Tag Archives: United States

Ununited States

purplemapJaquandor asks:

How do we solve the police brutality problem? To what extent is it a part of a larger problem with our society, indicating a deep and abiding devotion to punitive violence? I see police brutality as another facet of the problem that leads to our awful prisons and our enormous prison population.

First, I need to note the killing of two New York City police officers on December 20. It was correctly described as an assassination, and I mourn their deaths.

At the same time, I believe the remarks of Rudy Guiliani, blaming their deaths on President Obama as amazingly irresponsible, as well as untrue. The problem of excessive force by the police exists in a small, but significant number of cases. And it’s not “anti-police” when New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who is white but married to a black woman, instructs his children, and especially his son with the great ‘fro, in specific ways to cautiously and politely deal with the police.

Others, including former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who had some legal problems of his own a while back, suggested that the shootings were ultimately encouraged by de Blasio and the Rev. Al Sharpton, and that “they have blood on their hands.” He told Newsmax: “The people who encouraged these protests — you had peaceful protesters who were screaming ‘kill the cops’ — the so-called peaceful protesters. Who was encouraging these protesters? De Blasio, Sharpton and other elected officials and community leaders. They encouraged this mentality. They encouraged this behavior.”

Anyone who has ever been to a protest – I have attended more than a few in my time – knows that there are occasionally outliers at these events, people whose positions don’t jibe with the organizers’ intents. So would it be better that such Constitutionally-protected demonstrations be quashed?

That, BTW, was what the Tea Party folks said when a couple people killed two Las Vegas police officers in June 2014, that those cop killers, who had rallied with Cliven Bundy, along with people who POINTED GUNS at law enforcement officials, did not represent the movement.

Jon Stewart got it right when he said one can grieve the loss AND worry about the police overreach; they are NOT mutually exclusive.

To the question: I should note that not all the excessive violence is directed toward young black males. For instance, TX SWAT team beats, deafens nude man in his own home, lies about arrest; judge declines to punish cops or DA. There seems to be a need by some police to quash all possibly illicit behavior. If Eric Garner WERE selling individual cigarettes in Staten Island, it certainly wasn’t a felony.

I’m not sure of the cause of ALL the violence. I once posited on someone’s website the theory that these first person shooter games might have some effect on the cognitive understanding of life for some people, but was told by gaming experts that there’s “no relationship.” Maybe, maybe not. I’ve wondered about this at least since Vietnam, when one could drop the precision bombs without having any discernible understanding. And now war can really tidy, with people in the middle of the US dropping bombs on people half a world away; looks very much like a video game to me.

I AM convinced that the tremendous rise in the prison population, mostly for non-violent drug use, which I wrote about extensively, is a major contributor. Prison is, I’ve been told, a great school for becoming a better criminal.

Surely the militarism of the police, with all that post-9/11 money doled about by the federal government has led to a war zone mentality. But even in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military had a plan of engaging with the communities, whereas in the urban centers of the US, some of the residents feel like the police are an occupying force.

Maybe all the things that keep us disconnected from our surroundings – surburbia, synthetic food, our personal electronic devices, the bile that comes from commenting anonymously on social media – matter. SOMETHING is fueling a general rage – road rage, online rage.

Bottom line, though: the anger in the community is not just that there are excessive uses of force. The problem is that there appears to be lack of accountability for the actions. I’ve heard the body cameras for police will be a solution. But there WAS footage of Eric Garner dying. Police video would have not likely change the “no indictment” outcome. Did you see that the Ferguson prosecutor allowed witnesses that were “clearly not telling the truth” to the grand jury?

It may be that guns make police less safe, their jobs more difficult and communities less trusting. Or maybe it’s just the human condition.

This is a long way of saying, “Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands.”

Uthaclena wonders:

Okay, here’s one of my ponders: can the United States survive as a united entity? SHOULD it be a united entity, or would it be better off broken up so that the racist, theocratic barbarians can abuse themselves and leave the rest of us alone?

There are lots of precedents in the 20th century suggesting that this is a terrible idea. The creation of the state of Israel did not lead to peace in the Middle East. I learned from watching the Sanjay Gupta episode of the PBS series Finding Your Roots Continue reading Ununited States

America redux, and not knowing everything

Mr. Frog, in the comments:

Interesting that your daughter goes back to the things that scare her. I do that, too. Have you ever seen Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal? I was so afraid of that movie–despite it being one of my favorites–until literally a few months ago. I should write about that…

No, I haven’t. I’m not sure why, exactly, but when it came out, it just didn’t appeal to me, so I never even wanted to see it. It seemed, from a trailer, maybe, to be too…dark? By now, it had all but left my consciousness. I wouldn’t NOT see it, but it isn’t on the list of films I must watch, though you’ve made it more interesting to me. Wouldn’t watch it with the Daughter, though, until I had seen it first.
And yes, you should write about it.

