Why America Is Bat Shit Crazy

A few minutes ago I turned the television off. Close as I can say, it took 17 minutes to blow my mind. Last night I went to bed with news of Alton Sterling – two white police officers responding to a 911 call of a black man “matching Sterling’s description” with a gun, tasered Sterling, “restrained” him on the ground, then one of the officers fired his weapon point blank, taking Sterling’s life. This morning Philando Castile – driving with his girlfriend and her 4 year old daughter, pulled over by 2 white police officers for a broken tail-light. Asked to produce his drivers license, Castile reaches for his wallet, informing the officer he has gun in the vehicle and a legal permit to carry it. Without warning the officer opens fire, killing Castile. Tonight – the “sniper” shooting of 11 police officers and a civilian at a “black lives matter” protest in Dallas. None of the above blew my mind.

African American victims of excessive force by white police officers, readily available assault weapons used in mass shootings of innocent citizens – takes more than that to blow my mind.

Personal head shakes, quips of bat shit in reference to rabid gun culture, corporate financing of bloated ineffectual politics, religious influence over equal rights regardless of gender or sexual orientation, for profit prisons and healthcare, hate speech protected by free speech and racial injustice hidden by hand over heart declarations of “greatest nation on Earth” – perplexing, but hardly mind blowing.

Tonight mind blowing arrived without invitation, delivered by a CNN reporter reacting to the Dallas shooting spree. Distracted by retrieval of rather messy brain splats, apologies for not catching her name. Her segment started with tones of sympathetic condolence for average Americans, families of regular folk all across America grappling to comprehend events of the past 2 days. She agonized for parents across the nation, parents faced with explaining to their children police officers were shot and killed. She paused, summoning Nancy Grace while words hung in the air, face twisted with incredulous outrage she repeated “police officers were shot, how do you explain that to your children!”. My brain hit the wall.

Mind shrapnel exposed the reality of bat shit – white American parents face explaining the senseless massacre of Dallas police officers, black parents are tasked with teaching their kids to avoid police. Where was CNN reporter’s anguish over black parents explaining murders of Sterling and Castile to their kids? Why don’t all lives matter? America is bat shit crazy.

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Why America Is Bat Shit Crazy

  1. In the eighties I grew up believing that Stevie Wonder’s song “past time paradise with the lyrics “segregation, mutilation” becomes “confirmation … to the peace of the world” was a history lesson and that racial equality was very much on the way of being there. Obama’s election confirmed all that to me.

    But the 900 or so black men between 20 and 30 that are being killed by police officers every year tell me that either Stevie was a dreaming poet or that the US society is marching back in time. A bit of both of course and it makes me want to weep at our stubborn denial that society is screwing up big time.

    Past time paradise all over again, but without the happy end. Sorry Stevie.

  2. As horrible as all of this is the question I have never heard asked is what is it about white cops interactions with black males that makes the cops so jittery or trigger happy? Yeah — it’s WRONG that so many black men have been shot, but how do we fix it? There’s an elephant in the room that no one’s talking about — maybe that no one even recognizes.

    I’m no cop, and I sure am glad there are other people who want that job, but I know for sure that I would be jittery as hell doing ANY kind of traffic stop in today’s society. You never know what’s in the car you are stopping — no matter what color the occupant. No wonder so many traffic stops are routinely responded to by 3 or 4 squads. I see it all the time.

    What behavior — on the part of the cop and or the civilian — that causes gunfire? I some big guy with a gun pulls me over I’m darn well gonna mind my p’s and q’s and stay alive. That quote from Don Lemon on tv about he watches his behavior when he’s pulled over by a cop is getting a lot of publicity but it’s not just black folk who ought to be respectful and cautious when they’re pulled over by an armed officer. I made the mistake once of getting out of the car and I saw how quickly cops go from nice and friendly to menacing.

    I’m not sure cops are ever going to take approaching an unkown driver in a car, or approaching a group of people (black or white) in the middle of the night on a lark. It’s serious business they undertake on our behalf and it’s scary as hell. But I’m not sure that civilians in today’s society are ever going to care how scary that job is, or care that maybe they should be alittle more careful.

    I don’t know. It’s not just about shooting blacks. There’s a whole cultural situation there that isn’t being talked about, isn’t being acknowledge, isn’t being looked at hard enough to figure out HOW DO YOU CHANGE IT? Cuz just saying “don’t shoot black men” is not going to solve it.

    We have never yet gotten past the Civil War or racial inequality in this country. The adamance about the Confederate Flag and the attitudes we see as we travel around the country are living proof. But social media simply exacerbate an already bad situation. Outrage isn’t particularly helpful. Too often outrage results in violence, not in effective change.

