Originally posted on The Root.
DUMB: Attempting to operate a motor vehicle while focusing on a handheld device.
It’s like drinking and driving minus the flimsy excuse of intoxication and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants to put an end to it. Calling on a battery of experts, elected officials and members of the pulic, LaHood has organized the Distracted Driving Summit, that looks to shed light on the oft-overlooked danger of driving while focused on everything but the road. According to the Department of Transportation website
“Every single time someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road – even for just a few seconds – they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,” said Secretary LaHood. “Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and in a split second, its consequences can be devastating.”
Secretary LaHood today announced new research findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that show nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. On any given day in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.
Across the board, federal researchers who have directly observed drivers of all ages found that more and more people are using a variety of hand-held devices while driving – not just cell phones, but also iPods, video games, Blackberrys and GPS systems. In particular, cell phone use for talking and texting is now more prevalent on our nation’s roads, rail systems and waterways, carrying a dangerous potential for accidents.
Cell phones and texting are now the primary means of communication for many people, especially young adults. NHTSA’s research shows that the worst offenders are the youngest drivers: men and women under 20 years of age.
Kudos to Secretary LaHood for this undertaking. We’ve grown so used to thinking we desperately need information immediately that we’ll willingly put ourselves and others in danger. Across the pond, safety officials have taken a different approach in getting their point across.
The above video has become an internet sensation. Some like it, thinking it sends a gruesome but effective message. Others wonder if the graphic images go too far in proving a point.
I won’t lie: I think this video is fantastic. I was one of those kids whose driver’s ed included the scare ‘em straight accident videos and let’s just say it left a lasting impression.
I desire the better nature of people. I just don’t trust it.
This isn’t an apologia for politicians.
It shouldn’t even be considered a sympathetic explanation for the befuddling way in which they conduct themselves in their profession. Consider this a…pointing out of sorts.
Politics, in all its complexity and nuance, is what politicians do for a living. I don’t mean “living” in that heady, cerebral “This is what I do for a living, baby!” way; I mean when Barack Obama, Max Baucus, Orrin Hatch and friends fill out their tax return, they write “Politicker.”
As politickers, their job is to serve the public, but their interest is to stay politickers as long as they are able. Sure; they maybe want to help people in the best way they see fit, but they definitely want to keep riding in town cars and making bank.
As my Twitter pal and dozens foe Melissa Harris-Lacewell pointed out, political parties are for office seekers. And most office seekers, even if they have a great idea that they truly believe in–like the public option–they’ll buckle with enough pressure. Show me someone who’s ascended to a high office and I’ll show you someone who knows the nature of compromise.
To me, the public option makes sense on every possible level. I have a good idea of what life without taxes would be–atrocious for pretty much everyone–and don’t really care about being taxed so I and others can be well. I literally shrug. If Americans stick together like we supposedly do then everyone has to pitch in. Am I enthused about giving up a few more bucks? Not really, but I spend money on all kinds of things much less worthwhile.
But my support doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t affect my job; I have no reason to be circumspect in that regard.
Politickers can’t say that. Certain support risks a job they enjoy–being full-time politicians and some-time public servants.
Do I wish they would fight like hell? Of course. But I ain’t got nothin’ on it. And as my boy Elon might say, “Real politicians don’t do real things.”
Sounds bleak right? If so, an examination around the room is an order.
Politicians aren’t a different species of human being. They come from among us. And they are not our best.
A great deal of our best and brightest scatter to places unknown–either because they know better or just don’t care–and leave the job of police officer, school teacher and politician, to anyone but themselves.
Jobs which are as necessary as they are thankless are left to the willing. Not the willing and able; the willing. And this willingness runs the gamut from earnest belief in a cause to poorly-veiled self interest. The reward? Power to defray the fundamental thanklessness (except in the case of teachers, who get less professional respect than dockside hookers).
Some ask, “Where are our politicians?” I ask, “Where are our best?”
Jimmy, George, Bill, George and Barack.
The only five men walking the earth today who understand the gravity of being the President of the United States.*
They understand its pressures and privileges; they are acutely aware of what it means to be the most powerful man in the free world.
They are also the only five men in the world who understand what it means to be the world’s most coveted prey each and every day they occupy the office of the president.
The trade for being the world’s most powerful leader is also to be its most prized trophy. As an occupant of the office, death alters history.
Of the five of them, four are ex-presidents. Two are democrats. One is a humanitarian peanut farmer regarded as the ineffectual man who was soft on terror. The other a brilliant and charismatic philanderer who allowed a dalliance to define his presidency.
The other two are republicans; father and son, wealthy members of the American aristocracy whose reach and influence cannot be fathomed by most.
Of the four, only one could hope to stem the tide of threats, both casual and otherwise, against the man who now occupies the office.
George the younger is the voice needed to quell those prone to outrageous exclaim in word and deed because he is the only among them who courted the vote of the type of people who would ask in an open forum poll if a President, the leader of the United States, should be killed.
George, W, ’43, this is where you need to enter the fray. I know you don’t prefer to dabble in politics too much–my guess is that you never had an interest in such things–but the time has come to assert your influence.
Forget politics and ideologies a moment–people are making open threats against the president of the United States and many of them come from your constituency. As a man who held the office, how could you sit silent as people casually threaten this man’s life?
