America’s Celebration of Death


Osama bin Laden is dead and America is celebrating in such grotesque and macabre ways that some commentators have said such a celebratory mood is excessive and inappropriate. However this attitude of partying at the news of the death of a foe or opponent is a part of the American tradition, even when we did it to ourselves as.

I guess for some it was especially easy to celebrate because we attributed what happened on September 11, 2001 to bin Laden  and we all know what happened and what it meant to our Country, but it signifies the continued deterioration of our Nation’s morality and spirit.  We equated “justice” with assassination without blinking an eye and see no contradiction in that position.  From the simplest of minds to the most classically trained in jurisprudence, there was universal acceptance that a dead bin Laden was one who met justice.  We  allowed ourselves to be ruled by the mob mentality that says justice is what satisfies us emotionally not what is right or wrong, even if our happiness isn’t based on the law we’ve been told since kindergarten we must assiduously obey.

We gave into our hatred…much like the throngs of Iranians who surrounded the American embassy during the hostage situation and shouted ‘death to America’ and in such a frenzy allowed ourselves to be judge, jury and executioner, without blinking an eye.  Let’s not forget however, that when we’ve done that  before this is how we looked.

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‘Nuff said!

Police Brutality in a ‘with us or against us’ society


brutalityThe public displays of police brutality caught on tape are stark, violent, gut wrenching, heart breaking, and indicative of an age old problem of us and them politics.  It used to be such rawness wasn’t seem by most of us in main stream society, because it was done to “other” people secreted away in “their” communities and never under the omnipotent eye of video cameras but times have certainly changed and today can police brutality smack us in the face as powerfully as it does the victim at the end of an officers arm, baton, taser, gun.

The most egregious example of brutality involved an EMT with a patient on the way to a local hospital in Oklahoma.  There’s a video on youtube if you can bear to watch it without hurling either your lunch/breakfast/dinner or your computer through the nearest window.  In that video an Oklahoma highway patrol officer berates the EMT driver for not pulling over while he, the trooper tried to pass.  The video was shot by a family member of the patient riding in the ambulance.  In that video you can see the victim of the police brutality calmly tell the family member who was shooting the video to remain calm, not interfere with the patrolman, stay out of the way, don’t do anything to provoke the officer and let the EMT people handle it.  The person giving this advice was the one assaulted by the officer, who literally had both hands around the neck of the technician!  It was like watching a legal lynching, and given the characters and setting it probably felt that way for many who saw the incident.  The EMT, Maurice White had done nothing to provoke this officer who felt justified in trying to restrain him by choking him?

Another widely publicized example of brutality where size, experience, weight were far more on the side of the law enforcement officer than the victim is the case of Malika Calhoun, a teenager who was pummeled by a King County sheriff’s deputy, Paul Schene in Seattle, Washington, because she was “lippy” an offense for which police assault is most likely NOT the punishment.  The video can be seen at the link below.

One wonders whether the offending officer treats women as callously in his social reactions with them as he did in this professional encounter with a teenaged girl.  Regardless there is no excuse for such excessive physical force and one can only hope the officer is relieved of his duties permanently.

What is distressing is in each of the examples mentioned above, the offending officer had a partner with him who did nothing to restrain him, or even is not responsible for revealing the brutality to their superiors or the public in general.  In both cases officers were caught by the unblinking eye of video cameras they either ignored or didn’t realize were present filming their indiscretions.  In many cases, therefore, I would assert the partners of the offending officers are just as responsible for the brutality we see as the assaulting officer himself, and should be disciplined as well.

How does this get to the us and them theme of my title?  There has always been this idea among law officers that they were the last bulwark against a marauding public hell bent on destroying all we hold dear….almost the same thing said about the Muslim hordes we’ve told we must  detest and distrust.  Police who got carried away in the performance of their duties were exempt from punishment and their excesses were viewed with a blind eye, or a wink and a grin by superior officers because cohesion of the “force” was more important than the rule of the law.  The public that these offices were sworn to protect and serve were all too often the victims of these officers who found purpose in protecting one another from “them” the public.  There was nothing to restrain them, except an all too infrequent application of the rule of law against them.  In some cases that worked, however!  Witness Norm Stamper’s claims.

Forty-three years ago I was an idealistic, vaguely liberal 21-year-old when the San Diego Police Department hired me. The last thing on my mind was taking to the streets to punish people. And lest there be any doubt about the department’s policy, the police academy, even then, drove it home: excessive force was grounds for termination.

