How do we solve the police brutality problem? To what extent is it a part of a larger problem with our society, indicating a deep and abiding devotion to punitive violence? I see police brutality as another facet of the problem that leads to our awful prisons and our enormous prison population.
First, I need to note the killing of two New York City police officers on December 20. It was correctly described as an assassination, and I mourn their deaths.
At the same time, I believe the remarks of Rudy Guiliani, blaming their deaths on President Obama as amazingly irresponsible, as well as untrue. The problem of excessive force by the police exists in a small, but a significant number of cases. And it’s not “anti-police” when New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who is white but married to a black woman, instructs his children, and especially his son with the great ‘fro, in specific ways to cautiously and politely deal with the police.
Others, including former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who had some legal problems of his own a while back, suggested that the shootings were ultimately encouraged by de Blasio and the Rev. Al Sharpton, and that “they have blood on their hands.” He told Newsmax: “The people who encouraged these protests — you had peaceful protesters who were screaming ‘kill the cops’ — the so-called peaceful protesters. Who was encouraging these protesters? De Blasio, Sharpton, and other elected officials and community leaders. They encouraged this mentality. They encouraged this behavior.”
Anyone who has ever been to a protest – I have attended more than a few in my time – knows that there are occasionally outliers at these events, people whose positions don’t jibe with the organizers’ intents. So would it be better that such Constitutionally-protected demonstrations be quashed?
That, BTW, was what the Tea Party folks said when a couple people killed two Las Vegas police officers in June 2014, that those cop killers, who had rallied with Cliven Bundy, along with people who POINTED GUNS at law enforcement officials, did not represent the movement.
Jon Stewart got it right when he said one can grieve the loss AND worry about the police overreach; they are NOT mutually exclusive.
To the question: I should note that not all of the excessive violence is directed toward young black males. For instance, the TX SWAT team beats, deafens nude man in his own home, lies about arrest; judge declines to punish cops or DA. There seems to be a need by some police to quash all possibly illicit behavior. If Eric Garner WERE selling individual cigarettes in Staten Island, it certainly wasn’t a felony.
I’m not sure of the cause of ALL the violence. I once posited on someone’s website the theory that these first-person shooter games might have some effect on the cognitive understanding of life for some people, but was told by gaming experts that there’s “no relationship.” Maybe, maybe not. I’ve wondered about this at least since Vietnam when one could drop the precision bombs without having any discernible understanding. And now war can really tidy, with people in the middle of the US dropping bombs on people half a world away; looks very much like a video game to me.
I AM convinced that the tremendous rise in the prison population, mostly for non-violent drug use, which I wrote about extensively, is a major contributor. Prison is, I’ve been told, a great school for becoming a better criminal.
Surely the militarism of the police, with all that post-9/11 money doled about by the federal government has led to a war zone mentality. But even in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military had a plan of engaging with the communities, whereas in the urban centers of the US, some of the residents feel like the police are an occupying force.
Maybe all the things that keep us disconnected from our surroundings – surburbia, synthetic food, our personal electronic devices, the bile that comes from commenting anonymously on social media – matter. SOMETHING is fueling a general rage – road rage, online rage.
Bottom line, though: the anger in the community is not just that there are excessive uses of force. The problem is that there appears to be lack of accountability for the actions. I’ve heard the body cameras for police will be a solution. But there WAS footage of Eric Garner dying. Police video would have not likely change the “no indictment” outcome. Did you see that the Ferguson prosecutor allowed witnesses that were “clearly not telling the truth” to the grand jury?
It may be that guns make police less safe, their jobs more difficult and communities less trusting. Or maybe it’s just the human condition.
This is a long way of saying, “Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands.”
Okay, here’s one of my ponders: can the United States survive as a united entity? SHOULD it be a united entity, or would it be better off broken up so that the racist, theocratic barbarians can abuse themselves and leave the rest of us alone?
There are lots of precedents in the 20th century suggesting that this is a terrible idea. The creation of the state of Israel did not lead to peace in the Middle East. I learned from watching the Sanjay Gupta episode of the PBS series Finding Your Roots when the subcontinent was divided in 1947, there was massive dislocation, with millions moving to Hindu India or Muslim Pakistan, needing to abandon their historic homelands; moreover over a million people were killed in clashes. The eastward shift of Poland after World War II was also a hardship for about a third of the country.
How would this work anyway? The redneck in rural Pennsylvania or downtown Cincinnati moves to Alabama or Utah? That flaming liberal in Austin, Texas goes to New York City? Where do you put purplish states such as Iowa and Colorado?
How would the infrastructure be organized? Will I need a passport to visit the Grand Canyon? How do you split the federal government and its various jurisdictions?
More basically, the whole bloody Civil War was fought, in part, to keep the Union intact; the splinter would make that sacrifice in vain. Moreover, Lincoln’s rationale for not allowing the breakup of the Union is that there was no mechanism in the Constitution to do so; ipso facto, it ought not to be done.
In any case, I don’t think people are that binary. Sure there are your “racist, theocratic barbarians”, but most of the rest of us are in the spectrum. And subtle racism shows up in the mainstream media, which many people buy into. I noticed this piece on 60 Minutes how Tom Coburn (R-OK) got along with Barack Obama (D-IL) when they were both freshman Senators in 2005, and even enacted legislation together where they could find common ground.
Just not feeling this divided nation thing.
Then Dan Van Riper jumps in:
Well, I’ll ask a more pointed version of Uthaclena’s question. With all this subtle propaganda from above calling for the USA to break up, do you think that the United States will survive intact as a nation by the end of this decade? (I suspect not, and I hope I’m very wrong.)
Let’s look at the people who could actually pull off this coup. I mean other than the 99% if they could get their act together.
1) The armed forces. I suppose they COULD be mobilized if they were conned into thinking that it was for the greater patriotic good. But it’s not like the Egyptian army, an entity unto itself, that could make or break the government.
2) The police. Too decentralized. Not like the corrupt Mexican police. Although it COULD happen in a few places, despite efforts by the brass. And I’m really unsettled by the recent US Supreme Court ruling that police officers are permitted to violate American citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights if the violation results from a “reasonable” mistake about the law on the part of the police.
3) Some right-wing coalition. It is true that there are more hate groups under Barack Obama than ever, that there are 41 states that have an active chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, and that there are anti-government types such as alleged cop-killer Eric Frein out there. Can they work some loose affiliation with the Clive Bundy supporters and disrupt things? Maybe.
My feeling, though, is that at least some of these groups will dissipate somewhat when Obama leaves office because the myth of the terrible black Kenyan sticking it to the white man won’t be sustainable anymore.