An American Perspective
The Rise of Homo Sapiens – What’s so Special About Humanity?
Ever since we crawled out of the ocean / And stood upright on the land / There are some things that we just don’t / Understand
“Building the Perfect Beast” (Copyright 1984)
How did humankind separate itself from the great apes, its closest genetic relatives? Two significant advantages were what allowed for the rise of Homo sapiens and their evolution into a recognizable form of civilization, those being opposable thumbs, and higher intelligence. Australopithecus arrived in Africa between four million and two million years ago, followed through the centuries by Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, and finally Homo sapiens (us).
Until recent decades, most texts delving into anthropology assumed these various renditions of the human animal occurred lineally with a more advanced species replacing an earlier model. Recent theory recognizes that the various species most likely experienced a parallel evolution, in particularly with neanderthalensis and sapiens literally fighting it out for supremacy. Neanderthalensis was bigger, hairier and much stronger than any given individual of sapiens, but alas, they were less intelligent which led to their demise as sapiens merely banded together in greater numbers, fashioned more advanced weapons of war, and eventually completely eradicated them. With neanderthalensis out of the way, modern mankind was left with no other option than to turn on each other; and this we indulged in with a vengeance
The Advent of Civilization(s) – Let the Killing Begin
Hammurabi’s Code…According to the code, people are divided into two genders and three classes: superior people, commoners, and slaves.
Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Copyright 2015).
When Homo sapiens vanquished Homo neanderthalensis from the face of the earth they learned a lesson that would lead to their rise as the apex species on the planet, and what could well lead to their extinguishing themselves from the planet; that being that intelligence trumps brute strength, that there is safety in numbers, and that the advent of what we call “civilization” would enable the most cunning among us to rise to the position of the most powerful, entitled, and privileged amongst us. It’s a reasonable assumption that the shrewdest among prehistoric man found subtle ways to suggest to his clansmen that he should be nominated as leader/chief/king.
As humans evolved from hunting/gathering societies to agrarian societies the process of becoming progressively more civilized also evolved. This evolution was both boon and bane to our species in that life proved to be somewhat easier, at least superficially, but it also concurrently became much more complex. A case in point is the progressive reduction in the diversity of our diet that slowly led to many slow-killing diseases due to the lack of varied nutrition. Bellies were filled from massive monoculture crop harvests but oftentimes the overall general health of the farming society was compromised. Life spans increased due to safety in numbers, and the protection of the community/castle/city walls, but the freedoms inherent in free roaming nomadic societies was greatly reduced. Quickly laws were enacted, and a system of punishments devised to bring the law breakers back into the will of the overall community.
Initially, if wrongdoers were not killed outright, they were severely punished to the point of being marked with scars by cutting, piercing, or burning, and then they were released back into the general population to live in damning shame for all the others to see. When this form of reprisal proved ineffective, or the numbers of wrongdoers proved too numerous, the concept of imprisonment came to the fore. Harsh punishment through public shaming now became barbaric punishment behind prison walls.
The upper crust of any given society was always in the minority, because once a measurement of wealth and privilege becomes established, there is never enough to go around. The higher ups soon grew to fear the more numerous lower downs and needed some recognizable system of protection from them. In other words, they needed to preserve their civilized life style, and to do this they needed some form of bodyguards to enforce the laws that they drew up to separate the haves from the have not’s. This gave rise to various forms of policing, and the necessity to identify what their tasks were and what could be utilized for them to accomplish these tasks. There was resistance, of course, as everyone in any given society would like to know what they can and cannot do. Throughout the history of civilization the lower downs were always to learn that the laws would define what was and was not acceptable behavior on their part, and concerning the police – they can do whatever want. The primary tool available to the police is the license to inflict violence, even the power to perpetrate death upon the policed. Isn’t it a paradox of all paradoxes that those most entrusted with protecting civilized society are the ones allowed to behave in a most uncivilized manner?
When societies grew to the size and status of nations they also began to recognize that some nations were more powerful than some other nations. Weakness in mankind invites attack from the more powerful for it is always easier for them to take than to earn. Greed is the scourge of our species only exceeded by one other phenomenon of our own making; that being the advent of religions which all seemed to have one thread of commonality. It wasn’t kindness, it wasn’t generosity, it wasn’t a high regard for humanity; it was superiority. All religions claimed to be the one true religion, and many allowed their believers to wage war upon the believers of the other religions. In cases where the outright aggression of warfare is avoided, religions turn to punishment as the fuel that they run on. This is true all over the world, and it’s just as true in democratic countries, in particularly in the United States of America. Writes author Anne-Marie Cusac in Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America (Copyright 2009) in Chapter 1: Where Punishment Is the Subject, Religion Is the Predicate:
As I will argue, American punishment has with the possible exception of several decades in the twentieth century, been a religious and, more properly a Christian activity (p.19).
The basic inhumanity that any given man extends towards his fellow man initially stemmed from nothing more than greed and ill-gotten gain. Then it became all about religious superiority, and unless contained at this point, will soon become almost exclusively about the “us” versus the “other.” Anyone different than us is less than us, and beyond that deserving to be punished by us. They have to pay for being different. The fundamental belief of supposedly civilized societies that allow themselves to come to believe that they have the right to become an oppressive society is that someone has to pay – somebody always has to pay.