    • I’ve spent all day pondering this comment. Your perspective sparked a quest for constructive insight – sadly falling short of my objective. That said, here goes –

      Race aside, American gun culture dictates police officers have every reason to be trigger ready when approaching a stopped car.Perhaps a new normal is in order, one where occupants of stopped cars are required to exit their vehicle documents ready and approach police officers with their hands up? If nothing else, by legislating this procedure regardless of gender, race or economic status, all citizens are equal and police officers wouldn’t have to second guess “reaching” for documents.

      A few thoughts on police officers – as with any profession, some are better suited to it than others. Not sure how to go about it but law enforcement has to implement selection criteria and training focused on impartial conflict resolution.

      Now for the elephant – early education is pivotal. Every child in America must be told the truth about racial inequality. Educators have a responsibility to facilitate open discussion and independent thought. Nothing will change until Confederate flag bigots are in the grave, and generations of educated “all lives matter” realists leave inequality to history books.

      Meanwhile, the justice system has to grow balls. We’re way beyond judicial leniency for white police officers based solely on “I thought he might harm me” circumstance. The officer who murdered Castile should go to prison for manslaughter. End of story! Can you recall news of black police officers ever killing a white person under similar circumstances? I can’t because it has nothing to do with job jitters, and everything to do with racial bias. Black officers don’t murder white people and call it justifiable because the white man scared them. It’s absurd! Send trigger happy white officers “scared” of African Americans a message – race isn’t justification for murder, explore alternate careers if you think America is going to overlook your disgraceful and murderous over reaction to interaction with people of colour. Acknowledge the elephant by prosecuting white officers. Enough is enough. Sigh.

  3. The first problem is that the police are never going to want you mobile while they are not. They are at a distinct disadvantage behind the wheel while a prospective active shooter is able to move about. Which is why I got in trouble when I exited my car for a traffic stop. I see and understand that clearly now.

    Clearly there are issues of fear-for-their-lives on the part of cops that shoot. You seem to want to minimize that as a factor but I don’t buy that. I am sure that cops themselves would not easily admit to being ‘frightened’ — that’s counter-cop-mentality. But you don’t live with the uncertainty of walking into unknown situations without it changing who you are. Even here at our little volunteer gig, the gov’t agency gives us a radio to reach them and the local police and we hear all the nonsense that cops have to deal with from domestic violence on up to murder and it’s an incredibly difficult job.

    While I think some of your points have great merit, my question mark as a citizen of the country has more to do with the long-term effects of being a policeman.

    And the thing is that every day there are millions of traffic stops that result in no problem. No violence. No one’s death. Among those traffic stops, among those late night police investigations of reports of prowlers very very few result in any kind of problem. What makes the murders different? What makes that cop, white or otherwise, because they haven’t all been white shoot. We know that cops ARE taught that if they are in danger they are to shoot to kill. But what is the impetus to pull the trigger?

    I don’t know what the gang situation is in Canada, but gangs and gang violence are significant issues here. And I don’t have to cite chapter and verse to say that the preponderance of gang members are not white. But probably the preponderance of cops are. For all the talk about the negatives of racial profiling I think if you are on the job and ‘perceive’ whether accurately or circumstantially that the greatest threat to your own safety is a gang member with a gun…. you’re starting out 3/4 of the way to a pulled trigger. In my brain, these cops are acting out of fear. But how do you counteract that?

    I’ve been friends with a reasonable number of blacks during my life. I’ve seen them interact with their peers I have frequently wondered why what seems to me to be verbal disrespect between same race members is so common/tolerated. And I question how often a belligerent attitude sets the tone for the entire encounter. I don’t know. I’m not there. And I don’t know if I’m being racist in even saying that. But I know that I don’t tolerate some of the ‘lip’ that my friends of color live with among their peers. I know for a fact that if the first words I hear from someone else’s lips are belligerent and filled with attitude that I’m going to approach them much differently than if they approach me with a smile.

    There’s nothing we can do about the way the world is right this minute, but we can work to change it in the future and for the life of me I am hard pressed to visualize a path to reduced accidental police deaths. Here in the states there was a period of 10 or 20 years where we heard a lot in the media about how out-gunned the police were with their standard issue weapons against gang members who were much better equipped for firepower. I don’t hear that rhetoric any more — but it was out there for a long time, and quite loudly. I would not want to be making traffic stops and be worried about my safety — who is the next person to have a gun — in a society that is currently condoning CONCEALED CARRY. It was bad enough when only criminals had guns, now a lot of other people have them and who knows how patient or quick tempered anyone in that next car might be. Gives me the willies just thinking about having to do that job.

    For a while, a ‘lot’ of these shootings were reported as being young black men shot in the middle of the night by cops. And as an old guy, I keep asking myself what the heck are people doing in alleys and deserted places in the middle of the night? And I ask that even though my grand daughter — the one getting married next year — has been an active Urban Explorer who wanders around abandoned buildings and goes walking in the subterranean world of city sewers and tunnels. I know what she’s doing, and I wonder what all these young black kids are doing to be out there at strange hours of the day/night where they come into close contact with cops.

