Friday, July 8, 2016

Hi, it's Stupid

A happier Dallas protest moment, September 24 2015, from NBC-DFW.
Back in the day when Left Blogistan was just a couple of mud huts and a stray cow, and I was a dumbstruck lurker, there used to be a poster at Kos (I think, even that detail is getting vague) calling himself Stupid, who would always begin, "Hi, it's Stupid to say..." and go on to say something so naive and helpless that none of the smart and savvy news junkies was smart enough to think of it. As in—

Hi, it's Stupid to say there's something left to be learned from the horrible events in Baton Rouge and St. Paul and Dallas over the past week. We know it all already, don't we? And yet nothing changes.

Except it does, you know. What I've been learning, listening to the radio all morning (including a wise Mayor Bill de Blasio on his weekly call-in on WNYC):
  • The murder of black Americans by police isn't getting worse; it seems to be getting worse because we know more about it, day by day, but the use of violence by US authorities against black folks has always been there, and always been murderous. We don't have great numbers (see The Guardian's tally for some of the best information there is), but it's clear that what's changing is the quality of our information, led by the cell phone video. Just as the incidence of rape in our society hasn't been growing, but the courage of women to report rapes has, so that we hear and talk about it more. Awareness is growing. And more information is a kind of progress in itself.
  • Many municipal police departments are making serious progress in learning how to engage with people in African American communities, recognizing themselves as servants of the community rather than an occupying power, integrating the forces themselves—ironically or should I say "ironically" the Dallas police are one of the standout successes, and their handling of last night's demonstration against police brutality was apparently noteworthy just because it was done so well, with demonstrators and officers chatting and posing for selfies together, etc., etc.
  • Police in the UK still work for the most part without firearms; this is because firearms are so rare among the citizenry, because gun control is effective. I would like to see police like that here, but it's really too dangerous for them not to. (Not that Alton Sterling or Philando Castile posed any danger to the officers who killed them, if they were carrying guns at the time of their deaths.) I would like to see the Second Amendment repealed once and for all; it hasn't served the purpose it was meant for since 1812, when our standing army began creeping into existence and the concept of the well regulated militia became essentially irrelevant. Along with the Third Amendment, which has been been flouted unceasingly since that time, as far as I'm concerned. Old de Blasio was suggesting on the radio that he sensed an evolution in that direction really going on.
It's terrible, terrible, for everybody on the fault line: for the young black man in constant danger and his girlfriend with her phone at the ready in case she needs to start filming; for the young officer of whatever race who's inadequately trained and terrified and unable to tell a threat from a will-o'-the-wisp; for the dead and their families; for our political system that feels as if it had swallowed a razor blade in 1787 for no good reason. But it can get better, if we concentrate.

Another startling note of hopefulness (re Minnesota in particular) from ZandarUpdate 7/11: Also a really lovely piece by Stephen Waldman at Washington Monthly on how BlackLivesMatter and the nation's police forces can truly unite around the common goal of gun control.

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