington Furniture about some new Bob Timberlake pieces. My coworker Powell said, “I bet you anything it was Osama bin Laden.” The Lexington CEO and I both looked at Powell and asked, “Who?”
Osama was responsible for many attacks around the globe, but I had never even heard his name until 9/11.
In more recent times, there has been an uprising of black Americans over how they are treated by police officers. While some local folks have been outspoken, the majority of us have simply ignored the problem, hoping that capricious people will lose interest and go on to some other gripe.
Last Christmas Eve, the group Black Lives Matter organized traffic blocks on busy streets in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Minneapolis. For the people living in those cities, this “Black Xmas” was a big deal. Much of the rest of the country didn’t even notice. We were busy celebrating with our families.
Then on Tuesday, Charlotte police were searching for a suspect when they saw a black man with a gun. According to the police chief, an officer told Keith Lamont Scott repeatedly to drop the gun, but he didn’t.
Someone claiming to be Scott’s sister went on social media to proclaim that her brother was disabled and carrying a book.
Police Chief Kerr Putney said Officer Brentley Vinson shot Scott because the man posed a threat.
As for race being involved, Officer Vinson is black.
Despite the officer being black, and a gun being recovered on the scene, the video by the woman inspired black residents in the greater Charlotte area to lash out.
If Black Lives Matter, then shouldn’t we be concerned with the life of Brentley Vinson, who could have been killed?
News coverage overnight showed a large group stopping traffic on I-85 in protest. As if that weren’t enough, some of the stopped tractor-trailers were vandalized and their cargo looted.
For the next few days, we will hear plenty of passionate arguments on all sides of these events.
I’ll let them have their say — although I will interject that looting has nothing to do with social protest and everything to do with greed.
While everyone talks, I’ll take notice of how many citizens here pay attention to it all because this didn’t happen in Houston or Miami. It happened in North Carolina.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.