Quo vadis, America? To where are we headed? by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
As you go through life and learn things, you begin to recognize that there are fables and mythologies that we use in substitution for the realities we’d rather not enshrine with acceptance.
War, for instance, is always the result of an imposition of one or more nations upon another, institutional armed robbery and murder on a massive scale disguised by some sanctifying metaphor, such as the bombing of Iraq into the Stone Age by way of a magnificent display of “shock and awe” we label as necessary in “…the defense of freedom.” Or, the enthusiastic religious conversion of entire indigenous nations in the Americas by hordes of passionate armed and armored “missionaries” by way of the sword and the cannon “…in the name of the Prince of Peace” and to save them all from their pagan depravity. And then to bring the civilizing influences of compulsory, uncompensated labor and perpetual subjugation to those few who managed to survive their conversion.
Hypocrisy permits more crime and hides more violence than ever did honest, if criminal intent, but we manage to enshrine the most militant and murderous among us for the sheer chutzpah they display in their zeal for oppression.
Is it any mystery that when the tyranny of these cruel, avaricious and self-serving men is recognized for what it was that people are ready to tear down their iconic images enshrined in bronze?
“But it’s George… and everyone knows that George was an honorable man, the father of our nation.”
Nations have many fathers… and mothers.
Judge a man by his actions, not his aspirations or his words. Whatever high minded principle those men we call our Founding Fathers chose for their particular camouflaging mythology… in their case the divine imperatives in a statement that “…all men are created equal…” which did not include the black men they owned as a farmer owns cattle or sheep. Nor did it include women of any color. Washington owned people. More specifically, he owned black people… men, women, and children who made him rich with the unpaid and harshly compelled labor of their hands. And while he owned them, they could never enjoy the liberties, rights, and privileges for which he fought. Make no mistake, our nation was not birthed by men who took any of their mythologies to be inclusive, but fought for the sovereignty of their own and personal wealth in order that they could be richer by half and not taxed into want and commonality by a king who gave them no respect.
Hypocrisy is the father of all nations. Hypocrisy has killed more people than we can possibly count. Hypocrisy enables oppression, genocide, and tyranny. It’s time we stopped sanctifying and sheltering the icons of false idols.
It’s time to wake the hell up.
False Idols and Other Affectations by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
It’s now been ten days since the launch of the Peoples’ Daily Brief and though participation was encouraging, it’s dropped off considerably, so the work I’m putting into it is difficult to justify.
Although I sometimes use the pronoun “we” while writing these reports, it’s just me, myself and I behind the curtain, so there is that…. and while there are ways to expand readership, they generally require either money, enormous time expenditure, or famous friends. Having none of the above, I’m going to have to stick with slow, steady growth.
In the meantime… and without any help, a daily report is proving too ambitious, considering the time required, both for research and for production… writing, editing, etc… so I’m going to reconsider, rethink, reschedule, repurpose, and possibly even rename the project and will, in a few days, announce the results.
We’re not giving up. So… watch this space.
For those of you who’ve been reading the PBD, thanks. We love you… all of us… me, my head, and all the many alter egos that therein dwell.
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
We’re closed on Saturdays… one day a week. We do it because we believe in a day of rest, not as a religious imperative, but as a simple human need. We chose Saturday because we know everybody else usually chooses Sunday and we wanted to offer them a more in-depth analysis of the previous week, or editorial perspectives, on their day of rest… a day when they have the time in which to read it.
On Saturday, however, we will give you something to consider, a link to an article or an op-ed that we read during the week and thought was important enough to pass on.
We chose this one today – On Juneteenth, Let’s Commit to Learning How to Abolish Oppressive Institutions/TRUTHOUT
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
“Something wicked this way comes…” Shakespeare, Macbeth (Act 4, Scene 1)
Once upon a time in America, a man or a woman who wished to be their own boss had options and a reasonably high expectation of success… assuming they worked hard and were able to avoid criminal influences, natural and financial disasters, et al. Shopkeepers, grocers, craftsmen of all sorts, even small farmers, of whom there were many… they were all involved in what they perceived as an upward personal trajectory, a cut above working for wages. Even if they did aught else but maintain a reasonable living, they could count on a better life for themselves and their families.
Perhaps it was the Civil War that changed all that, by way of massive, sudden demands for war materiel to equip enormous conscripted battalions that sprang up as if overnight. The call went out for the production of weapons, uniforms, ships, cannons, tents, wagons, ammunition… all on a massive scale… enormous contractual demands that benefited… not the small businesses, but the larger ones who had access to capital and could always outbid them. And so they did, by the forces of economic advantage, political connections and the benefit of the modern methods of mass production, the factories and machinery that only a larger business could afford.
