Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Culture of Cruelty is International: From Lynchings to Eric Garner and the CIA Torture Report

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In its deranged madness to prevent a second 9/11 attack on "the homeland", the United States tortured and brutalized suspected "terrorists" with drownings, beatings, forcing food through their anuses, handcuffing people with broken legs to the ceiling, parading them around naked, threatening to sexually assault their mothers and families, exposing them to extreme temperatures, and sensory deprivation.

This is a sterile bullet point-like summary--the irony of that office speak MBA language is fitting and unintentionally macabre and darkly humorous--of the tortures that the CIA will publicly admit to having committed; the real horrors are likely far worse, hiding behind redacted passages and in dark corners, hushed rumors that circulate in the alcohol influenced bar and private conversations of CIA agents and private contractors, never to be publicly admitted to or spoken of.

A willfully ignorant public and a deceptive lying chattering class wrap themselves in American exceptionalism as a means of claiming surprise, shock, and horror at the faux revelations in the CIA torture report. They do this because the truth cannot be reconciled with the myths of an America that never really existed.

America tortures people. It has done this domestically to war resisters, conscience objectors, pacifists, suffragettes, slaves, civil rights workers, and inmates.

Inflicting pain on the black body is a special obsession and paraphilia for white America. In its pogroms, land theft, and riots, white Americans lynched at least 10,000 black citizens.

The CIA torture report is a damning document and a difficult read. It is child's fare compared to the tortures inflicted on black people by white folks for centuries in their ritual birthright of American Apartheid and Jim Crow.

A member of the white lynching party that destroyed Mr. Claude Neal in 1934 offers this account of White America's habit of racial torture on the black body:
“After taking the nigger to the woods about four miles from Greenwood, they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off his testicles and made him eat them and say he liked it. Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the nigger to burn him from top to bottom.” From time to time during the torture a rope would be tied around Neal’s neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death when he would be let down and the torture begin all over again. After several hours of this unspeakable torture, “they decided just to kill him.”
The United States has tortured people abroad in its wars, secret prisons, and other covert operations. Because the United States has historically been, and remains in the present, a white racist society, it is far easier to torture those who are marked as some type of Other.

Thus, white on black and brown racial violence and torture is far more common than white on white torture.

The United States is also an expert in torture. Its School of the Americas taught soon to be petit-thug dictators and their secret police forces how to torture, intimidate, and terrorize their own people. The hundreds, if not thousands of amateurs in the art of pain would graduate from the School of the Americas as masters, proliferating and spawning many more minions in their own countries, like fruit flies or bacteria, as they "disappeared" and tortured "Communists" in the name of "democracy" and "freedom".

But ultimately, the United States tortures on both sides of the colorline--perhaps this is one of the few spaces that has been radically democratic and inclusive?

America's torture machine, and the culture of cruelty that produced it, exist internationally and across the colorline.

Torture is sustained and legitimated by the banality of evil and a numbness to violence and harm done to others as a learned behavior--one taught by violent movies, video games, and conditioned by a neverending "War on Terror" where robots and drones kill from afar with ruthless efficiency.

Consequently, the "War on Terror" is a persistent "state of emergency" that retards and damages a democratic polity and public sphere.

The philosopher and social critic Slavoj Zizek details this process with his usual keen insight:
The paradox is that the state of emergency was the normal state, while ‘normal’ democratic freedom was the briefly enacted exception. This weird regime anticipated some clearly perceptible trends in our liberal-democratic societies in the aftermath of 11 September. Is today’s rhetoric not that of a global emergency in the fight against terrorism, legitimising more and more suspensions of legal and other rights?

The ominous aspect of John Ashcroft’s recent claim that ‘terrorists use America’s freedom as a weapon against us’ carries the obvious implication that we should limit our freedom in order to defend ourselves. Such statements from top American officials, especially Rumsfeld and Ashcroft, together with the explosive display of ‘American patriotism’ after 11 September, create the climate for what amounts to a state of emergency, with the occasion it supplies for a potential suspension of rule of law, and the state’s assertion of its sovereignty without ‘excessive’ legal constraints. America is, after all, as President Bush said immediately after 11 September, in a state of war.

