Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Big Brother and Targets of Public Outrage

Idiotic and often disgusting stunts by college students and at college fraternities and sororities seem as regular and inevitable as stupid statements by politicians and questionable actions by police officers and if we were so inclined, we might spend our days ranting and raging about it.  Sometimes we do that, but what we choose to obsess about seems chosen for us rather than a spontaneous reaction to circumstances. The American public is an orchestra, a chorus, a marching band and those things have their conductors, their choir leaders and drum majors to produce and direct passion on demand, outrage on cue.

So the University of Houston suspends Sigma Chi for hazing practices so dangerous as to be criminal whether or not the pledges voluntarily submit. The District Attorney may press criminal charges.  You didn't hear about it through the week long din of  gnashing and wailing and rending of clothes over rude comments made on a bus at another university. Boys will be boys and at least they're not racists. We're only accepting racism outrage this month and next month will be reserved for Hillary's e-mail.

So two cops walk into a house in Dallas.  There's a man standing there with a screwdriver.  His mother tells the cops he's mentally ill and wants help getting him to the hospital. "we don't have time for this" says one of them.  They shoot him repeatedly until he's dead.  That's right, CNN is not covering this round the clock, there are no nationwide demonstrations reminding us that bipolar lives matter. Call me a racist, and some have, but the struggle for justice and equality for all isn't well served by ignoring anyone's liberty and civil rights. Human life matters.

So a guy gets a phone call from a neighbor.  His house is surrounded by 40 police cars, SWAT team with rifles and battering rams. There's a remote control bomb disposal robot, there are armored assault vehicles.  Returning home, the parents of the teenager inside are told not to enter "the kill zone."  Later they're told the kid "is deceased."  They could only get details from the TV news the following day.  It was claimed the kid had a long police record.  He didn't.  A neighbor saw the plainclothes officers approaching the young man and thought they were robbers. It's likely the victim did too.  They jumped the fence, tackled him and when he defended himself, they killed him.  Happens in Phoenix all the time: the mentally ill, the poor, the Hispanic, the innocent, the harmless. We tend not to demonstrate round the clock, not to burn cars, rob liquor stores, loot businesses. We tend not to notice. The conductor's baton is pointing elsewhere. This is what it means, all that it means and nothing else is pertinent, anything else is out of line and racist.

 Last year the police story about the homeless New Mexico man who pulled a small knife when ordered to move along and had to be killed, was contradicted by video that shows he was complying, not resisting. His life mattered and his "white privilege" availed him not. 

The U.S. Justice Department issued a report last year documenting that the Albuquerque Police Department  has for years engaged in a pattern of excessive force that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The mentally ill, ethnic minorities, the homeless, the poor, the helpless: 

     officers too frequently use deadly force against people who pose a minimal threat, said the report.

     Albuquerque officers use “less lethal” force, including Tasers, on people who are non-threatening   or unable to comply with orders. 

     Encounters between APD officers and persons with mental illness and in crisis too frequently result in a use of force or a higher level of force than necessary. 

Police brutality, excessive force -- it seems to correlate more with helplessness than with anything else, but that observation departs from the official line, deflects anger from the target we're given. It flirts with racist thoughts. It admits shades and colors into our prescribed, black and white arguments.  In fact we have a problem with the way the police sometimes treat people in general. and for those without such effective advocates and agitators, their plight is worse. Black, Brown, Indigenous and indigent people all suffer from  official brutality as well as from official lack of concern and it's time to step out of line and take a stand against the incompetence, the bias, the anger and increasing militarism of our police. But for the love of justice, let's stop forcing our force-fed examples to monopolize the news while ignoring the real problem.  All lives matter!

No comments: