Strongarm Nation.

The clashes between protesters and police in Ferguson Missouri over the shooting of a young black man by the police are sadly not about the shooting they are about the protests. All across the country we hear stories of abuses of power by the police. These have not happened in shootings alone, they have also included choke holds, taser use, beatings, and intimidation. Very rarely, however, do these result in popular protest. Now that they have the sheer power wielded by the police is coming to light, resulting in calls to demilitarize the police.

Unfortunately the police have a point. This isn’t England where gun use is strictly controlled, we have allowed ourselves the create a violent, heavily armed, and unequal society, rife with drug abuse. Police in the U.S. probably do feel that at any time they may come under fire from dangerous weapons. This is not to excuse the “militarization” of the police it is simply to point out that we are reaping what we have sown. Our faulty law system, which puts more people in jail per capita than any other c0untry in the world, our willingness to arm society, and the brutality of our economic system has created a dangerous and distrustful society. Guns, the legal system, and our economic policies have not insured our freedom, they have in fact endangered it. When we have finally lost the stomach for this way of life rolling it back will probably require some degree of unpleasant force. Pray that you aren’t the object of that.

At the same time we have a continual stream of abuse of power stories about our governors. In the past year, Chris Christie, a Republican from New Jersey got in trouble for intentional lane closures on an important commuter bridge to punish a local politician, (something Christie supposedly knew nothing about), Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat from New York has come under fire for dissolving a corruption commission he had set up when it started to investigate his own contacts, and Rick Perry, Republican from Texas has been indicted by a grand jury for pressuring an official to resign by vetoing funding for their office . While the actual instances are not egregious, at least when compared to the daily abuses of power by the police, it marks a mentality that is frightening, especially when taken in with the broader context.

What is also frightening is that voters seem to take these abuses of power in stride. We have reached a point where our democratic institutions are so dysfunctional that anything which approaches functionality is considered to be good. It matters little how these politicians abuse the scope of their power as long as they get something done.

In a way these mindsets are a natural evolution. With the chaos and reduction of opportunity the world is offering us it isn’t illogical to desire a solution that cuts through the confusion. It isn’t illogical but it is wrong. Think of the Great Depression, where while desperation was a way of life a message of hope existed, we needn’t fall to fascist ideas to solve our problems. We do, however, need to own up to our problems and take an activist approach to solving them, and not just wait someone with a disregard for the rule of law to solve them by trampling on the things which should be making our country strong.



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One Response to “Strongarm Nation.”

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  1. diogene says:

    Good and thoughtful post, Eric.
    I believe that most people’s stance on police brutality/militarization derives from the likelihood that they will be victims of such violence The darker and poorer you are, and the more you frequent darker and poorer neighborhoods (or if you go to rich neighborhoods dressed differently from the people that live there), the more likely you are to be a victim. Similarly, the more likely your friends are to be victims of police violence, the more you would be concerned about it. Wealthy people also have more to fear from criminals–usually thefts–and so are probably more supportive of police brutality, which they turn a blind eye to.  
    Most of us simply see what has been our experience. True, places like Ferguson are NOT the norm, even though we see these stories more and more frequently. MOST cops are not brutal, or only slightly brutal unless provoked. But there HAVE been victims, notably the black welder who was arrested by Ferguson police in 2009 because his name was similar to someone with a warrant out–this fellow was badly beaten in the jail and even charged with bleeding on police uniforms! (How dare he bleed). I’m afraid there still is an unacceptable level of police violence, probably because many of the wrong people go into police work, seeking ‘legitimate’ violence and power, just as many go into banking for the wrong reason (to get filthy rich quick), or politicians (for both loot and power). The problems in policing mirror the problemns in the wider society, and there is a general coarsening of the culture, as you pointed out. and this goes from the street level up to the very top. I still consider Bush and Cheney war criminals, and Obama is close to being one. Your gov. not only dissolved a corruption commission which was investigating him, he just went with a delegation to Israel to show solidarity with Netanyahu in the recent spate of massacre in Gaza. Not sure how this relates to the state of New York. Few of our leaders are very admirable or self-sacrificing, and Obama is almost an angel in comparison if you just consider his rhetoric. Ulterior motives are usually evident, and often indicate that the politician is trying to cover up graft or an illicit affair, or some other underhanded dealing. The politicians are owned by the donors, who are either the very rich or aligned with Israel, or perhaps the gun lobby or fringe religious interests. The economy IS brutal, as you say, with not much opportunity. There is a general lack of respect for authority, which is both unsurprising–given the actions of politicians, celebrities, police, etc.–and which presents problems to the police, though the dangers of police work have been exaggerated (it is not among the most dangerous jobs).  
    “We have reached a point where our democratic institutions are so dysfunctional that anything which approaches functionality is considered to be good.”
    That would be a good epitaph on the whole Obama era, I think. Most libs and Dems kept voting for him because the alternative was even worse. And I fear that things have slid so far that an unjust autocracy of some sort may be baked into the cake. At least we are aware that what we thought were unshakeable realities of the American socio-political system are anything but. We’ve made great strides during the past 50 years, but also for every action, an equal and opposite reaction, as it were. 

What do you think?