“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
On August 9th last year Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown and ended his life. The fall out from this event has been tremendous. Riots, looting, protesting (some peaceful and some not), police officers being killed or wounded, political figures have taken advantage of photo ops with their hands up, #blacklivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter, and the list goes on and on and on...
Have we learned anything? I wish we had! I fear we have not.
There are some things we should have learned:
It gets worse, just the other day two police officers were shot while doing their jobs outside the police department. The officers were across the street from a "peaceful protest". The details are not out yet, but the shooter has confessed.
Protests have happened, people have been shot, businesses have been ruined (looting), charlatans have profited, hashtags have been developed, and politicians have had their photo ops, now what?
It is probably safe to assume that no apologies from Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the various media outlets, the politicians, or anyone else are coming. Should we just go on with our lives and forget about it? What about the alleged racism in the Ferguson police department?
Certainly the statistics the justice department provided in their report about the racism in the Ferguson police department justify everything, right? Absolutely not. Let's just assume that the justice department report does prove racism. That does not justify using Darren Wilson to promote the agenda. If racism in the department was so rampant and fighting racism is the agenda, it should not be hard to find one, two, or many incidents to promote the agenda...if it is justified. Instead, the "hands up don't shoot" narrative was built on lies. The justice departments report was based on traffic stops, arrest rates, and so on. John Lott and Thomas Sowell have both taken a look at the report and they raise some important questions. The statistics in the report don't tell the whole story and the conclusion may not be warranted.
This doesn't mean that the Ferguson police department is without blemish. There were 7 emails between 2008 and 2011 that were racist and disgusting. It is curious that there were not any emails after 2011, I'm not sure what to make of that. What happened the last three years? Furthermore, I would assume there were thousands of emails over that period, I am surprised they only found 7 that were racially objectionable. Resignations followed the report, but that should not necessarily be taken as a sign of the reports truth. I would have resigned to avoid the media and political pressure even if I thought the report was fallacious.
Is there racism? Yes, but I'm not sure if the Ferguson police department as a whole is guilty of racism. Darren Wilson wasn't guilty of racism. Attacking those innocent of racism doesn't make things better, it makes things worse. Should you need evidence, just take a close and honest look at Ferguson.
The world is a messy place. I don't mean the earth or nature, I mean the world in more general terms. That is I mean the world filled with people, culture, as well as the physical earth; it's messy. Interaction between humanity and the rest of creation is messy as well, but I am not referring to oil spills or other similar things. I mean the interaction between humanity and creation is a very difficult thing to manage, if not impossible. All of it is messy!
I have argued in previous posts that Christians have a responsibility to take care of the environment, but this must be done with an understanding that there will be a new creation and with the understanding that the earth, the environment, is a resource to be used FOR people. I also argued that God is more concerned about people than He is about the earth. This does not mean people ought to trash the earth; instead, it suggests that there is a hierarchy of values and God values humanity more than He values the rest of creation.
This brings me to the main point of my post. I drive old vehicles. Who doesn't want a back up camera, a car you don't have to fix, or a wifi hotspot everywhere you drive. I want those things. No, I drive old vehicles because it is what I can afford. There are some things that come along with old vehicles including the fact that they need to be fixed and quite frequently they don't pass emissions. Emissions are designed to protect the environment and that is a good thing in and of itself. Last week I took our old 1999 Suburban with about 240,000 miles on it to get the emissions tested. It FAILED. I replaced the spark plugs and the wires and took it back...it almost passed, but it FAILED. I did some more research regarding why I was failing the test and found that I needed a Catalytic Converter. The details are less important than the cost. If I had a garage, I could fix this myself and it would cost about $300. However, I don't have a garage, and most poor people don't either. Even if they do have a garage, many of them may not have the skill necessary to do it themselves. The price goes up drastically if you have to pay someone else to do it. I called around a little bit and found the cost to be over $1,000 initially. Eventually I found someone who is able to replace the part for $600. What is my point?
My point is simple. Protecting the environment is important, and Christians have a responsibility to do so. However, tradeoffs are required. If a poor person finds a way to purchase a car that runs, there is a pretty good chance that it won't pass emissions at some point. I am not rich, but I can afford to get my care fixed. A car could be the difference between being employable or not. A car could be the difference between kids attending a neighborhood school that is vastly underperforming or being able to open enroll in a school where a child can pursue a better education. A car, for many people, is an important part of becoming a productive member of society. Emissions testing doesn't hurt people like me, and maybe not you. But for the person who can barely afford a car emissions testing could hinder them from being able to work, pursue a good education for their children, or a host of other things. No emissions - no tabs, not tabs - no insurance, no insurance - no driving. Or if a person drives anyway, they are putting others at risk.
What's the solution? I'm not entirely sure. I don't want to pollute the earth. I also don't want to pretend that there isn't a trade off. Higher standards on car emissions and all kinds of other environmental regulations have a detrimental effect on the poor. There is a trade off! Perhaps the beginning of a solution is to stop pretending that these policies don't have economic repercussions, especially for those who are at risk.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.