So, … Just Which Lives Matter and Why?
Echoes of Cassandra, and of Huxley and Orwell, and of Heinlein as well. The counterintuitive blues. Perhaps our hidden pandemic. The real plague among us. Our mirrors don’t seem to work anymore. Narrative is all that counts. “Resistance is futile”!
As so often happens, diverse parts of the world are being stricken by social convulsions, spontaneity now become a carefully organized production. Good causes immediately perverted into evil. Sauron wins again. At least for now. As usual, the United States is the focal point, the catalyst, and then, the betrayer.
Although denominated “Black Lives Matter”, the movement convulsing the United States and resonating around the world would be better described as “Criminal Lives Matter”, at least if facts mattered. And they do. Both criminal lives and facts. And they should. And they must in a system that seeks to reflect the values to which most societies aspire. But it seems to me that there are three very different issues at play that are being hysterically conflated in the United States into only one for no purpose other than to attain political advantages in upcoming elections. They involve: (1) the problems of police impunity and corruption; (2) the reality that too many of our citizens find themselves immersed in a life of violent crime; and, (3) the accelerating polarization of our society that increasingly divides us by race, nationality, religion and gender. Black lives matter. All lives matter (strange that this statement is now considered racist). Human dignity matters. Equity matters. Equality matters.
Criminal lives matter but police lives matter just as much. In each case, both the victims and the perpetrators are human beings. They are parents and siblings and sons and daughters, cousins and uncles and aunts. Friends. They are us, … but for fate and blind fortune, as Joan Baez sang so long ago. And we probably all agree, regardless of how the corporate media and Deep State seek to confuse and divide us.
Impunity is a poison that leads to corruption and needs to be eliminated, not expanded to criminals as well. The United States, indeed the world, is full of African American and minority heroes, real role models. Role models like Mandela and King, and a bit east, like Gandhi. And their modern variants are myriad and exist at every social level and in most political and social movements. But career criminals, injured or killed resisting otherwise lawful arrest, do not fit that bill unless what we want to create are more violent criminals resisting arrest. Role models are people we hold up to emulate, those in whose footsteps we want our children to follow. But during this past century that role has been perverted. Our role models are now too often selfish athletes, or selfish singers, or selfish actors, or selfish plutocrats. And now, seemingly, selfish violent criminals resisting arrest. Still, notwithstanding that violent criminals ought not to be our role models, extrajudicial killing ought not to be accepted and much less justified. Criminal lives matter and police impunity deprives the state of the justification for its monopoly on the use of force. That is the real issue tearing the United States apart, and now the very real issue spreading throughout the world.
As should be the case with public servants across the board (especially those holding higher office), police should be held to higher standards of conduct and perhaps, conviction for misconduct should involve a lower threshold of proof given how easy it is to hide official wrongdoing, and more serious punishment. But with reference to public servants of whom we demand that they place their lives at risk in order to protect us and our property, that reality also needs to be taken into account. A complex conundrum not attained through politically expedient, simplistic solutions designed to appeal to emotions of the moment rather than to reason and logic. The same is true of our military. In each case we teach that killing and risking our lives are acceptable options, then, after those dehumanizing lessons have been inculcated, we seek to bind the resulting impulses with rules of engagement that are all too frequently impossible to analyze in the split seconds available. And when the predictable consequences take place, we seek to wash our bloody hands and blame them, and only them. We fulminate and excoriate and make ludicrous suggestions in lieu of solutions and we do so because their crimes are ours as well. And that, we prefer to ignore. If the violators of the public trust are depraved and sick human beings, it is the depraved society that we not only tolerate, but which we select at the polls, that is ultimately responsible. When war abroad make killing and mayhem quotidian events (a price to be paid only in collateral consequences), how can we be surprised when it comes home to roost?
But what of criminals?