The smaller enterprises, small businesses and family farms, in their day and even in the shadow of the new industrial powerhouses, did well enough with local markets, but after the War, the bigger businesses, with the loss of their lucrative military contracts, took their advantages into those markets as well. Some of these industrial giants colluded one with the other to join forces in competition, driving smaller companies out of even those smaller local markets altogether. And when laws were enacted to outlaw the unfair advantages they held, they colluded again to influence legislation in their favor. Today? We have Wal-Mart and Amazon. Can you imagine how many small businesses were destroyed nationwide in the building of those corporate behemoths and others like them? Even the small family farm is an anomoly today, shut out by the competition of powerful agri-business entities in the corporate world.
Times change. Technology advances.
Moral imperatives can transform overnight accordingly.
All material things can be swiftly revised to fill new demands.
Perceptions and even principles can change.
People, however, do not.
My father was raised on a farm in Georgia. His father was a sharecropper and when the family, by circumstances that poor folk cannot control was forced to move to Alabama, they did so in a wagon. They grew their own food, slaughtered their own meat, baked their own bread and lived much as people had lived for hundreds of years before them.
My father was ambitious young man, left home, took advantage of military service in the heart of the Depression to educate himself and became an expert in what was then the latest technology, radar. After World War II, he left the Navy as a Warrant Officer and, as a civilian, took what he’d learned and made a decent career for himself in technology. Over the years, he continued to learn new things, ending his professional career as an engineer for NASA, building small computers for satellites. He was involved in the cutting edge micro-electronic technology that eventually served as the basis for personal computers, the device that changed life as we know it and launched what some people call, the Information Age.
In his lifetime, he went from that poor farm boy riding about on horseback through an agrarian subsistence to the launching pads of advanced technology. He saw elemental transformations in every aspect of life, cultural evolution that we can only imagine and he was part of the technical revolution that has placed humanity today on the edge of yet another new epoch, one that has yet to be defined, much less judged as beneficial progress.
But I can tell you this, that in his heart of hearts, he was no different in the way of his humanity than he was as a young man n that farm, retaining the rich values that formed his decent perspectives, unwilling and unequipped to be altered by the cynical and self-serving ways of modernity.
Times are changing once more and the people who drive our economy seem determined to render humanity obsolescent and superfluous in a strange new and sterile world. Science fiction in mid-century America was prophetic when it scanned future possibilities and found them frightening and the most frightening of all was the sterility and cold demands of robotic automation, labor-saving technology that today seems to threaten the labor itself and the laborer who supplies it.
Once upon a time the purpose of all labor in the earth was the benefit of all mankind, each man and women in their way taking part. What part will they serve, what role can they play in a world that no longer needs them, in a world that seems to place priorities and progress in the service of profits instead. Maybe it’s time for humanity to stop and take a deep breath, to step back and take a critical look at what we’ve wrought and where we are going… or more accurately… what it is that’s coming our way.
Make no mistake, something is coming our way and we’re not quite sure what it is and how it will affect us. Maybe it’s time for us to decide if we really want what it is that’s coming down that road. Maybe it’s time for us to pay some attention. More than ever before in the history of humankind, we need to be aware and informed.
Here is a good place to start, with an essay by William I. Robinson that paints a depressing picture in a graphic and realistic analysis of troubling social and economic trends. You can read the essay and judge for yourself by way of this link to the article on TRUTHOUT
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
(( The featured image above, a photo map of the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, and other photos suppied below were copied from the Black Rose Anarchistic Federation Twitter Account. The link to the group’s web site is: https://blackrosefed.org/ ))
It’s not easy to get any credible news from corporate media about the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, but it’s out there in the ether of the internet if you look for it. On Monday, I found a decent article from Jane C. Hu that debunks much of the mythology and hype that’s provided by cable new and the bigger newspapers concerning events there. The article gives you a true sense of what’s happening in an eyewitness account and you can read it here at SLATE
The pictures posted here are from the 8th and 9th of June, but the article was written on the 16th. As you can see and read in the referenced article, the Autonomous Zone is not yet in flames or the scene of crime, chaos and hunger as has been suggested elsewhere and, as far as I can tell, Trump’s military intervention hasn’t shown up as yet. Maybe he’s waiting to announce that the tanks are rolling into Seattle at his rally in Nuremberg Tulsa this weekend, raw meat for his fans. Or, he may do nothing at all because he is an impotent gas bag. It’s a toss-up. No one can confidently predict what he will do or what he will say. In order to distract attention away from the release of John Bolton’s book, Trump is liable to do anything… and in his mind, the more outrageous, the better.