Another example for me is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. I HAVE written about that: at age 5, it scared me so bad I was basically traumatized. But I became fascinated by stuff like UFOs, which led me to reading books about ACTUAL science. Then when it was re-released when I was 9, I loved it, and now it’s my favorite movie. It makes me cry badly, but in a cathartic way.

Odd thing about that film. Saw E.T. at the time and loved Drew Barrymore screaming, loved the classic Spielberg broken family, anti-authority motifs, even the Reese’s Pieces product placement. I just didn’t like the ending, the bikes in the sky thing, and I haven’t ever seen it since then, so I could not specifically tell you why. I was willing to believe the alien, but not that. It played at the local second-run theater, the Madison, in early April, but I just didn’t have time to see it. And I would rather have seen it like that then on video.

(Sidebar: there was some story on CBS Sunday Morning recently about the decline in the movie box office. Some twenty-something they interviewed was so smug. “I can watch movies at home. I can pause it when ever I want to…” And if you can pause it, for me, it isn’t watching a movie; it’s watching a video – I use the term generically.)
politicalspeech

If I can ask a follow-up to Jaquandor’s question about America: do you worry that it’s too late to change course? I don’t want to get too doomsday about it, I’ve just been reading too many things lately that seem to be adding up to a depressing future. Of course, I have mental disorders and that seems to be the way I process things a lot of time (“catastrophizing” is what my therapist calls it).

Is it catastrophizing when the levee has broken? On one very big hand, the news is grim. We live in an oligarchy. It’s not just that economic disparity is unfair; it doesn’t make much economic sense. Continue reading America redux, and not knowing everything

Joy, America, food, Muppets

AmericasdebtMore from New York Erratic:

What was the greatest joy in the last year?

It had to be Thanksgiving. My wife and daughter and I spent it at my second cousin’s house, just outside NYC, with her and her family, her sister, my eldest niece and her husband, a couple of my mother’s first cousins (the hostess’s uncles) and more. The next day, my family did Manhattan with the niece, her husband and her friends.

What do you think is really causing the deficit?

I just don’t know. It seemed that Bill Clinton had a real handle on reducing the deficit, but then, kablooey, it got all out of control. It’s totally mysterious.
Continue reading Joy, America, food, Muppets

Should a Christian say the Pledge of Allegiance?

Growing up in the 1960s in the United States, I started to wonder about the validity of saying the Pledge of Allegiance. That “liberty and justice for all” part seemed a bit, let’s just say, farfetched, with discrimination based on race, gender, economic condition, and so on. It was explained to me, though, that it was not a pledge to what is, but rather what the ideal nation could be. Hmm. Well, OK.

Back in 1940, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, the Supreme Court “ruled that public schools could compel students—in this case, Jehovah’s Witnesses—to salute the American Flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance despite the students’ religious objections to these practices.” But a mere three years later Continue reading Should a Christian say the Pledge of Allegiance?

G is for Gadsden Purchase


I swear I went to bed one night, wondering, “What should I write about for the letter G?” Then I woke up in the morning thinking about the Gadsden Purchase.

Say what?

You can see from the map above that the western expansion of the United States had already been achieved by the time the US purchased this relatively small section of the country, shown in orange. After the Revolutionary War Continue reading G is for Gadsden Purchase

North American Math

The JEOPARDY! Final question for April 23, 2013 was: North America’s 3 mainland countries have a total of 91 states & provinces; Mexico has this many states.

You have 30 seconds.

I should note that only one of the contestants got this right.

Scores at the end of the Double Jeopardy! Round: Michael $21,800 , Laurel $22,400, Bill $8,700. But Michael and Laurel both bet big ($19,598 and $21,600, respectively), and guess incorrectly, while Bill bet it all, and got it right. Continue reading North American Math

Burn that flag

One of the things I loved as a kid were flags. I decided that the US flag was one of the best, design-wise. You have your red, white and blue, the colors of both England, with whom we fought for independence, and France, who helped us achieve it. (Thanks, Lafayette.) After adding a star and a stripe for each state entering the union, someone figured out that we’d better stick to the 13 stripes and merely alter the number of stars.

But it is clear that not many folks have read Title 4, Chapter 1 of the United States Code Continue reading Burn that flag