When I don’t know what else to do, I like to take walks. Or write. Yesterday, I did both.
The walk had to come first, because I find it helps me think a bit more before attempting to just pound out random thoughts. That’s always a good thing.
And the cool, cloudy conditions were definitely a factor in my brisker-than-normal pace, particularly when I’d already come to realize I was too far from home to go back and get long pants.
As I pondered our troubled world, a couple of miles in, I spotted a large, red sign planted on the lawn of a home in a modest neighborhood. “Drive like your kids live here…” the message read, an obvious inference to slow down in this residential area. Soon I noticed others just like it, dotting the street. It made me wonder if something had happened there recently, possibly involving a careless driver and an innocent child.
Forgive me for jumping to conclusions. Like everybody these days, I want answers to questions even when they aren’t readily available. Knee jerk reactions are always easier than thoughtful discussion, especially in this “We want to know now!” world.
Another mass shooting last week brought no shortage of reactions. Sadly, most of them felt recycled. We all know the routine by now. The shock and disbelief followed by thoughts and prayers followed by anger. The Second Amendment lovers going toe to toe with those convinced America needs greater gun legislation. Or if nothing else, at least the opportunity to discuss the matter.
But 58 more people are gone. Over 500 injured. Countless others affected by one man’s decision. Oh wait…even that becomes debatable.
Before long, the conspiracy theorists will present all sorts of possibilities: The shooter wasn’t alone. He got help from ISIS. He was a Democrat who wanted to take out Republicans at a country concert to ultimately promote gun control. He was a Republican who loved guns. He was lonely. He was a psychopath.
Don’t get me wrong. I like intelligent, curious people not afraid to ask questions. So all of these possibilities are fair game for discussion. It’s not the theories I oppose. It’s the conclusions we like to draw, based on our already biased agendas.
It feels like the perfect storm. We want answers and there are plenty of places to find them quickly. We particularly like being right. So we gravitate to websites, blogs or TV channels that tell us what we want to hear, even if there are questions that can’t be answered immediately. We feel empowered now to post “Click if you agree” messages, seeking greater confirmation of our superiority. Find enough people to like it and there’s no stopping us. Disagree and face the sudden insults and humiliation of your “ignorance” from our internet posse.
That’s where we are now. Civility is long gone. We’re too fearful and distrusting of opposing views because we’ve been told there’s so much “fake news.” Yet we’re too impatient and defensive to find out we might occasionally be wrong.
I was struck by the public’s response to three stories last week, all of them involving women.
NFL Quarterback Cam Newton made headlines when he smirked and laughed at a female reporter’s question regarding the “physicality” of his wide receivers’ route running. Newton took enough heat to lose one of his sponsors and days later issued a video apology. While I appreciated the fact that he seemed contrite and the message was unscripted, I had little sympathy for him. Her question was legitimate, her approach professional and she was simply doing her job. In my eyes, Newton was smug, sexist and unfairly embarrassed the woman.
Yet reaction was surprisingly mixed. Many blamed the reporter. Some felt she was seeking attention or should have had a thicker skin. Fans of the star athlete complained that he was “getting picked on.” Others simply had no time for the media, in general.
Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was also under fire, following a New York Times report that detailed nearly 30 years of sexual misconduct. Like Newton, Weinstein admitted his bad behavior, sought forgiveness from the public and immediately began to suffer some consequences: officially dismissed from his own multimillion dollar company with more serious charges forthcoming.
Again, reaction varied, but this time producing a silly political spat that took attention away from the real point: That unsuspecting women had been subjected to inappropriate and in some cases, criminal behavior by a sleaze bag who used his power to curry favors.
Instead of focusing on the victims, many dug up the usual dirt. Tying liberals to Weinstein and wondering why their condemnations hadn’t come faster. Or tying conservatives to Trump and seeing their condemnations of Weinstein as hypocritical following the President’s discretions that came to light during the campaign last fall.
Even more disturbing though, was the tired, old belief that somehow some of these women were only “getting what they deserved.” Weinstein is a liberal, rich, white guy. Trump is a conservative, rich white guy. Bill Cosby is black, Bill Clinton is white. Forget which side you’re on for a moment. ALL of them should be condemned for their bad behavior.
Finally, my last observation involved a happier story, but in my mind, deserving of greater recognition.
A week ago, the Minnesota Lynx won their fourth WNBA championship in the last seven years, a remarkable achievement for any pro franchise. Their clinching victory came just one day after our local baseball team, the Minnesota Twins, had their surprisingly successful regular season end abruptly with a playoff loss in New York.
As a former sportscaster and big fan of both squads, I was thankful for the joy they brought this summer to a market seemingly always starved for success.
It is indisputable that the Twins draw more fans, have been around much longer and generate far more revenue than the Lynx. I own Twins’ partial season tickets, while I seldom attend Lynx games. The difference is evidenced by the reality that is women’s basketball. They play second fiddle to the men’s teams, get pushed around to whatever date and location is available and often perform in nearly empty, outdated arenas. Nobody is debating that.
So it’s apples to oranges. But what continued to surprise me was how often many were quick to dismiss the latter’s accomplishments following the elimination of the former. Mostly men.
“Nobody cares about the Lynx,” wrote one guy on a Facebook post. “Yawn,” was another. I even had one friend seem almost ashamed to admit he’d attended the game. Wow. I wondered why this level of hate. Was it about gender? Race? Just disdain for the game as a whole?
I covered women’s basketball in the 1980s, at all levels. The product was nothing like what it is today. If you caught any of the five games in the final series, you know what I mean. Minnesota and Los Angeles were evenly matched, had two games decided in the closing seconds and delivered high-level excitement and entertainment.
Admittedly, we all have our own tastes and interests, so my goal is not to convince you to tune in. But you might be surprised if you did.
Which brings me back to that red sign I noticed on my two hour, head-clearing walk. I kept thinking about those words… “like YOUR kids live here.”
I wondered if you might be more inclined to slow down and listen to as many viewpoints as possible, if those had been YOUR kids at that Las Vegas concert.
Regardless of your perspectives or biases, I wondered if you’d still feel Cam Newton was being picked on, had that reporter been YOUR daughter.
I wondered if you’d be so quick to post political perspectives or blame victims if that had been YOUR daughter auditioning for Harvey Weinstein.
And I wondered if you might be inclined to begrudgingly share more pride in those four WNBA championships, if by chance it was YOUR daughter on that team.
By the time I turned the corner and caught a glimpse of our driveway, I realized a few things had changed. The sun was out, it was warmer and I no longer needed those long pants. I was also walking much slower. Eight mile strolls will do that to you.