Thursday, November 27

Why So Many

I Have A Dream

"Any way you look at it. The US arrests more of its citizens, more of the time, and jails more of its citizens than any other country. At the same time, it doesn't have low crime rates to show for all this punishment. I suspect that the country needs to rethink its punitive approach to maintaining social order. The current system isn't working well." - fluffylucy, commenter - "One In 25 Americans Was Arrested In 2011" - Huffington Post, 8/7/13

It is estimated that 400 citizens are killed by police each year.  Last year over 27 police officers were killed.  Even for a population of 316 million plus, these numbers seem excessive and these statistics are compiled from incomplete and voluntary reports.  This means that many more deaths in police custody are not reported.  Why so many killings by police?  Why are police killed?  Are Americans really so lawless and vicious that police must have the right and the ability to kill in order to protect and serve their communities.  Each American has the right to bear arms.  Is this right the reason why our policing is more deadly than the law enforcement in other countries?  Lots of questions but no real data for answers.

Right now, citizens of Ferguson, Missouri are cleaning up from nights of rioting over the killing of teenager, Michael Brown, one of 400 who die after contact with police in America.  Right now, there is an arms race, but not between Russia and America.  Right now, local police are getting military grade weapons from the federal government.  Right now, citizens can purchase similar weapons. Now, there is a gun in  every conflict between a suspect and the police.  Citizens stopped by police fear that they'll be shot.  Police stopping people for jaywalking fear that they'll be shot.  The flood of weapons into and out of America is creating this climate of mistrust and fear.  Human interaction in America is all about the gun.  Someone acts crazy - that's sad, but if they carry a gun, it's deadly.

Common sense should tell us to authorize non lethal, peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.  Killing an unarmed teenager in the middle of a suburban street in broad daylight is intolerable and shows a complete breakdown of civility and responsible policing. Listening to an interview of officer Wilson in which he describes the shooting, I got the impression, he had memorized his lawyer's version of events, leaving him entirely blameless and certainly not remorseful.  His main defense is that he thought Michael Brown had a gun or wanted his gun and he had to shoot him to make him comply.  Wilson will resort to his gun again if pressured, and that's a truly scary thought.

Even if everything he said was true, the fact that a simple jaywalking incident became a shooting shows "his training" was inadequate.  Most police officers are confronted with similar or worse situations every day and don't go for their guns.  Even the Rodney King beating which sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots was restrained compared to Wilson's handling of Brown.  How would Darren Wilson have handled Mike Brown if he did not have a gun to rely on?  What skills would Wilson have needed to diffuse and control the situation?  Time to find out, eh, before another city is burned to the ground.

America must seek out better ways to enforce laws, but instead of de-escalating the police vs. citizen arms race,  military surplus from Iraq and Afghanistan wars are being given to local communities to control their populations.  Even Cottonwood, AZ with virtually no crime has taken advantage of this deadly give awayCongress had the ability to shut down the program that gives surplus military weaponry to local police forces, but it chose not to act giving tacit approval to the concept that superior firepower solves neighborhood conflicts.  Congress also allowed the assault weapons ban to expire, making it easy for citizens to arm themselves to the teeth, out gunning the police.

Our cultural institutions such as television programs, news media, movies support the "bigger gun wins" concept.  I enjoyed watching both Captain America movies on DVD this week - until I realized that the Cap and his supporters were just as cavalier about killing people as the bad guys.  Violent excess, brutality, senseless destruction, little or no reason other than craziness behind the mayhem fill the screen with the noise and gore of killing.  The first Captain America movie had a decent story of human struggle and overcoming hardship, but the Winter Soldier fooled me.  It is completely devoid of human feeling, focusing on mechanized death vs. everyday human struggle - a non stop blood bath which gave me many opportunities to raid the refrigerator while the black widow and Cap tore up Manhattan and turned the world into a smoking heap of ashes, vanquishing the "bad guys of Hydra" along the way.

We have an epic crime problem in America - and it's not the crime itself but the fear of it, the glamour of it, the exploitation of murder and chaos.  Our people are steeped in a "warrior culture" without the warrior - just the mechanized trappings of bravery:  the gun.  So, as the arms war escalates in America, citizens tired of the waste and stupidity need to stop supporting programs and cultural institutions that promote violence. Killing a person whether it be to protect oneself at home or in defense of the nation is a degrading, soul killing experience.  There is no good violence or bad violence, just harmful violence.  Someone gets hurt.  Someone dies.  Someone is responsible for inflicting pain and destruction creating a never ending wheel of annihilation.  A wise man once said:

“The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

May all beings know love and harmony.  May we be the peace in this world.

Sunday, November 16

Mr. Lemning's Desperate Plan - Chapter 2


That Ugly Feeling

Best Laid Plans

The Last Straw Saga
Chapter II

I jam my foot on the accelerator and roar out of the parking lot of the Work Kare Reproduction Health clinic.  In my rear view mirror, I see that the clinic's security guard has his gun drawn and is watching me through his gun site as I maneuver past people coming in for drug tests.  I can't watch him anymore.  I have to get out of Shreveport before the Division of Reproductive Health notifies the state police and the nation that I have jeopardized my ability to procreate in violation of the VD laws of Louisiana.  Why did I decide that today I would go and get that damned exam?   Did I have a death wish?  Half of my friends have refused to even read the laws and the other half seriously regret being on the productive American list.  

"Oh no.  Is that police car turning around?"  My fear is so great, my eyes feel like they are closed or narrowed to mere pinpoints of light, asphalt and lines.  I slow and turn left onto Greenwood, right onto Highway 220,  and then veer off onto Interstate 49.  It was five miles before I heard the mechanized voice inside my car warn me that my seat belt is not buckled.  By the time I get off the interstate at the I-49 Frontage Road and stop for cross traffic, the warnings have given up.

