Mental Images

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If this graphic is true, this would lend further support to my statements that each State of our country should be treated on a case by case basis instead of a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

According to this graphic, parts of Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania are hit hardest by COVID.

This post also raises an important point. Everyone, whether they’re formally aware of it or not, carries an operative mental image of what’s happening with our country. For some, like those in California and New York, I can easily imagine they would mistakenly but falsely see our country covered in yellow and red, especially since that’s how media like NowThis, OccupyDemocrats, CNN, or MSNBC, etc would paint the picture and so they would see Missouri’s reopening as foolish.

Our neighbors in other States would probably see our country more like this mostly green one.

If we experience tension or conflicts in relationships, one of the causes is because we have different competing and often mutually exclusive images of the same situation, and thus we make attitudes, actions, and value judgments that contradict.

So it would help if we all adopt a humble and honest posture and recognize that we often make mental images of our situation that are incomplete, biased towards our personal desire for public health or personal freedom, and prone to being outdated quickly because the situation changes.

Even when both sides disagree, there’s no need to demonize one another. It does not help matters that news like CNN or Fox often focus on the outliers for their news cycle, but even so, we do not have to follow their example and stereotype one another in such animosity.

If you asked me what I would like to see, I would say “Follow the data.” I’m still hoping our elected officials are truly following the data that’s happening on the ground, and looking at death and hospitalization rates from COVID-19 and drafting their public policies accordingly.

If New York or California need to stay under lockdown longer than other states, then let them do so. If other states and their respective citizens feel they’re at a place where the risk is low enough for now before a second wave of COVID-19 hits to reopen their economy, let them do so, even when isolated cases like an outbreak at a barber shop happen.

Thoughts on Requiring Masks

The best leaders are those who are willing to look at an issue from different angles.

Requiring masks raises a lot of things to consider: whether we should encourage wearing masks voluntarily and protect people’s autonomy but risk the wellbeing of vulnerable citizens from dying of a contagious disease or using the force of law to require wearing masks and punishing (fining/jailing) those who fail to comply for the sake of protecting public health but possibly unfairly punishing those who may have legitimate reasons to not wear masks (allergies to materials that masks are made of, unable to purchase masks, etc).

A verse to consider for pursuing public health policies by volition or compulsion would be Philemon 1:14, which states, “But I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.”

I’m personally fine with wearing masks per say Walmart’s wishes as a private business as they’re doing their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but I can at least empathize with some of those who have difficulty wearing masks because of the discomfort or allergies wearing one can cause. Such individuals are usually a minority, but they’re still people to care for. For a lot of others though, the reasons they give for not wearing masks (fear of being singled out, masks do not work well, extreme libertarian views that government should not dictate what citizens can or cannot wear), I find less convincing, but they sincerely hold these beliefs, so I would have to do the hard work of meeting them where they’re at and try to persuade them to wear a mask.

A Man of Unclean Lips

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

(Isaiah 6:5)

The United States and many other Western societies has become a permissive, skeptical society very quickly since the 1960s. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech have been used to promote sexual immorality in the guise of protecting sexual and gender equality.

Some of my peers seem to have no filter when openly talking about sexual topics. They may be quick to denounce any attempts to restrain them for the sake of propriety as “puritanical,” but there is a thing as dangerous sexual freedom. Such looseness in speech is especially unbecoming of those who profess to be part of God’s kingdom, but are especially apt for those who still belong to the domain of darkness.

They generally subscribe to critical theory in which the narratives of power and conflict are rewritten such that the most oppressed groups should be given power over the oppressors. The oppressors being “white supremacy,” “patriarchy,” and “cis-genderism.”

These ideologies are commonly taught in California university systems such as the University of California colleges and the California State University.

But I am thankful that at least people are being honest with themselves and just showing the darkness and indifference of an unregenerate human heart. Peter says false prophets promise their audience freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

Biblical sexual ethics is often ridiculed, as people begin to exercise their wills in ways that openly defy the LORD and espouse a new sexual ethics of their own.

Planned Parenthood, abortion on demand, same sex marriage, and transgender participation in sports are but a few examples of the way sexual sins have entrenched themselves in the culture, especially in New York and California. Hollywood stars and left-leaning media and politicians also add their voices to the chorus.

