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Thanks Obama

I am going to have to try my best to be vague in order to protect the privacy of certain individuals, so bear with me.  I am a government contractor, which often leaves me waiting until the last minute to find out if my contract has been extended and I still have a job.  I’m not faulting my contracting company, as this is just the way it’s done.  To their credit, I have never been out of work due to last minute renewals not going through as planned.  Not everyone in my building is as lucky though; contracts end all the time and some without much warning.  Last week, one was forced to put their employees on furlough “until further notice” because the funding was not approved and they have no way to pay their employees until it is.

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Naturally, the affected employees were upset, and they had every right to be.  One took to Facebook almost immediately to voice her disappointment.  Her comment got feedback as you would expect, but one person (I’ll name him Bob) went slightly overboard.  Bob was also affected by the furlough and was apparently more upset than anyone could have imagined.  His comments were not only inappropriate, they were threatening towards important people in the United States.  Word got back to his supervisor about what was said, because it’s Facebook and you can’t say anything on there without the whole world finding out.  I heard rumors that the FBI and the Secret Service were both notified and looking for Bob.  I heard for sure that both of his supervisors suggested he be dismissed immediately, as employees that say what he said should not be employees for the government.  The whole thing is a mess.

Apparently, Bob went to the hospital shortly after stirring things up with his comments.  The general opinion is that he did this in order to explain the comments away as some sort of temporary insanity.  That opinion is just that, and he could be genuinely sick for all I know.  From the feedback I’ve heard and the remarks from those involved, it’s not looking as though it will matter what frame of mind he was in when he said what he did.  Regardless of intent, he made threats.  I highly doubt Bob would have gone through with anything, but one look at the front page of any news website or paper will tell you that we’re no longer allowed to go easy on people and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Too many psychos in the world are causing irreparable damage for anything to be ignored at this point.

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What did surprise me though, which may reveal my naivety, is that Bob is very likely without a job now because of a Facebook post.  I recently made a comment on Twitter that sometimes I’d like to throw people out of windows when they get on my nerves.  I will go through life without throwing a single living thing out of a window though; it’s normal for us to turn to social media when stressed in order to vent.  If my comment was about throwing my boss out of a window, would that be a threat?  Would I lose my job?  It’s a strange thing to think about, but offhand remarks about harming others are taken much more seriously now that we know that people exist that will be more than happy to follow through with a vengeance.  If I posted about throwing my boss out a window, and then I did so, the first thing people would cry out is “why wasn’t anything done to her when she made those threats??!?”

Bob behaved like an idiot and unfortunately he and his family are currently paying the price.  People are going to say awful things about he and his wife as they try to navigate through this mess.  It’s unfair and could have easily been prevented had he just watched what he said or simply said it in the privacy of his home rather than a public website.  Freedom of speech only goes so far.  There are things you just can’t say.  I can say Obama Sucks until I’m blue in the face, but I can’t say I’m going to track him down and do something awful without suffering some sort of consequence.  I might know that I’m not being serious, but how is anyone else to know unless they check me out?  I’m curious to know what you think.  Where do we draw the line with critiques on our government and officials?  What is okay to say and what is crossing the line?  How should we decide what is a serious threat and what is just someone blowing off steam?

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The View From Where You Stand

When Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her daughter Caylee, my heart skipped a beat and I immediately felt angry.  When it was announced that she was found not guilty of even manslaughter and child neglect, I was enraged.  Casey did a great job of portraying herself as a selfish woman who was not prepared to raise a child and who was not quite ready to grow up and accept the responsibilities of adulthood.  The media overwhelmed the public with all the juicy details of Casey’s private life; incriminating photos, rumors from friends, facts from family members and employers.  Casey easily became one of the most hated women in this country.

After the verdict was handed down and Casey was to become a free woman, the collective rage of the public was palpable.  People needed someone to blame.  The court found Casey to be blameless in the eyes of the law, save for lying to law enforcement, and we had been blaming her all along anyway.  The natural scapegoats were the jurors assigned to this trial.  People were outraged that this group of 12 let a murderer walk away after killing a child.  How could they come to such a decision when it was obvious to US that she killed her baby?  These people truly were clueless, heartless bastards.

Jurors have been banned from restaurants, insulted and threatened online, and shunned by family members. One woman quit her job and moved out of Florida because she was afraid for her life.  Nearly every day I check the news websites, there is a story on a juror and the hardships they now face for being associated with this trial.  The hatred and anger that should be reserved for other parties has now landed solely on the shoulders of these jurors.

