I cannot emphasize this enough, one incident is not cause for policy. Even several incidents highly publicized is not cause for policy.
I will not go into the problems with social media, and this is a huge one, but I would like to talk about the nature of decision making. So I was watching the Seahawks vs. Vikings football game the other day and I realized after I stopped jumping up and down with my hands in the air that the kicker will only be remembered as the man that lost the game for his team. I have friends that are Vikings fan, I want you all to know that this is not my attempt to indict a team indict a team or a fan base. This would happen with any team and any fan base.
Here is the how it played out, and I will simplify for those that are unfamiliar with American football (I DID go international at one point). The kicker scored all the points for the team all day long because the rest of the team could not. Then he missed the last one, which truthfully was the easiest of the day. Now the moment speaks to the failure of the kicker, the game speaks to the failure of the team. I wonder if the kicker will be fired for the one kick, I know there are some fans that he should. But will it be a decision-maker for the team.
Now let me get a little more social-political. The other day someone on some random college campus in the United States was offended by some random comment made by some random person who did not realize how their comment would be construed. I will not make a judgment on whether the comment was inappropriate or not, that is many times subjective. The comment could have been blatantly offensive or merely offensive to highly sensitive people. The question is whether or not we need to legislatively respond to it?
Or let’s say that that someone has a car accident on a lonely highway in which a guardrail has not been put up in the place where the person went off the road. All due respect to the person who died, but just because someone was injured or died does not mean that a guardrail needs to go up. A guardrail would need to go up when someone studies the location and uses good data to make an informed decision regardless of public appeal. Or maybe I am crazy.
I hesitate to continue in this direction because I can think of a couple of accidents that have happened to people that I know in which this something very similar occurred. The question has to be asked “Does one incident constitute corrective action?” And secondarily, if people are so passionate about corrective action; is it because corrective action is necessary or is it because they need to make sense out of what happened? Many times people try to bring closure or a sense of fairness or feel that their pain needs to profit in some way for the good.
I can see that I have transitioned from a football game to a traffic fatality which may seem a little uneven. But this is the point, isolated emotional responses too often have been the basis on-going policy. I see two problems with this, one is political and one is personal. First the political or more correctly the legislative; making policy. A world that creates policy because of small clusters of emotion responses is a world that will stop….
There is no way to possibly make everyone happy, and quite frankly people’s emotional responses (mine being the worst) are not the best gauges of good decisions. We cannot be afraid to hear peoples emotional responses and tell people that we hear them and we are sorry that it happened. Somehow the political machine, through a combination of guilt and public relations, has decided that a there needs to be a response, when in fact there just needs to be people to listen, to sympathize. That leads me to the personal.
When people are going through a painful time because of an incident in their lives our response should not be “how can I make this better?” Our response should be “How can I help?” Usually the best you can do is to be there, to listen, to cry with them, to hug them. But it is not normally a healthy response for the hurting person or for the person that is trying to help them through it to immediately try to find a way to make it right, or to make it mean something. The world is broken, the people that I know that have made it through the struggles in their lives with the best outlook, are the ones that have had people in their lives that did not try to distract them from mourning with promises of justice.
Sometimes an emotional response can be a spark plug to show something that is going on that needs to be investigated. Emotions are not the opposite of rational thought and should not be ignored, stuffed or belittled. They are the gut level response to the things that happen to us and are usually a very honest response. However, they should not be the final say in good decision-making, merely one of it’s informants.