Some people advocate outlawing these things, but for myself, these organizations and policies are but symptoms of a deeper problem: a heart that is in open defiant rebellion against God. It does not always seem best to outlaw idols when it is the heart that manufactures these idols in the first place. The heart is so sick that though it knows God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

They know the truth, but it does not register as truth to them because they deceive themselves and their peers. They call abortion “healthcare”, they call same sex marriage “marriage equality,” and they call transgenderism “my truth.” They have a moral compass, but they call evil good and good evil. They cloak their evils in moral language and these evils become the new norm, and so they do not cause moral outrage as they should.

Still, out of love, God graciously sends messengers who tell people to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn to Him in Christ by the Spirit and be healed.

He would redeem us, but we speak lies against Him. More than that, we often twist His words to justify our evil against Him as we carry out the desires of our stubborn rebellious hearts.

He calls us to repent. We must sow for ourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up our fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon us.

Sexual sinners have given bitter provocation, so the Lord will leave their bloodguilt on them and will repay them for their disgraceful deeds.

But in the midst of this sentence of death, God will heal the apostasy of some and love them freely. He will be like the dew to them, and those who repent and return to Him in Christ will blossom like the lily and take root like the trees of Lebanon.

Jesus is the Spirit-conceived, virgin-born, perfectly obedient, crucified, risen, and ascended Lord who lived the life we failed to live, died the death and suffered the wrath we deserved, and who conquered the grave to show his victory over sin and death.

All those who come to Him as their crucified and risen Lord and Savior shall have rest for their souls. The Spirit changes the heart of stone into a heart of flesh with new desires to grow in the grace and knowledge of Lord Jesus.

The Father sends the Spirit to dwell within His new covenant people so that they can continue to enjoy the presence of God within them as they live to kill indwelling sin, and become more like Christ along with all those who are also called to live like Him.

They gather together as local congregations under the authority of deacons and pastors as they encourage one another, pray for one another, and minister to one another as they also anticipate the day when Jesus will return to judge all evil and fully usher in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells.

YHWH longs to love us but we must give up our acts of treason and be reconciled to Him in Christ by the Spirit as our Lord and Savior.

“O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.”

(Hosea 14:8)

American Policing

Policing has almost always been a morally difficult task.

The general steps involve target acquisition/profiling, knowing when to detain someone, appropriate level of force for restraint, and use of deadly force for self-defense whether as a police officer or private citizen.

We’re balancing the competing interests of apprehending the bad guy and leaving innocent civilians alone.

Ideally, we have presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

We have different levels of standards of proof: Reasonable suspicion, probable cause, preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, beyond reasonable doubt

Say you are a private citizen or police officer on the general lookout for a culprit.
What do you do when you see someone who fits the description of a culprit?
We do not presently have the ability to perfectly determine whether a person is the culprit or an innocent civilian.
But reasonable suspicion is a low legal standard for briefly detaining a suspect for investigatory purposes.
Innocent parties feel harassed when they get detained, but you also still have to catch the bad guy.

Deputies may point a rifle at someone because he fits the description of an active shooter while the suspect walks home from campus.
Ideally, such an encounter may be tense but innocent parties are still left unharmed, but fight or flight responses often kick in, and mistakes can unfortunately happen where they are fatal and final.
A private citizen who is inappropriately detained with guns pointed at him may justifiably pull out his own weapons for self defense, but in which case, police officers, still not knowing whether the person they detained is the culprit or not, will also aim their guns in self defense.

One person describes some of the unfortunate times where he feels penalized for having dark skin in America:
-A car follows him as he walks home from a party. The person had to hide in a stairwell because the car’s occupants got out and chased him.
-This is definitely an unfortunate and terrifying experience.
-But assuming the car’s occupants were private citizens trying to do a citizen’s arrest, they should at least just detain the man with the least amount of force necessary and leave him alone if he did not say anything that may condemn him.
-If the car’s occupants departed from this standard, they should be held accountable for inappropriate vigilante-like justice.

-He has to take precautions with his actions because as a large, tattooed, black man, his actions may be seen as threatening.
-I empathize. It would be nice if we lived in a world where we did not have to worry so much about our public perception for fear of being unjustly harassed or detained. But we do have fight or flight responses for a reason, although we should try to control the degree we let such fear drive our attitudes and actions, but this is not the easiest thing to do.

Friends say he is “not really black” or “not a thug like that guy.”
-These statements are unfortunate. They do betray a racist generalization that is not helpful for anyone. These statements paint with a broad stroke an entire ethnic group with criminal traits. It’s hard to ascertain how many people actually hold this generalization, but for probably the few who do, they should be made aware of it and learn to reprogram their thinking.