I was in high school on 9/11. When they called an assembly, I thought someone had killed you. You’re a man I neither respected or liked, but in those moments of uncertainty before the real tragedy was revealed, I felt sick. My thought? You do not murder the President of the United States. Whatever the grievance, you do not resort to violence against the president.
Over the years I’ve listened to and dispensed more than a few jokes at your expense, I’ve argued against what I thought to be your other-worldly fuckery, but at no point did I want to see you murdered. Ever.
The seeds you sowed during the days of your president are reaping increasingly strange fruit. The frenzy that you whipped people into; the frenzy that you rode to unprecedented executive powers threatens the man who assumed office after you. The threat has come to one of your own. A president.
*Dick Cheney totally just told me to go fuck myself.
President Obama, apparently not in favor of courting the 5-17 year old voting bloc, wishes to infringe upon the civil rights of youths by insisting on more hours to educate them. In a report from the Associated Press, the president had this to say:
“Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas,” the president said earlier this year. “Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.”
The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.
“Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Somewhere between college and unemployment I became an angry 65-year old Black man because I completely agree with dude (and also think stricter dress codes should be in place as well). I recognize that such a change is not just a matter of flipping a switch–there are obvious budget and personnel issues to work out–but the essence of the argument is solid: Kids should be in school or otherwise structured settings MOST of the time.
As a person who is not far removed from his teen years and a former knucklehead–not in a hard rock kind of way; but in a smarter, non-dyslexic Theo Huxtable kind of way–I can honestly say kids don’t need more free time to be left to their own device. The default device for most teenagers is somewhere between uninspired indifference to really, really stupid act of worthlessness.
Am I against teenagers? Outside of public transportation and gathering places, no. I’m merely against thinking they’re developed enough to reasonably plot their own direction.
I went to prep school and, outside of the advantages that come with private education and the wealth of creature comforts those institutions can afford, the difference was the rigor. We were occupied in some constructive way all day. We had school on Saturday.
It seemed liked seersucker slavery at the time, but looking back, I know I benefited from the structure–a structure reinforced by the structure I had from a healthy and supportive home life, a factor many students cannot say they had the benefit of. Yes; had I stayed public I would have still played sports and I would have still done well enough on some level, but I also know iron sharpens iron and the raised game forced me to raise my game.
Holy crap! Did I just become Bill Cosby?
I know why they snapped.
They’re passionate people who had particular opinions on some matter or other–health care, foot faults, the ‘Single Ladies’ video–and were compelled to express that passionate opinion in a particular way.
I get that. Joe and Serena and Kanye felt a certain way.
I’m more puzzled by the numbers of people apologizing, to varying degrees, for them. I understand loyalty and nuance and historical context and the like, but as I see this supportive closing of ranks, I’m starting to believe it’s more fundamental than loyalty, nuance, and context.
I’m beginning to think these people feel themselves the good people of Nottingham forest who are being avenged by brazen, if tactless, acts of defiance.
Shorter Pitts-Wiley: People like seeing authority figures get shitted on for a change.
Was Joe Wilson right? Maybe; he’s at least entitled to his beliefs.
Did Serena foot fault? Nope.
Was Kanye right regarding the video? Yup.
But each incident quickly became about more than being right; it became about humiliation.*
Being right and humiliating another person in the process is a nut most people can’t help but bust. Why?
Because, on a lot of levels, people are just animals with opposable thumbs and reflexive thought; animals that go through life getting teabagged with little to no recourse and any opportunity to put the shoe in another butt is one worth championing. We couple being right and humiliation in the same category: Inflicting injury.
The irony is, we want our right to hurt so good that we bust that nut too early; we get caught up in the theatrics of making our point and leave it to the teabagged to parse out the reasonable point we intended to make.
They do the work of explaining while others just sign the autographs.
*Author’s Note: I think Serena is harder to classify in this collection of fuckery because she snapped in the heat of battle. I don’t think she was right, but her outburst can be reasonably explained, unlike Joe Wilson’s– who thought this was a debate at the Yale Political Union–and unlike Kanye’s–who decided to embarrass a little white girl whom he knew he could punk off.
We just can’t.
Last night, Serena Williams had an ugly outburst over a controversial foot fault penalty, an outburst that eventually cost her the match. On the Twitternets, those who felt Serena was given a raw deal kept invoking the name of McEnroe, tennis’ favorite bad boy son. Wrought within those invocations: that white boy got away with worse.
Um, so what?
John McEnroe was no more right then than Serena was last night. His assholery is a flimsy precedent for acceptable codes of conduct and to support Serena’s behavior because a white guy had done it before her is puzzling.
Black folks–and people of color to a larger degree–are often quick to detail the shenanigans that white folks get away with with impunity; decrying it as unjust and contemptible. We turn our noses up at their childish outbursts; thanking the lord for our hometraining.
We’ve learned to take the moral high ground because, for better or ill, we’ve had little choice.
Yet we’re quick to go to the low lands when one of our own acts up in a similar fashion that we deem outrageous from our white counterparts. We invoke the name of McEnroe as if that makes him and his actions righteous.
We want equality to mean we get away with the same pettiness as petulant white boys. Is that what we aspire to, to be able to throw tantrums? To tell presidents they’re liars?
To be “better than that”, you have to be better than that and accept what comes what will when you are not.
Serena was wrong like McEnroe was wrong; like Joe Wilson was wrong and, if we’re to progress–or at least maintain the moral high ground–we can’t make adjustments based on racket throwers who look like us.
Righteousness never qualifies itself.