Tag Archives: injustice


I’m mainly writing this for myself, because there are times when I just cannot bear to feel the overwhelming sadness any longer. I look at the long history of institutional violence in this country of mine, and I think that it is simply too much, too ingrained to ever hope to change. Our politicians have long since let us down, sold us to the multinationals who finance their campaigns. The police view everyone who dares speak up as a clear and present danger. Our military is engaged in diplomacy by drone strike, draining billions from the budget while failing to make the world a safer place. I am white man in mid-thirties, straight, and doing okay for myself. I should be the beneficiary of at least some sort of pandering, and yet even my voice is not enough to give consideration, let alone the voices of those far less fortunate than I. We have been marginalized and dehumanized, and told not to rock the boat. We are products to be bought and sold so that the ultra-rich can sleep in peace, and are kept comatose by shiny new distractions which we kill ourselves that we might have enough to buy them.

The only things which keep me going are a faith in the notion of what I believe this country might one day stand for, and the future which my son and grandchildren will otherwise be forced to endure. The system is broken. In a nation of riches, there are too many people who don’t even have enough to be considered poor. And while the folks in our nation’s capitol spend what little time they have allotted for their taxpayer-funded duties screaming about the legislation of morality, their words are undercut by a complete disregard for anyone who doesn’t live like them. It’s easy to say that all politicians are corrupt, and then do precisely nothing to change it. It’s easy to believe that if you don’t break any laws, the cops will have no reason to come calling, until, one day they do. As long as you aren’t the one oppressed, it’s easy to ignore the suffering of others; they must have done something to deserve it.

I’ve heard that from my family so many times it makes me sick. They agree that the police might be a little heavy-handed, but spout that privileged, clueless nonsense that if you don’t want to take that chance, then you better not do anything illegal. It doesn’t work that way, in the same way that corporations don’t generally change long-held policies for the benefit of their workers or consumers until they forced to do so. The Free Market will sort everything out, I’m told. Tell that to the polluted air, the warming climate, and the water we can no longer drink. Tell that to the barely-teenaged workers making dirt cheap crap that we don’t need half a world away. Tell that to the parents working several jobs just so that they don’t have to choose between a place to live or food to eat. And pray they don’t get sick. We are the property of other men.

Those who would represent us have sold us for blood money. The employers to whom we trade away the best years of our lives will only care about us as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. The moment we are no longer profitable resources is the moment when we are discarded. Local governments are funding themselves on the backs of those who can’t afford to pay, saying that they’ve lowered taxes, but then criminalized with monetary penalty the act of being poor. They ship us off to prisons which somehow got privatized; for-profit institutions that require a constant influx of new product. We are told that we don’t matter. We are told we have no worth. We are sold the lie that if we can just work hard enough, the world can be our oyster, and then criticized for laziness upon our inevitable failure.

But there is a glimmer of hope: It doesn’t matter it it’s always been, it doesn’t have to be this way. We are a species that has proved itself capable of eradicating some disease. We have put people on the moon. The moon, damn it! We have connected the entire world and found inspiration there. We have shown that we are capable of being so much more than the mere sum our genetic code and history of aggression. Before the clock runs out, before there’s nothing left to save, we need to find it in us to stand together and cry out, “No more!” It’s not about the individual. It’s not about the cliques. We are bound together by the very nature of our lives. And not just us, but all life on this planet. We’ve had our chance at infancy, and we’ve since outgrown our childhood. We’ve faced struggles in pubescence, and now the adulthood of our species is upon us.

We are kept isolated so that we can’t unite, for the power of a people demanding justice with one voice cannot be silenced, and those who would slaughter us just to keep the status quo know it. I know it seems too big. I know they seem too powerful. I know that it looks like things will never change. I didn’t add my voice when they were Occupying across America because I was too worried about the repercussions. Not that I would be arrested, or mistreated, or harmed in any way (I was born with mithril pigment in my skin), but that if I left my job to go and stand for what I felt was right, that my family would be forced to suffer for my idealism. We all have things which bind us to them and keep us from acting for the greater good. Except that when we do not stand, and do not speak, and do not defend the things we truly value, we will discover that those things which we thought we were protecting have been nothing but shackles all along.

It’s so easy to let someone else stand up to do the difficult things which must be done, but we don’t need another martyr. Let’s stand together and face down the darkness, hand in hand. No more! No more! No more!

