Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don't you dare take the word "thugs" away from me





All over the T and V today rather than report actual news, talking heads have been arguing over whether the word "thugs" is the new "N-word" after someone used that term to describe demonstrators in Baltimore this week. Years ago in a short story I described a rugged bunch of crew on a crab boat "thugs." It was meant to be humorous exaggeration. Though I never stated it, I didn't visualize any of them as African American. Years later my daughter and I went to see "The Perfect Storm." In one scene the boat crew stood together on deck and my daughter elbowed me and whispered "thugs." We both laughed and I was secretly thrilled that she remembered something I had written. I will not let Fox noise take that word away from me.

When I was a kid growing up in a bread-white suburb, if I got in trouble, the police drove me home, even after stops for some extreme driving while intoxicated where they made me follow them to my house and left me with a warning not to show up around town again that night. Even now from over here in my ivory neighborhood and my ivory segment of society where I feel no threat from police it has been difficult to comprehend the current deadly conflicts between police and African Americans in American cities.

This year as a police shooting is exposed almost weekly, the outrage has been growing. How many have killed black people just since the first of the year? At the beginning, I thought each case was an isolated incident perpetrated by a single out-of-control officer. But as the number of incidents has grown it becomes increasingly clear that the incidents are not isolated, in fact, they are very common on the streets of our cities and they have been going on for a long time.

It's easy to say there are more now than ever. More likely this has been going on for a long time and in a lot of places but the media has largely ignored the incidents and they have gone unreported. Finally someone is paying attention and not just that, publicizing these incidents letting the rest of the world know about the pattern of police violence against citizens. It doesn't hurt that publicizing effort that most people are now carrying video cameras in their pockets and finally have a way of proving the attacks they have been reporting, but getting into a he-said, he-said situation where the word of a black person is seldom believed over that of an officer.

Now a guy can walk up with video that shows an officer gunning down a man running away from him and then laying a taser next to the body as evidence the victim attacked the policeman. You can't argue with video. Now some locales are trying to make it illegal to video a police officer making an arrest. Well that should solve the police attack problems. To be fair several departments across the country are requiring officers to wear cameras in one attempt to prevent escalating incidents.

A hint about how deep this goes and how long it has been going on came a few months ago when  Attorney General Eric Holder and then President Obama, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, told how they had sat with their children and explained to those children, among the most privileged in the world, how even they need to act in an interchange with a police officer so the officer would have no cause to mistreat them in some way. As it came out this is standard procedure for mothers in African-American neighborhoods who want to see their children grow into adults.

Just ask the mother of that 12-year-old kid carrying a toy gun who was shot down by a police officer in Cleveland seconds after the officer spotted the child.

Most of us have heard of Michael Brown  who was shot to death by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson is a tiny city of maybe 20,000 near St. Louis and has a small police force of mostly white men in an area of mostly black residents. It is kind of like a Duchy, small and autonomous. One person in the area said part of the problem with a city like that is it is easy for a cadre of racists to get entrenched with little oversight. She pointed out that there are 97 of those tiny municipalities in the St. Louis County area and what is needed is an area-wide police force that can afford adequate training and equipment instead of each of those places having a small entrenched army of poorly trained  and racist members.

Take these in point: In the past couple of months, two black women have been elected mayor in two of those St. Louis duchys. In one, almost the entire police force resigned. In the other, police actually blocked the entrance to City Hall and refused to allow the new mayor to go to her office.

Now people are rioting in Baltimore over another death, this time a suspect in custody suffered a fatal neck injury. Apparently a small number of people in a few neighborhoods have been violent and those are the ones we see on television. The media pretty much ignored more than 10,000 people in downtown Baltimore demonstrating peacefully. Some of the media fan the flames, encourage by political idiots. For example presidential candidate Rand Paul dismissed the rioters with a racist stereotype saying that's what happens when a loving father is not present in a kid's life,  this from a guy whose kid was arrested for DUI just within the past couple of weeks.

What has been becoming increasingly obvious is that this has been going on for a long time. That folks in black neighborhoods have lived in fear of a violent police force whose officers at any time can beat and or kill people they encounter and get away with at worst "a mention in their jackets." Back during the cold war we heard a lot about police states. Those were obscure third-world countries that occasionally made the news for a day or two when a coup occurred. Looking at what is happening to almost one-fifth of our population, it looks like at least those folks are living in a police state right now in the United States of America. What kind of situation can you expect when that large a segment of a population is afraid of the police rather than seeing the force as public servants, there for the general protection?

It's most likely true and easy enough to say that these incidents are caused by a few officers and that most policemen are not like that, just a few bad apples. There's an old saying that those who only stand and watch and do nothing are also to blame. The continued violence could not happen if police departments stood up, admitted it is a problem and weed out those officers causing all the problems. It is a damned shame when an officer kills someone and then it turns out he has had dozens of reprimands for violent actions in the past. Lay down the law. If an officer doesn't want to abide by the rules, get rid of him.

We should not have to be afraid of our own policemen no matter who we are. What is incredibly obvious is that for this and several other examples those of us not directly involved have to admit racism is still very well entrenched in our national psyche and for some it is deadly and more than ever needs to be addressed and purged. When we support a society where parents have to warn their kids how to act to keep from being shot by policemen something is very very wrong.

1 comment:

  1. You speak like someone who has become wise rather than a wise... and I like that.

    ReplyDelete

Interesting quotations

"In the final analysis your life is only as good as the background music you dance to." – that was me

"Whether you think that you can or you think you can't, you are right." – Henry Ford

"You want to feel alive until the day you croak" – Frank Gallagher Shameless

"Smooth is good but sailing takes a brisk wind" – me

"I'm a drinker with writing problems." ~ Brendan Behan

"Religious Freedom is not about stopping persecution; it’s about being the one who gets to do it. Glory!" – Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's best Christian

It doesn't matter what you write, it only matters that you write.

"Give someone a book and they'll read all day. Teach someone to write a book and they'll spend a lifetime mired in paralyzing self doubt." – internet meme

"It's been a long time since I heard my backbone crack – Chuck Berry

“Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.” – JD

"I was the only person up on the hill with both racing numbers and a handicapped placard." – Kitty Delorey Fleischman, a grandmother who occasionally still races her Porsche in hill climbs.

Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. – anon

"Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool." – Mark Twain

Shit happens; you just come up with a different plan. – Kitty

Your body is not a temple. It's an amusement park. – Anthony Bourdain

Never too late for a happy childhood – Berkley Breathed

A real writer doesn't just want to write, a real writer has to write. – Internet meme

"It was like the aftermath of an orgasm with the wrong partner" – David Lagercrants, "The Girl in the Spider's Web"

The non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

We never comprehend how heavy the things are we insist on carrying until we set them down. jd

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio talk show host

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve