Cindy Sheehan is one of those soldiers for peace and justice much like the whistle blowers who have stood up to power and suffered for their belief in our democracy. Some will call her just a woman intent on publicity. Some will deride her decade long efforts in memory of her lost son as foolish. But she has been there with her body and soul while most of us, who agree with her same concerns, continue to live our comfortable lives and only voice our opinions in polite company.
The road she has taken is lonely and not easy but in the long run her road will be the highway that fills with like minded people demanding fundamental changes in our system. The Sanders’ campaign was the precursor to that busy highway but a “progressive’ Democratic Party platform, which will be ignored after the election, is not a solution, only a way station on the road to bringing back our withered democracy. It will be the whistle blowers and the Cindy Sheehans, and those who fight on that lonely path that will lead to the highway. – Ed.
Since my son Casey was murdered (by the US Empire and its cohorts, like Great Britain) in Iraq on April 04, 2004 and I have become a resister to aforementioned Empire, I have been arrested over 20 times (I lost count).
To be sure, some of those arrests were fairly benign – popped in front of the White House, or CIA, then out in a couple of hours with a citation. However, I have been treated very poorly and even the “easy” arrests always have some component of dehumanization and the threat of brutality. Once I was arrested in DC and the cop told me that he really agreed with me. I always opine why then don’t they arrest the criminals in Congress and the White House, and then I challenged him with this question: “You would kill me if you were ordered to, though, wouldn’t you?” His answer, “I guess I would have to.”
Not only have I been mistreated when I have been arrested, I never think I have done anything illegal. I believe that every time I have been detained, I have only been exercising my Constitutional rights to free speech, peaceable assemblage and the right to petition the government for redress of wrongs, among other things. The way the Constitution was written, Congress can’t make any laws abridging those rights, and that makes every single time I have been arrested, just one word: “bullshit.”
Anyway, one of the most egregious uses of force was once in NYC where I and three other women were sitting-in in front of the US mission to the UN demanding a meeting with then US representative to said body: John Bolton. We had been told ahead of time that someone there would accept a petition we were delivering with tens of thousands of signatures demanding that the US end hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan (this was when Bush was still president and people still cared). It was International Working Women’s Day and I and my three comrades were treated that night to a complimentary iron-bar suite in the infamous Tombs with about twenty other women. Before we were plopped down in the Tombs, an NYC cop dragged me by my arm for about 15-20 feet along the hard concrete giving me a dislocated shoulder and a concussion. (I was, however, able to kick up and land a glancing blow to his crotchal area while he dragged me).
I can’t tell you how many times I have spent the night in jail in freezing cold cells: One time for almost three days. That arrest was in front of the White House and not only did I freeze for three days, but we got no food or water—only a cup of punch a couple of times a day. At the end of that detainment, my feet were shackled together and my wrists were shackled to my waist for eight hours in a holding cell while we were awaiting arraignment.
I have been left in tight handcuffs behind my back for hours upon hours. Once one of my wrists was shackled to a wall for four hours, then I was taken for a ride in a cop car in Washington, DC in the middle of January in the middle of the night with no coat, or heat. The cops had big, thick jackets on and I was berated by the driver (a veteran) for “shitting on” Casey’s “memory.”
Sacramento County Jail is a filthy pit with human waste floating in the garbage AND they tried to force us all to get TB tests after I was shoved hard against the wall for my mugshot. That night, jailers kept walking by my cell going, “so, that’s the one” and then they beat up a tiny Afghan woman right in front of me.
One late December day in 2006, my sister and I and three others were arrested in Crawford, TX. That’s the one and only time I was strip-searched which is a deeply humiliating and degrading experience. Dede and I spent the night shivering on the hard, cold cell floor and were grateful we had people working on the outside to spring us.
I could go on and on, but I want to say a few words about the other women (besides activists) I have been detained with. Every single woman I met was there because of economic hardship or when they got tired of being beaten up by their partners and retaliated. No matter how uncomfortable I ever felt in jail, I knew that I would always be getting out soon, or soon-ish. My heart breaks for all of my sisters who see only a life of continuing abuse from the system with all of its violence and force.
I always think, if this is how badly they treat a white woman (now grandmother) who is the mother of a so-called war hero, then I cannot even imagine the horrific treatment of people of color. Oh, wait I can, I see it on YouTube every day.
I see unprovoked and brutal cop killings of young black men and then I see those cops exonerated by the same system that hires them, trains them, and pays them. The system is always pronouncing itself “not-guilty” but if the roles are reversed, there is swift and oftentimes brutal (in)justice dealt out.
I have met mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and friends of those brutally murdered by cops and I know what it’s like to have someone you care so much about murdered by a system that never holds its own accountable. It’s not only tragic, it’s infuriating. We have to mourn our loved ones AND fight the system that killed them?
Creeping fascism is winding its slimy way around this country and its happening even faster under the mismanagement of a black president and attorney general.
What can we do as a people under fire?
Remember, whatever happens here in America, is multiplied hundreds or thousands of times in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Yemen, etc, and the racist wars abroad are magnified versions of the racist war here at home and those lives matter, too. We cannot allow a Democrat to get away with these multiple murders, just like cops should not.
Remember that being a police officer is actually one of the safest occupations out there; their lives are not under constant threat and they can lose the siege mentality. If a cop murders someone, don’t automatically believe that the slain person deserved it. Chances are very great that they did not. The absolutely insane thing is, many of these brutal slayings are actually on video, and the cops still skate free!
This year alone, 609 people have been killed by cops here in the US as of this writing—that’s more than three per day and it looks like about 34 cops have been killed by “perps” in the same time frame. That’s a wide and unconscionable disparity.
Gone are the days of Officer Friendly and here are the days of Officer Brutality and his/her merry band of enablers.
Face it, it’s an epidemic.
This post originally appeared in Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox.