If I lived in Seattle, I would think it wise to stay away from the Autonomous Zone on Saturday when the Oklahoma rally is in full swing. God knows what Trump will do to get a rousing ovation from his mob of vengeful minions.
Speaking of which, I saw pictures of Trump enthusiasts who’ve already already begun waiting for Trump since Monday… lined up with camping gear, sleeping bags, barbecues and lawn chairs outside the BOK Center in Tulsa. They looked like Dead Heads lined up outside Fillmore West back in the old days, only better-fed and considerably less hirsute.
Anarchism in the United States has a surprising depth and length to its history, dating back to the nineteenth century with adherents and spokesmen who were recognized as seminal thinkers in their movement worldwide. Regardless, the average American, the product of its public schools and even its universities, is generally unaware of it. Socialism, anarchism, and other populist movements are, after all, inimical to the American institutions that have been so carefully constructed to contain and control any equalizing factors, socially and economically. Notions we hold iconic and dear, such as “democracy” and “liberty” and “freedom” hardly describe the realities our institutions have produced. In the nation that most of us recognize today we see injustice and inequality at the very core of American life.
Our nation’s notions, taken as a theme, paint a lovely picture of “equal opportunity” and “liberty and justice for all” while the reality of our lives is better expressed by the institutional murder and mass incarceration of the poor… and of them, primarily of our people of color. We live a lie in the light of these faux notions, though our institutions maintain them with a brutal and, for them, necessary containment through suppression of ideas. Socialism and anarchism are considered “dangerous” concepts because they offer viable alternatives to the injustice that affords both privilege and profit to the “exceptional” few while the rest of us compete for the scraps that fall from the tables of these “movers and shakers and job-creators” who are the only true benefactors of our institutions.
It’s not an anomaly or difficult to perceive that socialism and anarchism, which concepts are anathema to the present institutional product of injustice and exceptionalism, are considered taboo and labeled unAmerican… even in our highest academic institutions, where intellectual freedom is also and subtly constrained, regulated by the dictates of funding. (A thesis for another day. Soon?)
If Americans were to understand the way in which their lives and even their thoughts are manipulated to the benefit of a privileged minority, they might decide to make use of the real power that is forever in their hands through organization, solidarity, and the recognition of a common interest in opposing that which does not serve their common welfare.
Consider the words of Voltairine de Cleyre, the world-famous feminist and anarchist of her time, whose name most Americans would not recognize today.
“The most that a working-class party could do, even if its politicians remained honest, would be to form a strong faction in the legislatures which might, by combining its vote with one side or another, win certain political or economic palliatives.
“But what the working-class can do, when once they grow into a solidified organization, is to show the possessing class, through a sudden cessation of all work, that the whole social structure rests on them; that the possessions of the others are absolutely worthless to them without the workers’ activity; that such protests, such strikes, are inherent in the system of property and will continually recur until the whole thing is abolished — and having shown that effectively, proceed to expropriate.”
What is happening in Seattle today and what happened during the Occupy Wall Street movement, indeed what is happening whenever Black Lives Matter events and demonstrations around the country disrupt the hypnotic deceptions of our everyday life, is the expression of a hunger for the two very basic things our society and our institutions cannot, have not, and will never provide, universal justice and true equality.
Something to consider. Maybe it will spread.
Peoples’ Daily Breif by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
According to data made available by Reuters, new cases of Coronavirus infection are increasing cumulatively nationwide in the US and in some states the rate of increase is dramatic, even alarming. We are aware that our Federal governmnt is acting as though the pandemic is essentially over, so I can imagine some of you may have doubts, but you can review the specifics as they affect the nation and your home state, with all the latest available data here at… Reuters – Coronavirus/Trends USA
You will note that the data is over a week old. Nonetheless, the graphs reflect the latest figures available. It is difficult, and in some cases, nearly impossible to locate timely data as those Federal government agencies devoted to science and the provision of data seem to have lost their former ability to provide accurate, timely data and we checked and found that even the CDC’s figures have the same time delay as we found in most reporting agencies one can find in the media at large.
Not one to speculate, we won’t suggest that there seems to be a reluctance… or a lack of motivation, perhaps… on the part of governors in some states, notably those where the GOP holds sway, to provide timely data on the pandemic. Not one to speculate, and though we might be inclined to assume that these governors find the numbers embarassing, given that those states could probably benefit from more responsible methods of containing the pandemic… methods that have proven successful in other states and in nations worldwide, but we won’t make that assumption. Not one to speculate, we will refrain from suggesting that some of these governors, notably those in states controlled by the Republican Party, in an effort to restore profitability to American corporations are endangering the health of their constituencies by ignoring experts who warn of a resurgence of Coronavirus infections. No, in the name of journalistic integrity, we won’t make such accusations and will exercise editorial restraint accordingly.
