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Paradigm Shift: Gulag America

Xenophon's picture

Saw some shit today I hadn't seen since I was young. Not a good sign when the police go rabid. What was it Sarah said? "I don't give a damn about financial records or postings." Of course not. Why would the reality of housing scandals, corrupt police, inner-city drugs, and financial take over be of any significance? As Matt Taibi so eloquently put it “we're officially, royally fucked .”

What had brought us to the brink of collapse in the first place was this relentless instinct for building ever-larger megacompanies, passing deregulatory measures to gradually feed all the little fish in the sea to an ever-shrinking pool of Bigger Fish.

Paulson and his cronies turned the federal government into one gigantic, half-opaque holding company, one whose balance sheet includes the world's most appallingly large and risky hedge fund, a controlling stake in a dying insurance giant, huge investments in a group of teetering megabanks, Link

Somewhere in America we want to believe that the police serve and protect, that our vote counts and that, yes Virginia there really is a Santa clause. We want to believe that if we protect the animals and hug trees we can save ourselves and avenge the injustices we have suffered in the past. We can believe that we have what we have because we worked hard and, by golly, we ... deserve it.

It is the illusion or should I say collective delusion shared by most that we live in a country governed by the rule of law. We have to believe it. Our sanity depends on it. Our very identity as “Americans” requires that we believe and hold firm to the idea that we are a nation of laws, a meritocracy, where hard work and integrity mean something. So like the delusional collection of psychopaths we are we destroy any one that reminds us this is a dog eat dog world. I think we'd better get our collective heads out of our collective ass. Welcome to the Gulag.

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bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Hey Xeno. Good to see you back here again.

American society, from before the founding, rests on a principle of the few enjoying the fruits of the labor of the many. Everything we see around us today exemplifies that as much as did the system of legalized slavery. That slavery continues today, in stylized form but just as real, with the powerful wealthy few exploiting the laboring masses.

I’m not sure there is a real way out of that structure, but I am sure there are ways to make it less onerous than it is today. One thing that could help is for those of us not in the elite to stop viewing each other as enemies. To the extent that we fight amongst ourselves for scraps, we do the bidding of those who own us.

Oakland, CA, is very bit as awful in its economic and social nightmare as is Chicago or any other large American city, and worse than most. It is a free-fire zone, with open warfare between street gangs as well as between street gangs and the police and between street gangs and law-abiding citizens. To anyone willing to see, it is patently obvious that the desperation that generates these street gangs stems from socioeconomic - class - discrimination, with roots at least as far back as legalized slavery. Those root problems will not be solved, however, by us attacking each other, nor will it be solved by demonizing those whose job it is to protect the law-abiding.

The suspect was identified as Oakland resident Lovelle Mixon, 26. He was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon, police said. He had a no-bail warrant for his arrest on charges of violating parole.

Plus he was packing a gun, another parole violation, and not just any gun but an illegal assault weapon; multiple felonies, with long prison terms likely. Mr. Mixon was headed to jail when he was stopped for a routine traffic violation, but he chose instead to kill two unsuspecting police officers. Then rather than surrender he chose to kill two more before he was killed himself. As much as he may have been driven to his acts by a horrible system, in the end he is the one who made all of those choices.

We can’t know what was going through Mixon’s mind. Maybe it was fear of going back to prison, maybe it was suicide by cop; maybe he went insane, maybe he didn’t think at all. Regardless, it seems a tragic waste of a young life, a waste that likely began when he was born into a nightmare existence over which he had no control – and still, he made choices.

What does seem clear is that these dead cops were not “rabid” as you describe them. Nothing about their history or their behavior in this case supports that nomenclature. As much as Mixon is a victim of his circumstances, so are the four dead cops.

I’ve known a lot of cops, as well as a lot of criminals. By and large I like the cops better, but I also acknowledge that not all criminals are inherently bad people. Just as often, they are simply trapped in a system they cannot control and a life from which they cannot find a way to escape. Certainly too, the people of Oakland are not by any means all criminals even though most of them are desperately poor and struggling for existence every day of their lives.

