We will fight for peace, but we will do no violence.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dear Officer: We See You.

Please watch the video linked here. I want to say a few things about it and you'll need to have watched it to understand everything I'm trying to say.

Watched it? Good. Here's my response:

First of all, I agree with much of it. Honestly, being a cop is a difficult, challenging, and largely thankless job. Anyone willing to put themselves in harm's way to "protect and serve" on a daily basis is worthy of our support and respect.

There was once a time in my life when I wanted to be a cop. Largely because of what I had been exposed to in TV and Movies. 

I thought being a police officer would be exciting and fun.

But then I read a book that was a colletion of interviews with actual, real-world police officers and that changed my mind in hurry. These guys talked about walking into houses where people had been dead for weeks and how the smell nearly suffocated them. They talked about getting calls to dangerous neighborhoods in the middle of the night and discovering that it was a trap and there were guys with shotguns waiting to kill them when they entered the dark warehouse. They talked about cleaning the brains of their partner off their uniforms after a deadly shoot-out.

That's when I decided that I should stick to writing.

Police work is more difficult and challenging than most of us will ever - ever - know.

Having said that, there is much in this video that I disagree with. Actually, a whole lot.

Those who created this video have done so largely as a response to "those who crucify (cop's) character while minimizing (their) cause", and by that they mean people who make up the "very vocal and sparse opposition (who) flood social media with their misplaced passions and their idea of justice." [To quote the video above]

The incidents they are referring to, no doubt, include the recent shootings of unarmed black men (and women) by police officers over the last year or so. For more specifics on who those people were and how many, you can see a short summary here.

What I object to is the suggestion that those who are critical of the specific police officers who shot and killed these unarmed black people are guilty of "crucifying" the character of every other police officer.

Question: Would it be "crucifying the character" of every school teacher to criticize the few school teachers who (about every other month it seems) get caught having sex with their under age students? 

Would you accuse someone who spoke out about priests who sexually molest children in their congregations of having "misplaced passions" or "wrong ideas of justice?"

Yet, whenever someone (like me) shares a link on Twitter or Facebook about yet another police officer shooting involving an unarmed black man or woman, the response is often a very vocal "Shame on you!" for daring to even mention such behavior in a negative light - much less write an actual blog article (like this one).

Furthermore, would we be ok if those teachers were caught molesting our children on video, and yet a Grand Jury decided not to prosecute them, and then they were put back into the classroom again where they could continue to harm more children? Would that be ok?

With priests, isn't it true that we hold them to a higher standard of accountability simply because of the authority and trust we put in them as people who are sworn to integrity and honor? And when evidence of widespread abuse of that authority by church leaders comes to light, are we not outraged about that and moved to action? Don't we want those people to be put on trial, and for justice to be done and for the victims to have a voice?

So, why is it that when a police officer - someone who is equally held in high esteem and honor within our society - breaks that trust, commits a crime, or kills an unarmed person, we suddenly look down on anyone who cries out for justice, or stands up for the victims, or speaks out?

The video clip does make a few good points about policemen: Most are good, hard working, conscientious people. They love their children. They love their wives and husbands. They love their dog and they laugh and cry and bleed just like every other person on the planet.

What I would like to challenge, however, is the idea that every police officer is automatically "honorable...courageous..." and "...worthy of a nation's support".

Really? What about Christopher Dorner? He was a US Navy officer who served honorably and received several commendations for his service in Bahrain, and then went on to join the LAPD. Soon after, he was fired for attempting to blow the whistle on another officer who was using excessive force. After that termination, he went on a shooting spree and killed several innocent people until he was eventually cornered and shot.

Even the most ardent supporter of police officers would have to admit that there are some police officers who are not worthy of the badge.

And if we really want people to trust the police officers in our community, and to reasonably teach our children to do so, then we need to start seeing abuses of power dealt with and punished - not covered up and shouted down.

Not every police officer is automatically "honorable, courageous and worthy of a nation's support."

Neither is every school teacher automatically a great person, or a wonderful member of society.

Nor is every member of the clergy someone that every one should respect and honor.

The only people worthy of our honor and our respect are those who are actually honorable.

If a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed 12 year old, he is not honorable or courageous or worthy of our support.

If a school teacher sexually assaults a student, he is not worthy of our respect.

If a priest or a pastor takes advantage of a child, he is not someone we should honor.

We even hold NFL football players to higher standards than police officers. That's insane.

Back to the video clip above: I won't even try to get into the fact that this video features a cast of 23 white people and only 2 African Americans, or argue with their statistic that "Every 53 hours an officer is killed in the line of duty"  - which is totally false and can easily be refuted with a quick Google search. (Actual numbers are about half of that).

At one point the narrator says, "I wish I knew how to fix it." But what she wants to "fix" isn't the seemingly endless barrage of unarmed black people shot by police. Nope. What she wants to know how to "fix" is the way police officers are perceived in the media, and by the American public. Specifically, she wants to stop people from criticizing police officers, regardless of why they criticize them.

One idea: Start eliminating "bad cops" who use excessive force. Stop punishing "good cops" who try to blow the whistle. Start weeding out applicants at the Police Academy level who tend to be bullies who can't wait to get that badge and gun. Start putting police officers who use excessive force on trial for their crimes. Start prosecuting cops who choke people to death on the sidewalk, or who shoot 12 year olds dead in the park, etc.

Any of those ideas would be a great start. But it's much easier to just make a video.

I'm all in favor of honoring the good cops who genuinely care about the people they protect and serve. Let's do all we can to help them. We need their tribe to increase.

But at the same time, let's please also do all we can to eliminate the bad cops who give those good cops a bad name.