In the meantime, the Trump administration is full speed ahead with his first big political rally in months, which is to be held at
Nuremberg… or, rather… Tulsa, Oklahoma, where, Trump claims in a Tweet, “Almost…” a million people… willing to sign a pledge not to sue Trump or his campaign for a Coronavirus infection as a result of the crush from the crowd… have tried to register for attendance at the campaign event.
“Come on now. He didn’t really say that, did he?”
Well, we went on Twitter to check and we copied this Trump Tweet, pasted it below so you could judge for yourself…
“Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Almost One Million people request tickets for the Saturday Night Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma!
9:28 AM · Jun 15, 2020”
Of course, we have no idea how Trump’s concept of “Almost…” applies to “…One Million” in specific mathematical terms and, given his history with numbers… well, you know. Perhaps we could have surveyed the over 227,000 Twitter followers who “liked” the above Tweet to get a sense of their desire to attend, but we are told by our PDB tech staff that they do not believe, “…the algorithm driving these bots does not afford them the capability to respond to a specific request.” Something about parameters…
We’ll just have to take Trump at his word on this one. ( ∉ truth, but hey…)
Trump and his “team” have pretty much decided to pretend that the pandemic does not exist, despite the recent spikes in activity following relaxation of stay-at-home directives in many states nationwide. I wondered about his justification for the accelerated risk involved in commencing his practice of mass rallies in a raging pandemic, but read yesterday in the Washington Post what I believe to be the most incredible pronouncement Trump has made in the past three and a half years he’s been in office, perhaps the most puzzling and outrageous statement to come from any American Prsident in history… ever. He actually told reporters during a photo-op at a Cabinet meeting when about the risk of Coronavirus that, “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”
Yes, America, he said that.
Breathtaking, innit? We spent a good ten minutes trying to grasp the significance… the enormous implications surrounding that simple declaration from the Leader of the Free World in order to be able to provide you with some sort of intelligent analysis in response, but failed. In fact, words fail us altogether on this and… perhaps there are no words to add here and the only intelligent and appropriate response is a long and stunned silence.
In other news, and for some insight, we took a brief and magical mystery tour of the Trump/Pence campaign web site, careful not to push any buttons or links thereon for fear that the contents of our computer’s hard drive could be exposed to corrupting influences in the form of “cookies” that will eventually and perpetually thereafter load up our digital mail box with God-only-knows-what in the way of right-wing campaign literature and assorted commercial offers for hair restoration and “male enhancement” products, but we did notice that they have a page devoted to recruitment in various coalitions of voters for Trump and we thought to make a list and pass it on to you, our readers, though without the links that might pull the content of your computer’s hard drive into the Trumpian ether, nevermore to return.
If you want to find his web site yourself, you don’t need our help and you won’t have any trouble at all. Just follow the yellow brick road….
But the list… Trump’s campaign web site offers Trump supporters the opportunity to join several coalitions, each of which has an invitation to text a specific and, apparently, well-considered tag to a common number.
They are as follows…
Women for Trump (Text EMPOWER to _____)
Latinos for Trump (Text VAMOS to_____)
Black Voices for Trump (Text WOKE to_____)
Veterans for Trump (Text FIGHT to_____)
Evangelicals for Trump (Text STAND to_____)
Cops for Trump (Text COPS to_____)
Democrats for Trump (Text DEMOCRAT to_____)
Pro-Life Voices for Trump (Text LIFE to_____)
Workers for Trump (Text WORKERS to_____)
Irish Americans for Trump (Text SHAMROCK to_____)
Greek Voices for Trump (Text GREEK to_____)
America’s Sheriffs for Trump (Text SHERIFFS to_____)
Catholics for Trump (Text CATHOLICS to_____)
Military Families for Trump (Text FAMILY to_____)
Moms for Trump (Text MAMA to_____)
Asian Pacific Americans for Trump (Text ARISE to_____)
Now, to be sure, while there is nothing wrong with soliciting groups and voting blocs in pursuit of a vote, the trouble with listing them altogether on a single web page like that? Well, it tends to bring attention to other and specific political, social, ethnic and religious groups that are not included for solicitation of support.
Noticeably absent from the list, for instance, are these groups…
Muslims for Trump
Mexican Americans for Trump
LGBTQ Voices for Trump
Tenors for Trump
Baritones for Trump
QAnon for Trump
KKK for Trump
Very Fine People for Trump
Russians for Trump
Despots, Oligarchs & Tyrants for Trump
…and so on.
