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.