54 thoughts on “Why I Care So Much about Police Brutality”
So happy to see this piece by Cindy Sheehan. It has been a long time since i heard her voice. What does bother me, and I see it in the Black Lives Matter movement, too, is the absolute ignoring of the very nature of police departments. While people are trying to sound ‘fair’ in the BLM and the rest of the liberal community, the structural nature of policing is never discussed. Today’s police are just the current morph of the slave catchers and local authorities who worked on behalf of the slave owners/the plantation class. That is the actual history of policing. Later we had the goon squads of the owners of mining companies and other such monied class enterprises. Again, the goon squads served their masters quite well. They soon, under J Edgar Hoover became the FBI. Policing has never been about serving the public. It has always been about preserving and securing the upper crust of the establishment order.
When someone, some poor schnook who needs a good paying job joins a police department, it is not just a job. These people are joining agencies that are structured to see the public as the enemy. Of course the public is divided in the good ones and the not good ones. However, one can slip into the not good camp very easily as Cindy Sheehan points out. So as in the Viet Nam war, it became a big issue as to how the anti-war movement viewed the soldiers. Many were hostile to them but later began to discern them as pawns for the wealthy. Today many view the police in a similar way–just human beings who deserve respect and human decency, not killing as in Dallas this month.
However, there is a big difference. During Viet Nam we had a mandatory draft and massive numbers of young males were sent over their as cannon fodder for the rich. Today those in the military are all volunteers, they chose to be there. So do the police. They chose to suck up to the monied class and, like the KKK doers of the dirty work, they get a major benefit: they can kill with impunity. They are given the privilege of safety despite all expressions of violence and bigotry of every imaginable sort. I understand their contracts, nationwide, pretty much guarantee them this protection. And they are trained to hate the “other” however it is defined at the moment. Black people are always the Other. White people become the other when they align with Black people or confront the system, no matter how benignly. That is why the Tea Party is such a fraud–it really does not confront the system. Quite the opposite, working people who rely on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for survival join forces with those who openly work to destroy those very programs.
So my sense is that, while I don’t support killing police at random, I do hold police totally responsible for choosing to work with and support a system that is all about divide and conquer, keeping Black people and others of color and poverty under control; ie, suppressed, repressed, disenfranchised. i understand that loss hurts all people, but the police need to do some seriously thinking about who they are and what their jobs really stand for.. They have suffered very, very little in their jobs, and have literally gotten away with murder too many times to count and now a little pay back has them in a rage. The Dallas shooter was in an out of control place with his rage, personal and historical which is what it took to shoot these cops. It is amazing with all the abuse perpetrated on Black people there are not more people like this man. Personally, I am not that sympathetic. The call needs to be for there to be a real analysis of the source of the problem, but that will never happen unless the whole system is up for questioning.
An emotive and complex issue. A problem (shared by Cindy Sheehan) is seeing the police as a unitary body of abusers. Thus her blithe statement that Officer Friendly no longer exists.
I have two police officers in my immediate family and one close friend who’s a sheriff. They are not abusers. My close friend in Florida just had to deal with the aftermath of the Orlando shootings — does anyone want his job?
That said, of course there are dumb cops, corrupt cops, biased cops, and so on. Of course there are structural issues, and issues of abuse of power, that should and must be addressed. What’s happening on the streets with all these shootings truly is a national disgrace.
But let’s not vilify all police as “Officer Brutality.” Just think of all the police officers who keep their cool while they defuse domestic disputes. Just think of the ones who help you when you’re broken down on the highway, or when your house or car are broken into, or when you feel threatened and need help.
Police are not simply the duped stooges of some power collective. Talking about them in those terms simply reveals the biases of the speaker.
Bill… Some how I saw half a dozen cops around Eric Garner while they were choking him to death. Not the whole NYPD but a good sample. Did you know any of them.?
A painful but absolutely essential testament from a heroic woman. I hadn’t hear about her in a long time, and I’m happy to see that she is still in there swinging.
You see, we live in a CLASS SOCIETY. This language is frowned upon severely here in the USA. So we hear about “the elites” and “the 1 percent” instead of the Ruling Class. A Ruling Class never hesitates to employ violence, even via its standing army for use on domestic soil if need be, to protect its interests. Mr. Astore apparently is in denial of this, whereas Ms. Sheehan testifies that a run of the mill cop admitted he’d very likely kill her if ordered to use lethal force against demonstrators. Officer Friendly has been replaced by Officer Full Combat Gear. A technology devised to save lives by removing bombs will now deliver anti-personnel bombs to snuff out lives. RoboCop looms on the horizon. This is the reality we now live in. And a certain presidential candidate is foaming at the mouth with desire to escalate further the war against dissent.
I wish to underline Ms. Sheehan’s criticism of Pres. Obama, for it is necessary to strip away delusion here. Notwithstanding the fact that Obama is the recipient of waves of hatred from millions of US citizens who still don’t accept having a black POTUS, he is the current caretaker of the Big Apparatus, The System, The Established Order, that blesses this use of violence at home and abroad. Indeed, absolutely DEPENDS ON the use of violence to maintain the privileges of the elite. So, despite his very good and apparently heartfelt words about the proliferation of gun violence and the GOP/NRA blockage of any progress, Barack Obama IS part of the problem. His immediate “solution” to the past week’s events is to alter his travel schedule so he can speak at a memorial service to the slain cops in Dallas. Is he going to Baton Rouge or the town in Minnesota where the other murder by cop took place last week? No, he is not.
It has been correctly observed that we cannot get rid of hate by legislation. But damn it, we need to make cops accountable for their unlawful actions instead of setting them free on the rare occasion when they’re brought to trial. And new candidates for police forces need to be screened much more carefully. I understand that more and more recent veterans of The Perpetual War On Terror are pursuing careers in law enforcement. They must feel right at home with all the dandy military gear provided to local departments by the Pentagon (a program started on Cheney-Bush’s watch and continued by Obama). These phenomena bring to perfect closure the circle of domestic policy becoming indistinguishable from foreign policy. Shoot first, maybe ask questions later…if there are any survivors to interrogate.