It is wrong, morally and tactically and factually, to view the poor blacks of Oakland collectively as somehow inherently evil or unworthy or malicious; they are not. They are just people, trying to do the best they can in an unfair system. The same is true of the police, in Oakland as well as elsewhere; they are mostly just people, doing their best within a system that is inherently unfair. It is wrong, morally and tactically and factually, to view them collectively as the enemy of the masses or as nothing more than tools of the elite; they are human beings trapped in the same hell as the rest of us.

As we discuss how we might make the lives of most of us better than they are, we would do well to discriminate between those who are our enemies and those with whom we simply have differences. With of course some exceptions, evil is everywhere, the police are just as much trapped in the lower reaches of class warfare in America as the rest of us. While it is right to condemn those few cops who are evil, it is equally wrong to condemn those who get up and go to work just like other law-abiding citizens, doing a job that most of us haven’t got the courage to undertake. In this particular instance, describing these four innocent murdered police officers as “rabid” is a false characterization, and does you no credit to levy.

Outside of Mixon’s own family and friends, who through some veil of dysfunctionality speak of an assault rifle bearing multiple murderer as gentle and unassuming, the rest of Oakland and the greater Bay Area are instead mourning the loss of those policemen. That includes the vast majority of Oakland citizens, the law-abiding citizens who are utterly sick to death of the continuing slaughter of innocents perpetrated by a small, vicious and violent street criminal element and who have been begging for more police presence for their own safety and welfare.

There are plenty of sources of blame for what happen yesterday, but the fault does not lie with these four dead officers; they are victims, not perpetrators. A little respect for decent people, please.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Four sergeants struck down by one man.
First time in the history of the Oakland PD.

Four families deprived of fathers, brothers, husbands. Four communities deprived of adults, role models, friends.

Am I supposed to consider the men shot down as rabid?

Or am I supposed to discount their lives in preference for one?

I have trouble with this version of 'justice.'

That the 26-year-old Mixon had led a difficult life I do not doubt. Yet I find it implausible that he should be absolved of all responsibility for those four killings -- yes, Hege remains on life support, pending a decision about organ donation -- simply because Mixon was young and black and had a criminal record that predisposed him to fear returning to custody, court or prison.

carissa's picture
Submitted by carissa on

When read "rabid cops" I wondered what Xenophon could possibly be refering to. So I clicked on the link, thinking I was going to be taken to another story, and was horrified to see that Xeno had linked to the tragedy in Oakland. That Xeno could call these cops "rabid" just about made me want to throw up. I will be sure to skip over anything Xeno posts in the future.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I don't always agree with Xeno, but I always read him and I miss his provocative thinking when he's not around. We'll sort through our differences, or not, but I still have deep respect for his honesty and his intelligence. He may sometimes be wrong (heh) but he fights fair and with integrity and coherency, and that's all anyone should ever expect.

Submitted by lambert on


carissa's picture
Submitted by carissa on

Okay. I don't want to be kneejerk in my reaction, but hoo-boy, that was a harsh post to read.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

What a nightmare - for everyone.

What has happened to Oakland is a national disgrace. When I was young the city was starting into decline but it was still possible to walk the streets at night without fear; that is long gone now, and everything is getting worse for all the well-known reasons. To the extent that we can look on the crime and violence happening there as a foreshadowing of things to come for us all, then Xenophon is exactly right - we are headed for dog-eat-dog disaster, a dystopia of the worst possible sort, and he may be correct that we are already there and just don't quite see it yet.

It may be unavoidable, I dunno; maybe all civilizations have to collapse, some law of nature we can't overcome, but it surely does not help us avoid that fate to confuse those suffering with us as being somehow our enemies.

There is no good thing here, nothing positive to be had. Good people dead, for no good reason, and even Mr. Mixon must be mourned. He was somebody's baby once, an innocent child carrying his and his parents' hopes and dreams, and now he's both dead and a disgrace. What a nightmare, for everyone.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

am not sure he should be idealized.

That may not be what Xeno meant; it may well be my own bias and feeling coloring what I read. We live in a world that's us-vs.-them, all the time, anymore; it makes me sad. I think it makes us all more impoverished, in many ways.

