It was another day, another failure to indict a cop for the killing of a citizen. There are protests taking place all over the country. Thankfully, most of them seem to be more peaceful this time than the ones in Fergusen. I have been feeling the need to express how I feel about all of this and struggling to find the words or know where to even begin.
First, I think I need to say that I am not going to approach this from making a statement as to the guilt or innocence of any of the parties involved. What we know of the situations is what we are given by the media. And information from the media is always, always tainted to whatever they feel will sell the most papers, glean the highest ratings. So, I am not going to focus on whether any of these men were guilty, innocent or even venture a guess to who held and to what extent they held any culpability in the events.
My biggest concern is what has happened, or rather not happened, in the aftermath of these killings. Because, killings happen every day. They happen in the home, they happen on the streets, and they happen at the hands of “public servants”. And I think that is the main area where my concern lays. Because, I found the need to put public servants in quotation marks. For it seems they no longer seem to feel that they are public servants. Its become a systemic problem, starting from the bottom and continuing all the way to the highest ranks in Congress. And the reality is that both sides need to take responsibility for this breakdown.
One cannot argue that police are capable of abusing the power of their uniforms. This has been a problem probably since the first creation of a police department. Its a position of power, and there are always those that will abuse it. The question is, is it worse now than it has ever been. I’m not sure. Statistics list that between 500 and 1000 people are killed each year by police. That number is more than the number of soldiers that were lost in the war in Iraq, more than were lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Departments are not required to submit information about their use of force. I think that bespeaks a problem.
There are protests continuing around the country. And to an extent, I feel this is a good thing. But, where I see the problem is that protests tend to run out of steam. The cause is often forgotten. They are not long term fixes for the abuses of power. Because the abuses are much farther reaching than what the protests are addressing and I believe ignoring the extent will only further erode our rights and freedoms.
Police are almost never charged with abuse of power. At the very most, the departments are ordered to look at their procedures. Things clean up for a while. There may be a few people that lose their jobs. Politicians no longer tell you what they will do to clean up the abuse on the streets. They now simply tell you what their opponent did not do, could not accomplish. And the air waves are full of so many people preaching their own brand of hate, blame, bias and intolerance. We have politicians trying to insert their own brand of religion into our government and the right to discriminate against anyone that doesn’t fit their brand’s acceptable model.
It seems to be a no win situation. It makes you want to just bury your head in the sand and never come back out. To be honest, I have lived through times where such biases were part of everyday life. I don’t want to again.
Its so easy to point fingers in all of these situations. To say the police are wrong, to say the victims are wrong, the politicians are wrong, etc. But, all of us hold a piece of the responsibility in the degradation that is taking place in our society. Whether it be through acts of hate, or inaction. We have created the climate. We are seeing the fruits of those labors. But, as is generally the case, we seek an immediate answer to a series of problems that have been brewing for years. But, the change will happen, if it does, the same way we got here. One step, one change at a time.
I listened to an interesting podcast a few days ago by a man named Bart Campola. What he said, though it didn’t have anything to do with the current demonstrations, still had much to do with the current demonstrations as well as what has happened to our society. Its true that we have become and are becoming more and more of a secular society through the years. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself. But, what is a bad thing is that we have released the connection with others in letting go of our beliefs in the supernatural. And it is through those bonds, those connections that we create community and make change. We did it in the 60’s and 70’s with the Summers of love, with community projects, outreaches, organizing. And what change was made during that time! The embracing of peoples of color, religions, sexuality. It utterly changed the landscape of the world as we know it in an handful of years.
And then we got busy with other things and forgot about making a better world and thought only about buying a bigger house or where our next vacation was going to be. We got richer. We got greedier and we gave up community in exchange for the new and improved American dream. And it was all about the individual and we forgot we were part of the community of man.
Then the towers fell, Wall Street fell and those in power seized the opportunity to recreate the world in their own image. We gave up our freedoms for the illusion of safety. The elected said we will pass this bill to protect the citizens even though we have not read it and they made it so. And they gave powers to the police they had not had before. And they gave military equipment to the police, who were not military. And many believed it good that we were so well protected by these newly re-armed police. And we put in office people who said they would make government smaller, care for us, represent us.