I’m not sure how you could read what I wrote and conclude that I’m in denial about the use of violence by the ruling class. I’ve written myself about the militarization of the police, and why I’m against it. Indeed, more than a few police officers are against such militarization, and in a few cases military weaponry has been rejected or returned by police forces.
My point was simple: Not all police are “Officer Brutality.” I think most of them aren’t.
I understand that, as a protester, Sheehan has had many bad experiences: being arrested, handcuffed, shoved in prison, and so forth. But she demolishes her own argument with her sweeping condemnation of all police everywhere as “Officer Brutality.”
When Bush lied us into invading Iraq with a mercenary army ( not a “citizen” drafted army) I forecast that many of these young and often uneducated men would find their way into the police forces of our cities and they would show the same indifference to the life of those in the cities as they had shown in Iraq and later Afghanistan. Bush pushed out the more thoughtful high echelon military leaders and moved more gung ho, and Christianized leaders into top spots. They, and Bush cohorts, allowed these conflicts to take on more of the color of “crusades” against dark skinned Muslims. That translated into troops treating citizens of these countrys as lesser beings. Remember the photo of the elite troops urinating on a dead Afghani?
So I am not surprised that as these demobilized soldiers started filling our police forces we would see more racism and blood. I think it would be helpful if we could get a count on how many of these police officers who are so ready to shoot are indeed veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. I may be wrong but a count would help the country understand. Why are tabout hree people a day being shot by police?
A question for TCP readers: Do you know, on a close personal basis, any police officers? I know three. Now, if you know a police officer or officers, does he/she fit the description of “Officer Brutality” as proclaimed by Sheehan?
The three officers that I know do not fit this description.
Again, I’m not saying all cops are good. I’m also not denying the presence of systemic abuses that must be addressed.
What I am saying is that Sheehan’s wild rhetoric is counterproductive. It is also deeply unfair to those police officers who serve honorably.
Astore–You’re still missing the point. The point is that FUNDAMENTALLY the state is an apparatus of repression to maintain the privileges of the Rulers. FUNDAMENTALLY the role of the police, on every level, is to keep us common folks “in line.” When you get a bunch of cops in a group, they take on herd instincts or one might even say act like a mob. There were black officers in that circle of cops getting their jollies by beating the crap out of one Rodney King in L.A., for god’s sake! (R.I.P., Rodney. “Can’t we all get along?” Apparently the answer, in 2016, is “NO!”) Once one cop goes ballistic swinging that club, the others join in almost instantly. Have you not seen, repeatedly, the actions on the streets of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention? Or any suppression of a Civil Rights march in the “deep South” from back in the day? Cop to cop solidarity actually breaches the “color line.” The Blue Wall of Silence that prevents presumably decent cops from testifying against their bad brethren is almost 100% effective. Cops who, taken on an individual by individual basis may be level headed, rational beings, when put in a group and ordered to break heads, are going to break heads, man!! I have seen this, and felt this (the jabbing and swinging of clubs, the attempted use of a blackjack which I dodged), again and again. I haven’t faced down cops in a while now, I admit, but my eyes are wide open to the fact that cops are now more dangerous than ever.
Laxer–you’re still missing the point. There — does that sound like a courteous response to you?
My point was quite simple: Sheehan’s rhetoric of universal police brutality is too sweeping. It undermines her argument, or at least it does for me.
I know my history. I know about cop riots. I know about abuse. I’ve seen “Serpico” and many other movies about police corruption. All of this is undeniable — and I haven’t denied it.
But to impugn all police as “brutal”; to suggest all police are pawns of the elite; to argue they serve only one purpose, as enforcers to the rich — well, count me out of such a simplistic, one-sided, view.
Astore–Sorry, dude, but sometimes REALITY actually CAN be distilled into simple statements. Do you have to understand all of Einstein’s theories to appreciate the reality of gravity? Should this society actually enter a shooting civil war–sorry to disappoint the headline writers at NYC’s tabloid papers last week, but we are NOT in that situation at this time–I can picture a small percentage of the nation’s police forces refusing to use lethal force on ordinary citizens. A SMALL percentage. (Hey, they pride themselves on being Professionals, right?) If it became a significant problem, the military would be put in total command. Active duty military personnel would already be on the streets, anyway, in such a situation. It’s called martial law, eh? I have always made it clear that I am a partisan vigorously opposed to the Status Quo. You may label me “biased” until you’re blue in the face. Did I say “blue”? I think YOU are biased in favor of the police, due to your familial situation. I imagine you’re way too close to the situation to be able to recognize it.
Two plus friends. I recently asked my niece to go with me to visit ancestral graves now surrounded by inter-city “black lives don’t matter” territory. She can carry in that gun-restricted state, I cannot.
The Mafia and the Blue force have that in common. In the forces your friends and relatives work in are ALL of the officers honest and forthright? Has there ever been an officer who took bribes, raped a woman, beat up a protestor illegally. And did your friends or relatives stick their neck out and testify or report the infraction and fight for the rights of the citizen?
Omnerta ! That is what holds most police forces together and what makes them suspect. Remember Serpico? Forty years ago did any of his honest friends on the NYPD intervene for him? Omerta is a commission for participation in the crime.
Cindy Sheehan has chosen a life of protest because of her pain. She should have the cooperation of the police to exercise her constitutional right. Those who threw this woman into dirty cold cells were just following orders and may be good fathers and generally honest but they are part of the problem our country faces today. It ain’t just a few “bad apples”. .
This comment is pie-in-the-sky because it represents an ideal… the ideal of equal respect, justice, and accountability under the law. Perhaps our society once had the potential to one day display an approximation of this ideal; but the wars, the militarization of the police, the exacerbation of economic and social disparities tied in with efforts to suppress or limit public discourse and dissent has led to a daunting set of circumstances.