Some justifiable feeling of being wronged or facing injustice:
-A state of paranoia because at any given time “someone could no longer deem my life valuable.”
-I can understand how he might feel this way, but this perspective is too extreme. It seems the issue at stake in our criminal justice system is not that private citizens or police officers no longer deem black Americans’ lives valuable, but that the tense instantaneous situation between an armed officer and an innocent civilian who may fight back in self-defense often ends in the death of the civilian. So what tangible steps could be taken so this kind of situation happens less frequently?
-Willing to spill my own blood in service of the people of this country, there are Americans that believe I don’t belong here.
-Again, I can understand how he feels “there are Americans that believe I don’t belong here,” but this is again an extreme perspective. There might be a few who actually hold this view, but it’s more probable that most of our neighbors just want to mind their own business.
-Owning weapons because no one is coming to save me and I’ll have to protect myself.
-This is an unfortunate feeling to have, but again, we make do with what we’re given, and we try enacting reforms where we can. This person feels he cannot trust the government or the local police station with some justification. He does raise a good point that police stations should work hard to earn the trust of the neighborhoods they patrol, but again this is not the easiest thing to do when criminals look similar to and usually try to act like innocent citizens to avoid arrest.
-Character assassination if I wind up a snuffed out flame on side of some country road or big city street.
-I generally agree with this point. Sometimes whenever someone dies from alleged police brutality, major news outlets may reveal that the person who died had some secret criminal history. It seems they do this to better justify the “justice” that was done against the victim, but really the criminal history is irrelevant unless it directly pertains to the alleged crime that the suspect was charged with, and even then, use of deadly force should be avoided if at all possible.
-Staying distant from BLM for fear of being labeled militant, communist, freeloader, a welfare king, a thug, a gangster, a criminal, a cop hater, anti-American, a snowflake, a leech on society, etc.
-This man is free to voice his grievances and concerns with our criminal justice system, but he also has to be willing to hear and listen to the other side too. Not the ones who engage in ad hominem arguments, but the ones who point out that we still need a criminal justice system in place to apprehend criminals, and that even though we should reform the criminal justice system so less innocent people are harmed, this is not always possible given limited information technology and the bias that fight or flight responses have on tense, instantaneous situations.

Citizen’s Arrest

The Arbery case raises a lot of questions about how we should pursue criminal justice.

The primary purpose of this post is to examine profiling, the extent to which private citizens can act similar to police officers, the proportionality of the use of force to restrain a possible suspect, and to what extent a person can defend themselves when a neighbor wrongfully but ignorantly confronts them with weapons like guns, baseball bats, etc.  

Racial profiling is defined as “the act of suspecting or targeting a person of a certain race on the basis of observed or assumed characteristics or behavior of a racial or ethnic group, rather than on individual suspicion.” 

But not all profiling of a person with certain ethnic traits is really true racial profiling.

A surveillance camera caught the appearance of a burglary suspect.
The McMichaels believed Arbery matched the appearance of this suspect.
Profiling is when you have a reasonable suspicion that a person might be the suspect in question based on a few corresponding observations.

Racial profiling is evil primarily because it often goes beyond reasonable suspicion to improperly assumed guilt about a person when there is no evidence to substantiate such a claim.

The profiling that the McMichaels seemed to have performed really is not true racial profiling because it is not motivated by racial intent.  They were not out to kill an innocent black man. They did not have premeditated malicious intent.  They just wanted to act like police officers and stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived.

Now one could question the legitimacy of private citizens acting like overzealous wannabe cops, but this would then bring us to our question of under what circumstances should a citizen’s arrest be performed.

Georgia’s courts have previously ruled that while a citizen can detain someone, a citizen’s arrest doesn’t necessarily allow for uses of force.

This sounds reasonable, but what happens in cases where the suspect is armed and threatens the life of the citizen trying to assist in the arrest?

One might say this situation is why private citizens should just wait for the proper authorities to arrive. But this course of action often decreases the likelihood that the culprit will be caught in time for him or her to face justice. In light of this observation, is there ever any cases in which it might be permissible for seeing a suspect jogging down the street, assuming he might be the culprit, grabbing a gun for self-protection, and chasing him down to assist police officers?

Is it always wrong to do this or are there cases and circumstances where it might be permissible for private citizens to act similar to cops provided certain protocols are followed to minimize the chances of wrongly killing an innocent person?

After all, Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law requires that the offender must have committed a crime in the presence of another person, or that person must have “immediate knowledge” of a crime that has taken place by the perpetrator. These stipulations certainly help constrain and reduce the possibility of arbitrary vigilante justice. This stipulation of immediacy certainly helps reduce the likelihood of situations happening where a person has to defend himself when a neighbor wrongfully but ignorantly confronts them with weapons like guns, baseball bats, etc.

