peace officers, not police officers

George Floyd is dead after police responded to a suspected forgery. Floyd’s is yet another unpardonable story of a black man succumbing to death under brutal and disproportionate police response. 

Such handling should be unheard of, but somehow none of us are surprised. While acknowledging that police are exposed to risky situations, we’ve heard self defense too many times in suspect situations for it to be believable. Heard it too many times to suppose that the police themselves are not responsible for escalating otherwise innocuous situations. 

When one considers the vast injustices and crimes against the citizenry executed by people in corporations and government that routinely go unchecked in any respect, it absolutely boggles the mind that anyone could approach an individual suspected of forgery prepared to kill him or treat him with brutality. It defies sanity that anyone could similarly approach individuals for countless other ‘crimes’ that are in reality mere evidence of the lack of a healthy social and economic structure and a government with a cold shoulder for much of its populace.

No one, except perhaps for the Amy Coopers of the world, wants to call the police anymore. Since they have assumed their militarized persona, police are broadly feared, distrusted, and disliked. For people of color, the dread is unimaginable and unforgivable. And for those with mental health challenges, it’s beyond terrifying.

Our police officers aren’t just armed, they are prepared for battle, right down to the tanks. They are inculcated with the mentality to go with it. It appears that an unfortunate percentage of them are steeped in prejudices. And we pay for it with tax monies.

This just should not be, and we all know it.

I like to believe that a person is drawn to police work with an intent to make a positive difference in the world. We need to support that intention.

We need to start over on the whole concept of policing. We need to start from scratch on how our police are trained. We need to relieve them of their war weapons and de-escalate their heightened warlike mentality. We need to be done with SWAT teams. We need to take away incentives like civil asset forfeiture, military grade arms coming from the feds, and prison lockup quotas for those for-profit prisons. We need to weed out those for whom discriminatory injustice is not reprehensible. We need to decriminalize in areas.

We need police who are true public servants. These are the police that can be trusted. They are welcome and level-headed friends in a moment of need. They seek to build an inherently safer, healthier community.

We want compassionate local police who care about their community across the board. Ones who are absolutely only prepared to use a weapon or brute force as an extreme last resort. Look at a number of other countries that somehow manage with police who generally go about their business unarmed. Who woulda thunk?

While we grieve with George Floyd’s family for this terrible loss, we need to bang the drum. We want peace officers, not police officers. 

time for a new party

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It was only early March when the Super Tuesday coup saw Joe Biden, the candidate who hardly bothered to campaign, magically sweep up rival candidates, votes, and endorsements. Then, suddenly we were all caught up in the pandemic vortex, and a month later Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign.

The pandemic commanded our full attention, also raising a lot of questions about leadership, policies, healthcare, economics, rights, freedom.

In that context, we still gather a simmering steam towards November.

We have had ample opportunity to watch Trump and his cohorts at the helm. We’ve seen the Dems in action, too, repeatedly turning their backs on the working populace they supposedly champion. We even occasionally get glimpses of the presumptive nominee, Biden, giving a shout-out from his basement.

This is the man the establishment Dems somehow expect people to line up for? Who puts up a candidate for whom there is zero energy in the electorate? A candidate clearly coping with cognitive decline. A candidate with a predilection for hair sniffing. A candidate who must carry around the baggage of his own track record and lies even before the contest really begins.

The Trump campaign lately put up a website sadly featuring Biden’s difficulties in parody. Truth Over Facts derives its name from a Biden quote. And it is laugh out loud stuff. It was inevitable. But if you’re going to point the ‘for shame’ finger at anyone, point it at the Dems who have foisted this man onto the presidential stage.

One can’t help but wonder if the deliberate intent of the Super Tuesday coup was specifically to get Trump re-elected. They swept the popular agenda and grass roots candidate off the table and installed an unfit candidate with a dysfunctional neoliberal agenda – to the extent that he has one at all.

One cannot even bother to blame Bernie Sanders’ voters for the next Trump win — the Dems engineered this situation with brute force. Lesser-of-two-evilism notwithstanding, there’s a percentage of those voters that have DemExited for good now that they’ve been pushed over the cliff.

