Why Do So Many US Citizens Enable Our Police State?
I remarked to a coworker the other day about the tragic death of Sandra Bland. She agreed but hastened to add, “That is why I try to stay away from watching the news as much as possible.”
Before I had time to re-raise my jaw, she launched into an analysis of an impending work project, clearly closing the door to further discussion.
Why is this so often the rule not the exception among seemingly smart and empathetic US citizens who may momentarily tch-tch about some media-addressed dimension of the ethical freakshows that have become our economic, foreign policy, social, political and legal systems in America but who choose to pass over serious emotional and intellectual focus on them as if such issues really aren’t any of their -- our -- natural and constitutional business as citizens?
As for politics at the workplace, I should know better. I have never been forgiven I suspect spouting my bitter and early disenchantment with Obama back in 2009 when his campaign images still graced so many work cubes. I had endured more than a few smirky remarks after John Edwards had disgraced himself. Soon enough the new Prez was disgracing himself big time, but I seemed to be the only one seriously noticing.
Once Obama was ensconced in the WH, politics as a water cooler topic was discouraged at my work place. One supervisor advised me to shelve my particular (peculiar I’m thinking was what she really meant) and then -- preceded by a pause -- “passion” for politics as best I could.
I kept my mouth shut most of the time but soon after opted to wear a black arm band, vowing not to take it off until specifically Obama closed Gitmo as promised and prosecuted the Bush torture cabal. Just a matter of time -- weeks or months at most -- I assumed and wearing the band each day reminded me to hang onto my own moral compass. I also assumed wearing it would trigger some random but productive discussions as I navigated through my daily NYC world about the need for an end to and censure of US torture.
I never dreamed I would end up wearing the arm band for three long years, and technically I should still be wearing it, but I finally surrendered hope in Obama’s ever exhibiting serious conscience or it being a reliable catalyst for serious discussion.
Over those years only three people directly asked me what the arm band was for, one assuming there had been a recent death in my immediate family. I suspect my arm band at work did trigger discussion -- but only after I exited the room and they focused on how eccentric I can be.
Okay, no argument.
Before Obama’s election I rued the craven regime of Bush and Cheney but I had a greater sense of hope then, because I assumed there was a larger team of conscience-awakened citizens allied with me, all those Bush-bashing progressives, some even on tv, radio and in mainstream print media, who were not okay with expensive and violent illegitimate wars harming or killing hundreds of thousands of people globally, corporate profits over people wars cravenly justified by the tragedy of 9/11. When Bush was thank the Lord finally finished in office, another dark, spiritual age of America would be over I trusted. We would recover.
Obama supposedly won the 2008 election because of his strong anti-war stance. (Along with being endorsed by the almighty Oprah.) He also supposedly won thanks to contributions of average, every day Americans whose welfare he vowed to take care of.
Obama’s anti-war stance was gone in a New York minute after the election. Also gone was his prioritizing the needs of average citizens. Obama immediately began serving the one percent elite both domestically and internationally.
Nevertheless, Obama somehow kept the respect and good will of legions of so-called progressives, who rationalized as “pragmatics” against an ever-marginalized minority of us “purists” that Obama was doing the best that he could and we were letting the “perfect be the enemy of the good”. These were the early days of the evil “lesser evilism” meme.
We “purists” recognized Obama as a highly effective Trojan horse for oligarchy.
Imperial violence and violations of international law and also constitutional law escalated under Obama. Yet, our black, amiable and intelligent-sounding president could count on the same Bush/Cheney policies and even new illegitimate and amoral foreign policy, home security and surveillance programs being minimized and justified by Blue Team Dems.
Jumping ahead to the latest up to the minute ethical freakshow finally entering the national conversation in America, there is the assembly line of gratuitously murdered victims of the police. Three citizens killed per day is an estimate I heard recently. Trigger happy over-militarized cops using lethal force wantonly on citizens who happen to cross their paths. When and if they seriously and suddenly challenge them for some inconvenient behavior in the eyes of said police officer or even more dangerously an aggressive, racism-prone group-thinking bevy of them, anything can happen. Like, for example after example after example, instantaneous murder!!! Resulting in NO ACCOUNTABILITY. ABSOLUTE IMMUNITY.