Personally, I was outraged at the verdict and initially couldn’t understand why she was acquitted of murder and not charged with manslaughter or neglect.  That being said, it’s understandable that Casey was allowed to walk free.  An anonymous juror told People Magazine that the vote to convict Casey of lying to the police was easily 12-0, while the vote to convict her of murder went from 10-2 to acquit to all voting for acquittal after 30 minutes.  The manslaughter charge went from a split decision, to 11-1 to acquit, and finally to 12-0 to acquit in what was called a very difficult decision.  Every single juror interview I have read or seen has included a variation of the statement “I wish we could have convicted her, but the evidence just wasn’t there.”  That may sound like a cop-out to many of us who have had full internet and TV access throughout the trial, but it makes perfect sense to the sequestered jury who had to go solely off of the evidence provided by the prosecution and the defense.  Every single one of those jurors could have thought Casey was a murdering cold-hearted sorry excuse for a parent, but that doesn’t mean a damn thing when it comes time to handing down a verdict.  The only thing that matters is what was presented to them in court, and what was presented was a very weak case by the prosecution.

If we are going to be angry, let’s get angry at the prosecution for not presenting a better case.  Even better, let’s be angry that a small child lost her life.  Let’s get mad over the fact that it took far too long for Caylee to be reported missing because no one seemed to care enough to speak up.  Let’s be angry that a murderer, whether it’s Casey or someone else, is walking free after committing such a vile act.  I truly hope that this case serves as a learning experience for the prosecuting team and that next time around, they are able to build a solid case that finds the guilty party guilty and provides proper punishment.  I also hope that people refocus a bit and stop blaming the jury for doing the only thing they could have done, handing down a not guilty verdict while knowing the public would hate them for it.  These people performed their civic duty to the best of their ability and don’t deserve this backlash of anger and hatred.  Let them move on.

Pointing Fingers

Last Saturday, the stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed after failing to withstand gusts of wind at 60 to 70 miles per hour.  A friend of mine was about ten feet from it and said it happened without warning; the sky got dark and a sudden gust of wind toppled the state.  Twitter was flooded with updates on the injured and deceased, pictures and videos of the collapse, and various prayers and well wishes.  Five people lost their lives as a result of the collapse, many others were injured.

Let the blame game begin!  AccuWeather meteorologist Mike Smith told CBS News that “it was very predictable.  We put out a warning for 60 mile-an-hour winds a full half-hour before the stage collapse occurred.”  A groundskeeper, Roger Smith, said “it’s pathetic. It makes me mad, those lives could have been saved yesterday.”  Anyone who has had a concert cancelled on them can tell you how annoying it is; dealing with ticket refunds and reissues, having your plans blown for a reason that never seems good enough.  I guarantee that if the area was evacuated and nothing but a few raindrops fell, people would be irate at having to inconvenience themselves and move out, delaying the Sugarland show for no good reason.  The stage was in good condition, the crew gave the crowd a warning that an evacuation may be necessary, and they were in communication with the National Weather Service; while it’s sad that people lost their lives, it was hardly anyone’s fault but Mother Nature.

Of course the situation is sad and of course it would have been wonderful if it could have been prevented or if the area had been cleared prior to the collapse.  Sadly, tragedy isn’t always avoidable.  After Katrina hit, people blamed Bush for not liking black people (thank you, Kanye) and for not better preparing for the hurricane to strike, they blamed the government as a whole for not responding in what they deemed a proper way, they blamed residents for not evacuating sooner.  It seemed as though the blame was everywhere but on the environment that constructed a deadly storm and blew it towards Louisiana, a place where many cities are below sea level and are susceptible to flooding.  Shit happens and when it does, it doesn’t tend to take your feelings into consideration while it travels down its destructive path.  Until we find a way to control the weather, we need to accept that not everything can be prevented, and in some situations the only thing we can do is react after the fact.

Using blame as a coping mechanism isn’t a good way to deal with a tragic event.  For those who are currently dealing with the loss of friends and family or are worried about injured folk in the hospital, I feel for you.  To those who were at the fair and are shaken up, I understand it’s hard.  That being said, it’s no one’s fault and attempting to find a person or source to place blame upon is a pointless exercise.  Are you really going to get angry at meteorologists, people who have the only job in the world where you can be wrong half the time and not be fired?  Or be angry at the crew who did their best to keep people safe while attempting to ensure the show went on?  Nothing is accomplished by slamming people for not doing what you think would be appropriate.  They did their job to the best of their ability and sadly it wasn’t enough to prevent injuries and deaths.  Maybe the entire show should have been cancelled and everyone sent home, maybe the crowd should have taken it upon themselves to leave the fairgrounds, and maybe the crew should have evacuated people 5 minutes sooner.  All those maybe’s don’t change what happened though, so maybe we should accept what happened as an unpreventable act of nature and maybe we should learn from it and be better prepared for the next storm rather than waste our time seeking out a scapegoat.

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