Not that we want to suggest that Trump’s campaign is not soliciting the support of those groups that were omitted from his list, or that he does or does not intend to represent their interests in the White House if he is elected for another four years. After all, he has been undeniably and extraordinarily helpful to both tyrants and Russians during his Presidency… more than any other American President in the history of the universe… more than Obama… more than anyone… ever.
Once again, let us say that, in the interest of safety, we are not supplying links to the Trump Campaign web site nor to the various coalitions of voters for Trump that we’ve copied and listed above for your edification. We do that so that you can avoid the risk of visiting the site yourself. In that respect and not unlike war correspondents, we are citizen journalists here at PDB who are more than willing to take the risks required in order to bring you accurate and timely reporting from the oft-hazardous battlespaces of the internet. However, since we are not accommodating the Trump campaign by providing links… and in the interest of fairness, we won’t provide any links to the Biden web site either.
We do so in an entirely unnecessary, somewhat cynical, but quaint acknowledgement of the old Fairness Doctrine which, though nobody pays attention to it anymore, was a good idea. Of course, if we were really serious about following the equal time mandate, which was the central theme of the Fairness Doctrine, we would be providing similar coverage of the Biden campaign. But in all fairness to them, the less said the better.
That’s it for today…
Be careful, America.
Pay attention and remember…
“A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”
We begin to take for granted that which has always been the cornerstone of our lives, and in America, we always assume access and protection under the universal and all-inclusive privilege of what we consider to be the most basic human rights while… in this present moment in America… those same rights are daily challenged by powerful forces at work to undermine them. Not all at once, but just a little bite here, a little bite there. Not in a comprehensive, all-out assault on our freedoms, a thing you can grab hold of and fight, but in the small, unnoticeable steps that mark the progress of the inevitable, movement so slight we hardly notice… until one day we wake up, notice the lack of something that was always there for us before and wonder, “What the hell happened?”
Fascism will not overtake us when we are aware of its presence, but when it works behind the scenes we hardly even notice its advance. It’s a deadly game of Simon Says, creeping up behind us by degree. Freedom of speech, as it is exercised in the freedoms of the press that we take for granted, is one of those metaphorical, but no less substantial cornerstones on which all other liberty depends. Knowledge is power and when the people are uninformed, they are doomed to be exploited.
Americans tend to disregard events overseas… as though, somehow, events in other nations do not concern us. We are, after all, “America!!” and we often assume that we set the course for all the world. Nonetheless, events in other nations have… historically and significantly… affected Americans in ways that have forever altered our trajectory as a people.
“Surely,” you may think, “the troubles of one unfortunate journalist in the Philippines, a tiny, insignificant nation… all the way on the other side of the planet from Pittsburgh… cannot possibly affect me.”
You would be wrong.
We have a President who is acutely aware of the power and methods used to advantage by the leader of that tiny, insignificant nation, methods that propelled him to a position of virtually unchallenged authority, methods that align him with historical tyrants of mythical proportions. Donald Trump has even expressed a profound and public admiration for the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, just as he has expressed admiration for and affinity with the likes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.
Journalists in America and worldwide should view the successful prosecution of a journalist for doing her job in the Philippines with the utmost alarm. More specifically and especially here in America, where our President, the one man holding the highest position of authority, has proven himself to be a profoundly antagonistic critic of journalists, going so far as to call them collectively, “the enemy of the people” jounalists should decry this abuse of human rights in the Philippines and its assault on the freedom of the press… not only journalists, but all Americans as well. We claim that our nation is served by a government of, for, and by the people and any nation that even pretends to be governed by democratic processes cannot possibly survive an assault on the free press that informs it.
Pay attention. Read this article from James Risen at the Intercept… Maria Ressa’s Libel Conviction Is a Blow to Press Freedom
The Weekend Edition – “Defund the police”
Law and order.
Crime and punishment.
What do these phrases really mean?
Without sinking to the over-simplified and nouveau cynical sophistry of a second year Philosophy Major at the University, how do we go about deconstructing the bases of our failing system of justice and the institutions of law enforcement that have purported to serve us in that regard for so long that we can scarcely manage to consider an alternative without some sort of populist panic attack at the mere suggestion thereof…
“Defund the police ?!?!”
“Are you insane ?!?!”
Well, no, actually… and even the staid and somewhat conservative corporate media in America have begun to take a second look at what might have been considered the pipe dream of anarchists only two weeks past. For instance… in an article from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) which organization is dedicated to serving as a watchdog for the media and calling out its pretentious bias, I read about a Washington Post editorial that surprised me, because the Post seldom embraces even normative progressive notions much less so radical a concept as “defund the police”…
From the FAIR article…
“The Washington Post editorial board (6/9/20)—not known for its friendliness to revolutionary ideas—called the “provocative slogan…a welcome call to reimagine public safety in the United States.” The editorial asked whether police really ought to be responding to mental health emergencies, dealing with homelessness, and funding local governments by “extracting fees from citizens,” and opined that “onlookers are rightfully alarmed at plans to slash social services while sparing police budgets.”