An Uncommon Hatred – Slavery
The master who recognizes no humanity in his slave, loses it in himself.
Slavery: A World History (Last copyright 1993).
Although definitions of the institution of slavery are frequently co-mingled, especially today in America’s equality charged environment, throughout history enslavement involved peoples of all races. It’s often said that the victors are the ones who get to write the history, and it should be noted that they are also the ones most likely to enslave their vanquished foes. While this may seem inhuman in the extreme, slavery was a step up from the consequences of prehistoric warfare where the general consensus was to kill all vanquished enemies in lieu of having to feed them. It’s undeniable that slavery arose concurrently with mankind’s transformation from hunters/gathers to agrarian societies.
At first, slavery was simply looked upon as just one more component necessary to support agrarian economies. There was soil, water, seed stock, and labor (slaves). The dominant ruling society looked upon their slaves unemotionally, and as long as not too raucously opposed the higher class just ignored the rights of the enslaved class. The callousness, the uncommon hatred that would become infused with the institution grew out of the rationalization that what they were capable of producing was more important than the quality of their lives. Although the masters considered their slaves as less than them, they had to concede that they were more than their draft animals, so it may seem mystifying why they treated them so much worse. Plantation overseers in the American south didn’t bullwhip their horses and then rub cyan pepper into the cuts as they did to some slaves. They didn’t go to that extreme because little would have been accomplished by doing so. What they learned, and what became inherent in their behavior, was the dark art of intimidation which often bordered on the sadistic, and sometimes crossed the line into the fatalistic.
While just about everyone knows of the first African slaves brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, very few know that they became indentured for a period of seven years just like their white indentured counterparts imported from Great Britain. In fact, at least one amongst their numbers, one Anthony Johnson, completed his period of servitude and rose to become a plantation owner which was populated by both his black and white slaves.
At first, there were Britons who voluntarily sold themselves into indentured service for a chance of a new life to free themselves of the religious persecution and overcrowded conditions rampant in England at that time. Sometimes called “Freewillers,” they were treated as slaves throughout their period of servitude which was often extended against their will through various unfair schemes derived as punishment for a variety of petty offences. Next, the abundant numbers of abandoned and destitute street children were shipped out of the country to work in the colonies or on the sugar plantations of the West Indies, in particularly the island of Barbados. Then Great Britain started to purge her prison population. No matter how the human flesh was delivered, their lives in the Americas were ones of deep misery. Roughly 30% died during the ocean voyage to the New World; then half of those who survived the voyage died from overwork before exhausting their period of servitude. Those who did survive their period of servitude had little chance of survival on their own and even less chance of upward mobility. The indentured servitude system was designed to benefit landowners who become known as “The Grandees” through a practice known as the headright system whereby a planter was granted 50 acres for each living servant they brought to America. Huge expanses of land were quickly accumulated which just as quickly demanded more importation of very cheap labor to work them. Productively was an all-important and all-encompassing goal and cruelty was the vehicle by which that goal was achieved. States Don Jordan and Michael Walsh in: White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America (Copyright 2007).
In the 1620’s, the yield averaged 400 pounds of tobacco per worker. By the end of the century it averaged 1,900 pounds. This does not appear to be the result of the introduction of new technology or new equipment. In the 1660’s there were some 7,000 workers on Virginia’s plantations but only 150 plows between them. One is driven to the conclusion that workers achieved this five fold increase in productivity due to the brutal pressure that was exerted upon them, day in and day out, for decades. Edmund S. Morgan refers to the principal significance of indentured servitude being that it taught planters how to use violence to compel workers to work, thus setting the precedent for the violence of African slavery (p. 194).
The 1670’s became the tipping point decade whereby white servitude transferred to complete lifetime black slavery. In 1671 the Virginia lawmakers decreed that all “Non Christian” slaves were to be enslaved for life. The imported Africans were not Christians. In 1673 they further decreed that black slavery was now hereditary. If the mother was black, even if impregnated by a white master, the resulting child was deemed black and thus a slave for life.
Racism was a relative thing for the servile lower class towards the end of the 1670’s in that both blacks and whites were living an existence of such abject poverty that they saw little advantage in turning on one another. They had a common oppressor in their masters. With the rise in slave revolts toward the end of the century, during which white and black slaves oftentimes participated in equal measure, the planter class realized that they had to divide and conquer. State Jordan and Walsh:
European colonies in parts of the Caribbean had created a yeoman class by encouraging planters to parent children with slave or servant women. The Chesapeake colonies had not done this; in fact, they had positively discouraged inter-racial coupling. The task facing Virginia’s rulers now was to fashion a class that gave them ‘as many Virginians with a stake in suppressing servile insurrection as there were in fomenting it.’
They played the race card. The status of the European servile class was upgraded and a sense of racial superiority instilled. Meanwhile, the process of degrading non-whites was accelerated…Hitherto, the English had never applied colour to distinguish race. Now white servants, whose daily condition was little different from the Africans, were taught that they belonged to a superior people (p. 212).
