Saturday, June 6, 2020
Isolation: Day 86
There is a slew of things I could talk about that have come out since I posted last, but I'll save those for a later date. Instead, I decided to lead with Yoko Kanno's Space Lion, from the Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack. This is one of the most beautiful, calming compositions I have ever heard, and I've been using it every day on the way to and from work to try and induce a state of peace. This is, of course, an uphill battle at the moment. My resting heart rate is up an average of 10bpm a minute, and it's already high due to my constant caffeine intake. My baseline has become "Terrible Anxiety," inspired by the frustratingly hopeless state of things at the moment, along with what I can only describe as the first thing in my life that legitimately terrifies me: four more years of this come November.
It would be so easy to abandon my "Common Sense" approach to world affairs and politics; just lose my shit and go off on a crazy anti-trump, anti-conservative bender.
I will not.
This is an extremely difficult stance to take at the moment, because since February I have gone from staunchly saying, "In November I am voting for a third party. I am NOT voting to replace one of the big two parties with the other." I held onto this ideal not because I harbor anything but disgust for our current president, but because until this past March, his horrible decisions did not strike me as all that different from horrible decisions made by most presidents. I have long believed both parties have essentially the same goal: Perpetuate the Institution. When we did have a man who charged into office with a sense of altruism, with an actual desire to change things, the system absorbed and neutered him. For all Obama's lofty goals, the US government ate him alive, rendered his most lasting legacy a further blending of politics with celebrity, which, I still believe, helped set the stage for someone like trump to make it into office.
As for how I could endorse not voting Democrat simply to remove our current celebrity from office, it doesn't help that the the most vocal elements of the left have become as radicalized and ridiculous as the right. Cries that equated our president with adolf hitler are, I still believe, disrespectful to victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Refusal to rationally discuss any perceived aspects of the man's "accomplishments" do nothing but further entrench those who defend him. By pointing to the economy's resurrection, trump's defenders may only be seeing what they want to see, but by putting our hands over our ears and screaming we're simply adding to their refusal to listen to us. I'm not a fool, even if these rising economic numbers aren't the product of manipulation - unlikely - what is the cost of this supposed recovery? I speak of the cost to our Planet, our people, our reality. All of these concerns, however, are now moot points, because trump has become more dangerous than any human being on the planet. Not just because of his motives, but because of his platform. We have to get him OUT, and the contemplation of four more years of this is the single most terrifying idea I have ever encountered. Hence my anxiety, and what may come across in the following paragraphs as a muddled ability to properly express myself. But I'll try.
All my old arguments are gone. Come November, I will be voting Democrat JUST to get trump out of office. My breaking point? His cover-up and absolutely malevolent handling of COVID-19 in those first, initial months. You can't argue this. There's documented proof that up to and including the day before the president made the now infamous comment, "I've said it was a pandemic all along," he was claiming the exact opposite. I've said this before, but let me repeat it again, so it weighs in on what has become a much larger-scale argument: based on this alone, I believe trump should be brought up on charges of crimes against humanity.
I also believe there's a decent number of talking heads from fox news that should be brought up on the same charges, but that's an argument for a different time.
Add to this the fact that in the wake of the mayhem he helped perpetuate by his malevolent handling of COVID-19, we've now escalated into a division in our society that harkens back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. And division? Division is where trump shines. As former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said recently, "donald trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not ry to unite the American people - does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us."
And it's working. A large part of trump's constituency seem to have wiped the slate clean on the progress from the Civil Rights Movement. And how could we expect them to do anything but? In an era of 'alternative facts,' deep fakes, and facebook news, everyone on both sides is guilty of denying facts and perpetuating their own preferred version of reality. Facts are no longer sacred, but we'll get to the ignorance that lies at the heart of that problem in a bit. Back to the abolishment of Civil Rights, George Floyd's murder at the hands of Officer Derek Chauvin while Officers Tou Thao, Thomas K. Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng stood by and watched proves that, as the news outlets are now so fond of saying, the bigotry and malevolence that corrupts US Police Departments is most definitely systemic. I do not believe all cops are hostile, malevolent entities, however, the ideology permeates the police as an institution, and as I've heard police say on several occasions, "If you speak up, you become a target." I'm not saying that is a stand that isn't worth taking, but when the system is against you, your sacrifice will almost definitely be in vain.
