Mr. Jones

by The Augustan on 09/29/2014

Last week, I viewed a video from a South Carolina state trooper’s dashboard camera that I found deeply troubling (watch it here). In the video Sean Groubert, a 31-year-old trooper, shot 35-year-old Levar Jones during a traffic stop for a seatbelt offense. One of the most disturbing aspects of the video was that the last of four rounds fired at Levar Jones was while his hands were visibly raised.

Levar Jones was unarmed. 

Admittedly, Mr. Jones did reach into his vehicle after being instructed to produce his license. One might argue that was Mr. Jones’ mistake, but does a person reaching into their vehicle after being asked to present their license undoubtedly mean that they are preparing for a gunfight? 

I often leave my wallet in the cup holder of my car after purchasing food at a drive thru. Faced with the same situation, I would have made the same motion as Mr. Jones.

That is what scares me. 

While I recognize that many police officers have lost their lives during traffic stops, to what degree are individual citizens held accountable for a police officer’s past experiences? Is it fair, or rational, for a citizen to be treated with hostility because of the behavior of others? South Carolina Department of Public Safety Director, Leroy Smith, arrived at the following conclusion:

“…Mr. Groubert reacted to a perceived threat where there was none.”

Certainly it is worth exploring exactly what law enforcement officers perceive as threatening. 

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What’s the Real Issue Here?

by The Augustan on 09/22/2014

Have you ever listened to someone share their opinion on an extremely controversial topic and had a nagging suspicion that they were not being completely forthright? Perhaps you had a feeling that they had a motive they were unable or unwilling to communicate?

Frankly, there are times when I am not completely forthright about the reasons behind my actions. 

It is nearly impossible to prove whether or not someone is being truthful about their motives; however, I suspect that many people routinely conceal them. Freedom, patriotism, and religious doctrine are ideas that can easily be manipulated to disguise less virtuous motivations such as hatred and intolerance.

When asked directly, some may offer logical explanations for their views that, while plausible, somehow seem insufficient.

It points to something beneath the surface.

How often are people straightforward about exactly what is driving them? I cannot say for certain, but I have a hunch that the issues that people are most passionate about, and consequently fuel the longest-lasting debates, have far less to do with the issue itself and more to do with the motives that people seldom confess.

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Floyd Mayweather Jr., ISIS, and the Counterpunch

by The Augustan on 09/15/2014

In the ring, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a tactician. One of his particularly effective moves is retreating to the ropes, dropping his hands, and leaning forward. With his face entirely unguarded, he appears to be an ideal target.

But is he?

Along with being a skilled pugilist, Mayweather is known for being an antagonist. He stirs his opponent’s emotions by taunting them. They are so eager to knock him out that they attack recklessly and find themselves caught with multiple counterpunches.

In light of the horrific beheading of reporter James Foley, is there a lesson that can be learned from a boxer’s tactic? Boxing, like any form of combat, is a contest of strategies.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, is a violent extremist group that uses acts of terror to accomplish their agenda. But could they be as calculating as they are barbaric? While politicians and pundits debate how our military should  respond to ISIS, have they considered if our military should respond? There is no question that ISIS should be eliminated. That said, we should think deeply about what ISIS is trying to accomplish.

Perhaps there objective is to distract us from other terrorist activities or provoke a direct military attack? After all, civilian casualties have proven to be a compelling recruitment tool for extremist groups. It is possible that a direct military attack is the appropriate response to ISIS. It is also possible that ISIS is just another demented terrorist organization motivated by religious extremism.

That seems apparent.

Mayweather’s opponents frequently make the mistake of not looking past the obvious when he taunts them, retreats to the ropes, and leaves his face unguarded. Hopefully, our eagerness to defeat ISIS will not leave us reeling from a counterpunch.

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