So, why did I abuse the very people I’d been hired to serve?

Not to get too psychological, I did it because the power of my position went straight to my head; because other cops I’d come to admire did it; and because I thought I could get away with it. Which I did–until a principled prosecutor slapped me upside the head and demanded to know whether the U.S. Constitution meant anything to me.

It comes down to this: real cops, those with a conscience, those who honor the law, must step up and take control of the cop culture.

The turnaround for this officer was the application of the law AGAINST him, not by him, for his illegal activity; that was all that was needed to get him to see the error of his ways, and likely spare a lot of innocent people from his lawlessness.  This brings me to the present and where we are as a country.  We pride ourselves in being a country where the rule of law reigns supreme, is equally applied to all and insures a social harmony that preserves our values and way of life.  That said, we should see and insist  the rule of law apply to lawless law enforcement officers as well as lawless politicians, no matter how high they are in the political hierarchy.  Doing so preserves our way of life as vigorously as fighting terrorists on foreign soil.  This notion that we have to aggressively fight an external foe that means us harm in ways that are universally considered illegal with no legal consequences to us is the type of hubris which causes nations to disintegrate, diminish and disappear over time at varying rates of  speed.  The polarization of such a society into those who are the enforcers and those who are the victims of that enforcement leads to civil unrest and violence, certainly anathema to our ‘way of life’, yet both sides would claim vociferously they are defending it!  There is no other recourse than the unwavering application of the law against all who break it.  Doing so restores confidence in all to the principles which this country was founded, and gives meaning to those who’ve sacrificed for it.

Israel’s existence is not in question


In the minds of the Arab world, Israel exists and will exist and they are no threat to Israel.  The problem is Israel is a threat to its neighbors; inspite of that there has been a muted response from Israel’s enemies.  Juan Cole offers a translation of Ayatollah Sistani’s comments on the Israeli aggression and even I am shocked at how mild mannered it is.

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

The beloved Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip have, since noon yesterday, been subjected to a vicious attack and to continual strikes that have resulted so far in hundreds of victims being martyred or wounded.

This assault comes after a suffocating blockade to which this oppressed people has been subjected for several months. It had resulted in the creation of harsh humanitarian conditions as a result of lack of food, medicine, fuel and other necessities of daily life for the citizens.

Mere verbal expressions of condemnation and disapproval of what is being done to our Palestinian brethren in Gaza, and of solidarity with them, mean nothing before the immensity of this horrific tragedy to which they are being subjected.

The Arab and Muslim worlds are called upon, more than at any past time, to take practical steps in order to stop this continual aggression and to break this cruel blockade that has been imposed on that proud people.

We ask God, the Exalted, the All-Powerful to take the hands of all and lead them to that wherein lies goodness and righteousness. Verily, he is the All-Hearing, the Gracious.

Meanwhile, while everyone in corporate American media seems to hedge reporting on the massacre taking place in Gaza, Israeli media seems to have a more realistic handle on the catastrophe raging around their corporate media’s head.

Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: “Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn’t be provoked into anger… Not that the bully’s not right – someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!”

Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon,the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation “Cast Lead” is only in its infancy.

poignantly poised Gordon Levy in Haaretz.  With pretty good moral clarity, Tom Segev writes:

It is admittedly impossible to live with daily missile fire, even if virtually no place in the world today enjoys a situation of zero terror. But Hamas is not a terrorist organization holding Gaza residents hostage: It is a religious nationalist movement, and a majority of Gaza residents believe in its path. One can certainly attack it, and with Knesset elections in the offing, this attack might even produce some kind of cease-fire. But there is another historical truth worth recalling in this context: Since the dawn of the Zionist presence in the Land of Israel, no military operation has ever advanced dialogue with the Palestinians.

 

even though his conclusion is somewhat flawed and undermines what preceeded it.  What’s important is these ideas found their way in mainstream publications in Israel, yet aren’t even remotely mirrored here in the States. I could surmise that’s an indication of the moral strength of certain elements of Israeli media which is greater than their American counterparts. Honestly, I can’t account for the differences in reporting, but the American media is not doing any service to its customers by keeping them in the dark about Israeli trangessions, and our politicians are not working in the best interests of our country when they excuse the faults of a regime hell bent on death and destruction usually ending at our expense.