Racism was officially birthed in America. The primary intimidation of whipping all slaves was now primarily reserved for the blacks. Both races were still living a miserable existence, but one race was most definitely punished more severely than the other. With the dawn of the 1700’s America’s practice of lifetime slavery was reserved exclusively for Africans while white servitude began to slowly fade away. After the American Revolution, England was banned from sending any white indentured servants to America. This gave rise to an increase in the “triangular trade’ whereby ships from various nations sailed to the shores of West African nations to pick up slaves purchased at bulk prices and then sailed to North America and sold the slaves surviving the voyage at auction and at good profit which they invested in tobacco, cotton and other goods to resale at even higher profit in England and other European nations before repeating the process all over again. Great Briton outlawed slavery and the triangular trade in 1807, and the United States half-way followed suit the next year (1808) by supposedly outlawing the triangular trade but still allowed home grown slavery to continue within its borders. In truth, smugglers kept it going up to the start of The American Civil War in 1861. The war lasted for four years until the Confederacy surrendered on April 9th, 1865.
Union President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863 opening the floodgates for freed former black slaves to join the Union Army which tipped the balance of military power to the northern forces. Thereafter, the Constitution received three additional Amendments to solidify the new-found freedom of blacks. The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery, elements of the 14 Amendment guaranteed that blacks could not lose their emancipation, and the 15th Amendment gave them the right to vote.
I have written in other pieces that the black man of 1865 had more rights than the black man of 1965, but that was for only a short-lived period of time. The blatant racism promoted by the Virginia Grandees of the 1670’s would evolve into an even worse practice nearly 200 years later, and that practice was to become known as segregation.
A Thinly Veiled Hatred – The Rise of Jim Crow
Quite belatedly, I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in effect, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (copyright 201
The 11 states of the Confederacy did not readily accept that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. This disgruntled view point quickly led to an adherence to the “Lost Cause” and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) populated by sore losers unwilling to acquiesce to the reality of their condition. They didn’t like the fact that they had lost the war. They didn’t like being under the yoke of Reconstruction. And, they didn’t like black people, states Kristian Williams in Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (copyright 2015).
During Reconstruction, vigilante actions and policing were often indistinguishable. The Klan – which saw itself as a force for order, especially against black criminality – took up night riding, at times in regular patrols. Its members stopped Black people on the roads, searched their homes, seized weapons and valuables, interrogated them about their voting plans, and often brutalized them. In many places the Klan totally regulated the social lives of the Black population, breaking up worshipping services, opposing the creation of Black schools (often with success), and establishing and enforcing a system of passes for Black workers.
In less routine actions, White mobs sometimes attacked individual Black people, Black political assemblies, and White Republicans. These attacks often involved the police as participants, or even leaders. For example, in April 1866, after a crowd of African American Union Army veterans prevented the Memphis police from arresting two of their comrades, the cops led White mobs through the streets attacking Black people at random. Mounted squads headed by police rode through Black neighborhoods, beating anyone they found on the streets and setting fire to schools, churches, and homes. The attack lasted four days, until martial law was declared. Forty-six Black and two White people died; ninety-one houses, twelve schools, and four churches were burned (p. 122)…
When Klan-type violence occurred, arrests were unusual, prosecutions rare, and convictions almost unknown. The attitudes (and sometimes involvement) of police officers and sheriffs certainly impeded enforcement of the law, but this was only one of many obstacles standing in the way of convictions. Prosecutors were unwilling to press such cases, and magistrates were often glad to dismiss them. Klansmen frequently dominated juries – including grand juries and coroners’ juries. Witnesses and victims, like Sheriff Norris, were intimidated and refused to testify, while Klan members were eager to swear false alibis on one another’s behalf (p 124-5).
The title “Jim Crow” was a tongue-in-cheek slur towards a black minstrel show performer and the general consensus is that The Jim Crow Laws arose in the former southern states of the confederacy circa 1877 when various state legislatures started to pass what were commonly known as the “Black Codes.” The United States Supreme Court upheld these laws in 1896 in Plessey versus Ferguson when its issued it’s “Separate but Equal” edict which was an oxymoron of gargantuan proportions that existed until 1968 when it was in effect overturned by 36th U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the enactment of the Fair Housing Act, which along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Right Act of 1965, served as the final nail in Jim Crow’s coffin; on paper at least.
In reality, America’s black population of today is just as persecuted as it was in the days of yesteryear, Home mortgages for blacks are harder to obtain and drawn up at higher interest rates than their white counterparts. Bank appraisers assign lower values to homes in black neighborhoods making upward mobility through home sales much harder to achieve. Nationally, the states in America incarcerate blacks at a minimum of five times the rate of whites, and internationally, America has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population. If it seems that American society has a disproportionate fixation on punishment in general, it’s because it does. Nowhere are blacks more persecuted than they are in America’s failing War on Drugs started by Richard Milhous Nixon with the formation of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1973 and forwarded by Ronald Reagan in 1984, and pushed ever onward and upward by Bill Clinton’s repressive “Crime Bill” in 1994. The adult males of entire inner city black populations were removed as a generation of children grew up without their fathers. Today, blacks make up roughly 15% of America’s overall population yet still account for 29% of all drug arrests. Most egregious, they only make up 12.5% of all drug users while comprising 33% of America’s prison population incarcerated solely for drug offensives.