I don’t use a broad brush to vilify police officers in general. But it is a fact that egregious crimes are frequently (in national terms) committed by officers who then face little consequence. Aside from the horrifyingly egregious examples (murder) are all-too-frequent occurences such as the treatment of Cindy Sheehan. What protocol allows an arresting officer to cause concussion and shoulder dislocation without being charged with assault? As traven states, she should have had the cooperation of the police in exercising her constitutional right. The problem of unaccountability is apparent.
And as Greg Laxer suggests, cops are more and more dangerous because a creeping mindset of “policing” the public as a means of “control” is ascendant. Or perhaps it’s always been thus.
Much talk of policing, and none of parenting. “Fathers matter,” and Uncle Sugar can’t do the job.
I have my own, largely supportive, comments to make regarding Cindy Sheehan’s article above, but I don’t see how anyone could do a better job than Chris Hedges in a recent, related article entitled, Legalized Murder and the Politics of Terror published July 11, 2016 at “Information Clearing House” and “Truth Dig” websites.
As George Orwell said in “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,” the book-within-a-book in 1984, “War … is now a purely internal affair. … The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory but to keep the structure of society intact.” The ruling corporate oligarchy knows its real enemy — we, the people — and the real money that owns and operates our so-called “government” will not hesitate to unleash all manner of violence against us should we protest and demand a real change in our circumstances. As Chris Hedges concludes his essay:
“Our political elites, rather than addressing the crisis, will make it worse. If we do not revolt, the savagery, including legalized murder, that is the daily reality for poor people of color will become our reality. We must overthrow the corporate state. We must free ourselves from the poisonous ideology of neoliberalism. If we remain captive we will soon endure the nightmare that afflicts our neighbor.”
First, black lives didn’t matter. Then, my little white life didn’t matter, either. One follows the other as the night follows the day. There lies the gauntlet on the ground. Do we pick it up and accept the challenge, or do we go quietly into those cold, dank cells that America, Inc. has waiting for us in our “privatized,” for-profit, convict labor prisons. Cindy Sheehan has a lot of good and honest things to say about the forces of organized, legal violence that will increasingly demand our obedience. But at the end of the day, her personal situation pales — as she herself admits — compared to the suffering endured by the men and women of color whom she has met in her many travels for peace.
Yes, America does have some fine, upstanding police officers. Too bad, though, that our country apparently doesn’t have enough of them to really matter. The people who hire and pay them matter much, much more.
Mike.. You are right. It surprises me that even liberal mindd people can’t see the obvious. The police as a cohesive unit have become the street Gestapo to control the population push back against the injustices in our society.
The most glaring example of this came during the short life of the “Occupy” movement. A movement that specifically highlighted Wall Street’s role in destroying our economy. How was it Occupy destroyed?
Word went out from the White House to our new “Homeland Security” ( Every time I see that term I remember how popular that terminology is in authoritarian regimes) who sent the message out to police departments throughout the country to “crack down” on local Occupy movements. Within a few days that is exactly what happened. Was Occupy disturbing the piece or just using public space to protest ? .
God forbid someone tries to kill you or steal from you, but should they, consider calling a gang-banger or BLM fascist, or, for that matter, your favorite politician. See what that gets you.
I’m reminded of the line from West Side Story where one of the toughs, in jest, says something like, “I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived.” Too many honest inner-city residents are trapped in their homes by the depraved because they’re deprived crowd. Police, as you call them, ” street Gestapo,” are all they have.
Walter–I take it a “BLM fascist” is a member of the Black Lives Matter movement? I find your comment despicable, blatantly racist in its own right, and more than a little pro-Trump. Your views are not “contrarian.” They’re available 24/7 on the FOX “News” channel. Perhaps you should seek your own talk show?
Yes. I just don’t think it helps to denounce all police as brutal or as jackbooted Gestapo thugs. Besides, history teaches us that the police are not always predictable. Assuming a revolution comes, don’t be too surprised if more than a few police show up on the “good” side, i.e. the side against abusive power as exercised by the powers-that-be. History is often full of surprises …
Mr. Astore–I think your insistent harping on this theme proves your pro-cop bias. You seem to be quite thin-skinned on the topic. Can you cite a single example in the past century of American history of cops refusing to obey orders to break up a picket line of striking workers, or to break up a civil rights or anti-war demonstration when ordered? Don’t cops seem to always find a way to defend freedom of speech for the KKK and their ilk, though? That has happened right here in “liberal” Connecticut. Since we’re talking about a collective body of scores of thousands of individuals nationwide–“the Police”–it is necessary to generalize. The rare exceptions, if I may borrow from an old aphorism, “prove the rule.” Else they wouldn’t be deemed exceptions, right? Twenty-five years ago, I went to the local State Police Barracks to volunteer eyewitness testimony to a traffic incident. I was astounded that I was not allowed to come face to face with a desk officer. I was faced with a bulletproof window and had to pick up a telephone handset to communicate with someone. Twenty-five years ago, in rural Connecticut! This apparent preparation for something “big” to erupt in this society has been going on longer than you thought, folks.
“Harping” — “thin-skinned” — well, sticks and stones and all that.
Mr. Astore–This is your response, instead of rising to my challenge to cite an example of police “going over” to the side of the downtrodden? I respect you as a fundamentally decent person, but I suspect your 20 years in the military left you wearing blinders that don’t allow you to penetrate to the underlying fundamental societal problems we’ve been examining here. But, that’s just my opinion!
Now I’m “wearing blinders” — Well, I’m just glad we have people like you who can “penetrate to the underlying fundamental societal problems we’ve been examining here.”
My blinders, my harping, and my thin-skinned nature won’t permit me to rise to your challenge. Consider yourself the victor.
Mr. Astore–I do not seek to “score” personal victories. I am a revolutionist attempting to analyze the world around me as objectively (believe it or not!) as possible, obviously a decidedly different perspective than yours. You disinvited me from your own website months ago when I brought up a hint that your time in the military colored your world view. Is this such an unreasonable hypothesis on my part? My own time in the military certainly forged my outlook going forward in life. Again, I can assure you my military experience was vastly different than yours. We are all products of our personal environments and experiences.
My goodness, how hate doth roll off tongues.
