After the past week, we could use 'Pokemon Go'

Words cannot express how happy I am that people are running around town hunting Pokemon.

There is a long-running joke about people not watching the news because it depresses them; lately, that sentiment has taken on a whole new level of seriousness. Today, most people cannot escape the news, even if they shut it off, because we are smacked in the face with it on our social media feeds, through pop-up notifications on our phone and many other ways, thanks to advances in technology and the 24-hour news cycle.

Two more black men were killed in questionable incidents by police officers and protests have sprung up all across the country.

Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota, last week. According Castile's girlfriend, Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds, police pulled them over for a broken taillight that wasn't actually broken. She said that he informed police that he was carrying a concealed weapon and then was shot as he reached for his license. Reynolds immediately started live streaming on Facebook Live after Castile was shot.

The day before Castile's death, police killed a man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after some sort of altercation. An anonymous caller claimed that a man selling CDs had threatened him with a gun. Video of the event later surfaced showing police on top of Alton Sterling, appearing to hold him down, as he was shot.

The day after the successive police killings, a protest in Dallas, which had been previously planned, turned deadly. Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and killed five police officers and injured nine others.

The level of hate on social media after these three days went from very high to apocalyptic.


People quickly staked out their sides and dug their heels in deep. Incredibly hateful things about Sterling, Castile, Reynolds and police officers in general filled social media space. Blatantly racist comments surfaced, as did many people openly supporting the murdering of cops, referring to it as "civil war" and "revolution."

This happens at a time when division between Americans was already high due to the contentious presidential election.

Just at a time when news outlets and social media couldn't be stomached anymore — a game called "Pokemon Go" was released.

For the uninitiated, Pokemon started as a video game in 1996 where humans, known as "Pokemon trainers" collected and trained fictional animals known collectively as Pokemon for battle.

Fast-forward to 2016 and those children of the 1990s have a brand new nostalgic game on their mobile devices called "Pokemon Go." The goal of the game is to catch these Pokemon in the real world. This had led to kids between age 10 and 40 walking around trying to find a wide variety of Pokemon around their community.

Alaska Dispatch News reported that the National Weather Service has had to put up signs reminding Pokemon trainers that they cannot trespass on federal property. KTUU ran a story that says the game is bringing more people to downtown Anchorage.

The stories are national as well. Inc. says that "Pokemon Go" is driving a ton of business to small local businesses, and the Holocaust Museum has been so inundated with Pokemon trainers that they've had to ask people not to catch Pokemon on the premises, and hilarious viral videos have sprung up based on the hoards of people going to places they never would have gone to collect Pokemon. There have also been many group activities in various cities to walk around and collect Pokemon. The game has captured the attention and imagination of the world.

This is just a temporary distraction from the realities of the world and the fact that race relations in this country are seriously strained. The fun stories and happiness over people getting outside and walking in order to catch Pokemon cannot erase the death and destruction that occurred leading up to its release; eventually, we all have to come back to reality.

We need to have a very serious national discussion on policing, use of force and race relations in this country. The soul of our nation is bruised and the healing required will not come easily, and sadly, we will likely see more tragedy along the way.

However, the stories of the Pokemon hunters and how completely this game has captured the heart and soul of America's imagination sure does take a little of the sting off for now.

Mike Dingman

Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late '90s.