The very difficult aspect of a citizen’s arrest is knowing the force proportionate to the circumstance. Ideally the only force reasonable under the circumstances may be used to restrain the individual arrested. However, in the fog and chaos of chasing or fighting a possible perpetrator, such rational judgments are not always possible. 

Private citizens effectively share in the same risks and responsibilities as police officers when confronting a person of suspicion.

In 2004, a convenience store owner shot an intruder who broke into the store after the store owner told him to halt.  Even though the store owner was right in attempting to stop the intruder, the measure of force used was disproportionate to the circumstance.  But in such a situation, it’s not always easy to potentially let the suspect go free and in the immediacy of the situation milder forms of restraint do not always come to mind or become accessible or present.

In 2017, a citizen may chase a neighbor whom he believes had burglarized his home and attack the man with a baseball bat. A problem exists when gentler methods of restraint could be used, especially in light of the fact the neighbor could have been truly innocent and thus did not need to suffer physical abuse.

In the Arbery case, the McMichaels brought guns just in case the suspect was armed and they themselves had a way to defend themselves.  But at the same time, Arbery was innocent and also wanted to defend himself against the guns that his neighbors brought and so he fought back.  This situation brings up a big gray area.

Citizens have a right to defend themselves in cases of arresting a possibly armed subject.
Yet innocent people also have a right to defend themselves when a stranger confronts them with guns.

Even though we should do our best to protect innocent people from wrongful harm or death, it is also necessary to have protocols in place that allows even private citizens the best chance of arresting a possible suspect to bring him to justice.  But balancing these two interests requires a lot of fine-tuning.

I do not necessarily have the answers to these questions, but it’s important to ask these types of questions in the first place.

Immunizations

This is a thinking out loud/stream of consciousness post.

A common dichotomy in the conversation revolving around vaccinations is personal freedom and public harm.

We generally engage in cost-benefit analysis. We weigh the benefits of vaccinations with the risks of vaccinations.

Anti-mandatory vaccination

Some physicians are anti-mandatory vaccination.  Vaccines are complicated. Children may receive as many as 69 doses in the first 6 months of life. Informed consent for the patient should be prioritized, but the Medical Board of California does not always exercise its authority well.

Medical exemptions can be defined too narrowly for the good of the patient. Patients may have very severe brain damaging neurological injury or they go into anaphylactic shock and nearly die.  Physicians may be afraid to write medical exemptions, even when warranted, because they may lose their licenses if the Medical Board does not consider their medical exemptions appropriate.

Physicians consider some of the following for vaccine safety evaluations: genetic risk and family history of vaccine reactions.  However sometimes the only vaccine reactions that warrant exemption are CDC contraindications: severe brain injury or anaphylactic shock. So the question becomes “Is the limit for medical exemption set too high or defined too narrowly?”

What do physicians do in the grey areas where we try to distinguish between a moderate allergic reaction and a terrible one?

Ideally, physicians are given the freedom to selectively and carefully vaccinate an exempt patient based on need.  But mandatory vaccination policies can take this judgment away from doctors. Instead of a bilateral dialogue between doctors and their patients, a unilateral decision is made by the public health department or a bureaucrat. The decision making process is moved away from the doctors and their individual patients. 

The MMR vaccine can cause very severe brain injury reactions. There have been 48 confirmed cases.  The health care consumer and patient should be able to have conversations with their doctors and assess all the data and kind of make these decisions for themselves.  Other individuals would say the government should step in and make this decision for you and make it mandatory for the sake of  the collective public health.

Personally, I wish patients were free to ask their questions without fear of being ruthlessly ostracized.  They should be free to ask “What’s in the vaccine?” and “Are there any adverse reactions?” without being ostracized as a hippie. 

Now measles, polio, and whooping cough are real dangers.  There is real fear.  But parents that talk about vaccine injuries also have real fears too.  Everyone is weighing the risks and they come up with their own decisions.  They should be free to do so without intimidation or stifled conversations.

In an environment that mandatory vaccination policies create, doctors may kick patients out unless they comply with the full vaccine schedule.  Doctors may also falsely believe that vaccines are so critically important that there is only one right answer.  They start developing tunnel vision and downplay or ridicule looking for and developing viable alternatives.  They commonly believe vaccine reactions are not real and only coincidental.  Yet while vaccine injury may not be common, it does exist. 

