Maybe people should be more careful about who they want defending them …. just saying

Submitted without comment. From New York Times:

Strangers had started showing up, said Frank Taaffe, 55, a marketing specialist, originally from the Bronx, who works out of his home in the Retreat. He made it clear that he was not talking about just any strangers.

“There were Trayvon-like dudes with their pants down,” Mr. Taaffe said.

From Grio:

Taaffe trailed off before alluding to Trayvon’s “suspicious” appearance — then took up the subject directly.

“What if it was your neighborhood? And you had been phased by all the criminal activities that had transpired in your neighborhood?,” Taaffe elaborated, “and after eight burglaries — and they were all [done] by the same group of individuals, young black males, documented, that perpetrated these crimes — how would you feel if somebody walked through your neighborhood that more or less was within that scope? Would you not confront them and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on? Where are you going? What’s up?’ I know I would do the same thing. And I have done it.”

Yet, the Retreat at Twin Lakes has a 20 percent black population according to the U.S. Census. If Taaffe and Zimmerman had received the neighborhood watch training that was available, Zimmerman might have realized that a black male walking near his home at night is not suspicious. Correct training teaches volunteers to observe and report intelligently, which includes knowing what is and isn’t out of place.

From the same Grio article:

Taaffe came to know Zimmerman intimately while acting as a watch block captain under George, who was captain of the neighborhood watch. Taaffe claims he saw the real Zimmerman — and that he is not a racist.

“He went around and did introduce himself to a few of the neighbors,” Frank remembered about his buddy, “As a matter of fact, there’s an African-American couple that lives next door to me that he introduced himself [to], and they didn’t find him racist at all.”

Usual disclaimer – obviously guilt or innocence is for the court to decide, and Zimmerman is not responsible for what some jerk said to defend him. But maybe a quick phone call to his neighborhood watch buddy? “Dude, you’re not really helping me out here!”

“Your ex-girlfriend probably won’t find anyone better” – Cary Tennis

So, this is mostly a fun & entertainment blog. I don’t usually write about real-world or newsy stuff, but today is going to be an exception. Behold an advice column by Cary Tennis in salon.com (I’ve read him before, and he’s usually not this freaking stupid).

I broke a plate in the sink and got arrested

We were fighting and I was upset but I’m not an abuser of women

Dear Cary,

My girlfriend of five years recently told me that she wanted to move out of our apartment and break up. She told me that because she was approaching her 30th birthday, and because she had doubts about marrying me, that she wanted to break up so that she could find someone to marry about whom there were no doubts.

She also told me that she loved me and that she would miss me when she left, but that she didn’t feel like she had a choice. I asked her if she was unhappy, and she told me that she was happy much more than she was unhappy, but that she wanted to be happy more often. I proposed to her to show her I was serious about marriage (I had been planning to do it on our fifth anniversary a month later, but I moved it up), but she declined my proposal. She was also upset because she found an email between me and a female friend in which I had lied about going on a vacation with my girlfriend. I didn’t have a good reason for this, but I also wasn’t doing anything inappropriate with this woman. Needless to say I feel horrible about that email, and I can’t stop wishing that I had simply told the truth.

A few weeks before she told me this, and after she and I discussed the email, she was showing me what type of gemstones she would want in an engagement ring during a visit to the Natural History Museum, and discussing what a wedding could look like with us. She also liked to talk about names for male and female children, and we had a few picked out.

When she was 12, her parents divorced because her father had cheated on her mother with numerous women. My girlfriend’s previous two boyfriends had cheated on her too, and she was highly suspicious of any female friends and acquaintances I had that didn’t date back to before I met her. My girlfriend is also very close to her mom and sisters, and they have a fairly closed relationship that seems like it creates an “us against the world” dynamic, which I think might have been cultivated in the years immediately following the divorce, and which is especially strong because it was created in a female-only household.

One of her major complaints is that I wasn’t closer to her mom and sisters. I tried to create lasting bonds with them, but it was often difficult because of how protective they were, and how this would often turn into unfair judgments that always came down against me.

There were some other issues that I acknowledge were my fault. She complained that I was too negative and too critical of her, and due to some issues with low self-confidence and insecurities about abandonment, I was often not OK with her spending too much time away from me with her friends and family.