Is where you live near Richmond?

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Richmond is at the north end of SF Bay, about an hour from where I am now.

¿Por qué?

[Taking another look at Xeno's post, I'm wondering if he has gotten his links transposed. Ah well; if he comes back he'll straighten me out.]

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

my parents welded in the Kaiser shipyards in WWII, building Liberty ships.

I have an itch to see the Home Front Memorial and the Richmond Historical Museum's collection of "Fore N Aft," as I understand they have at least one of every issue.

But I'm told Richmond's no place for amateurs, and when it comes to California, I would be the greenest of greenhorns.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

not really.

Richmond is a rough town, but no more so than say Detroit...or Nuevo Laredo.

My mother came West to work in the war industry too. She took a job as a parts delivery driver, having never driven a car in her life. After she was hired she got a cousin to teach her how and showed up the next morning at Motor Vehicles to take her drivers test, then reported to work that afternoon.

They gave her the keys to a pickup, a map and a list, and turned her loose. She's been pedal-to-the-metal ever since.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

My Dad went out first, with one of my uncles.
Both of them landed work with Kaiser; Dad could weld already, so by the time Mom got out there Dad had a journeyman's card; but Mom spent three days in welding school. She was about 5'3 and probably 110 pounds soaking wet, so she got to work in small (read double-hull confined spaces) areas, and later on ammunition hoists (from underneath, where, I gather, bigger people don't fit).

Dad worked on "Hull 440", as he knew it; christened Robert E. Peary, it was the ship they set a record for building in the shortest time from laying the keel to launch at Richmond Shipyards. Somewhere around here I still have his copy of the launch commemorative everyone who worked on her received. I'm given to understand the ways where that ship went together have been turned into a park/memorial now.

I don't know Detroit at all; I've been set afoot in New Orleans (before Katrina) and in Los Angeles (after Rodney King) and survived, though. Nuevo Laredo I missed, though I've seen Laredo.

Brownsville I know a little, and Harlingen/Weslaco/Donna/PSJA/Edinburg a little better -- except I haven't been back since '04. I've been to El Paso several times since then, but not in the last six months.

I'd like to see a little more of California; what I remember of it was pretty, if slightly boggling (in the middle of a desert, multi-story fountains everywhere!) and probably nostalgically rose-colored now (I bet the LA buses cost more than a quarter to ride these days).

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

is I suppose dangerous in some ways. I've staggered drunk through the back streets of New Orleans at 4AM and never felt threatened, but I sure as hell had a hard time falling asleep out in the open the time I was stalked while hiking alone in the High Sierras - by a cougar. Big Kitty wasn't after my wallet, if you know what I mean.

CA is a beautiful state, although I'm not so much impressed by the fountains in the desert. Texas is beautiful also, ya know, with the same sort of exceptions; if I never see downtown Dallas again it will be OK with me, and the same goes for downtown LA.

Don't know anything about a memorial in Richmond for the shipyards, missed that. Must be a webpage somewhere; if we are nothing else now in CA, we are damn sure hooked up to the intertubes in every possible self-aggrandizing way. Between facebook and twitter and blogging it is a wonder anything useful at all gets done.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I quite like the Hill Country, and I'm very fond of desert and plains, wide open spaces with lots of vista, which Texas has plenty of.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

although maybe not this week: the sky is burnt orange from all the sand in the air.

Yeah, that would be March in Texas. Springtime comes with sandstorms. :)

But as I grow less youthful, I find the plains in the South as appealing as these in the Panhandle, only warmer. Quien sabe, eh?

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Osteoarthritis head to toe, and the cold just makes everything ache worse that it already does. I'm re-doing an iris bed (yes, yes, should have been done last fall, way too late in the season, long story) and to do it I have to kneel on a concrete sidewalk that this time of year is in shade and that surface is damn cold. My knees are killing me.

I've been to Lubbock, thought I'd mentioned that. Just in and out, as it were, no time for real sightseeing, but yeah the horizon goes for a long ways. Much better for my head than stuck down in the bottom of canyons of glass and steel.

Marmalade skies: