Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What To Do?

What do you do when a bunch of heavily armed white people defy the requests of the federal government -- defy Authority? 

ANSWER:  Not much. 

What do you do when an unarmed black student defies the requests of her teacher and school "resource" officer to leave the classroom -- defies Authority? 

ANSWER:  Use brute force. After all, she should do as she's told.  Oh, and both the student in the video, and the student who videotaped this, were arrested and charged according to the South Carolina Disturbing Schools Law. Who was really creating the disruption here? Note how the other students didn't move, didn't speak. It's like they were paralyzed with fear, knowing they could be assaulted if they said a thing, or even looked at "authority" the wrong way. 

What happens when a black man with a permit to openly carry a gun is spotted on the street?

He is seen as a threat by the community and the officers and treated as such. 

But, here is what happens when white guys with a permit to legally carry DEFY AUTHORITY:

Seriously, just watch the whole video, which was posted by the Open Carry group, by the way.


These are only two examples of how authority being enforced (or not, as the case may be) leads to erosion of trust between law enforcement and citizens. Certainly excessive force has proven to be the case mostly against people of color -- throughout the history of the United States -- but more and more examples of excessive force against all citizens of various demographics are coming to light.

Both parties need to feel safe in order to treat one another with any semblance of respect. Both parties should NOT view one another as the enemy. The militarization of local law enforcement has accelerated this war-like atmosphere. The criminalization of what should be school disciplinary issues adds to the us vs. them environment. The deaths of individuals who were unarmed yet  involved in very minor infractions should be appalling to everyone paying attention. Ever since the death of Sandra Bland, I've heard more and more people say, "I definitely make sure to signal I'm making a lane change now."

Do we want to be so afraid of law enforcement that we fear not signalling a lane change may ultimately lead to our death, as was the case with Sandra Bland? Should ticket quotas ($$$) really be driving police activities, putting both officers and citizens at greater risk during unnecessary encounters? We also shouldn't have a for-profit prison industrial complex as part of our criminal "justice" system. 

While there are certainly many officers who do respect the motto to "protect and serve" and perform their duties with integrity and respect and even great compassion, the daily examples of the opposite show that this happens entirely too much for trust to be cultivated in many areas. The officers who do approach their job to "protect and serve" rather than a rigid "law and order" tact are put at much greater risk from the war-like atmosphere that is growing -- not to mention the  danger they are in given the sheer number of guns floating around this country.

(Read this article reporting on a study which shows that armed white anti-government people are the greatest threat to law enforcement in the US.)

It is a tragedy when an officer dies in the line of duty. It is equally tragic when unarmed, nonviolent citizens -- especially children (Tamir Rice) -- die at the hands of a member of a group we need to trust to keep us safe.

It seems to me we need to re-evaluate "authority": 

who has it, what is the limit to their authority, where it should be used, and how it should be enforced.

That is what a caring, just, sustainable civil society would do.  

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more caring, just, collaborative, joy-filled world.

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