Monday, November 18, 2013

If It Looks Like a Duck...

There’s an old saying that if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. Generally good advice. Especially when dealing with someone who’s trying to BS you. But sometimes, what looks like a duck and walks like a duck isn’t actually a duck after all, but is something totally different.

Many people are talking this week about the death of RenishaMcBride, the 19-year-old girl who was killed by a shotgun blast after she went to get help after she was involved in a car accident.

OK…despite the last name of McBride, with a name like Renisha, it’s a pretty sure bet that she wasn’t Irish. I guess you can call that a duck. Apparently, the homeowner who killed her thought that she was trying to break into his house when she appeared at his door at 1.00a. And when you consider that the neighborhood that she was in when she was killed was predominantly white, and that the man who shot her was white, it’s a pretty sure bet that this was a racially-motivated incident. After all, rather than shooting first and asking questions later, he could’ve called 911. Another duck. Another damned white man shoots unarmed black teenager duck.

But wait…as tragic as this is, maybe there’s something else going on. Maybe there’s another explanation.

You see, when I first heard this story, two other stories immediately came to mind. The first was of Yoshihiro Hattori, the Japanese exchange student who was shot and killed in 1992, on his way to a Halloween party, when he accidentally went to the wrong house, and the property owner thought that he was going to attack him and his wife.

The second is the even more tragic story from 1994 of Bobby Crabtree and his 14-year-old daughter Matilda Kaye. Matilda Kaye was shot by her father when she jumped out of a closet and shouted “Boo!” at her parents when they returned home after midnight, not expecting to find anyone home. Her last words were “I love you, Daddy.”

While one might be tempted to say that there was an element of racism involved in the death of Hattori, there is absolutely no way you could say that that was an issue in the death of Matilda Kaye. But there is one thing that all three tragedies have in common: very frightened people who thought that guns would make them safer, and who made split-second decisions that they’ll have to live with for the rest of their lives. Any of these people could’ve stayed safely where they were and called 911, but armed with the best protection they could get, they decided to handle the situations themselves…and tragedy resulted.

Now before the 32% of you who are gun owners think that I’m calling for all guns to be confiscated, let me tell you that nothing could be farther from the truth. I understand that gun ownership is a very nuanced issue, and that “city guns” and “country guns” are two different things. What I’m talking about is the tragedies that occur when well-intentioned, frightened people, shoot first and ask questions later.

So was the shooting death of Renisha McBride racially motivated? You tell me. It certainly looks like a duck and walks like a duck.

But perhaps it was just a very nervous goose, packing heat.

And that’s a recipe for matter what color you are.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Who Cares?

Thanksgiving this year is on November 28th. Practically the latest it can be. And people are panicking as a result. Well, not people in general…retailers. They’re in a panic because with Thanksgiving so late, people won’t spend as much money on gifts. Or at least that’s how the thinking goes.

Now, I can see us regular folks being a little concerned because we don’t have enough time to do stuff to prepare for Christmas between November 28th and December 24th, but that’s only if you feel that you absolutely have to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to get started. I don’t, however see any of the people I know being concerned that the shorter span between this year’s late Thanksgiving and Christmas means that they’ll spend less. In fact, I don’t hear any of them heaving sighs of relief that with a shorter lead-up season, they won’t have to spend as much money as they would had Thanksgiving fallen earlier.

Quite frankly, I just don’t get it. What does when Thanksgiving falls have to do with how much people spend? Are people really that stupid that they’ll spend more money on Christmas gifts if given more time to do it?

I know that I’m not, and that’s because I was trained from an early age about what we used to call a Christmas Club. Now they’re called Holiday Clubs. It’s a special bank account where a set amount of money goes every week or every two weeks, and then at the beginning of November the money from that account is transferred to your regular bank account. It gives you a set amount of money to spend, no matter how many days there are between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That’s right…a set amount. It doesn’t matter how many or how few days there are between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am not going over that budget. Well…maybe I will by a hair, but still, the length of the Christmas shopping season doesn’t matter, because I’m spending the same amount of money, no matter what.

And I admit that sometimes I’ll see something way earlier in the year that I think someone would like, pick it up, and put it in the “Christmas Closet.” But that amount of money still gets deducted from what’s in the Holiday Club account.

The one exception is food gifts. In a bit of creative accounting, they tend to fall under grocery shopping. So if we can pick it, or the ingredients for it, up during our biweekly visit to Price Chopper, it gets in that way. That’s how teacher presents of cookies and coffee cakes are done.

So Thanksgiving is late this year. I don’t care.

After all, November 1st falls the same time every year…and I’m ready!