Does My Opinion Matter?

I don’t know where to begin.

At times like these, my brain sort of shuts down and doesn’t easily formulate an opinion. I catalogue all of the facts and figures, digest everything from everyone, and I try to see if with time and intense pressure a well rounded opinion is formed – sort of like a pearl.

I don’t usually write pieces on current events unless they’re light-hearted or no longer mainstream. Reason being, I don’t want to be a part of the fray. I don’t like band-waggoning. I don’t like adding fuel to the flame when it comes to responding to ignorant people (who actually aren’t ignorant at all because they have figured out the perfect combination of words and sarcasm to illicit an overwhelming response). I don’t like making my views public on the “trendy” news of the day because (to me) that just makes me another number. If I publish my views on today’s current headlines I’ll just be another person “taking a stand” and “doing what’s right” behind a computer screen. To me this is absolute b***$#!+ because what does a well crafted 50o word or less editorial really do  if that’s the only thing everyone is doing? We are a narcissistic nation. We champion our international advancements, point the finger at each other for our own domestic pitfalls, and yet we portray our views ‘flawlessly’ as we try to garner as many likes and shares as possible in the opinion spouting process.

Trayvon Martin’s case concluded July 13, 2013. Before, during, and after the trial there was such a public outpouring of ‘I am Trayvon‘ pictures and protests and demands for gun reform  it was truly amazing. Our nation spoke up (whether in support of or against Zimmerman) and there seemed to be a sense of change on the horizon. When the jury acquitted Zimmerman of all charges, I was speechless. Trayvon supporters were speechless. Heck, I bet even Zimmerman supporters skipped a breath in surprise for a moment or two.

9 days. Nine days was all it took for our nation to move on from Trayvon. For such a state based issue to get such national attention that the president felt compelled to speak on the matter, it took nine days for our nation to ‘forget’. I remember this clearly. Nine days after the verdict was reached for Trayvon’s trial, Prince George of Cambridge was born – thus effectively diverting American attention overseas. Nine days was all it took for avid Trayvon supporters to drop their hooded pictures and start the self-indulgent game of selfie snapping once again. Trayvon’s case concluded over a year ago, and it seems we’ve taken no steps forward and no steps backwards as a nation. We’ve simply just stopped moving.

Fast forward to a little over a week ago and we’re in the same situation again; only this time there’s a plot twist as the aggressor is a police officer versus an over-zealous member of the neighborhood watch. Michael Brown, is the latest person to make headline news due to the violent way he died. We are going through the same motions as Trayvon. First, public outrage. Second, a trending hashtag/image so that everyone can repost and feel connected to the coverage (this time it’s a ‘hands up‘ pose that’s going viral). Third, character assassination of the victim (police supporters are claiming the officer was responding to a robbery and Brown was the aggressor). Fourth, evaluating the psyche of the perpetrator (soon to come). Fifth, trial and verdict (which will illicit public outrage because I can tell you now the officer will not be charged with 1st degree murder). Sixth, national amnesia as the news cycle will completely move on from this issue and pivot to covering the Middle East or a famous person’s sudden death or a presidential hopeful making another dumb mistake.

It’s ironic really. The people whose views matter most on this topic are staying quiet. The movers, the shakers, the policy makers are surprisingly in unison on this issue of ‘mums the word on the Hill’. Our current Congress has agreed so fleetingly, it has been deemed the slowest moving Congress in 20 years. With all of the time they have on their hands I’m surprised no one has spoken out on the issue. However, I’m sure if this death happened exactly a year from now, 90% of politicians (regardless of party lines) would spread their views far and wide as strong opinions garner votes when campaigning for re-election.

However, beyond the media being in the wrong and politicians staying woefully silent, my biggest issue is with society. It goes beyond the irritation that I have with the people who want to be social media famous off of a tragedy or those who make horrendous statements just to get a rise out of the masses. It’s the irritation that not one, not two, but multiple innocent minority males have been assassinated and all that has happened is that the issue has been reported on. Our attention span has been so flippant as a society, we haven’t evoked real change in decades. Gone are the days where people sacrifice for months, years for a cause. If an issue is not captured in 140 characters or less, we will no longer remember it once the hashtag is no longer a trending topic.

So, you ask, what’s your brilliant solution, Moni? You’ve found all of the problems, but what is a viable solution?

To that I say, “I don’t know”. I don’t know what the answer is. Arresting this officer ensures that he won’t do it again, but it doesn’t guarantee the same thing won’t happen again tomorrow. We could add more black officers to the area, but just because officers of color are present it won’t alleviate the negative stigma for the area. We could start drives and encourage people to vote and change their elected officials, but we all know statistically that will be ineffective as low-income areas do not effectively exercise that right due to the time/financial inconveniences that voting can cause. If Brown had survived, or the officer was not white, would this case be a national issue? No. We are America. Land of the ‘free’, home of the drama. We crave it. We run off of it. This story is a knee-jerker, boosts ratings, and highlights the ugly keloided side of America – that will probably never truly heal.

Highlighting voter education or race relation advancement is not as sexy and eye-catching as racial profiling and rampant gun violence. The looters who are ‘outraged’ are only detracting from the issue at hand. The ‘peaceful’ protestors and overly aggressive police are only showcasing the discord in the area. Until we can revert back to the days of yore and become a nation of doers instead of complainers, we’re going to be stuck. In politics, in the media, in our day to day lives, we’re stuck if all we do is talk about change instead of creating it for ourselves.

What it all boils down to is the fact that unless people rally to actually evoke change instead of rallying for the sake of rallying, nothing will ever change. People have to demand institutionalized change. Through education, voting, and actually understanding how one’s actions can in fact change their environment/their situation, we’ll sadly be stuck in this sick cycle.

Personally, I don’t see myself flying to Ferguson to stay there long enough to see the change they desperately need – hence me standing next to the soapbox instead of on it. If your support will go beyond the trial, beyond the #dontshoot trendability, beyond the well thought out Facebook comment that will gain you at least 162 likes, by all means I support your support of these trying times and am praying for you. However, if you’re just supporting just to say, “I support this cause,” when in reality you’re just expressing a little social media sentiment, please stop. It’s people like you that are hindering the progress of the people who truly care and will fight for the change society needs. You’re a distraction.

What are your thoughts?

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