Well they obviously should not resist arrest! But then, they should not have been criminals in the first place. The reality is that most criminals did not chose to be criminals for the fun of it. Some are subject to mental aberrations but many have been drawn to crime by opportunity-denied generationally. By failure assured. And the resulting self-loathing is relieved and hidden only under layers of readily available psychotropic drugs. Those responsible for the evolution of a society where such problems are festering social wounds are much more to blame than are aberrant policemen and women. In that regard, the Clinton administration with its lurch to the right to attain power at any cost may be the most to blame. Its penal and welfare “reforms” are what most exacerbated an already seriously unfair economic system whose primary victims were African Americans and Latinos. “Reforms” that led to the incarceration of a higher percentage of our residents than are incarcerated anywhere else in the world; worse than Russia or China, worse than our allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. “Reforms” that destroyed the nucleus of the Black family with males driven out so that welfare benefits might alleviate the existing abject poverty. Reforms responsible for the fact that African Americans are responsible for more violent crime than any ethnic group despite being a minority of the population. Odd that African Americans adopted President Clinton as one of their own but then, they don’t call him “Slick Willy” for nothing; feminists have done the same thing.
As in the case of all aspects of terrorism (and violent crime is just that, whether perpetrated by criminals or rogue police officers), it will not be minimized by eliminating those who engage in terrorist tactics but by minimizing the social factors that maximize inequity and injustice. Palestinian lives matter but we did not care and the Israeli tactics designed to permanently eliminate the reminders of their own “peculiar institution” have been imported by police departments all over the United States, now forming an integral part of domestic police practices. Iraqi lives matter but we murdered hundreds of thousands of them, a price Madeline Albright found acceptable. Afghan lives matter but we murdered tens of thousands of them, a price Bush II, Obama, Clinton and Biden found acceptable. Libyan and Syrian and Honduran and Ukrainian and Yemeni lives matter too, but every one of our major political leaders in both major political parties have found the price acceptable. And we, the voters, especially those willing to settle for lesser evils, are personally responsible.
This is who we have become thanks to the bellicose oligarchs we permit to dominate us (and the current president is far from the worst among them; not exactly a tribute). The Obama-Clinton-Biden triad happily led us into Libya and Syria and Yemen and Honduras and the Ukraine. And current GOP allies of the Biden presidential campaign such as the Bush family and Colin Powell, and numerous generals and admirals and intelligence officials, current and former, etc., led us into the continuing Iraqi and Afghan quagmires. So for all the noise and blunder, for all the protests and riots, for all the looting and arson, we keep headed in the same direction. Not the blind leading the blind but lemmings following bloody murderers to the polls to vote for the same old options. To vote for evil in the name of lesser evil, but with the same results.
“Is America Headed for a Race War” is the headline in an article published on RT by Robert Bridge, an American writer and journalist and the author of Midnight in the American Empire. The law of unintended consequences strikes hardest when long and intermediate term consequences are ignored in favor of immediate goals such as victory in a single election. Hopefully Mr. Bridge’s article is hyperbolic as its conclusion ought to be unthinkable. But it raises valid points. Points we should consider. Unfortunately, Mr. Bridge continues to associate the left with the Democratic Party as though they were synonyms, which they are not. While some leftists are indeed trapped in the Democratic Party, leftists I admire like Tulsi Gabbard and Dennis Kucinich, and others are seduced by fantasies of a shortcut to attaining power by capturing one of the two existing major political parties (but will more likely become what they believe they are fighting), the Democratic Party is utterly controlled by neoliberal, neoconservatives. One need only consider who their candidates for president and vice president are. The truth is that rather than being “leftist”, the Democratic Party does not even qualify as center right. Furthermore many of today’s rioters (as distinct from protesters, two very different social roles) are anarchists rather than socialists, and anarchists are not leftist either; they are far to the right of libertarians in the individual-to-collective spectrum.
The United States is obsessed with hyperbolic labels (seemingly more now than ever). Republicans falsely equate the Democratic Party with communists and Democrats return the favor, associating the GOP with fascism. Neither cares for the truth, only for power. Something most voters understand but feel incapable of correcting because, this time, the election really is existential This time one opponent or the other must be stopped, even if evil will win again, as it has for most of the “democratic” elections during our lifetimes. Perhaps, due to our political apathy coupled with the naivety of too many of us, we’re receiving just what we deserve.
But does our progeny deserve it as well?
Perhaps it is their lives that ought to matter most.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at www.guillermocalvo.com.