I beg forgiveness for thinking BLM folks might be fascist. Perhaps it is the stiff-arm salutes – combined with some memory of newsreel footage dating from 1930 to 1945 – that brought me to it, A better label is marxist.
Walter–I’m not the one posting blatantly racist comments here. I think this is the last comment I will post in response to your own. There is no hope I can sway you from your viewpoint.
Michael–Before I pursue the link to the Hedges article, I feel a need to “refine” your statement. It is none other than WE, the citizenry, as TAXPAYERS, who foot the bill for the police and their slightly better-armed (these days!) brethren, the military. I know you realize this, but thought it needed to be spelled out.
These reflections, written by a Dallas police officer in the aftermath of the shootings, provide perspective on this discussion.
View at Medium.com
Is this the “Officer Brutality” that Sheehan is so keen to denounce?
I consider Cindy Sheehan a personal hero of mine. Not so much the cops who in every case illegally arrested and incarcerated her for exercising her constitutional right to freedom of speech, assembly, and petition. So, with apologies to William Shakespeare and J. R. R. Tolkien I offer what little bit of literary tribute I can manage:
Metrics for Measure
(Dedicated to Cindy Sheehan)
The pricking of his thumbs begins to sting
As something wicked comes his way unsought:
The awful truth about the play as thing
Wherein the conscience of the prince is caught
Now Isabella camps outside his ranch
Her silent supplication real not fake
Her rude requests for justice make him blanch
Her simple power poised to grab and shake
Her time, down in a roadside ditch, she bides
With twenty*-hundred crosses witness mute
While safe within his bubble he resides
The gashes in the dead his lies confute
His thought no counsel credible informs
So on he stumbles, mouthing scripted rhyme
Upon the gibbet’s scaffold he performs
For his allotted fifteen minutes’ time
An angry ape with glassy essence clear
Before high heaven trotting out his trick
Afraid of nothing quite so much as fear
Which makes splenetic angels laugh till sick
Assured of his own ignorance he pressed
To have himself informed of what he knew
In little brief authority he dressed
So as to mask his nakedness from view
His counselor, the clown, roved here and there
Professing, like Rasputin, cures to know
For royal hemophilia laid bare
As turds that blossom on the frozen snow
But still the would-be great no greatness had
They thus could only mock the small who sobbed
Until disrobed, in disrepute unclad,
Their perfidy showed clear to those they’d robbed
But Gandalf once to Frodo Baggins said,
In telling him his uncle Bilbo’s tale,
That even small ones lost in fear and dread
Can turn the blast of fortune’s greatest gale
For Bilbo spared the vicious Gollum’s good
In pity of one long so lonely lost
And would not strike him even though he could
Which in the end saved all great evil’s cost
No doubt some live who maybe ought to die
And some that die deserve to live instead
But who shall make of his own life a lie
Who deals out death in judgment of the dead?
And as the wizard might have said at length
What Isabella did, a court to sway:
How excellent to have a giant’s strength
But tyrannous to use it in that way
For even very wise ones cannot see
The end to all the mischief that ensues
From feckless fights and their mad misery
As complex as a rainbow’s many hues
And as such smallish suitors might combine
Soliciting compassion as their cause
They plead for pity in a single line
That pelting petty officers might pause
For making thunder just to hear the noise
And lightning just to see the awe and shock
If overused by adolescent boys
Will look more like the chicken than the hawk
They like it well enough when first they think
That all will go exactly as they dream
But soon enough they shun the fetid stink
That clogs the nose and gags them till they scream
Those wise who hold great power in reserve
And do not waste it in a foolish deed
Have moral power more which well will serve
When faced with future’s grave and greater need
Thus Isabella Baggins now implores
The one who can to pity those who serve
And bring them home from bloody foreign shores
To reap the future lives that they deserve
We only ask for metrics we can use
To measure what is often promised glib
By bureaucrats who went and lit the fuse
And now can only hedge, and stall, and fib
Yet once more he reiterates his lies
He now commands no love from him that dies
With shoulders of a dwarfish thief he tries
To wear a giant’s robe above his size
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2009
* Note: Updated to “forty hundred” when the number of dead American servicemen in Iraq and Afganistan officially doubled to 4,000 sometime in early 2008.
You go, Cindy Sheehan. I’ll take you any day over what we’ve had and what we’ve got coming next from our psychotic, ignorant angry apes, uniformed and civilian.
Michael–I was more than a little mortified in seeing scenes from the Dallas memorial for the slain cops on TV news Tuesday night. Right there on the stage was none other than the unnamed resident of Crawford, TX from your poem above. In my humble opinion, his presence undermines any attempt to honor someone’s memory. Cindy Sheehan became a symbol of protest during a time when it had been made, via “manufactured consent,” very “unfashionable” to be a protester in this country. And now the forces of the Status Quo, and the would-be manufacturer of the New, Far Worse Status (whatever became of the Anyone But Trump Movement within GOP? This guy is heading toward coronation at their convention next week!) want to again make it very “unfashionable.” They’re trying to place an “equal sign” between Black Lives Matter and the killing of cops. As I understand it, at this moment, Cleveland officials have denied any permits for a legal, peaceful demonstration against said convention. Ah yes, good old First Amendment rights! Bye-bye.
Mike–I don’t know how familiar you are with the work of the late Phil Ochs, singer-songwriter of the Vietnam Era. He was on the streets of Chicago during the police riot outside Dem. National Convention of 1968. Here are some lines from his song “I Kill Therefore I Am,” voicing the inner thoughts of all too many cops (IMHO). [Legal Note: The laws about quoting copyrighted song lyrics are very weird, but since these are available for free on the Internet I think it’s safe to just offer one stanza. I take responsibility for this; The Contrary Perspective should not be held liable in any fashion.]
“I don’t like the black man, for he doesn’t know his place;
Take the back of my hand or I’ll spray you with my Mace.
I’m as brave as any man can be,
I find my courage through chemistry.
I am the masculine American man…I kill therefore I am.”