Why would anyone be against the idea of doing both?

Out of roughly 400 reported police killings annually, an average of 96 involved a white police officer killing a black person.

African-Americans and the mentally ill people make up a huge percentage of people killed by police.

27 police officers were killed in 2013, according to the FBI.

In Germany, there have been eight police killings over the past two years.

In Canada — a country with its own frontier ethos and no great aversion to firearms — police shootings average about a dozen a year.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015


Chris Kyle:

"It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don't regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn't save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I'm not naive, and I don't romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job."

"Savage, despicable evil. That's what we were fighting in Iraq. That's why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy 'savages.' There really was no other way to describe what we encountered there....“I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.” "

Thursday, January 8, 2015

20 Lessons I Learned From 40 Years Teaching Social Justice by Mike Rivage-Seul

Together our intentionally subversive approaches to history and faith were intended to expose students to the untold history of the United States, and to the untold story of Jesus of Nazareth.  From all of this, I drew the twenty conclusions I mentioned earlier. Remember, my students could never reach such conclusions. My hope is that someday (if they continue reading outside the dominant culture) they might:

  1. Historically speaking, the United States is the country Adolf Hitler and his backers imagined Germany would be had they triumphed in World War II – the absolute ruler of the capitalist world at the service of corporate interests. In short, the U.S. has become the fascist police state Adolf Hitler aspired to lead.
  2. As such the principal enemies of the United States are those Hitler imagined being the protégés of “Jewish Madness”—viz. the world’s poor and disenfranchised.
  3. These are (and have been since the end of World War II) the objects of what C.I.A. whistle-blower, John Stockwell, has termed the ”Third World War against the Poor” located throughout the developing world. It has claimed more than seven million victims.
  4. This war by the United States has made it the principal cause of the world’s problems in general and especially throughout the former colonial world, as well as in the Middle East, Ukraine, and in the revived threat of nuclear war, along with the disaster of climate change.
  5. Its war against the poor has made the United States a terrorist nation. Compared to its acts of state terrorism (embodied e.g. in its worldwide system of torture centers, it unprovoked war in Iraq, illegal drone executions, the unauthorized bombings in Syria, its preparations for nuclear war), the acts of ISIS and al-Qaeda are miniscule.
  6. Far from “the indispensable nation,” the United States is more aptly characterized (in the words of Martin Luther King) as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Without the U.S., the world would be far less violent.
  7. At home, “our” country increasingly tracks the path blazed by Nazi Germany. It has become a state where corporate executives and their government servants are excused by one set of laws, whereas U.S. citizens are punished by another. Following this regime, law-breakers go unpunished; those who report them are prosecuted.
  8. This type of law is increasingly enforced by a militarized police state in which law enforcement officers represent an occupying force in communities where those they are theoretically committed to “protect and defend” are treated as enemies, especially in African-American and Latino communities.
  9. As a result, new wave of “lynchings” has swept the United States at the hands of “law enforcement” officers who execute young black men without fear of punishment even if their murders are recorded on video from beginning to end.
  10. In addition, disproportionate numbers of blacks and Latinos have been imprisoned in for-profit gulags that rival in their brutality Nazi concentration camps.
  11. The point of the militarized police state and prison culture is to instill fear in citizens – to discourage them from constitutionally sanctioned free speech, protest and rebellion.
  12. As in Nazi Germany, the dysfunctions of “America’s” police state (including poverty, sub-standard housing and schools, drug addiction, and broken families) are blamed on the usual suspects: the poor themselves, especially non-white minorities. They are faulted as undeserving welfare dependents and rip-off artists. Systemic causes of poverty are routinely ignored.
  13. In reality, welfare and other “government programs” represent hidden subsidies to corporate employers such as Wal-Mart and McDonalds. These latter pay non-living wages to their workers and expect taxpayers to make up the difference through the programs just mentioned.
  14. Government programs such as food stamps could be drastically shrunk and limited to the disabled, children, and the elderly, if all employers were compelled to pay their workers a living wage adjusted for inflation on an annual basis. Currently, that wage must be at least $15.00 an hour.
  15. Moreover, since education quality and achievement are the most reliable predictors of students’ future poverty levels, the U.S. education system should be nationalized, teachers’ salaries should be dramatically increased, and all facilities K through 12 regardless of location should enjoy highly similar quality.
  16. All of this should be financed by declaring an end to the so-called War on Terror, withdrawing from foreign conflicts and reducing by two-thirds the U.S. military budget.
  17. Instead, the current system of corporate domination, state terrorism, war against the world’s poor, and lynching of minority men is kept in place by rigging the nation’s electoral system in favor of right wing extremists. They control the system through practices such as unlimited purchase of government (the Citizens United decision), voter suppression tactics (e.g. voter I.D. laws), redistricting, and rigged voting machines. They do not want everyone to vote.
  18. U.S. citizens are kept unaware of all this by a mainstream media and (increasingly) by a privatized system of education owned and operated by their corporate controllers.
  19. As a result, revolution has been rendered inconceivable.
  20. The only hope and prayer is for a huge general economic crash that will awaken a slumbering people.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

America's Third World War: Over 6 Million Dead (So Far)

"Enemies are necessary for the wheels of the U.S. Military machine to turn." - John R. Stockwell.

John R. Stockwell is a former CIA officer who became a critic of United States government policies after serving in the Agency for thirteen years serving seven tours of duty. After managing U.S. involvement in the Angolan Civil War as Chief of the Angola Task Force during its 1975 covert operations, he resigned and wrote In Search of Enemies, a book which remains the only detailed, insider's account of a major CIA "covert action."