A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Us vs Us

There are many times when, in the course of human events of our nation, an event or events force us to pause in our everyday living to confront the hard issues which need to be adjusted.  Never mind that the issues may be so complex and run so deep that they have dogged us throughout our history and seem to defy easy fixes.

In our latest cases we as a nation has witnessed two more incidences of police brutality.  In both cases African American men died at the hands of white cops. Unfortunately the tragedies of these two events don’t end there. 

Peaceful demonstrations in several American cities were quickly organized to call attention (again) to our national shame: institutional racism.  The demonstration in one city, Dallas, turned tragic when a lone, home grown terrorist sought justice (revenge) against white police officers for the shootings in other parts of the country within the last few days.  The terrorist shot at 12 white officers from his sniper perch, killing five of them.

The sniper incident was a repudiation of a fantasy put forward by the National Rifle Association.  Since Texas is an open carry state—everyone can carry guns wherever they damn well feel like it—then a good number of the thousands of protestors should have been armed.   They could have returned fire once they had sought cover.   This didn’t happen.  The protestors did the wiser thing and got the hell out of the area and harm’s way.  

Once again the racism inherent in our society was blamed for the incidences of police brutality early in the week.  Actually, if we include the sniper’s action and motives in Dallas, then we can see that racism is on both sides of the conflict.  The sniper targeted only whites and, specifically, white police officers.

So for those of us who insist on understanding problems of democracy (or problems of any nature for that matter) as simply as possible, I reckon we need to put everything in terms of black and white. We need to identify the players on both sides of the conflict:

The police, the figures of law and order who serve and protect society at large.  It is not an easy job and it is an occupation that has few material rewards.  As one of my cousins—a retired Philadelphia police officer--described it, police work is 93% boredom and 7% terror.  The officer never knows when the terror will happen.   A criminal will aim their gun at them, or another armed individual takes aim at the target they imagine is drawn on the officer’s uniform.  One shot and the officer has a life changing experience.

The time spent in waiting around for something to happen can be equally dangerous.  All the while the adrenaline is building up and without a constructive release, the officer’s emotional energy explodes just when their training is needed the most to prevent a tragedy.  It is unfortunate; it is also part of being human.  The most basic need of self-preservation prompts police officers to do the unthinkable—taking a human life—when they perceive in a split-second decision that their lives will end.

The police engage in the same socialization as members of the military.   All of us are taught that killing is wrong, but members of the armed forces have to be trained to suppress these feelings so they can become effective at their job to fight and protect their ideals.  Similarly police officers can be called upon to adopt an us versus them attitude so they can do their job of law enforcement.  Once again we are taught that everyone else is, or should be, good and well-behaved.   When law enforcement agents have to perform such tasks as placing someone in custody, then this act runs counter to what we are taught about everyone being good.

The us versus them attitude helps police’s job easier to do, but as we all know this can be abused.

Then on the other end of the conflict there is the African American community, who are understandably outraged at these latest examples of the historical racism plaguing America since the beginning.  Yes, we’ve all seen statistics that members of the African-American community are more likely to end up in prison than members of the other minority groups.  Also yes, we know statistics that many of these people are incarcerated in larger numbers than other minorities due to laws being unfairly applied to them simply because they are black.  And yes, we can assume—but unfortunately unable to prove with full certainty—that many of these incarcerations happen because of racism on the part of the judicial system.

Out of these police brutality events the group Black Lives Matter was established and has taken hold.   They bring a good point to the national conversation, but critics have denounced them as a hate group given their seemingly contemptuous attitude towards law enforcement.   Political leaders have tried to clarify the movement as not trying to deny the value of other lives beyond the African-American community, but the criticisms still persist.  Many still believe that if you are pro-black, then you are anti-cop.

Such nonsense!

So now in black and white terms (situational pun not intended) let’s put forth these ideas:

It is naïve to think that all cops are racist, just as it is naïve to think that all African-Americans are criminals simply because they are African-American.  To be fair the capacity to break the law exists in everyone: black, white, yellow and whatever.  It’s one of the darker sides of human nature.

We have to get past the idea that it is an us versus them conflict.  It is in reality it is us versus us.  And that is a notion which very few of us want to accept when our idealized national identity is questioned.

(Thank you for reading.   As Marvin Gaye once said, “What’s going on?)


Blogger Bob Slatten said...

If only we could all realize that, stripped down of our skin color and gender and orientation and age, we are all human beings, and therefore, all alike.

July 10, 2016 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

This is a constant battle against our own human nature. thank you for the comment, bob.

July 12, 2016 at 6:39 AM  

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