It's OK to have a little fun while doing good

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | Aug 21, 2014

Over the past few weeks, you have likely been subjected to several videos on Facebook or in the news of people giddily throwing buckets of ice water over their heads.

Your friends are doing it. Celebrities and business leaders ranging from Jimmy Fallon to Bill Gates are doing it.

It is all part of what has become known as the #IceBucketChallenge, raising money and awareness of ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. This fatal degenerative disease affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, gradually taking away a person's motor functions. Those who have it slowly become paralyzed while their minds remain sharp.

We have friends here in our Midcoast community struggling with this horrible disease right now.

There have been some commentators in recent days, weeks, and hours who have criticized the ice bucket challenge, dismissing it as a fad, a way for people to grab attention for themselves and "slacktivism." One columnist went so far as to question whether it is appropriate or dignified to engage in frivolous, joyful behavior, hamming it up for the camera in the face of such an ugly, evil adversary as this disease.

We understand this argument, though we disagree. It is natural for journalists to be skeptical of the fad everyone is joining. It is our job to stand back and say, "Wait a second..."

On the other hand, what greater way to combat something that takes away hope than to do something fun, something physical, something that makes people smile? What could be better than to harness for good that "look at me" energy that drives us to take "selfies"?

Some commentators have suggested that people should just give to a good cause without silly, gimmicky videos. OK, but for years people have had benefits sporting events and dinners and concerts aimed at providing a fun way to raise money and awareness for a cause. The only thing that makes this different is that anyone can participate and on their own schedule.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 19, The ALS Association announced it had received $22.9 million in donations compared to $1.9 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to Aug. 19). The association has 453,210 new donors.

That's a success story, a triumph!

The ALS Association is promoting the challenge on its website, so we know how they feel about it.

So if you're working to perfect that selfie or inviting your friends to play Candy Crush on Facebook, never let anyone make you feel bad for having a little fun. Turns out everyone can do something for a good cause if they are given the opportunity and the inspiration.

For more information about ALS and the challenge, visit alsa.org or find Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram social media sites.

 

What's happening in Ferguson, Missouri matters

We take police for granted. Law and order, the assurance of enforcement, of consequences for doing wrong, protection of individual rights through one of the greatest criminal justice systems in history — these things work to prevent society from descending into anarchy.

There are places in the world where people are routinely denied justice and subjected to arbitrary abuse by corrupt officials who wield great power.

We cling to our rights, our freedoms and our values, and the existence of law and order in our society make it possible for us to go about the pursuit of happiness.

That makes the news coming out of Ferguson, Mo. all the more disturbing. We read in the news that protests and riots have created civil unrest in this St. Louis suburb since Aug. 9, when an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot six times in a confrontation with a white police officer.

We read in the national news that the response to the protests has been military in character, involving armored vehicles, tear gas, rubber bullets. Looting has been reported, along with gun violence. Protesters have thrown bottles at police. Police have seized Molotov cocktails.

We also are very troubled to read that two journalists covering the events were arrested by police. Journalists have been targeted for harassment and asked not to videotape events, in violation of our First Amendment rights.

People in Ferguson do not trust the police in this situation. They want answers as to why this 18-year-old was killed, but they are skeptical about whether the authorities will investigate this situation without bias or corruption.

This is one of the toughest problems we can face, because, peace, law and order depend on our ability to trust those we give a badge and a gun. We place tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of our police. Multiple agencies — state, local and federal — are investigating the shooting, and hopefully, they will offer answers in coming days and weeks.

In the meantime, both sides in this conflict have to use restraint. The protesters must be nonviolent. Looting and violence do not strengthen the message in the ongoing fight for civil rights. Police must be transparent and allow journalists to do their work, to serve as watchdogs.

President Barack Obama addressed this issue last week, saying in part:

"I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That’s part of our democracy. But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.

"So now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson. Now is the time for an open and transparent process to see that justice is done."

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