Saturday, December 26, 2015

How long until we tire of McDonald?

I have my own personal barometer for news stories and their public interest – and I call him “dad.”
Protesters in the shadow of the clock

My father isn’t a news geek by any means; a part of me wonders if he thinks he went wrong somewhere because I turned out to be news-oriented. But he pays some attention to public happenings.

HE’S AWARE THAT a black teenager was killed last year and that there are people who are upset it took more than a year for anything to happen in the way of criminal charges being filed.

My father also comprehends that the police were involved, and that there’s a very real chance a police officer will be found guilty of a crime in connection with the death of Laquan McDonald.

But just this week, my father asked me about the goings on and details of the saga, and I could tell he’s reached the point where he thinks the essence of story has been reported and the rest is merely nothing more than too much detail.

For he didn’t seem pleased with my own opinion that this was going to be a story for at least as long as the legal proceedings in Cook County court keep it alive. Considering that court proceedings can easily stretch a routine criminal case for two or more years, this could last longer.

A THOUGHT THAT seemed to bother him, although his outrage was far from the most intense I have ever heard from him (I remember how he swore and screamed at a car radio once after about two months of stories detailing the cannibalism involved with Jeffrey Dahmer’s saga of the early 1990s).

Now I know some people are going to rant and rage that I’m giving my father way too much credibility and that perhaps his view (he’s the son of a Mexican immigrant who worked his way up to middle-class status; I’m the grandson of one who gained from the advantages provided by my father’s hard work) isn’t the one that matters most.

This is, after all, an incident involving a racially-tinged death of a young man whose life was cut off before he could even try to make something of himself.
How long until public stain on police washes away?

Yet I do think my father is typical in terms of attention-span, which can be brutally short in our society? And those of us in the news business are supposed to be writing for the general public (oft clichéd as the Kansas City milkman).

HOW LONG UNTIL the continuing flow of copy about McDonald’s death becomes perceived as overkill? How long until people start lashing out against anyone who tries to keep the story alive.

Now as I write this (a day early because I want to avoid having to write anything on Christmas Day), there are activists trying once again to disrupt downtown Chicago holiday shopping. In fact, I have a step-sister who felt compelled to join them on Thursday along with my niece and nephew.
McDONALD: Soon to be so yesterday?

Punishing society by making it impossible for someone to make that last-minute purchase of a holiday gift so they don’t come across as looking cheap or Scrooge-like! It was a repeat of the Day after Thanksgiving when activists caused enough problems for consumer flow that some businesses reported a financial blow.

Which may also be the way to get results on a social issue like this – because some people will only look at a financial bottom line and will disregard any attempt to appeal to one’s better self or conscience.

BUT THEY DIDN’T seem to cause as much disruption, but seemed to offend more holiday shoppers who may start to show hostility toward the McDonald saga. Heck, one of those people was my 12-year-old niece, who thought she was going on a downtown shopping spree but instead got an up-close view of how professional the police can be when they want to be.

What happens now that the holiday shopping season is over; do the activists continue to show up and try to cause traffic disruption? Do they just become something viewed as an urban annoyance like many of the downtown street musicians whom they try to tune out of their consciousness?

My own view, as I have often expressed, is that I’m more interested in the criminal proceedings than the politicking taking place to try to penalize Rahm Emanuel or other government officials – who I’m sure all knew all along they could merely wait out the trend for calmer days.

Because I don’t doubt that much of the hostility now felt toward the mayor will fade away by Easter. While a criminal proceeding will be more lasting, and immune, to the tendencies of the public to quit being quite so offended because something else will come along to bother them.


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