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Minneapolis Falcon Heights: Time For The NRA to Walk The Walk

160707071532-graphic-video-minnesota-police-shooting-philando-castile-ryan-young-pkg-nd-00010909-large-169Another day, and another American gunned down for having the audacity to be black. Against this latest atrocity, and apart from so much that needs to be said about sympathy for Philando Castile’s friends and loved ones, as well as the angry recriminations that should rightfully be directed at the Falcon Heights Police officer who gunned down a man who seems, from the streaming video that has swept the internet, to have been a perfectly law-abiding, upstanding citizen, this occurs to me: It is time for the NRA to spend a little less energy on defending backdoor tactics that help people to sidestep background checks, and put their effort behind seeking some justice for a law-abiding licensed gun owner who was executed for attempting to provide his registration and identification!

I very much doubt that NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre will have much to say on the subject, because I can’t imagine that would resonate with the gun marketing organization’s core demographic, which is rural white people, or its over-riding mission, which to not to protect anyone’s rights so much as it is to channel fear and hostility into gun and ammo sales. The NRA wants white folks to be afraid of black folks, because fear and suspicion stoke  sales. Stepping up for a gun owner who is black, who was murdered for politely following a white police officer’s shouted instructions, is going to muddy the water for a lot of the singular-minded firearm fetishists who feed the NRA’s coffers.

Still, I’m open to pleasant surprise. Heck, I’m quietly begging to be proven wrong. So here’s my challenge again…

Dear Wayne LaPierre and All NRA Members: prove that you aren’t all hypocrites. Demand that the full power of your organization be turned toward seeking justice for Philando Castile. Make me look like an idiot for doubting your conviction and predicting that you’ll all just sit on your hands and say, “Well, he must have been asking for it.”

#philandocastille

 

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Commentary

Who Didn’t See This Coming?

Yet another law enforcement officer has been killed, this time near Chicago, and while the initial, uncertain reports available thus far imply that Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was not targeted, but rather that he was doing his job, happening into a suspicious situation in which he intervened, the killing falls into a pattern.

The account I’ve heard was that he pursued three individuals on foot and was not heard from again. He was found dead, without his handgun and “equipment,” a short time later.  It appears he had been killed “execution style,” implying that his quarry–three men on foot–somehow turned the tables on him and killed him in cold blood. Lt. Gliniewicz, at age 52, was a 30-year veteran and father of four who was slated to retire in a few weeks.

The news reports portray Gliniewicz as a fantastic, heroic guy and a superior officer, but of course they do–how much he was loved and respected is irrelevant to the greater truth here: another cop has been murdered, something like the 7th in the past month, and it has to stop.

And here’s where I get unpopular.  Despite the increased news coverage, police murders have held relatively steady this year, declining slightly from last year, though the perception is quite different.  This is not something in which we should take comfort.  The numbers are still too high.  One officer killed in the line of duty is too many.  This isn’t television–most cops go through entire careers without discharging their weapons in the line of duty, and that is how it should be.  Behind those statistics, unfortunately, is a promise of more violence to come.  The news coverage of these horrible deaths translate to desensitization to violence–potential killers will be inspired.

And we know what happens next: law enforcement, justifiably angry and fearful, will double down.  Mainstream contemporary police theory is to employ hyper-dominant, preemptively aggressive behavior to “control” encounters rather than mediation.  When you see a cop, on youtube or on the street, yelling and cursing at someone for what seems like a relatively minor reason, that officer is not necessarily an asshole–although he or she has been taught to act that way.

Police orthodoxy has to change. When I was a child, my mother taught me that if I ever was in trouble, and she wasn’t available, that I could go to a cop.  Three decades later, an integral part of my teaching my daughters to drive was how to avoid accidentally escalating the always potentially dangerous traffic stop.—Put the car in park and turn off the ignition. Lock the doors and put the window down 1/3.  Retrieve your papers while the officer is still in his car calling in your info, but be sure to have your hands where he can see them as he approaches, palms up and open. Turn the dome light on if it is dark.  Once the officer is at your door, make no sudden moves–NEVER reach for anything without asking permission first–and even after getting permission, move slowly–a cell phone can look like a gun, and you can be justifiably killed for holding it….”

How have we created a paradigm in which we much fear our protectors?  More importantly, are we at a precipice from which we can pull back, or have we gone over the edge?  I like to think the latter, and I believe that we can do it with minimal effort and a lot of dialogue.

