Sunday, August 28, 2016

On the road to irrelevancy

Something straight from a script of The Twilight Zone is happening in our rural county of Talbot, MD.  Conflict stripped off the social media pages of the Internet have been given life by one person - Richard Potter, president of the NAACP of Talbot County - and has turned the county upside down.

Here's the clincher - most Talbot County residents don't even know what the conflict is. 

We live in unique times.  In the old days, like the days of Dungeons and Dragons, we played our fantasy games and they were just that - fantasy games.  Serious players rarely ventured out of Mom's basement and, fortunately for the rest of us, their lives rarely, if ever, spilled out into the real world. 

Thanks to technology, the Internet, and social media, the old game of Dungeons and Dragons has become Quest for Fifteen Minutes of Fame with the object of the game being to collect as many selfies as possible.  While the self-taken pictures are dime a dozen and easy to amass, the real prize is the selfies that make the virtual world all about one individual.  You find the outrage of the day, post and share your thoughts about it, and amass as many likes, shares, and new friends as possible.  The more strangers giving you a thumbs up, befriending you, and telling others about you, the more important you become.  The winners of Quest for Fifteen Minutes of Fame are those players whose posts on social media go viral.

Richard Potter, president of the Talbot County chapter of the NAACP, set on his Quest for Fifteen Minutes of Fame by putting The Talbot Boys, a 100-year-old Civil War veterans' monument, squarely in his crosshairs. 

He began his quest over a year ago.  Last fall, the Talbot County Council voted to keep the veterans' monument right where it's at after Mr. Potter requested its removal.  Frustrated, Mr. Potter found an open meetings statute loophole, enlisted the help of the ACLU, and forced the commissioners into a public vote.  The public vote was held a couple of months ago with the same outcome as back in the fall.

Frustrated again, the NAACP of Talbot County, led by Mr. Potter, posted a link on their FaceBook page to a Baltimore local news station article on the vote with the simple comment, "Our efforts will continue #‎WeWillRise".  Of course, the hash tag comment begs the question - "we will rise" from what?

Let's not lose sight of how Mr. Potter's efforts to remove the veterans' memorial came to be.  His efforts to remove the statue began with the discovery of a FaceBook picture posted by a racist kid in South Carolina, a picture the kid posted long before he killed nine Black people at a Church.  (No, I'm not naming the kid because he doesn't deserve the recognition.)  It was a picture of the kid holding a small Confederate flag.

This pic sparked the Great Confederate
Purge of 2015.  Why didn't it spark the
Great Tank Top Purge and the boycott
of Gold's Gym?
The discovery of the FaceBook picture triggered the Great Confederate Purge of 2015.  Across the nation, people - and even companies - jumped in to play the game of Quest for Fifteen Minutes of Fame.  Anything Confederate was marked for destruction - from names of parks, to monuments, to state flags, and, yes, even digging up the dead to re-bury them somewhere next to the city waste disposal facility.  Companies, like Amazon and eBay, announced they would no longer sell the Confederate flag or items bearing the image of the Confederate flag.

This is where Mr. Potter jumped in the game of Quest for Fifteen Minutes of Fame.  Outraged by the events in South Carolina, he looked around Talbot County for something he could target for the Great Confederate Purge.  He found it in the Talbot Boys.

For the next almost year, the NAACP of Talbot County FaceBook page was littered with battles of The Great Confederate Purge of 2015 from across the nation and, of course, extensive coverage of the battle in Easton over the Talbot Boys led by General Potter.

With the final public vote a couple of months ago, all is quiet on the Great Confederate Purge of 2015 battle front, both in Easton and across the country.  The Internet outrage du jour is as fleeting as one's fifteen minutes of fame - if one is lucky enough to conquer the game.  Many skirmishes across the country were won, but many more lost by those seeking their fifteen minutes of fame by playing the Internet game.  General Potter is one such loser.

Here is where Richard Potter, President of the Talbot NAACP, has chosen to lead the chapter down the road of irrelevancy.  He got so caught up in the Internet game of Quest for Fifteen Minutes of Fame, he forgot the real world doesn't play that game nor has time for it.  Real change isn't born from the Internet outrage du jour.  Remember how eBay and Amazon announced they would no longer sell Confederate merchandise?  A quick search of both sites turned up a couple of flags and plenty of apparel bearing the likeness of the Confederate flag for sale.  Yes, even for big companies, the Quest for Fifteen Minutes of Fame is a fleeting participatory event.