When Barack Obama was elected as America’s first black President in 2008 it looked like America was ready to finally put the issue of racism to bed. Noting could have been further than the truth, however. Institutionalized racism and passive aggressive segregation became more subtly nuanced but just as pervasive right up until May 25th, 2020 when white police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of black U.S. citizen George Floyd and did not remove it until well after Floyd was dead. America erupted in righteous indignation. American’s 45th President Donald J. Trump, aka “The Mad King,” has shown himself for the racist he is, and our nation is now at the crossroads.
One current point of contention is the status of Confederate war monuments erected in the early 1900’s to support segregation and glorify the “Lost Cause,” but primarily to intimidate and remind blacks of who really was in charge. The Mad King opines that, “You can’t rewrite history.” To throw red meat to his base he has issued the fatwa of a ten-year prison term for anyone who dares to tear the statue of one of these traitors down. He has sent federal law enforcement of unknown and unmarked origin into Portland, Oregon to supposedly protect federal property, but in reality to intimidate citizens exercising their lawful right to peacefully protest. Make no mistake about it, we are watching a wannabe dictatorship forming before our disbelieving eyes. As usual, the tired old Nixon phraseology of “law and order” is just another one of Trump’s false narratives.
I’m not in favor of rewriting history. I am in favor of leaving some of our nation’s ignoble history in the history books for anyone interested enough in that specific subject to learn it there. When a bad history becomes a thumb in the eye to a segment of the population that suffered because of it and are constantly reminded of it – that’s inconsiderate and anti-empathetic. These dudes glorified in these bronze statues fought to keep black people enslaved and felt justified and noble in that quest. But as any sane person can see, there’s nothing noble in that. Ask the, “You can’t rewrite history,” crowd how would they feel if their neighbor decided to fly the swastika on Memorial Day. That history is better left in history back where it belongs, and so too is the history of the Confederacy.
Covid 19 has taught me what’s it like to fear leaving my home for any purpose whatsoever. I now see the everyday stress of black parents who become worried every time their sons go out on the town. Clearly it is past time for America to finally live up to the promise of the oft quoted Declaration of Independence (Copyright 1776). Whenever the prevailing power in a society doesn’t want to deal with the issue of their unfairness to those that they oppress, they say that the issue is, “complicated.” How complicated is it really in America’s southern states?
About the only thing that we should glorify about the memory of our Civil War is Lincoln’s, “Malice Towards None,” speech. Employ its sage advice. Let the racists go to their graves in peace. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. They will be facing it soon enough.
America’s Superior Society – The Police
The first step toward change is the understanding that things can change.
Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (Copyright 2015).
Our society can’t even begin to address the issue of police reform unless we are ready to confront ourselves with how we personally currently feel about the police. As for me, I feel 60% of the police are basically honest people just trying to do their job, and unless specifically confronted, are not likely to be violent towards those that they arrest. Call this segment of the force the good cops. After that, 20% of police are indecisive as to how they would act in various scenarios. If surrounded by good partners they will behave in a good, or at least an acceptable manner; and if in the presence of bad partners they will behave just as badly as these partners do. Call this segment of the force the “chameleon cops.” Then there is the remaining 20% who are most definitely not good for the force or society in general. They may behave appropriately when in the presence of those who could censure them, but in the absence of that, they will always behave badly, get away with as much as they can, and can be counted on to make any bad situation worse. Call this segment of the force the bad cops. Applying your own opinion to this formula, how do you now feel about the police in America? This question is not intended just to stir up controversy; there’s an important underlying purpose for asking it. American society still needs some policing. The call for total defunding of all police is dangerous and not very likely to happen. When discussing how much of current police budgets to reallocate to other community based resources the vital questions are how many cops are really necessary and what should they be required to do? If you were to apply my percentages, the 60% of good cops can probably do the job, especially if their job descriptions were rewritten to exclude social work and family counseling and other forms of babysitting. The 20% of the “chameleon cops” can receive sensitivity and de-escalation training or they can hit the bricks. The remaining 20% of the bad cops simply have to go; and not over to the next county, but completely banned from police work altogether.
Radley Balko author of The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (copyright 2014) sounded the alarm that something is awry with the police viewing their function as being at war with certain segments of our American Society. Writes Balko:
The federal government has been arming American cops with military-grade guns, vehicles, and other weaponry, but has little interest in knowing if all of that is affecting how and when the police use lethal force against American citizens. Cops are told all the time that the public presents a threat to them, and that threat grows more dire by the day. But as to what sort of threat cops pose to the public, the public isn’t permitted to know (p. 275).
But with the advent of camera phones we are all seeing this threat in vivid living color, not that the cops are too concerned about that, because their unions by and large have gained qualified immunity for them. When you think about it, there’s very little difference between the concept of qualified immunity and the corporate veil. The outcome of their actions towards society is essentially the same – the desire to be held harmless no matter what is done; no accountability whatsoever, in other words.