It has to come from the cops.  I’ve written this entire piece without mentioning the giant elephant in the room–police violence.  The numbers are shocking, and the individual stories–going far beyond the sensationalized events in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City or Cleveland, Ohio and Baltimore  are often terrifying.  The issue has often been clouded as a racial problem, and while race is often a factor–the police involved are primarily white, the victims primarily brown*–this is overwhelmingly about power more than race.  The two dovetail, of course, but the not exclusively.

Community policing, retraining officers to focus on deescalating rather than dominating confrontations, securing a larger percentage of more intelligent officers–by providing better pay and benefits–and, most of all, making the “thin blue line” a lot more transparent–would be a great start.  If you know police officers, you know that they know who the jerks in their departments are, and they aren’t surprised when those guys do something stupid.  Or something awful.  This has to stop.  Good officers need to stop tolerating their misbehaving peers–the very few outliers, among the majority of good, hardworking, honorable public servants–even if that means turning their backs on them.  I understand this will be a hard thing to do, but the bad cop who beats a suspect, or shoots an unarmed suspect–is a traitor to his community as well as to his brothers and sisters in blue.

But what about the bad guys? There are always going to be bad guys–that’s why we need cops. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get criminals to behave respectably, or to do anything, really. They are also, by definition, traitors to their community.  The police, on the other hand, represent our institutions, and must be held to a higher standard.  They will not only be making a better community, and doing a better job, but they will be preventing the kind of adverse media attention that puts targets on their own backs, and on the backs of their peers.

If things continue the way they’re going, more and more police will be singled out as potential targets, which will lead to increased vigilance and fear-grounded aggression that leads to more conflict, more violence, and more resentment. The cycle is self-perpetuating. We must demand more from our protectors, in order to put them at less risk.

Interesting Related links:

776 People Killed By Police So Far in 2015, 161 Of Them Unarmed

Police departments are already seeing a decline in recruitment.

“Oh, God, I thought they were going to shoot me next”

“Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book”

*Isn’t this the stupidest thing?  When I say it like this, I can’t help but shake my head–defining by skin color! 

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Commentary

I Hate This Fucking Thing

imapsusa_2269_10880736Symbols. I should respond to them with a clearer head. I’m a smart guy, I know some things, like the way symbols work to galvanize allies and adversaries in their causes. Especially flags.  Especially in this country. A few days ago I posted about the inanity of both flag-burning and opposing flag burning, and I stand by those arguments–but I have to admit that, this morning, I could burn confederate flag. I could set its polyester weave on fire and stomp on it while it burned. And smile. I’d savor it.

Screenshot_3

I have a bunch of relatives who live in the south–their parents, my wife’s sisters, are carpetbaggers in the parlance of the culture, not deeply ingrained in the redneck ethos, but some of my nephews feel the pull. We had a discussion around Christmas about the controversial giant rebel flag along I95 south of Fredericksburg, Virginia–my take being that it was a highly offensive symbol of oppression and sedition. They countered with the “aw, unclc Chuck–you just don’t understand, it’s a southern thing.”

It is not a southern thing.  It is an ignorant hayseed thing that, while it may be embraced by a small army of lazy-minded Buttheads who think it is cool because it’s, “you know, dude, rebellious” it is historically the battle flag of domestic enemy, the goal of which was to destroy the United States of America and maintain an economic system based on the violent subjugation of human beings. Southerners can singsong all they want about gentility and mint juleps. but the glorious past they wistfully celebrate was a feudal nightmare of petty, tyrannical lords and ladies presiding over enslaved Africans and a largely uneducated, poverty-struck underclass of white tenants and laborers.  And that’s the irony of it: most of the yahoos who idealize the glorious confederate past are descended from folks whose conditions were no better than the black folks they hated so much.

A few words pop into my mind when I see that rebel flag: IDIOT, IGNORANT, STUPID, and TRAITOR. And today, I’m done looking the other way and shaking my head at people whom I have, for the most part, given a free pass on this shit because of their mental and social defects. Maybe it will get my ass kicked, maybe it will get me shot, but I’m ready to do some finger pointing and calling out, and I urge you to do the same: when you see a rebel flag, look the owner in the eye and call ’em a racist Un-American piece of shit.

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Commentary Quote

Wednesday Words of Wisdom: Malcolm X

malcolmxI believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment.
—Malcolm X

I’m still working on my words about Baltimore, but this quote comes to mind as  informative and deeply applicable.  A lot of poor folks haven’t been treated right for a long time, and as Malcolm’s contemporary once said, “a hard rain’s a gonna fall” if things don’t change soon.

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Funny and/or Strange

Let Electricity Do It

What do we think we’re talking about here?  Something subtle, like an electric blanket and a leaky waterbed–or just the usual, mundane film noir toaster tossed in the bathtub?