Even though the conversation in the media at large is not being ridiculed as a rule, the “defund the police” concept is more often “described” in ways that tend to remove its more startling implications and the coverage often downplays its radical intent. Here is the link to the full article from the website at FAIR.ORG
It always makes me nervous when people begin to talk about the times we live in as one of those mist-inducing “historical moments”… an evocative phrase that often serves to presage decades of disinterest… or, at the very least, an accelerated blowback of regret following what I like to call “conceptual sticker-shock.” Cultural paralysis sometimes accompanies radical movements like a shadow. It’s brought on by the eventual recognition of the cost, the enormity of the tasks involved. It’s a process. First, there’s a brief period of euphoric dialogue replete with bright, new, shiny buzz words. “Experts” start to emerge from the wainscoting like Carolina cockroaches in a house afire and they are everywhere, writing books, showing up on MSNBC. There is a fervor that lasts for a while, but the harsh reality of the hard work that’s needed eventually triggers mind-numbing public apathy. Yes, every good and worthy idea has its moment, but it needs more than champions or enthusiasm. These days, new ideas need a think tank and think tanks are funded by people who piffle and tosh at the mere mention of those pulse-quickening, often revolutionary phrases and slogans that clash with their privilege.
“Defund the police ?!?!”
“What… are you some kind of anarchist ?!?!”
The concept is not new by any means, but it’s not a subject that has reached the public discourse until recently and, as often happens when the public is made suddenly aware of a new and radical concept, especially as it pertains to extreme alteration of existing institutions, the public is more immediately exposed to explanations about what it means by the people who are opposed to those ideas at the outset because they are unsettling to people whose lives derive purpose and a sense of security within existing circumstance. They enjoy enormous benefit and privilege from the status quo. Because they oppose it, their interpretation is distorted to fit the negative frame through which they would like us to view it.
So… back to the question. What is actually meant by the words, “defund the police” when they are used by protesters against police aggression and the seemingly constant threat and growing incidence of violence from law enforcement officers, more specifically to black men almost everywhere in America? More importantly, when you hear those words… defund the police… what do you think it means? Sometimes the answer is obvious, self-evident, but not in this case… or rather, it’s meaning may be obvious but it is also an incomplete statement. The people who advocate the concept within the larger context of its origin in the prison abolition movement… what do they say it means?
“Say what ?!?! Prison abolition? Now you want to shut down all the prisons ?!?! What? You wanna put Charlie Manson back on the street? What’s with you people?”
Let’s take a look at the movement and what it is trying to accomplish.
Angela Davis, a longtime advocate for both the abolition of prisons and radical alteration of our policing institutions, speaking with Amy Goodman during an interview on DemocracyNow! said this about defunding the police and what is meant in terms of the abolitionist movement…
“Well, the call to defund the police is, I think, an abolitionist demand, but it reflects only one aspect of the process represented by the demand. Defunding the police is not simply about withdrawing funding for law enforcement and doing nothing else. And it appears as if this is the rather superficial understanding that has caused (Former Vice President and Democratic Presidential candidate) Biden to move in the direction he’s moving in.
“It’s about shifting public funds to new services and new institutions — mental health counselors, who can respond to people who are in crisis without arms. It’s about shifting funding to education, to housing, to recreation. All of these things help to create security and safety. It’s about learning that safety, safeguarded by violence, is not really safety.” (Italics used for emphasis here are mine.) Here is a link to the full interview with Angela Davis at DEMOCRACY NOW! It’s an excellent discussion. Worth the time it takes to listen.
Meanwhile… let’s get down to simple things… facts unimpeded by rhetoric. An honest assessment informs us that we employ the police to do our dirty work. We expect them to handle the people who embarrass our sense of civility and order.
What is the nexus of the circumstance, though? Where do we derive our justification for the punishment of crime as opposed to the social failures that create behavior and circumstances, conditions we define as “criminal”? Is our perception of the problems even based on truth… on the substance of facts? For instance… is there a drug problem? Or is there a hole in peoples’ lives they seek to fill with narcotics of every description… with or without a prescription? Is there a homeless problem with people sleeping in doorways, parking lots, abandoned homes and alleyways? Or is there a growing number of people living on an economic edge… such that every economic crisis bumps more of them out of their jobs and out of their homes, renders them desperate, friendless, and out on the street in far less time than it takes most people to recover?