Killer cops get to walk. WTF?
Why is it any surprise after years with no-accountability and blatant cronyism lying that proceeding with caution in the use of lethal force is not a biggie to the average cop on the street?
For right now, the targets of wanton and gratuitous police brutality and even murder are black and brown citizens, along with immigrants, the poor, dissidents, the emotionally ill, the young, the homeless, transgender people and others marginalized too often in our society. We have all been goose-stepping by the homeless for years, may I point out. Desensitizing circumstances for ALL of us!
The mainstream corporate media (along with our political class -- well, not OUR class, mind you but that belonging to the 1%) having shoved so much police brutality and victimizations under the proverbial rug for so many years is now ready to titillate with many, many of these ongoing tales of police violence. This seems a good thing, right? Though I trust the media about as far as I can throw it. The media can turn on a dime and demonize the very victims it has just been spotlighting, keep in mind. And a bobble-headed public majority will follow the damn media anywhere.
The law and order, tough on “terra” pols are now pausing to review the present media situation. Reality not currently analyzed by media is like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest without a media witness to these pols. Who cares? This is why Obama liked to have those secret meetings with strong media mouthpieces like the one on Putin with Jon Stewart, for example. Media has power.
The pols must consider cultivating new sound bites about blatant police cronyism and abuse of authority, paralleling similar abuses of authority and cronyism in their own economic, social and international policy orbits, mind you. They must now ramp up the hypocrisy of faux-caring with feigned outrage, at the same time preventing serious reform in a country in which soft-fascism continues to harden fast. Hmmm. How to talk the talk without walking the walk.
Fascism is such a friend to capitalism, but no one must acknowledge fascism by that name. Forget I just said that!
Again, as for the proverbial “bewildered herd” of the majority of the citizenry, what of them and the revelations of our clearly present POLICE STATE?
Since both conservatives and so-called progressives have serious trouble rallying empathy for the global hundreds of thousands the United States has directly or indirectly been responsible for slaughtering or devastating the lives of, HERE COMES ANOTHER MORAL LITMUS TEST.
WHAT ABOUT FELLOW CITIZENS WHO HAPPEN TO BE POOR, BLACK OR BROWN OR ON THOSE SOCIAL MARGINS?
CAN AND WILL the majority of the citizenry rally real concern for the current American citizens being gratuitously and illegitimately killed or maimed or caged by unconstitutional policing?
I have a cousin with a very mischievous sense of humor. Years ago when we got to spend serious time together, I remember pouring out some of my troubles to her. She would listen sympathetically but at the end she would give me an impish smile and advise, “Well, Lib, you know it could be a whole lot worse!” My eyes would widen with anticipation. “How’s that?” I pressed. “It could be happening to ME!” she shot back.
We would have a good laugh over that one. Well, actually, she would cackle uproariously and I would manage to force a chuckle.
COULD IT BE THAT SIMPLE? BOTTOM-LINE INDIVIDUAL NARCISSISM CREATING A COLLECTIVE SOCIOPATHY? IF IT IS NOT HAPPENING TO ME DIRECTLY AND MOMENTARILY, WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Week after week after week, victim after victim after victim.
Will the majority of our citizens continue to ignore the unignore-able? Give a tch, tch here. A tch, tch there. Here a body, there a body, but seriously not care? I mean seriously not give a God damn?
I worry. I doubt. I mourn.
In June I was notified via a World Can't Wait email of a meeting on the upper East side of New York at the Church of All Souls (apt name) seeking participants who wanted to put an end to the national epidemic of police terrorism.
HELL YES!!! I ran not walked there.