2c3ab35b6c7180577276d779170bb4af

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Commentary

December 29, 1890: Wounded Knee Massacre

WK13

While we’re all sitting about in our mid-Holiday malaise, drunk on sugar and fat, filled with drink and feasting and friendship and song, it should be mandatory to sober up for a moment or two and give some thought to one of the great, horrific, historical moments of our very checkered American WK1past.  On a blistering cold South Dakota day, elements of the American 7th Cavalry, still  smarting from Custer’s incompetent, buffoonish debacle years before, and under the command of Col. James W. Forsyth, cornered a small band of Lakota and drove them to a forced encampment at Wounded Knee Creek under escort.

This occurred in the waning days of the “Indian Wars.”  The native Bison, or Buffalo, upon which plains Indian culture had relied, had been hunted WK12to the brink of extinction, effectively pushing the native communities to the same precipice.  Treaties were made and shattered in the insatiable search for fertile land and gold, ever greater numbers of Indians were being forced onto reservations, which were continually made smaller.  White settlers were spooked by the emergence of the “Ghost Dances,” a native spiritual movement which, in short, amounted to the Christian Messiah returning to Earth as a Native American, bringing peaceWK9 and prosperity to all.

On the morning of Dec 29, while the Union forces undertook efforts to disarm the few natives who still possessed weapons, a medicine man began a Ghost Dance, which put the superstitious soldiers on edge.  Then,  a scuffle broke out when one of the Lakota, a deaf man named Black Coyote, either resisted surrendering his expensive property or didn’t understand the soldiers’ commands.  In the struggle, the rifle discharged.

WK6The soldiers killed everyone.  The Lakota who were still armed.  The women.  The children.  The aged.  Over 150-and as many as 300 Indians died, with another 50 wounded–many of whom also died of their wounds in the ensuing weeks.  They were shot, stabbed, bayoneted.  In the midst of the horror, zealous artillerymen turned their cannons on the villages, where many of the women, children, and aged were sheltered in tipis–tents.  The WK10government reported 25 soldiers dead and 39 wounded–most of whom fell at the hands of friendly fire from both rifles and the enthusiastic cannon crews.

The military left the Indian dead on the field for three days, where they froze in a blizzard, before hiring civilians to bury them in mass graves on the hillside where the cavalry had placed their cannons.

WK4Colonel Forsyth was temporarily removed from command by his superior officer, who always believed that Forsyth engineered the atrocities purposefully, but the War Department reversed the decision, refused to conduct a court martial proceeding, and Forsyth was promoted.  The U. S. Government awarded no less than 2o medals of honor to various soldiers for their part in the massacre.

WK11

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Years!

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Commentary

That Was Then, This Is Now.

With apologies to the band Soft Cell, and the writer S. E. Hinton, who ruined reading for roughly half the middle-school aged children in America with her nausea-inducing drivel, but still doesn’t deserve this.

Sometimes I feel I’ve got to run away
I’ve got to get away
From the pain you drive into the heart of me.
The love we share seems to go nowhere

And I’ve lost my light for I toss and turn – I can’t sleep at night.

Once I ran to you
now I’ll run from you

This tainted love you’ve given –
I give you all a boy could give you.
Take my tears and that’s not nearly all – oh
tainted love – tainted love….

Then.

79-t2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now.

rise_warrior_cop-620x412

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Commentary

NFL Players Salute Ferguson–Cops’ Turn To Protest

Good For Them

It’s encouraging to see athletes stand up, show leadership, and express connection to the communities that support them.  I take exception to the old “I’m not a role model” stance of celebrities, particularly athletes, as expressed by Charles Barkley so many years ago.  When these performers accept millions upon millions of dollars to play games or, in the case of actors, play make believe, they do so knowing full well that the spotlight follows–and they should accept that with the spotlight comes a tacit responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner befitting the adulation and compensation they receive.

http://thefreethoughtproject.com/rams-players-bold-political-statement-entering-field-hands-up-dont-shoot-pose/
don't shoot

So, its “Us Against Them”…

And, once again, some Police demonstrate the how and  why our nation continues to have these incidents of conflict, escalation, and and brutality with an overt “how dare they” response to public criticism and opinions contrary to their own.  The best thing the police could have done, in this instance, is to sit back quietly rather than respond aggressively to what they saw as an affrontry, but what most people regarded as a demonstration of solidarity.  Notably, the SLPOA spokesperson, Jeff Roorda, is a former police officer who was dismissed after twice being charged with falsifying reports–he appealed, but lost.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association called for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a “very public apology,” its statement read in part.

“I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights,” SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda said in the statement. “Well, I’ve got news for people who think that way: Cops have First Amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”