Balko is adamant in stating that he doesn’t believe that we live in a police state. He cites our ability to move around freely as an example that we are not completely controlled by cops. I differ, and offer up that if we are not living in a police state, that at the very least, we are living in a police wasteland. By that I mean that most of us who have ever been on the receiving end of police mistreatment by being force fed a heaping helping of their all important command presence gone awry, or by their overreach of being overbearing, have come to the same conclusion as the great Hunter S. Thompson did when he wrote those immortal words: “Never call 911.” If they aren’t there they can’t cause problems, and if they are there, know that they are basically capable of doing anything with an extremely high probability of getting away with it. Indeed, many police reform proposals, such as exclusive camera and computer control of traffic violations, center around the public having less contact with the police. But what does it say of the state of policing in America that the primary recommendation to citizens to avoid suffering police brutality is for them to avoid contact with the police as much as humanly possible? Despite your best efforts towards this policy of avoidance, however, sometimes 911 calls on you. This isn’t progress. This isn’t reforming the problem, it’s avoiding it altogether. I say wasteland because the only viable way to feel safe is not to be around the police at all. Look outside, and if they are not there at all, then feel free to walk upon the land. If they are there, better to stay hidden until they leave. This is thinly veiled societal intimidation, and many cops like it that way.
It’s all about command presence, turf, and qualified immunity with the police – a superior society that through their all-powerful unions always seeks to play by their own rules, and holds a seething resentment towards anyone who takes exception to that very fact. It is a most dangerous undertaking to impugn their command presence, even when trying to run away from them. They can become so offended at having their direct orders disobeyed that some officers will simply shoot you in the back. Better not to argue with them and suffer through an arrest. You can always lodge a complaint later. Live to fight another day. It shouldn’t be that way, but unfortunately, it is. Better to utter, “Yes sir,” and “No sir,” no matter how demeaning, obnoxious, or overbearing they are. To meet their abrasiveness with any other answer is sheer insanity. Always remember the fact that too many cops allow their legally given authority to morph into undeserved feelings of superiority.
When you see cops all in on protestors after the George Floyd injustice you have to ask yourself how this behavior is any different than the “all in” code of the Hell’s Angles? A case in point is Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll who is outraged that anyone would dare to report on his 2009 off duty membership in a police motorcycle club called “City Heat” where on his motorcycle jacket was displayed a “White Power” badge which blended in nicely with his cohort’s other white supremacist symbols. Not too surprisingly, Kroll is a Trump supporter having appeared at a 2019 campaign rally where he introduced the President and whipped the crowd into a froth by stating: “The Obama administration and the handcuffing and oppression of police was despicable. The first thing President Trump did when he took office was turn that around. He decided to start letting cops do their job, put the handcuffs on the criminals instead of us.” Incidentally, Kroll refers to Floyd as “a dangerous criminal.” Kroll vows to get Floyd’s murderers Derek Chauvin and his three accomplices off and even reinstated. He sees nothing whatsoever that was “despicable” in their behavior. If you think that the police do not see themselves as a superior society, how do you square something like this?
Most police policy manuals employ ample use of the word “reasonable,” and know that they are the sole judges as to what that actually means. Reasonable suspicion and reasonable force is always at their discretion. A suggestion has been made as of late to substitute that word “reasonable” with the word “necessary” which more accurately parses the extent of their accountability, but when they are the sole judges as to their accountability, what would it really matter? In short, our American society can no longer allow the fox to guard the henhouse and expect anything other than disastrous results.
While the police unions all say their primary function is to protect officers, the oath of the officers themselves centers on defending the Constitution and the public at large. Clearly, there is an inherent disconnect here. The motto, “To protect and serve,” is disingenuous at best and untrue at worst when the people they always strive to protect and serve the most are themselves. Here’s a broad based question that should shed some light on how the public at large view the police: Do you think that the police’s primary job is to catch people or to help people? Clearly, the power of the unions must be altered or absolved.
The nature of policing itself is designed to create tension between the police and those policed. To the non-police this is a person who is most likely going to cause you some form of inconvenience, expense, or hardship. Any approaching cop usually represents a cause for concern. Rarely do interfaces go very well. Consider the possibilities in ascending order of peril: disrespect, confusing commands, ticketing, handcuffing which usually means being jailed or occasionally killed. The only ones that don’t seem to be afraid of the police are the police, and most cow-tie to their so-called “Blue wall of silence.” Like a secret society, a fraternity, or a cult with an unspoken code, with secret handshakes and tips of the hat, the cops pledge allegiance to their culture as opposed to the public that they are sworn to protect. It’s more important to respect the pack than to protect the herd; and that’s what’s wrong with policing in America.
The Mad King spews excessive misinformation towards the liberal’s call to defund the police when what most really mean is to examine the potential benefits that could come from a reallocation of resources.
It is time to break up the powerful police unions, to ban choke holds, to mandate body cameras on all police officers, and end any whiff of qualified immunity, and know that qualified immunity relies on precedent the way your first job or your first car loan could not be consummated unless you had at least one previous job or some established line of credit. Without it, everything you want is a no go. In other words, nobody wants to be the first to stick their neck out. Well…that’s just complete and utter cowardly and buck-passing bullshit; because it’s an undeniable fact that before any given precedent became a precedent some legal entity had to push the case and some judge had to rule on it. In other words, why aren’t those involved in America’s legal system doing their jobs?
Where are the Prophets? – A Voice in the Wilderness
Congress is too old. They don’t have a stake in the game.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (10/13/1989 – ?)
The family of man is now facing the biggest existential threat to its continued existence, and it’s not the Coronavirus, it’s the annihilation of the earth itself. With all the current distractions now rampant in our great land environmentalism is lost in the wilderness of apathy and greed and needs someone to lead it out. I said as much in 2005 in Environmental Cognizance: Towards the Year 2020:
But in order to inherit the Earth, change is inevitable. There are so many of us that you would think that one new leader, one new free thinker, one new child of God might be able to rise up and show us all a solution to the global environmental problems. Yes, it’s a big world out there and no one knows when or from where the next prophet will come, yet we all hope she/he will come soon. It’s such a big world (p.102).
Unbeknownst to me that prophet had already been born fourteen years earlier and turned 30 years old on October 13th, 2019. She is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) from New York State’s 14th Congressional District. She rose to power by defeating incumbent Democratic Congressman Joe Crawley in the June 2018 primary election. Crawley’s campaign war chest exceeded Ocasio-Cortez’s by a ratio of 10 to 1 and he was the fourth most powerful Democrat in The House of Representatives at the time of his defeat. Ocasio-Cortez went on to defeat Republican Anthony Pappas in the November 2018 midterm election. An underdog if there ever was one, her Socialist Democratic platform mirrored that of Vermont Senator’s Bernie Sanders’s which was put forth in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. She served on the Sanders campaign and became indoctrinated with the concepts of free college, universal health care, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and dismantling the richest one percent of America’s population through fair and just taxation. None of that, however, makes her a prophet. That was revealed in February of 2019 when she and Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced their “Green New Deal”.
Adopting the “New Deal” title in similar fashion to FDR of yesteryear, this bold sweeping proposal takes as a given that changes of gargantuan proportions are needed to lift America out of the doldrums of economic stagnation and to make the changes necessary for us to compete technologically in the future on the world stage. In addition to incorporating the initial planks of the Sanders’ campaign (free college, universal health care, livable wage, power to the people, etcetera), this resolution also proposed that the entire country switch to 100% renewal energy sources and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030, and make major investments in the research and development of clean energy. Inherent in the intent of the proposal is the necessity to revitalize and/or rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Republicans instantaneously stripped a gear, and Hannity went over the deep end. They called her brash. They called her irreverent. They called her cheeky as a thinly veiled slur towards her Puerto Rican descent. What they couldn’t call her was wrong. In short, she is an old white man’s worst nightmare come to life; unless of course, some of them care about the fate of their children and grandchildren. Even the Mad King has noticed and readily states that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has “it”, and thank God she does. I say, like it or not, the prophet has arrived, so deal with it. The Mad King also says “She doesn’t know anything.” She knows enough to know that the old paradigm simply isn’t working for her and her generation, and is certainly smart enough to quickly learn what she needs to know on the job. She has thoroughly absorbed the lyrics of Jonathan Edwards’s 1971 hippy classic resistance song titled: “Sunshine Go Away Today.”
Sunshine go away today / I don’t feel much like dancing / Some man’s come he’s trying to run my life / Don’t know what he’s asking…He can’t even run his own life / I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine….
Back I 2005 when I decided to add the subtitle to Environmental Cognizance: Towards the Year 2020 even I felt that there was enough time to right our listing environmental ship. Boy, was I ever wrong. Al Gore had already been robbed of the 2000 presidential election, Bush Two significantly weakened The Department of the Interior and The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Obama did very little to re-strengthen them as he talked the talk but failed to walk the walk, and then the Mad King appointed dolts determined to eliminate them all together. Those 15 years slipped by in the proverbial blink of an eye, and now things are so much worse than I originally thought. 2030 is just ten years off, and if the world’s environmental collapse holds true to recent form, we may not even have that long; yet the naysayers, the climate deniers, the rich and powerful who want to remain that way, and the entrenched old white men running our country all say that the Green New Deal is a rash overreaction. Well that’s what they have always said while failing to notice (or care) that we are plummeting off an environmental cliff. The conservatives also accuse AOC and her ilk of not caring about an ever widening generational divide. I say, why should they? The earth is theirs’ to inherit.
The Family of Man – There is Always a Changing of the Guard
“You cannot be afraid to speak up and speak out for what you believe. You have to have courage, raw courage.”
John Lewis (1940 – 2020).
July 18th, 2020. John Lewis died today; he of the spine tingling, soul shaking voice that could make you feel that you could march through brick walls. Flags flew at half mast. Tears were shed. A few days later classy former first lady Michelle Obama posted an endearing short video of him joyfully dancing at a campaign event for Stacy Abrams to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy,” and as a dancer, John Lewis was fly and in command. A man of circumstance, who had a career for the ages. I thought to myself, They don’t make them like John Lewis, anymore. Thankfully, upon reflection, I realized that I was wrong about that; in fact, children are being born everyday who could rise up to be just as significant as John Lewis was, in fact, one of them will be President.