There in the church basement were fellow New Yorkers, about 150, all colors, affiliations, ages, both genders, eager to rally to STOP THE INSANITY. I myself a blogger. An only occasional (I am ashamed to admit) hit the street activist. From the anti-Vietnam War, pro-civil rights generation. Eventual Green Party member who got mightily disgusted by the betrayal of the corporate-captured Dem Party.
When I attend such rallies for liberal causes I can’t help do the math. New York City is the home of 8.5 million people. Why can’t so many more of them feel the same urgency and alarm that, say, this particular eclectic group of 150 people in that church basement were feeling.
Carl Dix and Dr. Cornell West, two champions of civil rights, had called the meeting in order specifically to organize a protest the weekend of October 22-24 in NYC against police terrorism.
When Carl Dix spoke he kept emphasizing the intention to “saturate” the City with outraged and conscience-awakened citizens.
“Saturate” was the word he kept using and it annoyed me for its bold optimism. Really? Good luck with that, but I wanted so much to believe it could happen.
I kept having to exhale deeply. We were to activate fellow citizens to hit the streets by the end of October to express their concern for the victims of police violence and to demand an end to an unjust legal system in America.
In less than three months?
Well, the evidence of a dangerous police state was clearly out there for any to fathom. The numerous victims/martyrs. The list grew every week. The surreal statistics were finally getting aired in the media. Such as from NYT and WAPO, despite there having been approximately 1000 deadly police shootings each year for the past ten years in America, in all that time there had been in total less than 60 indictments and less than 25 prosecutions of police officers.
The meeting stirred me profoundly. The focus on the horrors of police terrorism and unjust mass incarceration -- to a “genocidal” degree some declared. The testimonies of surviving relatives of some of the victims of police murder who described graphically and pitifully the senselessness of the killings of their loved ones and the lack of accountability thereafter.
Also, again, what I found thrilling but worrisome was a focus on those citizens who prefer to play ostrich. Who stubbornly deny or minimize the gravity of what has happened in this country. Who are willing to ignore the unignore-able one more time. Who choose numbness and to be authoritarian followers unless and until life and death consequences directly impact them or their loved ones.
Here is a quote from Carl Dix about the necessity to challenge people who want to keep their heads stuck in that only temporary and/or delusionary safe sand.
“We have to draw a huge dividing line in society over these outrages and challenge people with the question: Which side are you on? There is no room for neutrality here. There is no middle ground. You are either standing with the people who are acting to STOP these attacks or you are OK with racists in and out of uniform murdering Black people.”
Well, that certainly and bluntly says it.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”
Using my own words I would ask people to consider if they are allied with love for the entire family of men, women and children and with their awakened conscience or if they are on the side of EVIL.
I now am willing myself to believe that allied love and righteousness will defeat evil.
There is an expression popular from the anti-Vietnam War era, “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” In that era, we citizens did finally reach a critical mass of on-our-feet anti-establishment status quo protest. May we be able to do it again. Sooner rather than later!!!!
Dr. Cornell West had this to say about reversing the toxic and deadly status quo that is America right now:
“It’s a beautiful thing when you’re on fire for justice whether you’re a Revolutionary Communist like my brother (referring to Carl Dix), whether you’re a Revolutionary Muslim like Malcolm X, a Revolutionary Buddhist, ... or a Revolutionary Christian like myself”. ... “Revolutionary comes in a lot of different forms but, the important thing is the overlap that focus on the dignity of those that Sly and the Family Stone called Everyday People”. ... “Of Everyday people you hate the fact that they’re being treated unjustly. You loathe the fact that they’re being treated unfairly”.
This isn’t rocket science.
It is about brotherly and sisterly love. It is about abandoning our shallow consumer identity as Americans and embracing our citizen one.
It is also about committed and courageous team work to shift America from a patriarchal, merciless, win/lose, might makes right, profits over people, double-standard, competitive, sociopathic, violent, racist, sexist paradigm to a humanist one that promotes empathy, win/win cooperation and partnership, peace and love.
#RiseUpOctober 22-24 NYC to protest police terrorism! Please endorse the call by signing the petition.