Action, reaction, over-reaction

In the political arena opinions are rampant. Facts are often scarce, and statistics are often tweaked until reduced to little more than useless gibberish designed to support an otherwise unsupportable argument.

This is true in every town, every state, and every country. It’s a human trait, not a failing of the left or the right, the north or the south, the American or National league. It’s all of us. It’s you. It’s me.

We would all be wise to remain cautious and curious, lest we find ourselves saying and doing things that are senseless and counter-productive. Much like first impressions, writing, saying, and doing things that are idiotic can make a long-lasting impression that can be hard to shake off.

Take any day in any town in North America and you can find clear examples of this process. There is an action, somebody reacts to that action, then somebody else over-reacts to the action. Before you know it you’ve got chaos.

More often than not that chaos is designed to vent anger, but it educates no one and solves nothing. The over-reaction makes things worse, not better.

This past week a woman I know spoke out about the ruckus occurring in Ferguson, Missouri. In a nutshell, what we know is this: A man was shot by police. The man died. An investigation is underway.

That is all we know. That’s all I know, that’s all you know, and that’s all the woman I was talking with knew.

Yet she made the following statement that in her mind put the entire event into a perspective she was comfortable with: “Jim Crow is alive and well in America.”

Action, a man was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri. Reaction, crowds gather to show their displeasure with the shooting. Over-reaction, crowds riot and people who know almost nothing about the circumstances of the event announce that Jim Crow is running the show.

The action is unfortunate, but not one of us knows if it was warranted or not. None of us actually knows what happened in detail, hence, it is rash and unreasonable to make judgments about an event we do not as of yet understand.

In the social and political sense, as these events unfold and idiotic statements like the one about Jim Crow are thrown about, I consider myself to be very lucky. Born of a southern father and a New Englander mother, I have spent a considerable amount of time in and around small southern towns, as well as in the very white suburbs of New England, and the highly diverse setting of New York City. I am a member of the last generation to have lived with Jim Crow in place, and I am included in a smaller subset of people who saw it applied in daily life, first-hand.

Admittedly, I was on the white side of the color line. That was to my benefit, certainly. But it doesn’t take a genius to know the difference between the United States in 2014 and the United States in 1964, prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It was my good fortune to live full time in a small southern town in the 1970s, well after the passage of and well before the full implementation of that Civil Rights Act.

Knowing all that, a conversation needs to happen in our country. A serious conversation held by level-headed men and women who know the difference between a random collection of overly aggressive  individuals, and an institutionalized system of degradation and terror that kept a significant portion of our population in a permanent state of poverty. Under Jim Crow some of my neighbors would not be allowed to live in the neighborhood I do. Under Jim Crow the man who serves as the mayor of my town would not be allowed to enter a restaurant through the front door. And he would be taking his life in his hands to be found in the white section of town after dark.

That was Jim Crow. It was ugly, it was brutal, it involved the systematic dehumanization of a portion of our population based on nothing more than skin tone. It was wrong on a scale that cannot even be imagined today by people who didn’t see it first hand. There is no modern equivalent of Jim Crow. To suggest otherwise is to admit to an ignorance of our historic and current social order that is almost unfathomable.

Politics is not about government, it is about how we deal with one another to create change and manage our affairs. The issues we face will change, but our reactions as humans will remain relatively constant unless we— unless you — do something to change course. If we persist in the action, reaction, over-reaction model, we will eventually destroy ourselves. That is what always happens when this model is applied to social systems.

If we are to make progress as a people, as a society, even as an individual attempting to create a positive change, we must change our model to one that more closely follows a new path. Action, analysis, review, planning, implementation, evaluation, and revision. There are more steps with this mode, and this method requires greater thought, greater self-control, and much improved communication – but it avoids chaos and destruction in favor of productive change.

That wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Let’s give it a try. Let’s become leaders in our communities. Let’s create a positive change. It’s time.


  1. Ed Green says

    A very good analysis of the situation in Ferguson, Mo. Thank you Jamie. Perhaps this should be sent to the news media. They’d probably reject it because they’re in the business of sensationalism. Again, thank you.

  2. phil g says

    As an Australian visiting America for the first time the thing that really strikes you is the poverty, you just don’t see that sort of thing in Australia. That poverty is so ingrained in the society its hard to see it ever changing

  3. Phil says

    As an Australian first time visitor to America I was shocked at the level of poverty in America. It was every where, I couldn’t believe how divided America is.

  4. Tom says

    Jesus is Lord and there are some that don’t want that in General Aviation News either but that’s the answer to the problem so either accept that as truth and look at everything through that view or alternatively be subject to the forces of darkness. By the way, we don’t need the third class medical, AD-SB, or ethanol/lead in our av fuel. Thank you.

  5. Richard Stone says

    We will always have those with us that want to stir the pot of victimization, racial hatred. This is the United States of America and everyone has a 1st Amendment right to express themselves in the public forum. This right doesn’t extend to the destruction of private property as a means to express ones self. The bottom line is that a black man was shot by a police officer in Ferguson. The facts will come out if we will let law enforcement do their jobs. I was disgusted and angered when I saw the behavior of some to destroy or steal another persons property. It was barbaric, opportunistic behavior of the basest type. Despicable! What happened to “Thou shalt not steal”or ” Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods!” The mind forgets what the heart remembers!

  6. Jerry Hanrahan says

    If life could only be that simple, these issues are more complicated than this. We need to bring back pride in being an American and wanting to be a part of something good. Our education system is deplorable and until we find the strength to stand up and change it we are going to continue to suffer. Ben Carson put it right, we need all Americans to be apart of what makes this place great.

    Now that said I agree with Ray, why is this in General Aviation News?

  7. says

    Wonderful summary and analysis of Ferguson. Apply the principles to Iraq, Ukraine, or anywhere else there is manufactured strife. One thing we can all do about it is to ignore toxic news. Accentuate the positive…

  8. Dave Wilson says

    Thank you for the above writing – would like all Americans to read, think and take a positive action!

  9. Ray Winslow says

    Why is this in General Aviation News?
    The whys, reasons and excusses will go on for ever!

    Reguardless…..if you live in or next to a Black area you had better be prepared to take care of yourself and defend your properity. This in not racist any more than not overloading you plane on a hot day.

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