The 2020’s are poised to be the most significant decade of the twenty-first century, because if they aren’t, humankind may not survive the century. We of the boomer generation look fondly back at the 1960’s as the most significant decade of the twentieth century in terms of social justice and championing for equality, and those kids out there right now marching in the streets protesting injustice are the one’s carrying the torch for their generation. Let’s hope that 40 years hence that they will be able to feel the same way. The rise of AOC is on the shoulders of an emerging environmental awareness or epiphany if you will, that we only have ten years, one decade, to get things right, or they will forever continue to slide abysmally toward being all wrong.
The life of any family is like breathing. We can remember those who have gone on before us, but we breath our day-to-day air with those that are still with us. That I feel that I will soon be forgotten is because I have quickly forgotten others. That is quite simply inherent in human nature. Life is for the living, and a better life is when the living live and breathe in peace and harmony with one another. In the future of the family of man, life should be like a breath of fresh air.
Keeping the Family United – Mom Loves Us All
Don’t want to get myself shot down / By some trigger happy policeman / Gotta keep a hold on my sanity / I’m a twentieth century man but I don’t want to die here.
“20th Century Man” (copyright 1971).
When the twentieth century melted into the twenty-first century America was pretty much chugging along on autopilot. Rich were getting richer and poor were getting poorer. The pressures inherent in twentieth century living for the poorer classes appeared like they were going to more or less remain the same or possibly even get worse in the new millennium. Then something happened that united the country with an ironclad will to comfort and support each other – September 11th, 2001 made the citizenry proud to be American, proud of our police and firemen, proud of our resolve. This was a gold-plated opportunity to unite the entire country, and for a short while that did happen; then, the opportunity was lost.
The Iraq War intended to purge that nation of its weapons of mass destruction proved to be an unmitigated disaster when none were found. Issuing his comeuppance to Osama bin Laden on May 2nd, 2011, while widely celebrated in the U.S., soon rang as a hollow achievement that was overshadowed by the rise of ISIS in 2014. Donald J. Trump ascended to the Presidency of the U.S.A. in 2016 even though he lost the popular vote by 3,000,000 ballots. Under his chaotic “leadership” American institutions began to fall like dominoes as his cabinet choices were expunged faster than the revolving door of his past wives and girlfriends. If Trump wanted to dismantle a federal agency he was sure to appoint the politician who most hated it in charge of it. The scorched earth trail of agency appointments burned so fast and so completely that any given agency leader is now referred to as the “Acting Head of…[you name it].” Appointments and dismissals are happening so fast that it’s been suggested that their names be displayed on an easily erasable whiteboard. And just when it looked like this raging pandemonium was about to be accepted as commonplace “governing” the Coronavirus hit our shores in early January 2020 even though the leader of the free world did nothing about it until well into March. We were to discover that Trump had eliminated Obama’s National Security Council (NSC) directorate for global health and security and bio-defense designed to address pandemics just as ruthlessly as he had wiped out anything else that had reeked of his predecessor’s leadership. America’s economy cratered and Congress’s first bailout package, the appropriately titled “Cares Act” did little to slow the descent of the plummeting middle class while big business and the big banks quickly gobbled up the readily available federal cash as small business’s reeled and then collapsed. Just when it looked like conditions couldn’t get any worse, they did, when the George Floyd murder shocked the nation. So now here we are, all caught up until the Mad King leads us into the next national calamity that is completely avoidable, that being, the upcoming National Presidential Election. Paraphrasing the Temptation’s “Ball of Confusion,” and the band played on. The youth, the empathetic, those imbued with any basic sense of fairness are now protesting in the streets, including, get this, the moms.
All hail the mothers of Portland, Oregon offering themselves up as human shields to protect their righteous children from The Mad King’s secret police. This harkens back to another period in time; the 1930’s and the rise of Adolph Hitler. The comparisons between Der Fuhrer and Trump are frightening. One theory postulated, concerning how a monster like Hitler could ever have come to power, is that life in Germany was so hard due to the dictates of The Treaty of Versailles that the citizenry became indifferent, even numb, to the treatment of others because they themselves felt severely mistreated. Punishment in this case bred a punitive society. They were a severe, hard boiled society, very big on punishment and completely immune to empathy. How bad did American intelligence have to be to not know that he was “secretly” building up his war machine? The Catholic Church was mute, even cowardly, in refusing to speak out, or to even acknowledge, his murdering of Jews in the name of ethnic cleansing. In other words, if you don’t think that something just as bad as Nazi Germany could happen today, you obviously
refuse to watch even a small sampling of Fox News. How long will it be before Trump orchestrates his own “Night of the long knives?” While those not too particular studious of history assume that Hitler just walked in and took over Germany, in actuality his rise to complete power required a number of steps that occurred over a two-year period.
