Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Silly season: the over-reaction epidemic

Bud Grose, politics, kids

Forget H1N1: worry about the over-reaction epidemic.

The town of Glenrock, Wyoming, is smaller than the town my grandfather lived in. But when I visited Canton, South Dakota, as a college student, everyone knew that they didn't know me.

"Who's this young lady, Otto?" the clerk asked. "She's my granddaughter," he said, his eyes twinkling. The woman looked a little nonplussed. "Didn't know Dort had kids that old," she said.

"Naw. Not Dort's. I done it twice, you know," he said, taking my arm and the groceries. Before dinner, everyone in town knew my grandfather had been married more than once, and the proof of the pudding was in his living room. The community alert system was activated, and a contingent of the more boldly curious among them knocked at the door. They wanted to take a peek.

I bring this up because as much as times may have changed, it's hard to believe that the Glenrock police officers who tasered 76-year-old Bud Grose didn't know him pretty well when he and a 9-year-old neighbor took his 1959 John Deer tractor on a little detour during the annual Deer Creek Days parade.

It's hard to believe that two young police officers would think they'd need to escalate to using shock weapons to subdue an old man and a little boy, both members of the community.

You'd think that when they couldn't get the pair to change course, they'd figure out the situation might lead to a little traffic confusion and head off to make the best of it. And then scold Bud over the pulled pork and coleslaw later. Maybe write a little ticket, come to that. Or talk to his kids to make sure something wasn't going on with Mr. Grose.

That's how things work when people know each other and have a little common sense.

It's not so hard to believe that Mr. Grose or the boy who was driving might have more than tapped the police SUV that got in their way. Okay: let's say they might have rammed it, as the police say they did. Though I can't imagine my grandfather doing that with his favorite tractor. Still, you never know what's going to happen when folks get their testosterone up.

That's not right either, though you can imagine how satisfying it might be in a frustrated Towanda! sort of way. In my book, damage to vehicles is not as bad as damage to human beings.

Does it seem like people have lost their ability to distinguish what's a little bad from what's a lot bad? What's worth being watchful about and what demands bringing out the tasers or crowds with burning torches?

I'm thinking about the "silly season" response to President Obama's speech to school children. One BrookfieldNow commenter said:

In 20 minutes he could urge children to convince their parents we need socialized medecine. He could promote his image of volunteerism, steering students to his planned civilian national security force. He can promote redistribution of wealth. He can promote global warming/climate change. He has already seized control of banks, auto manufacturers, mortgage industry, and wants to end talk radio and control the internet. We won't know what was in the original talk to students since it is being revised thanks to vigilant parents. His job experience was a community organizer. I have no doubt he would use those skills to influence our youth to follow his lifelong socialist agenda, a little at a time.

Whew. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Anyone who's ever heard presidential comments of this sort -- from any president -- knows they aren't going to go into that territory in this situation. And never would have, vigilant parents or not.

But people seem pumped into a state of exaggerated fear and over-reaction. Despite the evidence of our own lives, most of which are pretty safe, and our experiences with real people, most of whom are pretty reasonable (most of the time), we seem to start from Elevated Alert level yellow and move at any small perception of threat to High Alert orange.

We are scaring our ourselves -- and our kids -- silly.

It might be better to start from blue or green or whatever the real alert level is in Wauwatosa or Brookfield, Wisconsin. Then we might say "listen respectfully to authority figures but keep a large dose of skepticism."

Even for your parents' notions.

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