Isn’t it simpler to skip the research, grab a handy answer and ignore the real cause of any embarrassing segment of the population than to solve the problems that create their loathsome situation? It’s definitely more profitable for some people when we look the other way and let someone else do all the work. And considering the optimistic projections of growth in the for-profit prison industry, the business of crime and punishment is indeed a lucrative investment.
We’ve made the victim of our social failures a criminal by way of laws invented for that purpose. We put him in prison and… voila! A ready-made profitable source of cheap captive labor. Never mind that with our lack of interest, we’ve enabled an institution that could be called a twenty-first century brand of slavery, but hey… talk like that would be too honest. Nobody wants to imagine they bear any responsibility for something like that. However, in a government that purports to be of, for, and by the people, we are very much responsible for the perverse actions of our institutions.
Don’t l;ook to Congress to do anything about this. They are… and they have been the enablers. The prison-industrial complex has lobbies that are financially outgunned by no one else on the Hill… other than those who work in the military-industrial complex, but that’s a whole ‘nuther smoke. To be sure, for-profit prisons have many friends in Washington… and in both major Parties.
So… this is the endgame. If you outlaw poverty… outlaw drug dependency… you can build an entire and uniquely profitable industry. It’s the American way. Capitalism in its highest form.
But times and perceptions are changing.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of that change that I’ve seen is a trend that popped up in the last few days… that of cable networks cancelling the cop shows, those real-life, light-em-up, chase-em-down cop shows, you know. You’ve seen them yourself, the ones where a cast of somewhat photogenic, but genuine cops are shown forever tagging people for suspicious behavior. They tag people driving, tag people walking, tag people standing on corners… forever tagging people with conditions that more often than not include being poor… or a POC… or both. These cops are lighting them up, pulling them over, checking them for wants and warrants, “smelling” marijuana in their cars, calling in Officer Bruno with the biceps and his drug-sniffing pup… dismantling the people’s cars on the side of the road while the people sit handcuffed, perplexed on the curb. Entertainment. It’s been going on for years… cops arresting people, driving them off in the cubicle cage on seats without cushions in the back of their squad cars. Driving them off to the labyrinth of plea-bargaining, intimidation, exploitation, and endless incarcerations that we have the stones to call our criminal “justice” system.
Non-violent crime mostly.
“Bad boy. Bad boy.” Really?
Petty crime. Pay the fine or do the time.
But if you don’t have any money, you’re screwed.
People have problems, but instead of helping them deal with their circumstances, we hold them to standards that require them to have some measure of personal wealth. Poverty is a crime. Homelessness is a crime. Dependency and just plain bad damn luck… all crimes. We criminalize their conditions, circumstances that are a reflection of our own disinterest… the result of society’s failure. We can no longer deny the violence and the racism that exists as a serious and dangerous problem in many police departments and in many law enforcement agencies, some of which have an institutional flair for bigotry.
It’s out there and it is self-evident… an uncomfortable and nagging presence in our public discourse. It’s in your face, America, now that cameras are everywhere and it can no longer be hidden by lies. Though some may be willing to condone the oppression, the violence… the greater majority of Americans, the people who either understand their own culpability or, by virtue of the color of their skin, they see their own present danger in that very real threat and are no longer willing to tolerate the injustice. Their voice is loud and their demands will be heard.
“Defund the police.” What does it mean?
Only this… and it’s not a mystery… deconstruct the failing institution and replace it with other and better and more focused institutions(plural) that serve humanity, not the sacred pillars of American exceptionalism, profit, and privilege. Address the problems not the symptoms. Help the people who are presently oppressed by our laws and the enforcement thereof instead of criminalizing their existence and their needs.
It’s really that simple.
And for those of you who think the Founding Fathers were using their Bibles as a foundation for our Constitution, you’ll be pleased to know that this kind of a fix is right in line and in perfect agreement with the ideas and precepts that are outlined in your leather-bound King James Edition… especially the parts that are printed in red.
It’s really rather simple. Well, maybe not so simple to get it done, considering how much work is involved and how difficult it is to gt people to act… but it’s easy enough to understand. The hard part is overcoming the fearful reactions of people who are not now affected by the injustice inherent in the system, the ones who want to know if their property will be safe without an army of men suited up, locked and loaded, ready at the drop of a dime to kill or be killed in order to protect what they have. Safety… as though what we have at the present time comes anywhere near to a condition that could be described as “safe.”
“Okay, enough. I get it… so how do we fix it?”