The "Defund the Police" initiative is intriguing, but as with everything in our two-party system, taken at face value, it's reactionary and unrealistic. There has been a lot of theorizing from civic leaders on this of late - multiple members of the Minneapolis City Council, including Ward 11's Jeremy Schroeder and Ward 3's Steven Fletcher have begun what appear to be earnest discussions on how to 'disband' the city's police. See also the MPD150 Movement. The idea of shifting funding from armed response units to highly specialized domestic, narcotic, and mental health response units is absolutely part of the solution, however, all of the scenario examples I've seen used to illustrate this idea leave out more extreme scenarios, seemingly to further their argument. Here's one for you: You're with your loved ones at the premiere of a blockbuster Hollywood movie when a heavily armed active shooter walks into the room and begins killing people. Who do you call? A mental health counselor? A crisis negotiator?
The examples in favor of a complete dissolution of the police break down when you introduce examples such as the above. This is why I don't believe we can completely do away with some iteration of armed, militaristic response. But do they belong responding to domestic, homeless, drug, or any number of other potentially non-violent situations? No. What about a situation like Mr. Floyd's? How Chauvin and his goon squad even ended up involved is something I can't comprehend; I've been in retail situations where customers have tried to pass bad bills. I never even thought about calling the police. It's not a definite the person with the bill in question is the origin of said bill. It's not even likely. As an employee, you explain why you cannot accept the bill and that's that. If they argue, you call a manager. If they continue to argue, you turn your back on them. If they escalate, the manager calls the police, and then you have a situation that is already nothing like the one in question.
So, if we need to have some version of the police, how do we combat that systemic attitude of untouchability and violent dominance, that hateful bigotry that has sullied the organization in a way that is, I think, untreatable. How do you treat the untreatable?
Not easily, but let's look deeper into these issues for a moment.
Racism is learned. In example, I knew someone very briefly in High School who would make comments about a member of our group who was of Filipino descent. Behind his back, of course. These comments that were obviously learned behavior from his father, who was a Veteran of the Vietnamese Conflict. That's where his racism came from, and likewise, all racism takes its first seeding in a similar manner. No one is born with intolerance, bigotry or hatred. These traits are passed down. But seeds need nutrition to grow, and the nutrition that feeds racism is another learned ideology, one this country continues to celebrate: Ignorance.
To make another example from my childhood, when I was in fourth grade and transferred to a new school, I received a social beating based on the fact that I was a 'reader.' Nerd, egghead, whatever. It was much cooler to be ignorant than to be academic or bookish. I never relinquished my love of reading, but I definitely began to hide it. To act stupid. How does this happen? I mean, think about any toddler you have ever interacted with. They are veritable sponges for new experiences and information. Learning is what young children do. So how does that get truncated, removed, and perverted so that by the time these kids get to fourth grade, they turn off that initiative to learn and adopt its antithesis? The answer, like the installation of the racist paradigm, is they are taught ignorance is cool and knowledge is an undesirable trait. Whether by their parents, older siblings, babysitters, aunts, uncles, whatever. ALL of the problems that infect, gestate, and blossom into the systemic moral crisis that corrupts the people in our world is learned behavior. I ask you again, and with more emphasis on the arduous nature of finding the solution to the problem: How do we combat the ideologies of bigotry and ignorance when they are planted at such early development stages?
Not through penduluming from one extreme to the other, that's for sure.
And the problem exists on both sides. I was shocked to see people on social media this past week saying things like, "If you have a problem with the riots, you're part of the problem."
Oh, really? I guess that means George Floyd's family is part of the problem, because this past Monday, George's brother Terrence made a public speech calling for an end to the violence.
