Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Our Nation in a Nutshell

In a nutshell, the situation nationally as I see it is this: 

(1) At the heart of everything, our economic balance, envisioned like a pyramid, is essentially standing on a single top-heavy point where the majority of our resources go to the Top 1%, rather than shoring up public infrastructure and supporting the bottom 90% of the economic base. This situation is unsustainable and untenable. Traditionally, when societies are at this point, they tend to tip over into chaotic and violent revolution. The powers-that-be are terrified of this eventuality.

(2) Demographically, the country is changing, which means that the white power-majority will soon be a minority regime. This, like the tipping over of economic balance, frightens many whites of all classes, who expect to be treated in the same manner that whites have treated everybody else for the past 400 years. In order to stay "on top", the leaders of the old order are using increasingly sophisticated and brutal forms of control, from rigging the economic game against the average person to undermining public education to mass surveillance to the brutal enforcement tactics of ever-more-militarized police forces. The fear of this demographic change -- as exemplified in the Regressive mind by Obama himself -- is a major part of what's spurring the massive resurgence of public racism that we're currently seeing. 

(3) The above two truths have led to the steady handing over of direct control of governmental power and policy to private moneyed interests over the past 35 years, which has all-but eradicated accountability to the citizenry. This merging of private corporate power with public governmental power is exactly Mussolini's definition of Fascism. As a result, both the military and police forces have positioned themselves where they are no longer required to follow the laws that they're sworn to uphold and defend. As the average person grows more desperate under increasing control, the more draconian the attempts at control by the military and police will be. 

(3) The ultimate trump card to all this is that the planet itself -- likely spurred on by humanity's irresponsible use of planetary resources -- is starting its periodic climate shift. While humanity as a species has survived at least one, if not two such shifts in our 100,000 year history, such shifts bring with them catastrophes of Biblical proportions. No matter how large a portion of humanity survives the next inevitable round, society as we know it will fundamentally change, likely reverting back to a proto-feudal state, where some "developed" areas will resemble a combination of "Mad Max" and Medieval Europe and the rest of the world will revert first to violent chaos and then to primitive hunter-gatherer status.

We as individuals have some hard choices to make on how to handle all this. We can fight to reverse the Fascist trends to which things are heading (Some may say it's too late. The idealist in me says it's never too late to try); We can give up trying, submit to Fascism and let history take it's course; Or we can try and anticipate the coming changes and do what we can as individuals to adapt.

The choice is up to us.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I Can't Breathe

I’ve been pondering over the last week how best to express my feelings at the sheer audacity of two nearly identical incidents of white police officers murdering unarmed black men in Ferguson and Staten Island, and walking away scot-free, with little to no accountability for their actions.  

The failure of two Grand Juries to indict these cops, confirming years of To Kill a Mockingbird cases across the country for far too long,  combined with the over-militarization of police forces around the country tells me that the deepest cornerstone of American Law – specifically the Rights of Miranda and Habeas Corpus has effectively been taken away from the citizenry. 

That by itself is enough to send Patriotic terror through my very soul.  What’s worse, though, is that a very big obstacle to fixing this issue is that too many are still clinging to the opinion that the cops are justified in using lethal force against unarmed citizens.  These are content-weak and vitriolic attempts to make what clearly is an issue of police management and racial equality NOT about what these cases clearly are all about.  

I’ve heard a lot of variations on “He broke the law and deserved what he got”.  This is what’s known as blaming the victim. Nobody – regardless of race, creed or color -- deserves a summary execution without trial for shoplifting, nor does anybody deserve a summary brutal execution for standing up for themselves when a cop harasses them without reading them their rights.  There's submitting to rule of law and then there's submitting to the abuse of law.  The two are very different things. What this argument essentially is calling for is the blind and knee-jerk submission to the law, even if it's very clearly being abused -- arguments in line with Loyalist thinking back in the 1770’s.  As history has shown, those arguments didn't hold true then and it doesn't hold true now.

He was resisting arrest” is another common refrain I’m hearing from police supporters, which I’d say is one of the main variations of the victim blaming argument above.  In Eric Garner's case, we have the video.  He's very clearly doing what any of us would do if we were running out of a store we'd stopped off at to stop a parking ticket from being put on the windshield of our standing car.  Yes, bootleg cigarettes are illegal, but on the same level as parking in a “no parking” zone or jaywalking -- certainly not deserving of tactics designed for hostage-takers.

But the way things are now, for a white person like me, trying to reason with the cops is acceptable behavior and the worst I can expect is to be handed a ticket anyway.  For a black person, it's a death sentence.  This double-standard has already bled over from merely the minority communities to all economically disadvantaged and downtrodden – no matter their skin color.  Children are literally dying every day in America at the hands of a police force that has become an occupying army, rather than a band of officers of the peace.

Are you comfortable living in a society in which your own kids or your kids’ friends stand a good chance of getting gunned down by a uniformed cop for jaywalking and having no avenue to seek redress? 

For those of us who’re getting off of the sidelines and standing up, most are objecting to the abuse -- not the rule, but the abuse -- of law and figuring out for ourselves how we as citizens can do something about it so that the law can serve the interests of the average person, as it was designed initially to do. I can't imagine anything more quintessentially American. It's not a question of "America: Love it or Leave it", as so many Regressives will default to, it's a question of how to fulfill the Preamble of the Constitution and do what we can to perfect an imperfect Union.

When it comes to peace officers, we allow them a badge and a gun as the privilege that comes with the responsibility of holding to the highest standards of ethical behavior.  Now, we have incident after incident after incident after incident of cops targeting minority communities for non-violent misdemeanor crimes and using excess – often lethal -- force every time.  There are simply too many cases of deliberate excessive lethal force among the cops over too long a period of time for the “few bad apples" argument to carry any weight.  The entire police force – including the “bad apples” that perpetuate violence and the “good apples” that refuse to check their brothers-in-arms – has been exposed as unworthy of their position across the board.  While excessive force is this commonplace and legally sanctioned, I'm afraid anybody who wears the uniform is now officially suspect.  I advise all my readers to avoid contact with the police at all costs.

The whole point of Habeas Corpus and Miranda is that the citizen should be protected from unwarranted search and seizure. The fact that the cops are ignoring this -- in particular with the minority community -- should be enough to make even the most ardent Regressive take notice.  

And to those who inevitably accuse me of “race-baiting”, I can only say that it's not and never was “race-baiting” to point out real systemic racism.  Asserting that it is essentially is a "know your place, N-word" argument that doesn't hold up in the face of facts.  As a white man from an upper-middle-class neighborhood, I grew up with certain privileges as a citizen. It's hardly "race-baiting" to insist that my fellow citizens be guaranteed the same rights and privileges I enjoy when they most clearly aren't getting that guarantee.

While all of us as citizens have a duty to stand up with respect, dignity and civility, the real burden of responsibility remains with those holding the badge.  Since those carrying badges won’t stand up for the legal inborn rights of the citizenry, then it’s time for us – We, the People -- to stand up and do it ourselves.