–PHIL OCHS, c. 1968
Nowadays, of course, you’re liable to be sprayed point blank in the face by an industrial size dispenser of “riot control” material. A police tactic that “evolved” since Mr. Ochs’s passing. But it wouldn’t have surprised him, I’m sure.
Sometimes even Firefighter’s get shot at, and we’re the ones that are supposed to be liked!! Once on Duty back in the late Eighties I relieved a Brother who worked the Shift before Me that was targeted with a Crossbow & Arrow from same narrowly missing him, but killing a Length of Pre-Connect Inch and one-half Hose we keep at the ready next to our Jump Seats on the Apparatus!. Had this hit said Firefighter he would surely had been mortally Wounded, and it received scant publicity– back page Press in the City Rag…! Point being. we don’t do the Job for the 1% percenters, but who then!!?? You ask!? You wouldn’t believe Me if I told You…
Yes, I thought of that classic scene from “The Enforcer,” when “Dirty Harry” Callahan says he knows he’s putting his ass on the line for people who wouldn’t let him in the front door of their mansions and corner offices.
Public servants serve (imperfectly) the public. Sadly, over the last two decades or so, the police have become militarized, further separating them from the public. We need to get back to community policing, not all these SWAT teams with their mini-tanks. And we need police forces drawn from the communities they serve that mirror those communities with regards to race/gender/ethnicity.
Brutality stems from ignorance, hatred, bias, and fear. But the sad fact is that there are some people who are violently unhinged, as was the guy who shot a crossbow bolt at a firefighter.
How about community parenting? With somewhere around 80% of black children growing up without ethical paternal example – whites and Hispanics are doing their best to catch up – we cannot but expect the societal collapse we see. Sadly, I don’t think this situation can be reversed. Uncle Sam compensates single mothers with direct support payments, medical coverage and housing, and single mothers produce more out of wedlock children. It’s a no-brainer.
My advice to our police: don’t take a knife to a gunfight, or potential gunfight.
Phil–Firefighters and medical personnel sometimes come under fire in extremely tense situations, true. But they have to be considered in an entirely different category than cops. Indeed, the cop union in NYC once waged a public campaign expressing their outrage at the very idea that firefighters might deserve pay and benefits equal to their own!! These days, of course, that cop union is very active in campaigning for killer cops to evade criminal prosecution.
Phil.. We have a lot of crazies in this country. It turns out the guy who shot the police men in Dallas wasn’t a certifiable terrorist but rather a certifiable mentally ill person who should have been treated. Look at his military and subsequent record.
Not too different from a story I recently read about a firefighter in southern California who turned out to be the one setting fires in his area in order to be able to report them and get commendations. Again not too different from “arsonists” who get some kind of sexual kick from setting fires. You probably have run across that in your life.
I spent part of my life in the public sector like you because that “was how I rolled”. I didn’t do it to expect any special recognition or treatment. I did it because that is what I wanted to do at the time and it gave me satisfaction. When I give something of myself to others I do not expect anything in return.
When I went into the private sector all I expected to receive was the check for my services in a timely fashion.
Phil.. Firefighters are really good people. Here’s a sweet story.
My little 9 year old granddaughter last Christmas got struck down with Meningitis- encephalitis and we all were wasted with worry that it would destroy her little life. After she got out of the hospital the word about her close call spread through my son’s small suburb. Neighbors and friends from school dropped off food for the family, Kids in her class wrote loving letters, and the local firefighters drove their big firetruck to the house and personally invited her to take a ride on the truck when she got better. It beings tears to my eyes when I think of that time.
On the militarization of police: an article I wrote back in December on the proliferation of assault rifles, SWAT teams, and militant attitudes
Thanks Greg & Traven. I may be a little biased as well to Police because of my Military Police Service in the Air Force, having City & State Trooper Friends & Responding with Police on many Fire Related Calls during my Career, but in my City we have Parity with the Police Force in regards to Pay… Having somewhat worked both sides of the Fence I would rather be a Firefighter, but most Cop Friends of mine would choose the latter paradoxically to Me at least because I always felt Human Beings a lot more unpredictable hence more dangerous than Fire, but in most Big City Depts. We sometimes are at Crime scenes before the Police, and Police are sometimes at House & Building Fires too… Its a dynamic situation, I would have our Crews back-off situations unless our lives were in danger, until you are in these Incidents & Fires You don’t really know how you’ll react. In the Safety of our Offices, or wherever we can all be Sidewalk Generals!. I suggest anyone before they criticized the Police, or Fire, Medics. change places with them for one day…
Phil.. You are right that only people who have some “skin in the Game” should pontificate like “sidewalk generals”. If you haven’t ever marched in a protest march, or been a mother like Cindy Sheehan who lost her son in a misbegotten military action and was mistreated by a street cop, or been a Black or Latino, be a little more careful with your tongue.
I might also add that those of us who have served in the military have sucked at the tit of government largess and shouldn’t throw stones at the vulnerable who also need that largess. that what government is supposed to do.The GI Bill was no different than help for citizens with health care, college, schooling, or just a decent life until they can find a job.
In fact a provision of the GI bill for WW II veterans let us join the 52/20 Club which gave us $20 a week for 52 weeks until we could find a job or use another part of the Bill for education or to buy a house. And the VA is also part of that payback to citizens who just happened to be in the military.
I’m really pretty disappointed in the self centered comments that have surfaced for an article about a woman and mother who had the guts to confront power with little chance of getting her son back. Shame!
Now wait a minute, “traven”!! Those of us who were pressganged into doing our time in the military were hardly VOLUNTARILY sucking at anybody’s teat! It would be another story to talk about Colonels, Generals and Admirals drawing handsome pensions for life after doing 25 or 30 years. Those expenditures of taxpayer dollars probably take a bigger slice of the Federal Budget pie chart than John Q. Public realizes. I am confident the Founding Fathers would be totally aghast at the bloated military beast of today, especially since many of them didn’t even support having a standing army!