To Protect and Serve

I stand by what I wrote yesterday, but it seems that I left out some people in my scathing rant about civility: the people directly responsible for these protests. When it is your job to safeguard the populace, and yet nobody seems to trust you, then you’re doing something wrong. Too many people are winding up dead, and the use of lethal force has gone from a measure of last resort to the first line of defense. And local police departments are stocking up on military toys, excited at the chance to play soldier like they did when they were kids. It leads me to wonder exactly who they think that they’re protecting and what noble cause it is that they might be serving.

I get it though, we’re all afraid. If I was convinced that someone posed a clear and present danger, I would want to eliminate the threat which they might present. And who seems to be enraged toward law enforcement more than the specifically targeted, determinedly profiled (by said law enforcement) populace of African Americans? I mean, especially in areas of extreme poverty, who knows if they will be packing heat because they have committed to a life of crime? So the cops shoot first, and fail to ask a single question, or they beat someone past the point of no return, and then leave them alone to die. I mean, they’re terrified, right? And instead of trying to figure out why exactly that the citizenry might be (justifiably) upset, they do their best to tear them down, dehumanize them, so that they might not feel so foolish when they sprint from shadows. It’s easier to believe that you are slaying dragons than committing crimes against the people you are sworn to protect.

And before I get torn down for suggesting that police are animals, let me be clear: not all officers of the law are guilty of these crimes. In my life, I have met several decent men and women of various police departments who genuinely seem to care about those in their jurisdiction. But theirs is a profession of high stress and higher risk, where their lives are on the line in any given moment, and that tends to foster a protective group mentality. Like soldiers, or firefighters, the team is what you’re loyal to, as it is the team which is primarily responsible for making sure you stay alive. Unfortunately, this means that even good and decent people tend to overlook the heinous actions of a few, in the name of fraternal unity, until those actions become institutionalized. The vast majority of law enforcement will not turn upon their fellow cops, and even when it happens, the punishment is oft-times muted, or reflected back upon the accuser.

Well, that’s not good enough anymore, if it ever was. The police are afraid of the people that they are sworn to protect, and those same people live in constant terror of those sworn to protect them. The deck is stacked against each and every one of us (though more against the majority of minorities), with legislation regulating more and more of our private lives. We are becoming, the lot of us, outlaws in our homeland. It is not a crime to be born Black. It is not a crime to be born poor. It is not a crime to not speak English. It is not a crime to love another person (who has attained the age of majority and is capable of and willing to give consent). I was told that the United States of America was the greatest country in the world, a land of indomitable people of vision and tenacity, a leader in the world, last of the great superpowers. And yet we lock away our citizens by the millions, and bleed others dry to pay the bills. We tell them what they can and cannot do in the privacy of their own homes. We are a nation of hypocrisy, and maybe we always were.

It’s not enough to blame the bad cops who go out and hunt their prey. It’s not enough to blame the rioters for having endured more than they should ever have had to. While there are cops who go above and beyond the call of regulations to go out and “make the world a safer place,” the root of the problem does not lie with them alone. For over a decade we have mutely witnessed a stripping of our rights away, all in the name of “keeping our nation safe.” That’s not to say they weren’t being eroded long before, just that about thirteen years ago, there was no longer a need to keep it hidden from public view. Our representatives have taken it upon themselves to try to criminalize that which they do not understand. Add in an aversion to scientific fact, and a tendency to view the world in black and white (and the everflowing holy shade of green), and you get a situation like the one which we wound up with.

On a more local level, disgusting initiatives have been placed before the voters, appealing to the fear within them so that the politicians’ hands might not get dirty. It is easier to divide us than to bring us all together. We have no universal commonality between us, other than our most basic shared humanity (and history has shown that not to be enough). It’s the Blacks who are ruining everything! No, wait! It’s the Mexicans! Now why are the those women getting so damned uppity? It’s the Muslims! It’s the Atheists! War On Christmas! Gay people are trying to destroy marriage! We are constantly set upon one another so that we’ll be too busy to see what’s really going on. And there will always be the perfect spot to poke between any of the many groups with which we identify to make us turn upon each other.

There is a deeper problem here, one which we’re only just beginning to acknowledge. It’s not just cops, though they need to get their shit together. I am not the type of guy who is easily convinced to move to a philosophy of violence, but I have generally had a pretty privileged life. Maybe it’s time that we all stand up and take this country back. We will never all agree on everything, and there will always be those who seek to emphasize our differences for their own ill-gotten gain. To paraphrase Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Blacks, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not Black.