But we also had an amazing connection with each other, and even after five years together we could spend an evening making a puzzle or sitting and talking for hours. We had both physical chemistry and an intellectual and emotional bond that had stayed strong throughout the relationship. On our first date we stayed up until 4 a.m. talking in a frozen car. We had a passionate relationship, and she broke up with me twice before, only to get back together with me after a month or two.

Two weeks after she told me she was leaving, and a few nights before she was scheduled to move out of our apartment, everything fell apart. I was so despondent that I was irrational, and I threatened suicide and made her so angry and frustrated that we ended up having a screaming incident in front of our apartment. She left, and I went back inside with the intention of hanging myself. Before I was able to do so, the police showed up to take me to the hospital, but when they heard about the screaming, and saw the broken plate in the sink, they decided to arrest me instead for domestic violence. My girlfriend heard this, and asked them not to pursue any charges, but in our state the authorities are the ones who can decide to press charges even if the woman doesn’t want them involved. The charge was criminal mischief because of the broken plate, which was “mutual property,” and because I broke it, I was charged with the crime, which falls under the category of domestic violence. I never threatened her or even raised my voice, because I was so despondent that I could only beg her to stay and think about suicide if she left. With domestic violence charges comes an automatic restraining order, and I haven’t been able to talk to her since that night.

I was hospitalized after I got out of jail, and I realize how wrong it was to think about and threaten to go through with suicide. However, the legal issues remain. It’s been almost six weeks, and I still am not able to speak to her. Before she left, she mentioned that she wanted to take a three-month break, and then reevaluate her decision to break up, but this was before the law was involved. I’m no longer suicidal, but I’m so depressed, and I miss her so badly, that I can barely function unless it is to think about her, and to wonder what she is thinking and to hope that she misses me. My friends and family tell me to move on, but what keeps me going is the hope that we can still be together again in the future, and that this is just another temporary breakup. This hope comes in part from our past, and in part because of the three-month break that she mentioned. That conversation happened before the law became involved, and I no longer know if that is even something she is considering anymore. I’m afraid that she thinks I am crazy and dangerous, and that she will never want to speak to me again, and that our last moment together will forever be that horrible, traumatic night. If that’s the case, I don’t know how I can ever move on.

I don’t even know what my question is. I guess I’m wondering if it’s foolish for me to hope for her to come back to me, and what I can do in the meantime, and also what I can do if she never comes back to me, or if I never speak to her again.

Help!

Stuck and Depressed

You and she sat in a frozen car and talked until 4 a.m. on your first date. She’s been looking at gemstones. She’s turning 30. She has doubts. You and she have had some conflict.

You got upset and acted irrationally. You threatened suicide. You broke a plate. You acted badly. Does that mean you are insane? Does she need to be protected from you? Have you threatened her? Or did you just freak out?

I don’t know what you should do. I’m just upset.

You do not mention a history of mental instability or suicidal tendencies, and yet all of a sudden you’re in the hospital? Is there more that I do not understand? Maybe you have been depressed for a long time?

I’m upset that a man can be arrested for breaking a plate in his own sink. I’m also upset that my purely human response may be seen as politically naive. What are we to do with our hard-won ambivalence? Can we not contain both a deeply informed concern about domestic violence and also a sense of the absurdities to which the law might descend in reflecting that concern?

It’s not like women don’t need legal protection from violence; it isn’t like women aren’t controlled and manipulated and abused by men in positions of power all the time. And it’s not like relationships are completely private. But this did seem like a private dispute in which one party resorted to threats of suicide and the breaking of plates.

But maybe, just maybe, she saved your life. Were you really going to hang yourself?

It’s sad. I wish you two could patch it up.

Reading your letter, I become weary of our world and its lack of grace and kindness and common sense. I become weary of the absurd ends to which well-meant political progress sometimes leads us. I become weary and sad to think of two people who have a pretty decent relationship but screw it up because of the nagging thought that there must be somebody better out there, that there must be a way to make this thing perfect.

Relationships don’t get perfect ever. Perfect is not a good ideal for a relationship.

It just makes me sad. It makes me sad that you tried to kill yourself.

You are lucky to have these women in your life, and your girlfriend is lucky to have you. It’s not like there are a million really great men out there; it’s not like she can just go and pick one and be off to her perfect life.

Frankly, it strikes me as kind of a sin and a damned shame to throw something like this away.

Now maybe there are things I don’t know. I’m just hearing your side. You’re a guy. I’m a guy.