That’s not something we can cover without some background in depth. A sound byte won’t do the job. We’ll talk about that some more next week on the Weekend Edition of The Peoples’ Daily Brief, but for now, let me leave you a link to a recent op-ed that explains the thinking of activists who are involved with fixing the problem today… right now… in Minneapolis.
Here is a relevant extract from an op-ed describing their work, from Jae Hyun Shim, as it appeared in Truthout…
“No sweeping, structural change can happen overnight. And the transition to a police-free Minneapolis will be intentional, measured and collaborative. Right now, it is important to understand that Minneapolis residents have already been taking care of each other, and we will continue to. It’s also worth recognizing that prison abolition is not a reaction to a moment, but a long-time movement backed by decades of Black radical thinking and experience.
“In the past two weeks since Mr. Floyd’s brutal murder at the hands of the MPD, Minneapolis has seen community members step up to fill the gaps where our city, state and county systems have failed us. We’ve created community fire brigades, a people’s ambulance, a transit support system, food banks and hot meal bars, and community safety and defense teams. There have been informal teach-ins, and petitions to cut MPD contracts from museums, business events and schools. Neighbors are talking to each other and actually getting to know who lives on their street.”
Want to know more? Here is a link to the full article on-line at TRUTHOUT
In Baltimore, similar movements are underway as expressed in an article by Jaisal Noor in the REAL news network online.
“…activists argue grassroots-led efforts that operate on a shoe-string budget have far better results in reducing violence than Baltimore’s scandal-ridden police department.
“’We know for a fact that programs like Safe Streets, community mediations…work, and need to be brought to scale,’ said Hayes.
“Studies have found the Baltimore Ceasefire movement, which fights violence through outreach, connecting vulnerable populations with resources and by building community, reduced shootings by 52 percent. Meanwhile Safe Streets has been credited with reducing shootings by over 50%.
“Hayes says opposition to defunding the police is rooted in racist views that Black communities need policing instead of the investment in education and other social services given to affluent, white communities.
“’It shows that they are not ready to redefine what public safety looks like,’ says Hayes. ‘I challenge them to follow Black leadership, and trust we have thought about this for a while and that we’re ready to create a pathway to make that happen.’”
Here is a link to the full article at The Real News
People are dying. Too often, black men are being murdered by the very people we have ordained to “serve and protect” them. The old message of reform has proven to be little more than lip service that results in more funding, more police, more weapons, more oppression, less safety, less service, less protection, less justice and, now… murder.
That’s enough of that. Get radical. Get real.
Defund the police. It’s time.
Is the Seattle protest becoming the modern-day equivalent of the Paris Commune? President Trump seems to think so. While the protests there are turning peaceful after the police decided to tone down their aggressive tactics against protestors, Trump appears to be threatening a military invasion to stem the “anarchists” who dare to declare their Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, a two city-block area in Seattle a “No Cop Co-op.”
Oh, anarchy !! However, according to an Associated Press news release, the most dangerous activity these anarchistic terrorists are engaged in presently is a “…street fair with political discussions and a drum circle.” Oh, yes, and a few vendors. What is a street fair without a few vendors supplying the utter essentials, eh?
They are, however, setting up street barricades, à la manière de Les Miserables, the Victor Hugo classic novel that finds its climax in the revolutionary Paris Commune that ruled large portions of the city of Paris for a few months in the spring of 1871. Alarmez!
Although I am reasonably certain Donald Trump is not aware of historical references, he is, apparently, alarmed that the sane, though to him seemingly cavalier response by local leadership is not “dominating the battlespace” of those two city blocks. He is distressed to the point that he issued a Tweet, threatening… or so it sounds to me… to send troops, saying, “Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will.”
He said that, really. Here is his full Tweet… verbatim:
“Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST! 2:08 PM · Jun 11, 2020”
Is that even a thing?
Read the full story here at the Associated Press
Donald Trump’s dangerous stance on the use of the military for the enforcement of “law and order” within our boundaries is a clear indication of more than misunderstanding their role in line with the Constitutional provisions for the nation’s defense. It’s not a matter of ignorance. Simply put, and like all tyrants, he simply does not care.
So… given the President’s predilection for pomp, hyperbole and theater, is it real? Should we be alarmed or merely shake-of-the-head and cluck-of-the-tongue bemused, saying, “Christ on a cupcake, Donald, go play with your toys and leave us alone.”
That tendency on our part has given him infinite license over the past three and a half years and he has taken use of our bemusement and distraction in the interim to dismantle our government and even to deconstruct the norms under which our government has operated forever. Maybe it’s time to take this man at his word. Maybe it’s time to start worrying. Better yet, maybe it’s time to get serious enough to impeach him and…. No, wait…!!
Marjorie Cohn has written an excellent analysis of the current situation.
Read it here in Truthout