I just caught this at Glenn Greenwald’s website, the Intercept: After Dallas Shootings, Police Arrest People for Criticizing Cops on Facebook and Twitter.
Yep. You’d better watch what you say on social media about Officer Friendly, fellow Crimestoppers. He or she may feel compelled to courteously invite you — like Cindy Sheehan — to spend some time as an honored guest in a local, unheated jail cell with vomit all over the floor because of something that he or she didn’t like hearing while listening-in to a conversation that the police had no business “monitoring.” It seems to me that Officer Friendly of the Dallas Police Department simply has too much idle time on his or her hands — what with making all those staged group propaganda pictures for Homeland Security and all. As Bod Dylan put it many decades ago:
“Up on Housing Project Hill
It’s either fortune or fame
You must pick up one or the other
Though neither of them are to be what they claim
If you’re lookin’ to get silly
You better go back to from where you came
Because the cops don’t need you
And man they expect the same.”
— Bob Dylan, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
I wonder. When does Officer Friendly of the Dallas Police Department make these arrests for “saying unkind stuff about cops” on Facebook? In broad daylight? Or, under the cover of darkness? Does he or she need a warrant? Where would he or she get one? You know. All that Constitutional nonsense like the right to freedom of speech, assembly, security in one’s home against unreasonable searches and seizures. That sort of thing. But how, “friendly.” Yes. Certainly. Friendly. As Chris Hedges describes this benign, courteous and non-threatening environment:
“Police officers carry out random acts of legalized murder against poor people of color not because they are racist, although they may be, or even because they are rogue cops, but because impoverished urban communities have evolved into miniature police states.”
“Police can stop citizens at will, question and arrest them without probable cause, kick down doors in the middle of the night on the basis of warrants for nonviolent offenses, carry out wholesale surveillance, confiscate property and money and hold people—some of them innocent—in county jails for years before forcing them to accept plea agreements that send them to prison for decades. They can also, largely with impunity, murder them.”
But all done in the most “friendly” manner, don’t you know. The Friendly Police State. What a concept.
“Because the cops don’t need you
And man they expect the same.”
As Chris Hedges also writes in his excellent article: Legalized Murder and the Politics of Terror:
“This is by design”.
“The rhetoric of compassion, even outrage, by the political class over the police murders in Baton Rouge, La., and near St. Paul, Minn., will not be translated into change until the poor are granted full constitutional rights and police are accountable to the law. The corporate state, however, which is expanding the numbers of poor through austerity and deindustrialization, has no intention of instituting anything more than cosmetic reform.”
“Globalization has created a serious problem of “surplus” or “redundant” labor in deindustrialized countries. The corporate state has responded to the phenomenon of “surplus” labor with state terror and mass incarceration. It has built a physical and legal mechanism that lurks like a plague bacillus within the body politic to be imposed, should wider segments of society resist, on all of us.”
The Bottom Line here for the downwardly dropping middle class and working class poor in America:
(1) “The corporate state has responded to the phenomenon of “surplus” labor with state terror and mass incarceration … and has no intention of instituting anything more than cosmetic reform.”
(2) “[No] change until the poor are granted full constitutional rights and police are accountable to the law.”
(3) Finally, and most importantly to recognize, all this bad shit for the working class and urban poor has not happened by accident. “This is by design.”
OK, but just who designed this trans-national, global corporate oligarchy that owns and operates the U.S. government as a thoroughly privatized, for-profit subsidiary that currently goes by the innocuous name of “Neoliberalism.” Well, Professor Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago, for one. As Naomi Klein has explained things to us in her classic study The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism:
“… For Milton Friedman …the entire concept of a state-run school system reeked of socialism. In his view, the state’s sole functions were ‘to protect our freedom [i.e., property and privileges] both from the enemies outside our gates and from our fellow-citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets.’ In other words, to supply the police and the soldiers – anything else, including providing free education, was an unfair interference in the market.”
So we must understand that for the Chicago School Neoliberal corporate oligarchy, what we call “government” legitimately consists of nothing but soldiers, cops, and guards (which includes the “elite” political class) paid for by the taxpaying public but subservient to the interests of private stockholders alone. Any attempt to use government for the benefit of the general, working-class public cannot and will not be tolerated by the people with all the money. for them, taxes are the just lot and responsibility of the working people. Profits and privilege are the entitlement of the wealthy. “Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.” As always. For, as Naomi Klein reminds us:
“The best time to invest is when there is still blood on the ground.”
“… the parties with the most to gain never show up on the battlefield.”
“… extreme violence has a way of preventing us from seeing the interests it serves.”
In light of the above observations, then, let us insist that Officer Friendly — from President Obama down to the lowest-paid cop, grunt, or guard — spend less time smiling and having their picture taken looking harmless for the camera and more time working for us who pay their salaries instead of for those who profit from our misery and mistreatment. I realize that this will not probably happen — at least right away — since, as Upton Sinclair said: “It is difficult to get a man to see the truth when his salary depends on him not seeing it.” Too many salaries [and careers] depend on too many men and women not seeing the truth. So the profitable lies proliferate. How to do something about those perverse incentives seems like the order of the day, to me.
But where to start?
How about enforcing the corporate anti-trust laws already on the legal books of the country? I mean, if President Obama can dredge up the “Espionage Act” of World War I in order to punish whistleblowers who only want to keep us informed about governmental perfidy and abuse of power, then why can’t the next president bust up and tax lawless corporations, lying CEOs, parasitic stock manipulators, and just plain crooked bankers like Republican President Theodore Roosevelt once did? Why can’t You-Know-Her do something like that?
I know. Stupid question. With an “opponent” like billionaire business fraud Donald Trump promising more aide to the Zionist Occupation of Palestine, bigger budgets for the already hopelessly bloated and inept U.S. military monstrosity, not to mention more wars on Muslims and huge tax cuts for the already super-rich like himself, what does You-Know-Her have to do but wait for her inevitable coronation so that she can do exactly what Donald Trump says he would do as President. Why would anyone want to vote for a Republican when they can vote for a Clinton and “get done” everything that Republicans say they want to get done but never seem to accomplish once in office?
