Football

Yesterday, Steve and I went to a 49ers game. It’s not that I dislike football or that I don’t understand it, it’s just that I think it’s a little overwrought.

During the first half, our neighbors got my commentary, which included “Delay of game is a pretty rich call in football” and “That was a stupid kick” and “No, I don’t think the cheerleaders are upset because they aren’t wearing warmer clothes. I think they’re upset because they make less than minimum wage.”

During the second half, my commentary got a lot darker and I don’t think our section appreciated hearing about how football is exploitative of the players and the working class. All the money and industry and infrastructure takes advantage largely of people from lower economic classes. (Just like the lottery.) Sure, they choose to play and maybe they love to play, maybe not. But, in light of new research about concussions and the extreme likelihood that even a player who never has a “major” injury will end up with pretty severe brain damage, don’t you think the owners have the far better deal?

What is going on?

I was listening to the radio yesterday (I don’t usually like listening to non-music in the car on the way to a race, but Steve left it on KQED) and they were talking about some square with tents pitched where the police were violently cracking down on democratic protesters in clashes across the country for the third day in a row.

And, I thought are they talking about UC Davis? Or Cal? Or Oakland? Or Wall Street?

Since I missed the start of the segment, it took me awhile to realize they were talking about Egypt.

They next went into a discussion about the Occupy protest that, even on KQED, didn’t use the same rhetoric. Instead, they discussed police having to “disperse” student protests for “health and safety concerns” by “nudging them with batons” and “cleaning out” encampments.

I’m pretty sure if you saw this video coming out of Egypt instead of  UC Davis, you would be righteously outraged at the police:

And, I’m pretty sure nudging with batons was once known as beating with clubs.

Like Colbert said, I don’t know how much more nudging those students can take.

And, I’m pretty sure the Davis students were causing far less of a health and safety issue than the police who were enlisted to clear the “disturbance” from campus. And, I’m pretty sure the student trouble-makers that were beaten by police at Cal last week weren’t just student trouble-makers and characterizing them as such is a disservice not just to the 70-year-old Poet Laureate  poet and his wife who were also hurt by police, but to the whole point.

I don’t particularly think that things are as bad as Egypt (duh) and I’m not a big fan of blaming “the media,” since we’re not a single unit that gets together for weekly meetings, but when an English professor is dragged across the grass by her hair at your school known for being tolerant and sitting students are blatantly pepper-sprayed — and the administrator defends the action — and a war vet’s skull fractured by a tear gas canister, you have to wonder if the coverage would be different if it was part of a democratic dominoes falling in an “Arab Spring.”

It’s not that I necessarily think all the protesters have the most pure of reasons (I’m sure some people in the 60s were just there because it was the cool thing to do too) and it’s not that I necessarily enjoy drum circles and it’s not that I necessarily totally know exactly what calls for action are being made.

But, we are the United States. We understand non-violent protest and conflict resolution and campus police (at least at Cal) don’t do much besides harass cyclists. At the very, very least, we’re a country that should be cynical and world-weary enough not to bat an eye if people want to link arms across a plaza or pitch tents in New York. The only people that don’t know that beating down protests just gives them a second life are people that hope to squash them so violently so as to stop them permanently. In other countries, they have another word for that. So, what is going on?

It doesn’t feel like our country.

This I Read This Week

The other night, while I was sitting and eating leftover Oreos and drinking the leftover margarita mix (which doesn’t really go together, fyi, but I was powering through) and watching Law and Order reruns, I realized: this is what people do.

I haven’t really gotten motivation back to train yet: I ran yesterday and I mountain biked another day this week and I haven’t swum in four weeks, so I’ve got some free time. And, coming down off of a relatively completely insane month, means I’ve finally caught back up at work and I’ve got some free time.

So, in lieu of an awesome story about how awesome my life is, here are some of the things I’ve been reading about.

Everyone on the facebook was talking about this video of the cops beating people at the OccupyCal protest:

To me the crazy thing was that the OccupyCal protest was really no different than lots of other protests I saw at Cal and, actually, looked pretty sad and small earlier this week. And, the cops never attacked anyone in the four years I was there even at the bigger protests. So, why now?

(The cops did have to get out the riot gear during Steve’s freshman year when some of the kids from a local high school were denied entrance at a fraternity dance and proceeded to riot and throw newspaper stands through the windows of the yogurt shop.)

Then, of course, everyone on the TV was talking about the the protests at Penn State this week:

Which, of course, were absurd and sad in their misguided sentiment, but when everyone on The View and the Daily Show went on about how no one was protesting the sexual assaults, did they think that through? You generally only have protests when there are two sides to an issue and who did they think was arguing that what happened was ok? Even the entitled, self-involved students tipping over media vans weren’t saying it was ok, they were saying (sorta) that maybe the wrong person was being scape-goated.

[Side note: Let’s not call it a “sex scandal,” that was the same term used when Anthony Weiner tweeted a picture of his underwear. That just cheapens what happened to the kids.]

That meant the most popular thing being shared on the social media this week was this story about the Penn State v. Cal protests.

Everyone from Cal thought the article was great.

Why the Casey Anthony Verdict Should Actually Make You Feel Good About the American System

OK, yes, you’re right, she probably did kill her daughter. And cover it up. And it was insane and terrible.

And, no, I don’t know a ton about the case — other than what I gathered from The View and bits of MSNBC before changing the channel.

But, that’s the point: I don’t know a ton about it, I didn’t have to listen to arguments from both attorneys and look at evidence. It doesn’t matter what I think, because here, in the US, you’re not subject to mob judgements.

You are subject to a premise of innocence, even if you don’t deserve it, and you have the right to a standard of proof that was not met in this case.

Yes, she probably did it and in Italy that would have been enough to convict her from the start, but here, probably isn’t good enough.

And, I’m ok with that.

If you concede that we will not, as a country or a justice system, be accurate 100% of the time (and we won’t because regardless of what CSI tells you, it’s pretty impossible), then the only question that matters is which side would you rather err on?

I don’t want tons of guilty people going free — hell, I don’t really want any guilty people going free — but I would rather some guilty not be punished than some innocent be locked up. [And, if you’re not ok with that, then you should decide what friends and family you’re ok with being wrongfully convicted?]

It is the price we pay for our freedom: the knowledge that we are less safe for it.

(I mean, my god, have you never read like any book ever?)

Innocent until proven guilty is a powerful thing and it does not exist everywhere and it does not exist without our belief in it. We could lock up everyone who seems suspicious or everyone who fits a certain profile. We could skip the whole trial thing and just send dissidents off to work camps. We could presume guilt – otherwise why would they have been arrested in the first place – and require someone to prove their innocence; it’s a system that is widely used in other countries.

(I don’t know a ton about the Amanda Knox case either, but I know it wouldn’t have met the standard of proof in the United States.)

But, we are better than that. We are braver and stronger than that. Even when it is hard – and I have no doubt it is hard right now for friends of family of the little girl who was killed – we are willing to believe in innocence; it is a cornerstone of America.