And maybe there’s nothing you can do. Maybe she’s walking. When a woman walks sometimes that’s it, nothing you can do.

But it sounds like she really loves you and neither one of you has good relationship problem-solving skills, and there’s no reason to believe she’s going to find someone better.

So she has some doubts? So she thinks she’s going to find someone about whom she’ll have no doubts? She may find someone about whom she has no doubts for the first five minutes. But doubt arises when we see someone’s faults, and everyone has faults, so every partner will occasionally have doubts.

I wish there was something I could do. This sounds like an unfortunate breakup.

This is a weird column, isn’t it? Well, I’m in a weird mood. I’m kinda just generally fed up. You ever get that way? It’s nothing in particular, maybe, just a general being-fed-up state. Or maybe it is something particular and just hasn’t come to the surface yet.

I’d like to be more analytical but this just hits me on a gut level. It makes me sad and upset, and I wish there was something I could do. Maybe there is much more pain and anguish in the relationship than appears in your letter. Maybe your behavior was a complete deal-breaker.

If you lived nearby I’d come and talk to you. Seriously, I would.

But all I can say is, I wish there was something I could do. This sounds like an unfortunate breakup, and I hope you two can find a solution.

 Hmm, where do I start?  *&^^*&@#%!!! What the heck? Okay, I’m not going to assume based on the letter that the guy is an abuser, either physically or emotionally. There are some red flags for control issue - not liking her spending too much time with her friends and family, threatening suicide when she wanted to leave. But he claims that there are issues on the girlfriend’s side as well, we don’t know how true this is, or if he is exaggerating. (The way he’s describing her “issues” are super-creepy as well, though. The whole “female-only household”, “us-against-the-world dynamics”, she gets easily jealous because daddy cheated on mommy, and so on. Do you really even like this woman?) But for the sake of argument, and being extra, super, majorly, doubly charitable to this guy, let’s just say there are issues on both sides, and the relationship wasn’t working. She wants it to end, for reasons he thinks are wrong. But dude, people are allowed to break up with you, even for stupid reasons! If she wants to break up because you don’t floss enough, that her freaking prerogative.

So, how does Mr Cary Tennis advise this guy? Does he mention that maybe the guy should continue to get some sort of psychological help? After all, threatening suicide is a serious thing, and the guy didn’t seem like he was just threatening, he seemed ready to do it. Does Tennis advise him to forget his unhealthy obsession with his ex and focus on getting better? Nope. This is the part that just KILLS me:

Reading your letter, I become weary of our world and its lack of grace and kindness and common sense. I become weary of the absurd ends to which well-meant political progress sometimes leads us. I become weary and sad to think of two people who have a pretty decent relationship but screw it up because of the nagging thought that there must be somebody better out there, that there must be a way to make this thing perfect.

But it sounds like she really loves you and neither one of you has good relationship problem-solving skills, and there’s no reason to believe she’s going to find someone better.

You are lucky to have these women in your life, and your girlfriend is lucky to have you. It’s not like there are a million really great men out there; it’s not like she can just go and pick one and be off to her perfect life.

So she has some doubts? So she thinks she’s going to find someone about whom she’ll have no doubts? She may find someone about whom she has no doubts for the first five minutes. But doubt arises when we see someone’s faults, and everyone has faults, so every partner will occasionally have doubts.

WHAT.THE.HELL? I can understand having some sympathy for the guy, he seems to have some major issues, and probably will need major help. And if he was describing the incident accurately, (frankly I have my doubts about this, his story is inconsistent, first there was a ‘screaming incident”, but then he claimed he never raised his voice),, the arrest seems to go too far, especially if the girlfriend doesn’t even want to press charges. But why, oh why, did Cary Tennis bring up the girlfriend at all? Tennis admitted he’s only hearing the story from the boyfriend’s side, yet he doesn’t hesitate to talk about how she’s not going to have a perfect life after this  bla bla bla. SHUT UP about the girlfriend and her life, you don’t know anything about her except what her ex told you!!! Aghhhhhhhhhhhh. This, plus Rush Limbaugh calling a woman “slut”, “prostitute” and “sex-crazed co-ed” for daring to testify in Congress about birth control makes me feel like we’re still living in the Stone Age.

Apologies for the slightly deranged outraged response. I don’t know whether to be angry, or depressed.