Parents may be kicked out of school for not getting vaccines.  The common argument for this course of action is to prevent the risk of their kids spreading vaccine-preventable diseases to other kids.   For physicians who want to adopt a more moderate approach to vaccination, they risk their license and reputation. Malpractice insurance may double or insurances may refuse to contract with them even when physicians seek legitimate medical exemptions for their patients.

In addition, a world where vaccination is mandatory can create a system that is very difficult to remove once in place.  Insurance contracts could state that for every MMR and chickenpox vaccination, a 150 dollar year end bonus will be added.  Sensible reforms from politicians may be difficult to put in place and enforce.  Legislators who want a more moderate approach to vaccination, even when warranted, than their more hardline colleagues may lose the support of their fellow party members. 

Big business donates to legislators.  Legislators are beholden to those who donate to them.  In 1986 a Vaccine Injury Compensation Act was passed.  This law effectively takes away liability for big pharmaceutical companies.  There is a pro and con to this law.  One could say that removing liability allows pharmaceutical companies to make their products without fear of lawsuits, but at the same time, it puts a lot of faith in the pharmaceutical companies that they will not take advantage of the public trust. 

Congress did Pharma a favor to take away liability.
Pharma returned the favor by donating billions of dollars.
Congress returns the favor by mandating liability free products.

For some individuals, this sequence of events looks fishy.  There appears to be a conflict of interest just as bribes distort justice. 

The philosophical assumption behind the vaccination debate is again freedom versus public harm.  We basically have a bureaucrat deciding if a child was injured enough to be exempt from the vaccine as opposed to the physician.  There should be patient autonomy: just as private decisions can be made between an OB and a woman, so there should be private decisions between a pediatrician or family physician and parents.

Mandatory vaccinations does not seem a wise course of action so long as we have a system where large corporations can exert unduly large influence over the government.  Pharmaceutical companies can use the force of law to bully parents asking about vaccine risks into silence.  Physicians seeking a moderate approach such as delayed vaccination or parents with severely vaccine injured children may face segregation or discrimination from the system.

Pro-vaccination

People who are pro vaccination believe vaccines prevent suffering, hospitalization, and death.  Pharmaceutical companies have the resources and expertise to make the vaccine. Usually 1.2 billion dollars are spent on the company’s part to make a vaccine.

Some physicians want to follow the CDC schedule for vaccinations as the benefits outweigh the risks. They acknowledge that vaccines can cause type 1 allergic hypersensitivity but vaccines only prevent vaccine preventable diseases and not everything else.  

They favor the HPV vaccine because it is a cancer preventing vaccine.  They favor the flu shot because the flu normally kills 30,000 to 40,000 people, from the very young to the very old and the flu shot is 40 to 60 percent effective.

They admit some vaccinations are made from the two cell lines from elective abortions in England and Sweden in the 1960s: chickenpox, hep A, rubella/German measles, one of rabies. 

Some physicians believe good information leads to good decisions, but some parents will put their children or the children of other parents in harm’s way.  They cite the measles outbreak as an example. They say 500,000 children cannot be vaccinated because they are immunocompromised.  If we have bad information, bad decisions will be made. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are effectively making decisions for other people’s children. 

Vaccination has no link to autism.  Quality studies prove shots are the best way to deliver those vaccines. The season we give flu shot is also the season we get colds and other viruses. Correlation is not causation.  The amount of aluminum in the first six months from vaccines is less than that in diet.  The usual side effects from vaccination would be redness, swelling in injection site, and mild fever.  Anaphylaxis is 1 in a million, and reversible by epinephrine. Vaccinations are the best treatment we have given the information we have.

Physicians who favor vaccination also care about informed consent. They would say there is a lot of statistical evidence.  Statistics, studies, and research.  Yet there is a micro issue: each vaccine should be evaluated. Each set of vaccination has different set of adverse reactions.

For the child that has an adverse vaccine reaction, the physician would ask what about the children that have an immunodeficiency and a non-immunized child spreads deadly illness to them.  A child may have an adverse reaction to vaccine, yet the doctor may say continue getting vaccines to protect all of us.  He is also engaged in risk benefit analysis and says herd immunity exists.

Some physicians want to make sure parents are giving quality care to their child.  Just because they’re your child does not mean they can do whatever.  If the child does not get vaccinated, it is medically and statistically proven that the parents are endangering their child to develop these deadly diseases.

The axiom: “Parents know their children best” may indicate that bias will play a role in judgment and decisions.  It helps to share personal stories, relate emotionally and reasonably to your patients.  People who are hesitant about vaccinations may find themselves isolated by family, the medical community, and society.  We should find common ground.