Several years ago, usually as we were driving the half-hour to or from school, my kids started asking me questions. Questions like:
"If their food is so bad for people, why does McDonald's keep making it? And why do people keep eating it?"
Or, "Why doesn't our school have such-and-such an activity when some other schools have it?”
Or, “If our driveway is so bad, why don't we just get it fixed?"
Smarty-farties despite their Mama.
My answer to all of these questions always boiled down to, of course, money. And so, we began to realize that the answer to most big questions about why the world works the way that it does is just that: Money. Cash. Dinero. Greenbacks. In fact nowadays my 10- and 12- year-olds will frequently start their ‘big picture’ questions to me like this, “I know that somehow the answer is money, but why…..?” (God, I love these kids!)
(Now that we have the soundtrack and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamiltome” book the questions have changed a bit so sometimes the answer to my kids' questions is "ask the book".... but mostly the answer is still $$).
So these past, present and future conversations are in the back of my mind as I grapple with the horrifying events of last week in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas. I listened to a lot of great podcasts and radio reporting (NPR’s Code Switch and Politics, Slate’s The Gist and Political Gabfest, All Things Considered Saturday) about the tragedies. I had a lot of good thinking time doing yoga and running. I had lots of conversation and consternation with my friend as we drove to and from a Black Lives Matter vigil last night.
(BTW - a freaking MONSOON ensued so it was less vigil-y and more good-hearted-people-standing-around-getting-soaking-wet-and-meaning-well-y. But, still, it was a lovely, if squishy….)
Surprisingly, my attendance at said event, my conversations, and my podcast/radio listening did not solve the world’s ills. Huh.
But again, I keep coming back to money. Okay, okay, we need to change the “hearts and souls” of the perpetrators of violence. Yup. Sure do. But when’s the last time you tried to convince a notorious asshat in your life to stop being a d-bag? How’d that go?
Now, consider if you sweetened the offer to the jerk? What if you said, “Say, Cousin Harry, if you can refrain from using misogynistic language in the workplace for an entire week, we will give you a bonus in your paycheck.” Find the right dollar amount and I bet Cousin Harry might try it without making the company go bankrupt. Bonus: women and other humans with any sort of soul can go a week without having to listen to Cousin Harry being horrible.
I know. This is a very simplified example. And I know. Ideally Cousin Harry would stop having such a terrible view on women. But, dammit, if Cousin Harry would shut the heck up about it for a week, then two, and eventually maybe a few months, maybe he would start to feel differently. And, again, everybody else's lives would be vastly improved.
I know change comes from within…. Mostly. But I honestly believe that sometimes change comes from without. (Is that a thing? I don’t know.)
I don’t know exactly how this would translate to police officers and minorities. I think the incentive would have to go toward both parties. Maybe at every interaction where the brown person and a cop get through the process with respectful language and dignity, they both get $50. Maybe that’s discriminatory because it doesn’t apply to not-brown people. Can we figure out a way to make this a universal policy for all people? Obviously there are some kinks to work out....
I wish the problem was, like, Big Bad Corporation or something. We could boycott that. But you can’t boycott the police. (Well, I guess you could, but that would go badly, I think). And you can’t boycott the angry, agitated African American. (S)he needs more of a voice and empowerment, not less.
I don’t know. I’m just spitballing. I think this thing has legs. So, somebody give Obama my cell number and tell him to text me. (I’d talk to Michelle, too, if he’s busy. She’s pretty cool and I could use some tips on her arm workout regimen.)
I'll keep my phone charged.
From one of the whitest states and from one of the whitest ladies,
* "I have honor to be your obedient servant,
P. Van (Scoy-Giessler)"
* It's a Hamilton reference. Honestly if you don't listen to that soundtrack you are not gonna understand ANYTHING I say for the next, oh, 100 years.