"First of all, first of all, if I'm not out here wilin' out, if I'm not over here blowing up stuff, if I'm not over here messing up my community - then what are y'all doing? What are y'all doing? Y'all doing nothing, because that's not going to bring my brother back at all. It may feel good for the moment, just like when you drink. But when you come down, you're gonna wonder what you did. My family is a peaceful family. My family is god fearing. yeah, we upset. But we're not going to take it, we're not going to be repetitious. In every case of police brutality, the same thing has been happening. Y'all protest. Y'all destroy stuff. And if they don't move, you know why they don't move? Because it's not their stuff, it's our stuff. They want us to destroy our stuff. They not going to move. So let's do this another way. Let's do this another way. Let's stop thinking that our voice don't matter and vote."
Terrence knows what any rational person should be able to take a breath and deduce: violence on the side of the protest only exacerbates the tension. Peaceful protest is the right of all Americans, however, when you're already dealing with A) A bigoted, malevolent system of armed enforcer/responders, and B) you have ineffectual civic leaders and a president that cares nothing but himself and how he can shape the country's economy to his and his cabal's best interests, all it takes is one tiny action to set off a crescendo of violence. I'm not saying the violence is solely the protestors' fault. The violence we've seen in the last week is a simple 2+2=4 equation: violent cops + violent rioters = violence on an exponential scale.
Imagine if no one had reacted violently to the police? Think about one of the most iconic images of the Twentieth Century, that of Vietnamese Mahayana Monk Thích Dúc's self-immolation. Immortalized to my generation as the cover to the first rage against the machine album cover, you'd think people who love a band that much would have at least learned a little something about the imagery the band uses (definitely not the case, as evidenced by the band's fans misunderstanding of the symbolism surrounding Che Guevara). I'm not calling for anyone to set themselves on fire, but it seems to me we already have our inciting incident. It's easy for me to say, because I'm not out there on the front lines, but if looters hadn't intervened and protestors had remained peaceful, had gone out of their way to avoid organzing protests around retail locations so as to distance themselves from the criminals seeking to exploit their platform for their own nefarious agenda, then any violent response on the part of the police would have been undeniable for what it was: Uncalled for. That would have rendered it nearly impossible for the media or trump's ministry of propaganda to spin these events as anything but police brutality. Dúc's self-immolation was a direct response to a similar situation, an altruistic recognition that he had the power to decide what the world would see. In our case, escalating violence on both sides - granted begun by the police - ended up making the rioters the figureheads for what should have been a message of change. As always, careful consideration from afar leads to twenty/twenty hindsight, but the point is we've been here before. I have a problem with police, but I also have a problem with criminals using a peaceful protest to set off a war, or to masquerade their looting. Protest is legal, burning shit down is not, and it simply underlines the argument against the protests, no matter the reality of the situation. Reactionary responses do no good, so leave them to the people who we want to lose the argument. As a nation, we have to learn and progress, and part of that is understanding how to control the argument.
Where does this leave us? I don't fucking know, but unfortunately, if I had to guess, things will settle down and go back to normal, much the same as they did after the first highly publicized cycle of white-cop-on-black-male-violence from just before trump's election, set off by Trayvon Martin's murder at the hands of Officer George Zimmerman. The outrage doesn't go away, however, it only lies in wait, bubbling and becoming more caustic. Maybe I'm wrong, and due to the added frustrations of COVID, we'll see change. If not, one thing I can guarantee is, when this comes back around again, it will be worse. Across the board. For everyone.
Yoko Kanno/Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop OST
Flying Lotus - Flamagra
Mr. Bungle - USA
Odonis Odonis - No Pop
Run the Jewels - RTJ4
Titus Andronicus - The Most Lamentable Tragedy
ICE-T - The Iceberg
Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti
Revocation - Teratogenesis EP
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick Lamar - Damn.
Zombi - Breakthrough and Conquer (Pre-release single)
L7 - Bricks are Heavy
Bella Morte - Where Shadows Lie
Pixies - Surfer Rosa
Skill, careful consideration of the micro-elements that comprise macro-level events. My translation/interpretation: reactionary responses motivated by emotional distress do not win the war. Plan, act with consideration of the larger picture.