"What the fuck do I need a seat belt to protect me when any jacked up security guard can draw a gun and shoot me.  How about a warning to avoid all contact with Reproductive Health clinics.  Jesus!" I am furious and terrified, shaking and spitting curses so loud, the driver in the truck beside me almost ran the red light trying to get clear of a madman.  "Get a grip.  Calm down.  Wipe the spit off your chin.  Here's your turn, Cletus,"  and as I try to calm my nerves, I follow the driveway behind The Ranchers Outlet into the shade of elms and cottonwoods.  From there, I walk to Mellincone's Storage Center, and so begins step one in my desperate plan.

The repressive VD laws passed a few years ago have added yet another layer of hell to my life.   Decades ago, mandatory government health care was considered a god send to the millions of people without insurance and I was one of them.

My father worked as an airplane mechanic for Red River Courier for ten or more years and the company provided health insurance for him, mom, me, Ruby and Bert.  Mom used to say that Red River insurance was almost as good as no insurance at all. So she doctored us with all kinds of concoctions gathered from her Osage relatives, the internet, and neighbors. Like the health care system, her cure rate was 50% or less.  Usually, we simply crawled in our beds and slept through whatever ailed us.  Mom died around the time that Dad lost his job.  So there he was with three teenagers, no money, no insurance and nothing but a Southern man's hope - a full fridge of beer.

Mom's sister, Aunt Rebbecca and her husband, Walt, took in Ruby and Bert. I was left with Dad, or Ron as he wanted to be called.  Ron, the mechanic, who spent his days taking apart our car and putting it back together again.  Oh, he was good.  But, mechanical days were long gone and he didn't have it in him to learn the ways of electric or hybrid technology.  I was fifteen when I got my first job at an auto parts store and two years later I talked the store into hiring Ron.

Thanks to Aunt Rebbecca, Mom's concoctions, and  Obamacare we were able to handle our medical problems without dying.  We could handle almost all problems, except for Ron's alcoholism.  He didn't feel any pain, true enough, but he leaked beer from every pore and eventually he was let go from the auto parts store.  From that day to now, he's been a mean loner, one step away from the gutter.   He's the one who predicted that the Obamacare of the 2010s would evolve from a godsend for the uninsured to a government monitoring system.

"Once they get your DNA, they can track you anywhere for any reason and you don't get any say in what they do to you."  Ron is a conspiracy junkie and a rabid anti-liberal.  The back of my neck begins to itch as I walk past the Outlet and onto the Frontage road.  I smell the asphalt and the sharp tang of Cottonwoods and pines. Ron got this unit a few years ago to store the many auto parts he stole from the store.  His plan was to sell them on Craig's List or the Southern Man's Auto Exchange websites.  After he got fired, he cleared out almost everything except the most valuable auto parts and put Bert's name on the agreement thinking that company investigators would be thrown off his trail of illegal activities.  Naturally, Ron wouldn't give a shit about his kids and the trouble he causes them.  

Just thinking of Ron prompts me to start rummaging in my pocket making sure my wallet is still there while I fish my keys out.  Right on top is the key to the storage unit lock and it fits - no catching or scraping.  It opens and there she is - Bert's Honda Goldwing hybrid motorcycle.  She's big and black with silver trim.  Last year, Bert asked me to get her serviced because he was expecting to come home on leave from his tour of duty in the Sudan.  His leave was cancelled and not rescheduled.  The last word we got about him was an email to Ron from one of his army platoon members, some woman we've never heard of who claimed that he would soon be promoted to corporal.  According to Ron, there were no details about when and where Bert would be promoted.  God only knows why he didn't forward the email to the rest of us, but he didn't and that was the last word on Bert.  His wife, Shauna, Ruby and I called the base locator to get some information on our brother, but no luck.  I guess the military is not obligated to keep track of people once they enlist, or maybe they don't feel obligated to tell family where people are fighting from day to day.  Either way, Bert's off the radar, and I have the keys to his motorcycle.

The cool interior of the storage unit smells of oil and old rags, a smell I had learned to love while living with Ron all those years.  In the corner, on top of the auto parts boxes was my "bug out" bag containing clothes, money,  an unregistered cell phone, a credit card, and a fake ID with the name Jesse John Martin.

"Jesse Martin!" I marvelled, thinking how easy it will be to remember that name and how hard it will be to track me down among the millions.  I had done research on this and found that there were not many men with the name Cletus, and hardly anyone with the last name of  Lemning.  I wondered if Ron's forefathers misspelled a real last name or dredged up some word they used in the swamp and slapped it on us.  I have always wanted to change my name, to fit in and get lost in a crowd and now I'm forced into escaping from Ron and the Lemnings, from the Division of Reproductive Health, from Louisianna and its obsessive quest to control its people with stupid state laws, even worse than federal laws as far as I can tell.

I'll miss Ruby and Bert.  Even though we were raised apart and we rarely see each other, I still have brotherly feelings toward them and hope they can live okay lives in this state.  I'm done with it here.  I'm looking at being locked up for five years or more if DRH catches me, so I'm pretty sure they'll wave goodbye with a smile on their faces.  Well, maybe not Bert because I'm getting out of here on his Honda Goldwing.  My stuff fits perfectly in the storage compartments, including a small tent and basic camping gear.  The only thing missing from this escape scenario is my Glock - it's old, but Ron took good care of it over the years he owned it and when he gave it to me, he'd scrounged a sizeable cache of ammo.  It's stashed in Oklahoma just waiting for me to get there and be on my way to Barstow, California.