Friday, April 10, 2015

All Lives Matter

There was a thing called the Niagara Movement.  Founded over a hundred years ago to make a case for a confrontational approach to the problems of segregation and against the idea of negotiation, accommodation patience and compromise that the movement's leaders associated with Booker T. Washington.

In a way, it's typically American and we can look at the way we sing "Bomb Bomb Iran" on one day and try to negotiate a rational outcome on the other and seem not to be successful either way except to argue about what can be said, and how and by whom.

There is another thing called the Niagara Principle, according to which a single episode implies widespread occurrence. Movements of all sorts use it, to cherry pick examples and make them the paradigm and usually without statistical support. Having become cynical in this age of warring movements, I'm tempted to distrust them all and see a nest full of baby birds, mouths open and competing for attention.

So it is with war, revolution, genocide and the proliferation of nuclear weapons in a world shuffling toward armageddon, the question of which puppets and patsies and spokesmen for which warring movements will be selected to be our next president?  -- we're not going to hear about it for another period of time.  A black man was shot in the back by a South Carolina cop and the national passion play will begin anew. Entropy increases and in America, so does partisanship. When those things increase, so does the power and influence of those who profit by it.

We'll be told the call and response  is a "conversation" but anyone attempting to make it one may well be called a racist and have to tearfully retract such an eminently Humanist statement as "all lives matter" because it does not fit the mandated terminology of some movement dedicated to promote one problem and one view of it over another. Stick to the slogan. That's all, and it's not a subset of a greater, nobler and more enlightened principle.

I'll be blunt. We have a problem with over-armed, under-trained and fearful police. It's compounded by the fact that the police have to deal with a high percentage of poor and minority criminals and that leads to prejudice. We have a problem with indigent populations having inadequate opportunity for advancement or even the will to hope for it.   But it isn't enough to recognize this or to attempt to improve it, we have to use prescribed language, we have to ignore, forgive or explain away crime insurrection, rioting and violence and we have to stress that any picture must have a prescribed frame.  We can't call it prejudice, it has to be racism and we can't call it that unless we dictate who the target is. Shut up  -- we're having a conversation here.

We have a problem with every moral and legal and political principle and the language we use to describe it being hijacked by self-appointed authority. We have a problem with honesty and zeal and distortion and hyperbole and tunnel vision and  partisanship and  most of all, we have a problem separating the cause from the leaders and the institutions. Stating the case isn't making the case and the case we state isn't always more than a small part of a great Niagara washing us all to hell and oblivion and chaos.

If all lives don't matter, then life doesn't matter, yours or mine.

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