I don’t think the Dems will lose any sleep over it though. As we have seen with their pandemic priorities, the Dems are perfectly fine with their Republican agenda. They don’t even bother playing Good Cop Bad Cop anymore. In fact, at this point, it’s not so much that we have Red and Blue factions. Nope, we just have one party, may as well be Purple.

We deserve better than this. The planet deserves better than this.

It’s time for a new party to come to the forefront. One that doesn’t just give lip service to the working and broader populace while doing the bidding of the one percent. The Movement for a People’s Party launched in the wake of the 2016 election, and it is gaining momentum. Maybe the Green Party will be part of the ultimate equation. It’s a wave that looks surfable.

If we don’t have a revolution first, I think we’ll see a People’s Party take center stage for 2024. Then, we might really have something worth voting for. Sadly, it’s not really clear we can afford to wait that long.

think equal: International Women’s Day

veru3_8_19Today marks International Women’s Day.

It may have escaped notice, but as recently as yesterday, a push to make Arkansas the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment was killed in committee. The initiative seeks to amend the Constitution to ensure that,  “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This fundamental assertion has lingered with insufficient ratifications by the states since its approval by Congress in 1972. I guess that simple declaration is just a bridge too far, #MeToo and all that notwithstanding.

This week, imprisoned women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia learned that they will be prosecuted. They have suffered torture and sexual assault during their now one-year long imprisonment, according to one investigation. The UN has lately called for the women’s freedom. The United States was not among the countries supporting the joint statement that also called for other human rights improvements in Saudi Arabia.

The ongoing priority exhibited in state legislatures around the US continued to play out lately with several bills moving along to ban abortion for any reason after six weeks. Women aside, these bills are always advanced in the name of that great reverence for life. If that is indeed the priority, one cannot help but ask why these bills continue apace while government remains engaged in holding children forcibly separated from their parents, ramping up war agendas, and abetting suffering and death unabated in Yemen? Among. Many. Other. Things.

The World Economic Forum’s latest report tells us that there is a 32 percent average gender gap globally in the areas of health and survival, political empowerment, educational attainment, and economic participation and opportunity. The US ranks 51 out of the 149 countries included in the report, with a gender parity score of .72.

It is pretty dismal to see how these scores have degraded over time. For example, in 2006, the US ranked 23 (out of 114) for this report. It scored at the very top on the health and survival spectrum at that time. In this recent report, the US score for health and survival sunk to 71 (out of 149).  It ranks even further down, 98, on the political empowerment scale. The only score that’s improved is in the area of education, now at 46. 

We all know we can do better, and, when we do, it’s better for everybody. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day: ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.”

That works.

somnambulism and awakening to our real, gentle selves

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I am tired. Tired of all the struggles. Tired of the ongoing injustices, the continually expanding crop of manufactured crises and suffering, the harsh and divisive language that tweets from the top and reverberates through our beleaguered lives.

Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of the launch of the ongoing attempted coup in Venezuela. There will be actions around the US to oppose this coup and the US’s hand in it, but media will likely ignore those in favor of Richard Branson’s pro-coup concert and photos of the “aid” the US is sending.

Then there’s Haiti, part of the rippling damage of the Venezuela situation and the malignant sanctions and interference of the US.

Tilt your head a little and look in the direction of Yemen, if you can bear it. And yet, the US government cannot quite bring itself to divorce from the suffering it helps deliver there.

Or, perhaps, turn your gaze close to home, and notice children separated from their parents — a reality that continues.

Maybe the thing you notice is the water you can’t quite trust, or the food laced with pesticides or hormones or antibiotics.

Or how about the national emergency of a national emergency – basically, another kind of attempted coup.

It’s hard to focus, isn’t it? So many crises and more all the time.

There are so many crises for which our tax dollars and lives get put on the line – and for what good reason? As far as I can tell, to line somebody’s pockets. That’s really about it. Don’t waste your breath with the word “humanitarian,” it’s not actually part of this equation.

But it all just carries on, as the average citizen is forced to deal with their own personal reality of securing their small share of the piece of the pie they’ve been allowed to access.