Real change and real fame comes from consistent performance, year after year, and often takes a life time to achieve.  It's a much harder game to play than Quest for Fifteen Minutes of Fame.  Had Mr. Potter's efforts to remove the Talbot Boys been born out of a genuine effort to heal a community and make it better and stronger, he would be pursuing the paths the Talbot County commissioners afforded him.  He'd be seeking community input for design suggestions of a Talbot Boys monument for the Union soldiers who fought the Civil War and looking for donations from the Talbot County community so he'd have something to approach local sculptors with in hopes of having the courtyard grounds tell the full story of the veterans who fought both sides of the divisive War.

Instead, Mr. Potter moved on to the next outrage du jour, police brutality and #BlackLivesMatter. 

A few posts were made concerning the injustices - perceived or real - that Blacks suffer at the hands of police.  Two are of real concern and, while not occurring in Talbot County, have occurred in Talbot's back yard.

The first is a story not of police brutality, but of the firing of Pocomoke police chief, Kelvin Sewell, who is Black.  The second story is of police brutality in Dover where a video shows Dover police officer Thomas Webster IV kicking a Black man in the jaw with such force the suspect's hat flies through the air.  The suspect, Lateef Dickerson, was in a prone position trying to comply with Webster's commands, but apparently not complying fast enough.

Ok, the first story didn't really make waves on Delmarva and apparently mustn't be that important to Mr. Potter since there has been no update to the story and the findings of the US Department of Justice about misuse of federal grant money and voter tampering hasn't even been mentioned.

The second story, also not important to Mr. Potter, is one that is very important for Delmarva and, unfortunately, not one I have gotten around to writing about - yet.  The story ended seven months prior to Mr. Potter (or someone at the NAACP of Talbot County) posting the video to the NAACP of Talbot's FaceBook page.  Seven months prior, the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty" for officer Webster.

While Mr. Potter was busy trying to destroy a monument to honorable veterans while spitting on the graves of Talbot County families' ancestors, something very real and more sinister happening in our backyard escaped his notice.  It's not whether or not officer Webster was truly "not guilty."  No.  What should've riled every citizen regardless of color was Cpl Ricardo Torres' testimony.  His testimony was a turning point in the trial of officer Webster.

Yeah, that's right.  I'm
coming for you boy!
Officer Webster going
to trial.
Cpl. Ricardo Torres, the lead defensive tactics instructor at the Delaware State Police Academy and also an instructor for officer Webster, testified that the video of officer Webster could be a training tool for incoming police recruits.  When you watch the video remember, the suspect with the gun was in a yellow shirt.  Lateef Dickerson wore a white tank top.  The testimony was that as Mr. Dickerson was getting down, he was in a sprint position for a split second and officer Webster, not knowing if he had a gun or not, reacted in that split second to subdue the suspect before he could possibly have taken off running while drawing a gun.  Cpl. Torres testified that Webster's defensive kick to the jaw was an acceptable defensive police maneuver.

Without analyzing the video from a layman's point of view, I think it's safe to say that Cpl. Torres' testimony that this video could be used as a training video, a training video for recruits like you and me who also have no police experience just like the recruits going through the police academy, sets a dangerous precedent for how we police our streets. 

Back during the height of the Cold War forty, fifty years ago, we prided ourselves on not having a police force like Russia's KGB where people disappeared off the street and police kicked in our doors.  Now we have Freddie Grays being thrown in the back of police vans without being arrested for something and dying as a result.  We have Lateef Dickersons getting their jaws kicked in and shattered on our streets.  And we got Cpl. Torres saying, "Let's make a training video."

Where is Mr. Potter's and the NAACP of Talbot's posts showing their proactive efforts to ensure police actions such as happening in our backyard over in Dover as well as what was happening across the Bay in Baltimore aren't acceptable practices here?  Where are Mr. Potter's efforts to ensure that our police aren't being trained to snatch people off the street without cause or kick in suspects' jaws?

Oh yeah.  I forgot.  All that was going on in Dover and Baltimore occurred when Mr. Potter was on his Quest for Fifteen Minutes of Fame.

I reckon it's a whole lot easier to fight soldiers who died a hundred fifty years ago than it is to fight the real live perpetrators of injustice today.

TL;DR folks
Richard Potter, president of the Talbot County chapter of the NAACP, has spent the better part of the year fighting to remove a veterans memorial.  In the meantime, he's missed ample opportunity to lead the NAACP in a fight against real injustices and help improve the lives of everyone in Talbot County while making our communities stronger and better.

For your listening pleasure:

Related Links
A month's journey circles back to the Talbot County Commisioners
Maybe Union soldiers aren't welcomed in Talbot County
Why did the NAACP let the Yankees die?

NAACP and Mr. Potter fighting to tear down the Vietnam War Memorial
Only time will reveal the true motives of Talbot Boys detractors
Final thoughts on the Talbot Boys

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

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