Then they came for the Gays, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not Gay.

Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for me-  and there was no one left to speak for me.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Anarchy and Activism

An Open Letter to the Anarchists and Those Engaging In Violence For Violence’s Sake

(And Those Who Tacitly Enable Them)

Listen up, because I’m getting really tired of repeating myself: While there may be some people fooled by the destructive actions of the handful of you who always seem to attach yourselves to whichever valid protest may be occurring like a tapeworm which has infiltrated the open wounds of injustice, the rest of us are not, and we’ve had enough. You idiots are the reason why no one takes a protest seriously any more. I know, I know: many people out in the streets make fantastic cover for your petty larceny and desire to break something. But all you’re doing is giving those with no desire to effect a change the ammunition they desire to maintain the status quo. It takes courage to stare down a police force armored in full riot gear, armed with nothing but the knowledge that you are in the right, and that kind of strength should not be undermined by callow, undeserving, self-centered malcontents who only know how to direct their agitation toward a narrow slice of personal gain. It is not the fault of local businesses, so stop destroying them. And if you take the law into your own hands and seek out vigilante justice, then you are no better than the authorities being protested for having done the same while on their narrow and misinformed personal crusades.

There is a reason why the best among us have always advocated peaceful protest: give them no excuse to ridicule your ideology, and don’t sink down to meet them on their level. The moment a rock or punch is thrown, your argument becomes invalid in the eyes of those whom you are protesting. See? they say, This is what we have to deal with. Maybe we crossed a line, but we had to protect ourselves. That’s all it takes. I was a stone’s throw (metaphorically, of course) from the WTO debacle in Seattle in ’99. My girlfriend’s daughter went over to town to bask in all the chaos. I remember watching the news coverage, and sitting with my girlfriend while worrying if her teenage daughter would make it through the night. And what did that accomplish? Not a goddamned thing! The rest of the country got to chuckle at the disorganized flailings of an obviously childish philosophy. Was the police response justified? On the one hand, obviously not. They are ostensibly there “To Protect and Serve.” But when your city is under siege by those who are engaging in acts of casual destruction? What then?

The Occupy a News Cycle protests wound up failing in much the same way. Sure, it would have helped if there had been a unified message with a handful of bullet points instead of countless voices trying to scream over one another, demanding redress for their grievances, but eventually a conversation might have finally been forced to start, were it not for the elements of rash destruction which tended to hang about the fringes of the protests in all the major cities. Instead of inspiring an open discussion of inequality and the erosion of our basic human rights, the entire movement allowed itself to be marginalized by the lawlessness and stupidity by which they’d already been forcibly branded. What should have been handled with the caution and determination of a siege mentality was instead wasted on a futile assault against the gates. You cannot give them even the slightest excuse to mow you under. The first brick thrown, the first fire set, and the whole thing comes unraveled in the interests of “public safety.”

Now, that is not a defense of the policies (and the police officers who enforce them) of brutal violence blooming out of their own fears and racism. The incidents which sparked the riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Los Angeles were inexcusable, and need to have been properly addressed. Crime exists when its perpetrators feel that they’ve no other option for survival, and there will always be those who will exploit their helplessness, and prey upon their fears. No one should have to live in fear of the police, unless they are murderers on the run. And even then, I’m told, there is the framework in this country for the public, through its appointed and elected representatives, to try an individual in a court of law. No one should have to worry that an encounter with a cop will result in death. No one should have to worry about being arrested without cause. It’s not enough to say that if you don’t want to risk a run-in with the Law, then don’t break any, when we live in a world where almost anything can be construed as an act criminality.

We have the right to peacefully assemble (at least for now). We have the responsibility to make our voices heard. We must stand up for one another before there is no one left to stand at all. And when rise, and when our voices carry, we must keep our house in order. It’s the same principle as the what many Christians have been facing. No one likes the Westboro Baptist Church, or thinks what they are doing is a good or decent thing. No one likes those dudes with megaphones and giant signs screaming “God Hates Fags!” And yet we allow them to continue. We allow their hate to permeate the conversation to distract us from the things which we need to say. The First Amendment ensures that government cannot censor what we say, but that doesn’t mean we have to let the worst among us spout their hatred without consequence. Call them out on it. Make them stop. Even if you didn’t throw that brick, you saw that dude who was about to. We are trying to stand up for civility, equality, and justice. We cannot allow ourselves to be undermined by those who simply want to watch the world burn.