Link: http://www.salon.com/2012/03/08/i_broke_a_plate_in_the_sink_and_got_arrested/

The Journalist and The Risks

New York Times’ reporter and Beirut bureau chief Anthony Shadid died on Thursday in Syria while reporting a story due to an asthma attack. (NYT’s story on Shadid’s death: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/17/world/middleeast/anthony-shadid-a-new-york-times-reporter-dies-in-syria.html?pagewanted=all) In March 2011, Shadid was one of four NYT’s journalists captured by forces loyal to the Libyan Government after they were detained at a checkpoint. Their driver (Mohammed Shaglouf) was killed, and the four journalists (Anthony Shadid, Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario and Stephen Farrell) were held captive for six days before the US government negotiated their release. Shadid, Hicks, Addario and Farrell wrote a joint first-person account of their ordeal for NYT right after their release, but I only got around to reading it last weekend (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/world/africa/23times.html?ref=anthonyshadid&pagewanted=all), so it was a shock to read about Shadid’s death so soon after that.

What fascinates me about the joint first-person account is how unsparing the four of them are about what they saw as their own errors and mistakes. (Personally, I thought they were being too hard on themselves. In the chaos of the situation, things look very different than when assessing them during calmer times). This paragraph in particular is something I never thought I’d ever read in any media (Mohammed’s death was confirmed afterwards):

From the pickup, Lynsey saw a body outstretched next to our car, one arm outstretched. We still don’t know whether that was Mohammed. We fear it was, though his body has yet to be found. If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us, because of wrong choices that we made, for an article that was never worth dying for. No article is, but we were too blind to admit that.

Shadid expanded on this in an interview with Mother Jones magazine (http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/anthony-shadid-libya-syria-house-of-stone):

MJ: So how do you determine which stories are worth risking your life for?

AS: I’ve struggled with that question a lot. I don’t think there’s any story worth dying for, but I do think there are stories worth taking risks for. What’s so regrettable to me about Ajdabiya [where Shadid was kidnapped] was that I didn’t feel like that story was worth taking that risk for, and I was too late in understanding that, and at great cost: the cost of our driver’s life. That’s something that all four of us have to live with. I took great risks when I went into Syria illegally and without a visa. That was probably one of the greatest risks I’ve ever taken as a journalist, but that story felt as if it wouldn’t be told if I didn’t go there. That’s the arithmetic that I usually rely on. And those events in Syria over the summer were seismic. It’s a decision that’s a lot easier to make in hindsight. Emotion and, hopefully not, but ambition often get in the way of the judgment. But you go and hope you get it right.

This gets at the difficulty, I think. It’s not always possible for journalists to know in advance which story is worth the risk and which is not. A battle they thought would be decisive to the direction of a war might end up a minor footnote, a source they thought would be valuable and worth risking danger to meet  might turn out to be a dissembler. As Shadid himself said, it’s a lot easier to decide in hindsight. I’ve become more and more cynical about journalists and the news media as I got older, it’s easy to forget that there are still many, many journalists like Anthony Shadid, risking their lives every day.

In an interview with Columbia Journalism review, Shadid had this to say about another peril of being a journalist(http://www.cjr.org/feature/what_he_knew.php?page=all):

The thing I see so often, especially with foreign correspondents, the longer they do this, the more the story becomes about them. I think it’s almost unavoidable for some of these guys who stay there for as long as they do. They’ve seen so much, they’ve experienced so much, they’ve talked to so many people, that in some ways to them it feels repetitive. Their own experience is so much more interesting and compelling. Which is a disaster; the antithesis of what we should be doing as foreign correspondents. It should be about the people we cover. That lesson gets lost over time. It is cynicism.

Prayers and condolences for Anthony Shadid’s family.   

Other links:

NYT obituary: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/17/world/middleeast/anthony-shadid-reporter-in-the-middle-east-dies-at-43.html?ref=middleeast

Interview with Terry Gross, reflecting on Arab Spring and his capture: http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=144064191

NYT’s articles written by Shadid: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/anthony_shadid/index.html

I Wish This Movie Is Real!

“From the people who brought you universal health care, and the huge backlash to universal health care, comes the incredible true story….” Heh.

I mean, how cool is this sidekick?! Move over Geoffrey Rush, Joe Biden is in the house!

And from the department of “Wait, this is real???” Yup, that’s his birth certificate. I guess if you can’t make them stop, you should just make fun of them.