How depressing. But a good thing for me that I’ve got Cindy Sheehan’s example to give me hope. Her implacable defiance and non-violent civil disobedience remind me of Gandhi whose friends and advisers cautioned him not to take on the British forces who occupied and ran his country. “They will beat and kill you for disobeying,” they told him. “Then” replied Gandhi, “they will have my dead and broken body. But they will not have my obedience.” Milton Friedman’s Neoliberal presidents, soldiers, cops, and guards can harass, arrest, and incarcerate Cindy Sheehan all they want. But what infuriates them beyond measure is that they simply cannot obtain from her by violence what they want more than anything: her obedience. America could sure use a few million more people just like her.
Mike–Yes, Milton Friedman is revered in “Libertarian” circles. This slimy, insidious philosophy, which so few Americans even understand–many simply think they’re generally in favor of civil liberties, and what’s wrong with that?–is the dominant ideology in the Modern Republican Party. Has been for quite some time, in fact. And now we face the prospect of Vice President Newt Gingrich?!? “God Save the Republic!!”
Mike–“Kicking down doors,” a la Iraq and Afghanistan, is an excellent image to tie in domestic to foreign policy and vice versa. And hardly a new practice if you think back to the assaults on the Black Panther Party in the ’60s and ’70s. You would think by now users of social media would understand that if they post comments publicly that may be (realistically or merely “conveniently”) interpreted as inciting violence against authority, they’re going to get traced and tracked down. NBC Evening News on July 13 did a segment on the security preparations to protect Fortress GOP in Cleveland next week. They interviewed a Trump supporter who planned to be present on the streets as a counter to those opposed to Trump. He stated he didn’t plan to bring a firearm, but he couldn’t vouch for his brethren. (Ohio is an “open carry” state for weapons, it seems.) Talk about a “thinly veiled threat,” huh?!?
The morning after the Orlando shooting Obama used the expression “radicalized by the Internet.” Three days later he trotted it out again. The Senate vote on the legislation that gets run up was too close to think it won’t be coming back up. There is similar legislation being considered in Britain.
Gregory Herr–The link you provided is not working at this moment. (Coincidence?) But I just want to quickly note that the Internet is awash in extreme rightwing, racist, Neo-Nazi websites just as surely as it contains “jihadist” material. In the wake of the tragedy in Nice, France we may be confident the fearmongers will be out and about, loudly. The mind-conditioning will continue until the citizens are downright EAGER to embrace martial law.
Re: Mike’s comment about schools. I saw where public schools are now being referred to as “government” schools. I think this was in Kansas or Ohio. Yes, the whole idea of public servants, public schools, public health, the common wealth, is ruthlessly under attack by forces that want to privatize everything for power and profit.
Of course, this affects police as well. There are now many private police forces, and obviously their loyalty is to their employer and paymaster.
After reading recently that the Venezuelan military is taking over responsibility for national for food distribution, we should not be so rough on our private sector.
When the so-called private sector runs a cartel that refuses to sell food to the population — in order to try and foment the overthrow of the government or artificially run up the price of goods and services to fatten profits — someone has to distribute food to starving people. How many times do we have to witness this Milton Friedman, Chicago School, Shock Doctrine, Disaster Capital, Regime Change scam playing out in some third-world country that American global corporations consider entitled to plunder?
And why would you associate “our” private sector with what happens in Venezuela? Do you fear a cascading fall of “dominoes” from down south should Americans witness a government whose military actually feeds people instead of simply killing them while laundering unaudited billions of dollars a year upwards to some unidentified stockholders with post-office-box corporate “headquarters” in the Cayman Islands or Bahamas? Don’t you have enough to deal with in America what with the for-profit, convict labor prison business demanding their “entitlement” to more incarcerated American citizens?
As the Venezuelans would no doubt say: “Yanqui go home!” Americans need to worry less about what happens in other countries while their own national house smells of broken sewer pipes — literally. The so-called private sector in the United States doesn’t seem all that good at fixing things anymore. Breaking? Yes. Fixing? Not so much. The last I heard, U.S. corporations have mostly given up on making stuff any more and just take free money handouts from the Fed to use in buying back their stock so as to jack up its price which leads to bigger bonuses and golden parachutes for executives who then bail out for the Bahamas leaving their companies wallowing in debt. I only have a simple bachelor’s degree in Economics, but, yes, I do think I understand the so-called private sector in America. Financial fraud and flim-flam, mostly.
I was not aware of this, but it’s not surprising. Kansas and Ohio are home to some of the most looney-tunes rightwing politicians of our time. So I guess the “government schools” are the ones that still teach that Satanic notion of evolution and the like!! Well, if I have to ally myself with Satan to defend evolution…I’m okay with that!!
Bill: “privatization” means nothing more than “public money in private pockets,” or, as we used to call it in more honest times, “looting of the public treasury.” You know, like no-bid contract awards to Halliburton corporation so that it might pay out even bigger wads of cash to its former “CEO” Dick Cheney who just happened to be “serving” in the “government” that handed out the contracts. “Conflict of interest” doesn’t even begin to describe the corruption currently masquerading as the U.S. Government, Inc. Perhaps the English language has simply ran out of words suitable for naming the organized rape of an entire national economy.
I’ve been out of school “for a while” myself, but I don’t doubt that our public school systems are in a sorry state, and doubtless there are many, many factors at work. But during Dubya’s 2004 re-election campaign (if I’m remembering accurately), the GOP somehow “discovered” that unionized teachers were Domestic Public Enemy #1. Dismantling public education is clearly the goal. Being the terribly old-fashioned curmudgeon I am, I will go to my grave still objecting vigorously to one penny of my taxes going to fund a religion-based “charter school.” It’s bad enough the citizenry has to subsidize religious activity by making up for the property and other types of taxes THEY are exempted from! O’ Thomas Jefferson, where are you when we really need you?!?