While I'm on the sick thing: azriona took over a prompt I was supposed to be writing in an exchange and came up with some Mycroft/Lestrade World War II AU that looks quite good. Haven't read it all, but if that's your thing, I do hope you'll check it out, here.
And if that's all you want to read and reply to, you have my full permission to stop reading now. Because as I've gotten a bit back to my real self, I've been thinking more about the horrific news coming out of Ferguson, MO. I don't blame anyone who's had their belly full of the news or simply doesn't have any real interest in reading or thinking about it just now. But I want to talk about it.
Like most people, I'm more than a bit horrified by the news of an eighteen-year-old black man (kid?) shot by the police for apparently no reason. I think I may be more effected than a lot of white people because I live in the Bronx, in a neighborhood that has its share of POC and I see the way policing that falls unheavily on young black and brown (predominantly male) shoulders affects those people and their families and communities. I've seen the frustration and the anger and I've seen the weariness after yet another person from that demographic is shot because he was in the wrong neighborhood or playing his music too loud. It doesn't even have to be gun-related or lethal; the getting stopped by police, the way people hold their bags a bit tighter or look a bit uneasily at them. I'm white myself, but these are my neighbors, the people I go to church with. So yeah, I cried a few tears over this, and yeah, it hit a little too close for comfort. Though I don't want to claim I know anything about how it affects people who actually are racial minorities.
That's when it gets a bit complicated, though. I've described myself as a pacifist and at a practical level I probably am. I can't think of a war in my life that I thought was a good thing, and even with non-war things I definitely think we'd all be safer and better off if we had fewer weapons, less developed weapons, even no weapons at all. But I'm not a complete pacifist. I think there are some situations where violence may be necessary to protect others, like when someone truly can't be reasoned with. I'm just (some would say excessively) aware of the danger of having violence to rely on. Humans are scared, we're apt to fall on self- and other-protection a little too easily, to be ready to hurt someone we don't know or perceive as a threat out of all proportion to the harm they'd actually cause. I also think there's a spiritual (some would be more apt to say psychological or emotional) cost to being prepared to attack someone, even in valid defense.
Which is why I actually really value a competent, proportionate police response to a criminal threat. Because I think innocent life and even property should be protected, I think the rule of law is a good thing and recognize the role well-calibrated violence can have to govern society – but I also recognize that it should be people who are actually well-trained and well-regulated themselves who are providing that. If someone's shooting up a shopping mall, I'd much - much much rather have a police officer responding who knows how to assess the situation and has the training to be an effective defender. Ideally I'd love for him to have the restraint and accountability imposed by the institution, but I'd still rather have an off-duty cop or a retired combat veteran holding the gun than someone who lacked that background. So things like the situation in Ferguson tease out an uncomfortable reality: that not all cops are good cops, and perhaps more troubling, that with the current police being so militarized, the whole idea of cops that protect the community (a key part of what lets me be even partially comfortable in my pacifism) is a mark of privilege. As a white woman in a working-class but one with families and not that far from a posh university, the police probably do actually protect me. That was certainly the case when I was growing up in the suburbs. I don't have to be the one holding the gun in order to feel safe and to think that those people around me are safe, too.
Which is heartbreaking of course. Michael Brown dead and all the people who have died or been injured in the area (and across the country) since then. All the communities where you're just too aware that people see you as a thug because you're seventeen with dark skin, that they see you not as a good kid but as a threat. But also, for me, there's a chink in my comfortable middle class liberal suit of armor. And it hurts quite a bit.
Anyway, I have no real solutions and as I'm still more than a bit groggy from the head cold meds I should probably leave it to smarter people than me to work out what needs to be done. Dialing down the number of military-quality weapons available to SWAT teams in even medium-sized cities (any domestic police force, really) is probably a good start. As is stopping the media narrative that makes cops and civilians think of young African-American (and Latino) boys and men as potential threats wouldn't hurt as well. On a related note, that #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag is well worth looking at, if you haven't already. I personally think that having less of a perception that the people being policed are not only armed but could very well shoot you (talking from the POV of the cops here) would probably do the most good, because I think innocent people have the right to not be harassed by the police, certainly not assaulted or killed, but I also think police have the right to defend themselves against actual threats, not as an either/or thing both a both/and thing – though how to get there, well, damned if I know. This would be the place where I'd put in a despondent, hopeless emoji if I were in a mood to make light, but I'm not.
Btw, if you are looking for something to do:
1) This WhiteHouse.gov petition strikes me as a good idea and on a site that will actually be read by people in power and get a response. US citizens only, though.
2) There's a campaign to raise donations for the St. Louis-era foodbank. This may sound unconnected, but school was out for most of this last week during the riots in Ferguson, and in many poor families kids only eat regularly through subsidized school meals. Plus with the looting that's gone on you can imagine there will be some economic fallout for this community.
I'm sure there are other ways to get involved, political activism and probably donations to Michael Brown's family, but I've not investigated them myself so can't speak to them.
On a perhaps related note, I've been making my way through the Doctor Who episodes, and am right up to "Blink." Meaning I've just watched the "Family of Blood" two-parter, and that voiceover at the end! As an American I've always thought of World War I as such a colossal waist, akin to the Korean War as one best (perhaps all-too-conveniently) left forgotten, not a chance for valor. But of course the cost was so great, even coming out of the Third Reich World War I had such an effect on the German consciousness (where my family is from) and I can only imagine for other European countries it's equally meaningful. I don't know if it's Ferguson having my emotions and frustration over (senseless?) violence a bit ramped up, but... just, God in Heaven. That was As was "42" before it. As was the sheer joy and flirtation and perfect mix of gods and monsters of "The Shakespeare Code." As was the absolute absurd hope of "Smith and Jones" and the beautiful sense of even those first few moments of "Blink" before I decided to turn it off, take a breather, and write this up. Have I mentioned what a Martha fan I am? (I've also not forgotten about the other post I owe replies to, fractalwolf and donutgirl; just not been up to sorting my thoughts into words.) But just luxuriating in the third season has been fantastic, even as I've been sick; it's given me just the right bits of emotions in doses I can absorb to keep my spirits up and keep my brain occupied just enough that I don't drive myself mad.
I actually had plans to go to a press conference with Jena and Peter on the Doctor Who world tour. I am so not press but a friend worked with a group having a few spots to allocate and she somehow convinced her boss I was an influential fandom blogger (being mum on the fandom, and vastly overselling my influence in any case). But I was still so sick I could barely stand up two days ago. Which is a bit of a downer that I missed out on being in the same room with them, but I've never been one for in-person let-me-just-breathe-the-same-air-as-thes