We continue our various sleepwalking grinds. We dutifully pay our taxes. We subject ourselves to more and more personal intrusion and regulation. We silently allow ourselves to be pawns, to pick sides, to be less than ourselves.

I was startled lately to meet a gentle person. Everything about them was gentle – gentle language, gentle gestures, gentle thought, gentleness in the direct, caring gaze. It stood out immediately and alarmingly, because it made me realize how accustomed I am to the flat, harsh behavior our society and its members have adopted – the somnambulist demeanor.

What if we could all awaken from our sleepwalking, notice what’s really going on, and become our real, gentle selves? I believe that’s really who we are — buried underneath the heavy capitalist labels we carry. Those genuine, compassionate selves – the creative, caring, nurturing ones – are struggling for air.

Rather than tolerate the many and terrible injustices, could we not awaken and assert our real, gentle selves? Could we not shirk off the various definitions we have been assigned, and determine to simply be our real, gentle selves?

It would transform our world. It would be radical. It would save us.

sitting out the Super Bowl

veru2_3_19I admit it. I find the Super Bowl disturbing.

It’s a night when seemingly all of America drops everything, comes together, and focuses all of their attention on … football.

At a very basic level, I find the game itself disturbing. It is an undisguised metaphor for battle – for war. It’s an event where the participants suit up with helmets and pads in preparation for physical assaults – which often actually do result in injuries. All of the language of the sport is war jargon. The teams play offense and defense. The crowds participate in fight songs and chants.

Worse, into this war mentality, we interject nationalism and militarism. Football, the flag, and the anthem go hand in hand – by design. And, as we know, woe be to anyone who exercises their right to dissent or simply chooses not to participate in these rituals. The militaristic marching, the flyovers, the honoring of veterans – this is somehow football.

Inequality, too, is so integral to this whole Super Bowl tradition, we see right past it. The game puts a massive rubber stamp on class issues, demonstrated through a spectrum that ranges from inherent sexism and racism to sex trafficking and the fantastic disparities of wealth so blatantly on display.

And then, there’s the famous commercials. Now, the audience doesn’t just sit passively under the onslaught of advertising – they eagerly lap it up.

On the bright side, the Super Bowl is proof positive that United States citizens really can be motivated to act as one, throwing parties across the nation and watching television – everyone at exactly the same time.

Just imagine if we put that kind of synergy toward a truly worthy effort, like, say, peace and justice.

I get it that the Super Bowl is a distraction, that it’s a fun time-out for people, especially during these worrisome times. Sad to say, though, this distraction is an artifact of the bigger worrisome game – and I’m not talking about football.

Call me a party pooper, but, no, thank you, no Super Bowl for me.

stand for love

 

veru1_20_19.jpgWe saw a lot of marching this weekend. Many people went to Washington D.C. and cities around the country to press the issues of women and indigenous peoples. Ultimately, the marching was about oppression, injustice, inequality – and shaping a better future. The issues do not belong to individual groups – the issues belong to all of us.

This kind of coming together and expression is especially important in the face of increasingly harsh and repressive reactions to ideas that don’t fit the preferred narrative of some.

And we saw the latter on full display, too.

Out of the many photos emerging from the marches, we will not forget the insolent smile of a young white man standing in the space of an older Native American man as he sings and drums. We cannot ignore the crowd of hooting, mocking young men in the background either.

This is a painful scene to view.

The marching is not done. Tomorrow we commemorate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. There will be more marches around the country.

These marches take place to forward peace, justice, and equality. They are about all of us recognizing each and every one of us for the people that we are, honoring each other with love and respect, and securing those priorities as a premise for our country.  They are the positive wave rising and washing over us, carrying us along in the name of love.

Don’t be left behind in the dark and the cold.

Whether you march or you don’t, you can take a stand. Every single day. You can stand for love. Sing it and drum it. Dance it. Shout it. Paint it. Write it. Act it out. Teach it. Do not stand by to simply watch, but stand actively, wholly, and courageously in the name of love. Over and over again.

It was Martin Luther King Jr. who reminded us, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Go ahead. Stand tall. Stand for love.