In 1933 Hitler pushed through the “Enabling Act” which effectively made him Germany’s dictator. He was able to do this after a propaganda campaign that convinced the citizenry that there was an existential threat afoot within the country in the form of communist subversives. Sound familiar? Sound similar to Trump’s and Barr’s insistence that American citizens protesting injustice in our city’s streets are in reality, “terrorists?” Hitler held a fear of a far left wing faction of the Nazi party called the Strasserist (SA) whose members numbered in the neighborhood of 2,000,000, and in actuality, outnumbered the country’s standing army. This alarmed not only Hitler, but the army brass, and they struck deal whereby the SA’s power would be broken in exchange for a loyalty oath from army officers to Hitler. Sound familiar? Isn’t that exactly what Trump demanded of former FBI Director James Comey? Between June 30th and July 2nd, 1934 army loyalists rounded up hundreds of SA members and a minimum of 85 of them were executed; the entire event living in infamy, again as “The night of the long knives.” Hitler thereafter assumed complete control of the country and was unopposed to wage war on Europe. One of Hitler’s most famous quotes was: “If you tell a lie frequently enough, it will be believed.” Sound familiar?
Donald J. Trump is a diabolical hybrid between Nixon and Hitler and has the potential to be worse than either or both combined. This threat is on high display dominating the news cycle 24/7, and yet we choose to tell ourselves that it can’t be as bad as it seems because rarely is anything as bad as it seems. The only problem is, that with Trump, everything is worse than it seems. Who knows what damage he’s doing behind the scenes? Mom – mom knows. When our own mothers feel compelled to protect our safety by taking to the streets it’s a sure sign that something is really wrong with our country to say nothing of the world. Mama earth who nurtures us all is in turmoil, and is in need of protecting if the family of man is to survive. If you won’t protect your own mother, who will you protect?
If Not Now, Then When? – Will the Family of Man Ever be a Reality?
Unquestionably, however, something else is at work, something that cuts deeper into the
American psyche. We have a profound hatred for the weak and the poor, and a corresponding groveling terror before the rich and successful, and we’re building a bureaucracy to match those feelings.
The Divide: American Justice in the Age of the Wealth Gap (copyright 2014).
Is all this “family of man” business a dream, or a pipe dream? When you look at the deep divisions amongst Americans who represent a mere 5% of the world’s population, and then compare them against the even deeper divisions amongst the world’s remaining population, it is easy to feel that the whole situation is hopeless. But, all there is – is hope. Therein lies the future of the entire planet. The complete disregard for the sanctity of human life is the biggest hurdle to guaranteeing that it will continue on into the future. The complexity of the human body itself is nothing short of miraculous, and yet there are so many people that feel that they can take human life with impunity either because they don’t believe what you believe, or worse yet, won’t do exactly what you tell them to do. Complete and total domination of the human spirit for personal gain has been a characteristic of mankind ever since our various renditions of our various species started walking upright on the land. Considering our ignoble and deplorable history, why should this moment in time, right here, right now, be any different? Because it has to be, or humanity is doomed. Because momentum to finally recognize the rights of all people has risen to the tipping point. That is why the Georg Floyd murder sparked worldwide protests. No human being should just have their life as nonchalantly snuffed out as one would crush a cigarette butt under the sole of their shoe. There was just something so viscerally wrong about it that no one could condone it, no one could ignore it, and no one could look away. Floyd’s human rights had obviously been stepped upon; figuratively and literally, and anyone possessing a shred of humanity found themselves questioning themselves; why him and not me?
If the family of man is to ever truly be a family the transformation has to start with a deep abiding respect for human life and human rights. In actuality, this realization is nothing new. On December 10th, 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was ratified at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris France when the then 58 members of the recently formed United Nations (1945) cast 48 votes in favor, eight abstentions, with two countries declining to vote at all. Pictures ran in American newspapers of our nation’s queen of compassion, Eleanor Roosevelt, the driving force behind this historic document, proudly holding the English language broadsheet in her hands. It served as the defining document for the humane treatment of all the peoples of the earth until (no surprise here) the United States Supreme Court ruled that the UDHR, “does not on its own force impose obligations as a matter of international law.” Predictably, the high court’s of other nations around the world followed suit. The spirit of the document lives on, however, in the worldwide celebration of its creation every December 10th, and the impact of the document birthed Amnesty International in 1961. Elements of the UDHR have been adopted through the years by other organizations such as The International Federation for Human Rights, Quaker United Nations and American Friends Service Committee, American Library Association, and Youth for Human Rights, to name but a few. So the precedent has been set and has been in existence for a long time, but just as with anything else involving totalitarian governments, it’s not what humanists encourage them to do, but what somebody can force them to do.
Fortunately, the government of the United States is not (as of yet) a totalitarian government, and we as a people have to get our own house in order before advising the rest of the world on how to run theirs’. The future of the family of man has to start on the individual level. Every citizen has to do an honest assessment of their conscious and see if they can behave in a more humanistic manner towards their fellow human beings.
The videos coming out of Portland, Oregon disturbed me greatly. That cop viscously striking a Navy veteran four times with his baton, that cop charging the wall of moms with his shield and knocking them back, those cops throwing people into unmarked vans – those cops are Americans too, and I wonder when they lay their heads to sleep at night; do they really get to sleep very well at all? Do any of them, now far removed from the heat of the moment that sparked those actions, lament that they did indeed take those actions? Anyone can claim that they were just doing their job, but sometimes the dictates of the job are inhumane, and a person of conscious knows it, wrestles with it, and has to reckon with it. Anyone can change when they come to the realization that what they are doing defies what they know to be right and just. If any of those cops do have a change of heart, let me be the first to nominate them for inclusion into the family of man.