Monthly Archives: September 2016

How Difficult is It to Show a Little Support?

Ferguson Police NYT 2

UPDATE BELOW

One would think the GOP and gun advocates would be more supportive of Americans’ rights to be free from excessive government intervention and from being shot by the police for the mere possession of a firearm. Apparently when it comes to black people, the GOP and NRA worship the government and anything in a uniform.

As Eugene Robinson writes,

If you are a black man in America, exercising your constitutional right to keep and bear arms can be fatal. You might think the National Rifle Association and its amen chorus would be outraged, but apparently they believe Second Amendment rights are for whites only.

Meanwhile a White guy can wave a gun and taunt Black protesters. And we all know the police aren’t going to shoot him.

On the Philando Castile shooting where after telling the police he possessed a legal firearm, the police shot Castile dead, Robinson writes:

Afterward, it was confirmed that Castile did indeed have a legal permit to carry a gun. He was not guilty of any crime. He was just 32 — and, incredibly, had in his brief life been stopped a total of 52 times for nickel-and-dime traffic violations.

Think about that: here’s a guy who had been stopped 52 times by the police – not in the West Bank but in the United States of America. So why is Donald Trump saying – to much praise from the Right — that in his America, he would increase Stop & Frisk? If being stopped 52 times by the police isn’t excessive government intervention then I don’t know what is. Stop & Frisk is the epitome of government excess.

El_Tres_de_Mayo,_by_Francisco_de_Goya,_from_Prado

We all remember this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

But how about what comes next?

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

But overall, my biggest question is: why is it so difficult for Republicans and many Americans (including plenty of Democrats) to simply show a little support, especially when such a large sector of our society is crying out for help? Why is it that a portion of Americans are asking to be treated with dignity by the government they pay to protect them, yet Trump and most conservatives boast about making their lives worse?

Remember, the police work for us, not the other way around. The police are government representatives paid for by us the taxpayers. If taxpayers are unhappy with the services their community receives from the police, the community should have the right to protest and demand a change, and absolutely no one in America should find that controversial.

If one portion of America wants to vote for a candidate for his supposed business acumen, then tell me what successful business in the world survives when it dismisses its customers’ complaints and taunts them in response? Surely that is how one of our major parties wishes to treat us.

So when Colin Kaepernick takes a knee for the National Anthem. Or when African Americans around the county demand to receive better service from those they pay to protect them, ridiculing them is counterproductive and about as un-patriotic as one can imagine.

Wouldn’t showing just a little support make much more sense? Why not start by just listening?

UPDATE:

great-observation

Seeing this photo coincides with a conversation I had today with a friend about that sudden fear that rushes through your body whenever a police officer crosses your paths in the United States, whether it is simply a police cruiser pulling up behind you on the road, an officer standing next to you in a store, or stopping you on the street. That feeling that you must be absolutely submissive is absolutely unique to the United States of America. And I say that as a “white” boy from a nice white suburb.  It is a feeling I have never had anywhere else in the world, having lived now 16 years abroad.

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It’s Just Creepy

first-orderI did my entire primary and secondary education in the Montgomery Country Public Schools system in Maryland, USA. And every single weekday morning from age 5 to 18, I stood up with my entire class, faced the American flag and a loudspeaker, placed my right hand over my heart, and — accompanied by the rest of the classrooms and students in the school building — followed the lead of our school principal to recite in unison the Pledge of Allegiance.

north-koreaThis wasn’t Nazi Germany, some former Soviet state or North Korea. It was and continues to be the United States of America.

When San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked controversy for refusing to stand for the national anthem, I immediately thought – not about the politics – but how the whole playing and standing for the national anthem thing is – like making children recite a morning pledge — just creepy.

As I get older, travel the world and live abroad, I can see how creepy – insecure even – is this very unique American obsession with constantly reaffirming our patriotism.

I go to an airport in the U.S. and when my flight is ready to board, the ground handler announces that servicemen in uniform get priority boarding. Then people clap and thank the guys in camou for their service. Forget for a second the politics of whether I support the wars they fight on my behalf or believe that those wars actually protect me or my freedoms. The draft is over, these are people who of free volition, in a free market have elected to take a government job working in the U.S. military, like anyone else who freely chooses to become a public school teacher, tax collector, DMV administrator or public defender.

As Bomani Jones writes in relation to Kaepernick,

The NFL takes many of its cues from the military and has encouraged the idea that reverence for the military is a citizen’s requirement, not choice. The draft is gone, but we’ve all been conscripted as unquestioning devotees whose gratitude can be demanded by anyone at any time.

If we live in a country that believes – has convinced itself that it believes – in the free market, in private sector solutions and that anything the government does or controls should be distrusted, then why the cognitive dissonance when it comes to people in a uniform? Why do we have to be unquestioning devotees to the military and the police? Don’t they work for us? Don’t we pay their salaries with our taxes? Isn’t paying taxes then the ultimate sign of support for our military? So why aren’t those wealthy Americans and corporations who do everything in the power to pay lower (0r no) taxes (not to mention, never serving in the military) considered less patriotic?

And why is it that we are told to protest peacefully, but then when we do – as in the case of Kaepernick by sitting and not standing – we suddenly become anti-American heretics? And why does everyone else have to protest peacefully, when the U.S. government, its officials, agents and pundits get to threaten everyone else with war, violence, death and punishment? So, for example, why does John McCain get to propose invading country after country while everyone else has to act like Martin Luther King Jr.?

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Of course, it wasn’t a coincidence that in 1954 corporate America together with religious groups lobbied to get the words “under God” incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance. We wanted to brainwash Americans to believe that capitalism was sanctioned by Christian values at a time of heightened fears of communism. But now we act like those two words are the resounding pillars of our society.

watchtowerSo forget for a second the politics of Black Lives Matters or that Black Americans may be uncomfortable with police departments like the one in Ferguson running a shakedown racket, the police towers and constant harassment, mass incarceration or that the police are a greater mortal threat than terrorists. Forget about whether not standing for the anthem is an appropriate act of protest or an offensive public heresy.

Repeat after me, “I love you, father, I love you father, I love you father,” until I am finally comfortable that you love me.  At the end of the day, are we a nation of children in need of brainwashing or a nation of insecure, needy parents who require constant affirmation from their flock?

The fact is that the demand for unquestioning devotion in the form of pledges of allegiance or the “Please stand for the National Anthem” is just plain creepy.

 

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