And we saw our rights erode before our eyes. And they fed us stories of hatred for our neighbors and our friends. The gays, the women who wanted control of their bodies, the Muslims, the atheists, the black, the immigrants. And they brought in the preachers and the speakers from the lower levels to take up the causes. So, each was only preaching for the rights of their small group. The black preacher was condemning the gays, the women. The white preacher was condemning the Muslim, seeding fear of any person of color, damning the gays. They fractured and they split and they shattered. And no one knew who to trust.
We made a step with Occupy. But, it lost its momentum. I believe this was because there was no real leadership in it. That was one of the primary things in it, was that there were to be no leaders. Leaders are needed. But, leaders that answer to the needs and wants of the group they represent. The problem with Occupy is they didn’t understand that. They didn’t have leaders. They didn’t have goals. They didn’t have direction. And you can’t win a campaign without those things. They lacked the cohesive glue that holds a movement together. They lacked the structure that creates a community.
The 60’s and 70’s with all its promiscuity, drug experimentation, insanity, did have all of those. Granted, there wasn’t a single leader in it. But, there were leaders. There were communities. There were goals. Ending the war in Viet Nam. Women’s rights. De-segregation. And in most of it, they all held hands together. They were in it together. And they changed the world.
The side of power is winning because we are wandering like chickens with our heads cut off. We march in the streets and then next week or next month, we go back to whatever we were doing before. We ignore our neighbors, we anesthetize ourselves with electronics and we stay home on election day because we convince ourselves that our vote doesn’t matter or its too much trouble to turn off long enough to go to the polls. We have effectively told those in power that we don’t care what they do.
And so, they are doing whatever they want. With the knowledge that we aren’t going to do anything about it. We aren’t going to vote them out of office. We aren’t going to take the time to understand the system enough to know who is responsible for what. All we will do is throw a tantrum for a few days and then forget about it. We’ve been doing it for quite a few years now.
Those that have the greatest long term vested interest in what will happen to their world, the young people are turning out in fewer and fewer numbers every year to vote. This last term, they showed at 13% of those that were registered to vote. And even as they complain about things like student loans, gay rights, voter right infringements, they still do not show at the polls. And then when it blows up in their faces, and the powers against them begin to abuse their power, they cry foul.
The other side, however, does show up in large percentages to vote. The ones that believe that gay marriage should be criminal, that all blacks are thugs, that women who want the right to govern their reproductive lives and their lives in general are whores, that rape victims must have done something to ask for it, that domestic abusers should have the right to carry guns, even if they have a record, that there should be no limits or restrictions on gun ownership, that you should be able to shoot someone simply because you “think” they pose a threat, but you should not be able to marry who you want or choose when its right to have a child, that arguing with a police officer is grounds for being tackled and strangled, that the President of the United States should be shot, no respect should be accorded him and calling him a nigger is part of your first amendment rights. These people vote. Every. Single. Time.
You don’t think your vote matters? There is a reason it matters to them. Because they know it counts. And they vote. Every time. And they organize. And they have a community. Granted, its a community based on hate and bias and intolerance. And if only hatred votes, then the laws of hatred are what will prevail.
The sad thing is that it really doesn’t seem like love is a very strong force. And sometimes it isn’t. Hatred is so very often far more powerful. It is far easier to get people to take the hands of others and cross the lines to meet the eyes of a stranger in anger or fear than it is to do so in brotherhood and in love. But, that is what we need if we want to change the climate. If we want to change the power. We need to build communities, not based on superstition, but on human connection. We need to take the hand of our brothers and sisters without looking at their color, their religion (or absence of religion), their gender orientation, their hairstyle or their shoe size.
I believe there are far more of us that want an inclusive world where everyone matters. I believe there are far more of us that want a world where it doesn’t matter how you gender identify, what color your skin is, what god or demon you follow. I believe the 1% will cease to matter if the rest of us stand up for what our hearts tell us is right and stop listening to what Brother Loveless tells us. And I believe it is harder for the police to brutalize when a true community exists that will call them to task.
We need to bring to light what is wrong in our communities and our power structures. But, we also need to take responsibility to create the communities that we want. We can’t just sit back and trust that justice will prevail. Justice will only be as good as the elected official in charge of it. The good of the community will only be understood if the community works together and talks. And shows up at the polls to insure that the officials best suited to meet their needs are put in office.
I hope that maybe the good that will come out of all that has happened of late is that maybe people will realize this. That maybe they will take back their communities. That they will go beyond the protests in the streets to the real long term actions necessary to reclaim the government for “the people”. And that if you don’t stand together, you will find that you are standing alone. And that is how “they” win.