Three Things I Would Fix: Police, Space and Divorce


July 12--marchers in a vigil against gun violence cross the Cedar River on their way to Riverside Park. I played in a hand bell group for the event.

July 12–marchers in a vigil against gun violence cross the Cedar River on their way to Riverside Park. I played in a hand bell group for the event.

I don’t think the universe is falling apart. Not all aspects of human existence are getting worse—many, in fact, are getting better.

Think about cars, as one small example. Yes, there are too many. Yes, they pollute our air and their thirst for fossil fuel has twisted our politics and our economies. But, true, too, they provide unprecedented personal mobility and social equality in countries where they exist in abundance.

On a simpler level, cars are just better today. I recall in my youth that cars were much less comfortable, much less reliable and much more dangerous. True, I have fond memories of the VW Microbus of the late 50s and 60s that served as our family vehicles, but I also recall being stranded for a time in a small Iowa town on a trip to ISU while a local welder fashioned some part to make the van drivable. Knock on wood, it’s been years since I’ve ever been stranded anywhere by car trouble. Of course, it still happens. It just happens with far less frequency than in days of yore—or days of your parent’s cars.

Anyway, there was a vigil Sunday night against gun violence in my town. Marchers started from two locations—a park on the west side of the river and a city market on the east side—and met at a park aptly named “Riverside.” Prayers were said, speeches given and a pamphlet handed out that has information about how to reduce gun violence.

It got me thinking about tweaks I would like to make in the universe. Granted, world peace would rank up there, along with the elimination of whirled peas (sorry, UK, but mashed peas are not one of your brighter culinary ideas). But I’m thinking of meaningful, but smaller, changes.

Tweak 1: I’d quit making police villains or heroes. It’s not wrong to criticize police when they do wrong—and there are too many examples recently of racial inequity and oppression in police actions. But just as one inaccurate story doesn’t justify distrusting all news media, and even a pattern of inaccurate stories has more to do with the limits of human rationality and point of view than a conspiracy, most police officers in the U.S. are honestly trying to do a difficult job. They depend on some level of rapport and support from the public to do that job, and, by and large, they deserve that.

I’ve personally had a mixed experience with the people in blue in Cedar Rapids. But if I needed their help or had a crime to report to them, I would not hesitate. When in doubt, call the cops. Give the system a chance. Police aren’t perfect, but neither are college professors nor any other category of flawed human you could name.

Tweak 2: I’d forgive New Gingrich for wanting to build a base on the Moon. I don’t know if you recall the fiasco four years ago that was the Gingrich campaign for president. He was a ridiculous candidate, for the most part—although give him credit, he’s pretty much a wise political genius compared to Donald Trump.

NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI image of Pluto and one of it's moons, Charon. July 11 composite image. Source is NASA web site.

NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI image of Pluto and one of it’s moons, Charon. July 11 composite image. Source is NASA web site.

Anyway, one point that doomed the Gingrich campaign was a bit sad because it doomed the Gingrich campaign but was one of the few bright ideas that he had. He contended we should build a permanent human base on the Moon. I don’t know if the cost-benefit would justify it, or if it’s the most important step to take in space exploration—but at least a major American politician was supporting some aspect of space exploration.

This week, we cheer as a NASA probe sends images of the dwarf planet Pluto our way. Well, hooray. But, we tend to under-fund science in this country—particularly liberal democrats, who sometimes act as if NASA were a right-wing conspiracy.

I wish NASA, and all forms of basic science research, were more wildly popular and drew more bi-partisan support. I’d think seriously about Base Gingrich on the Moon. I don’t know if it’s practical to send any person to Mars, but I’d be working the problem harder. I’d be scanning the skies more diligently for killer asteroids. And I would be more generously funding all kinds of science research.

We Americans led in space exploration in the 1960s only because we wanted to out-compete the USSR. It’s a bit of a sad commentary that we can’t let space exploration be its own reward.

Tweak 3: I’d make divorce less legally difficult and financially painful. In fact, I’d make all kinds of changes that would both make financial and social uncoupling easier for the parties involved. Someone I hold dear in my heart is experiencing a heart-breaking breakup. It’s painful to witness, and I feel powerless to ease the pain.

It’s not me, dear readers. My marriage may not be perfect, but it appears solid—and the devastating saga, the emotional tsunami sweeping through a nearby life is a lesson in how lucky I am to be able to write that.

Philandering husbands who seem dedicated to proving the old adage that a human body does not contain enough blood to simultaneously run a brain and a penis—shame on you. If you fall out of love and want to end a marriage, at least end it with some dignity and compassion for the innocent person you are hurting.

And world at large: It takes two to make a marriage. If one opts out, why is the system so hard on the other? Why must an already injured party in a breakup face financial ruin? Why must the process be so expensive? Why is it so difficult to re-write a home loan? Why do civil courts move at such a snail’s pace? Why does the Catholic Church act so churlish to a loyal daughter who would only want to continue to practice the faith and is not the person who broke the marriage vow in the first place?

I guess I don’t have a simple request for tweak three. Sorry, I don’t have a happier note to end on. I wish I had all the resources and power in the world to fix everything.

But I remind myself that despite current storms, not all is lost, not all is getting worse—and some things just have to be endured until the storm subsides.

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