    What’s the difference between being an urban explorer or a gang member if a cop sees you in the dark? And what triggers the choice to pull the trigger? I’d hate to see my grand daughter shot. And I have to hope that she would know what not to do to antagonize a cop. But I don’t know that she’s always that smart. (even thought she’s a smart kid)

    Social media are whipping the nation into a frenzy but for all the irate citizens I don’t know which ones among them would have the nerve to take a cops place for just one shift. I wouldn’t. I don’t what the solution is but I’m that guy that seems slow witted because to every problem I can always see about 8 different ways of viewing it and I know that we aren’t ever going to solve it until we take all of those different perspectives into account. And right now, when it comes to race in America, all that seems to be heard are two diametrically opposed debaters looking for headlines.

    I don’t know…. Answers are hard to come by.

    • Sigh. If the issue of race could be tackled easily it would have been by now. In Canada police officers are trained to disable, not kill. Taking the life of a suspect is reserved for extreme situations. Lacking frames of reference to comprehend otherwise is difficult.This doesn’t mean we escape instances of excessive force or police brutality, which brings me to the next point – regardless of race, the majority of police officers are good people. Persons tasked with daunting challenges who are capable of remaining calm, intuitively diffusing conflict, and using measures of reasonable force when necessary. A few are not – actions of these officers shouldn’t be tolerated. All it does is perpetuate stereotypes and a growing racial divide. There’s so much more to it but my bottom line is the belief America must prosecute police officers whose knee jerk overreactions exceed parameters of reasonable response.The traffic stop officer in St. Paul, emptying his gun into Castile – have you watched the video? Nothing justifies his behavior, the justice system has an obligation to send a message – America won’t tolerate unjustified use of deadly force. Another sigh, I know it isn’t this simple.
      Did you know my husband is black? Even here in Canada, he’s had the “talk” with our kids, especially our youngest son who has the darkest skin.It goes something like this – your skin colour sets you apart from your friends. If ever you find yourself in a police involved situation, be it at a house party, bar or stopped while walking home from the train station – your appearance attracts far greater scrutiny than your companions. No matter how unfairly they treat you, even if they single you out, unreasonably focus attention on you – stay calm, be respectful and politely answer their questions with unwavering polite conviction. You can lose your mind once you get home, we’ll understand.(He’s 21 now and has had to remember the “talk” on more than one occasion )
      My husband has been “questioned” by police while out taking photos – the moment he purposefully “flashes” his Law Society ID, they gabba gabba “so sorry sir”. I can’t fathom being black in America. Sigh.

      • Unfortunately U.S. society has never been subtle. And we have a horrible thing about killing. After all we have been at war, continuously for about 250 years. We don’t know how NOT to be killing. So, I agree with you about the need to prosecute, and the need to change our standards but I can’t for the life of me see how that’s ever going to happen. — incidentally — Hillary just gave a speech suggesting just that — retraining — one of her better public speeches actually. The shootings in Dallas might have edged something past the point of no return.

        I did not know for sure but you have said a few things that implied that about your husband. And I am glad that he has had the talk with your kids because they definitely need to be aware of their own actions. A few years ago I was staying with a black family in New Orleans — a wonderful family — with 11 siblings, dad had been a postman in NOLA, mom operated… get this… a day care. With her own 11 and more to boot. Anyway, dad was at one time the NOLA citizen of the year — for being a postman. When I was there we attended two all black funerals + me. I was stunned how much I learned just being the one oddball guy among these lovely folks — but importance of ‘the talk’ cannot be over emphasized.

        sentiments are running so high down here that I have a hard time visualizing what course this country may take in the future. it isn’t going to be pretty.

        The thing is that if it were just the ghosts of the past, we would have grown out of our Civil War days attitudes long ago — but it’s not. Whatever it is that is fermenting racial hatred has not been passed as a moment in time — we are carrying it along with us and until we let go we’ll never get past it. And I have no idea what it will take to get stubborn people to let go of something that they thing DEFINES them: their attitude towards blacks.
        The thing is, thought, that the U.S. isn’t alone in racial hatred. (let’s not go into the civilized country thing, cuz we obviously aren’t very civilized) Whether it’s Darfor, or Bosnia, or dozens of other places where racial ‘cleansing’ and genocide are taking place we humans seem to be way too quick to kill those who differ from us. If it was the U.S. only I would have more optimism, but this eternal optimist is having a hard time seeing a way out. I have been a pacifist all my life and I hate violence of any kind, but I have no idea what path this world can take….. And I feel so helpless to effect change that I really want to just turn off all the news and live in a little world of un-knowing-ness….. sigh.

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