The problem is that America is, precisely, not in a state of war, at least not in the conventional sense of the term (for the large majority, daily life goes on, and war remains the exclusive business of state agencies). With the distinction between a state of war and a state of peace thus effectively blurred, we are entering a time in which a state of peace can at the same time be a state of emergency.
The CIA report, and the persistent "state of emergency" that was used to legitimate the crimes detailed therein, exists in the same moral, ethical, and cognitive space, as those white people which are stuck in the White Gaze, and twisted by white racial paranoiac thinking, who can watch the video of Eric Garner being choked to death, and subsequently reason that he is responsible for his own death.

The banality of evil is shown by the spokespeople and defenders of the CIA who are more concerned that wicked (and ineffective) torture was "understandable" in the context of America's fear of terrorism, and that those personnel who committed such deeds will be "unfairly" persecuted.

Fear as the justification for cruelty and evil is a common defense. It is deployed by both the nation state and individuals. Darren Wilson, the police killers of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, and other white authorities retreat as a function of habit and training to this plea of "reasonable" fear (as processed through White racial logic) when they kill unarmed black and brown people.

It is empty and possesses little moral weight. Fear as a defense for wrong-doing is a surrender to cowardice and the most low thinking, practices that are more akin to that of impulsive instinct-driven beasts than human beings who imagine themselves as possessing the highest and most evolved capacity for reason.

Half of the American people have succumbed to the banality of evil and the cultural logic of torture.

A new poll by Pew Research details how:
Amid intense debate over the use of torture against suspected terrorists, public opinion about this issue remains fairly stable. Currently, nearly half say the use of torture under such circumstances is often (15%) or sometimes (34%) justified; about the same proportion believes that the torture of suspected terrorists is rarely (22%) or never (25%) justified.
Here, civil virtue and commonsense have been betrayed by fear mongering and manipulation: the American people are legitimating and rationalizing the very policies (directly through the physical act of torture; culturally through a numbing to poverty, human suffering, and an abandonment of a humane society) that have been and will en masse be turned against them in an era of Austerity and Inverted Totalitarianism.

There are many questions that cannot be asked within the limits of the approved American public discourse.

A basic definition of terrorism is the use of violence and fear to accomplish a political goal.

What if the language of "terrorist" and "torture" were applied to the behavior of the United States government and the American people both at home and abroad? Would the same justification for torture remain?

American exceptionalism--and nationalism more generally--can through arbitrary distinctions of territory, and the various colors of dye on a piece of fabric called a flag, make what is deemed to be wrong in one context legitimate and acceptable in another. The distorting of morality, reason, and ethics through nationalism makes the above questions verboten in American public discourse. This does not mean that such questions ought not to be asked or related scenarios explored.

White racial terrorism against people of color was and remains the norm in American life, society, and culture.

The Ku Klux Klan has been (and likely remains) the largest terrorist organization in the history of the United States.

For centuries, white slave patrollers intimidated, harassed, and killed both black human property as well as free people. American Apartheid, that period from the establishment of America as a slave society in the 17th century, through to the softening of legal white supremacy and the resulting colorblind and institutional systems of white racial advantage in the post civil rights era, use(d) violence--and the threat of violence--to intimidate and control the African-American community.

In the post civil rights era and the Age of Obama, America's police have continued with their historic mission of maintaining the colorline through committing acts of both interpersonal and institutional terrorism and violence against black and brown people.

The killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and those hundreds and thousands of others (so many dead, which given the lack of police accountability and transparency, may never be fully and publicly known) killed at least once every 28 hours in the United States serve the political goal of maintaining state custodial citizenship, providing human beings for the profits to made by the prison industrial complex, and satisfying the psychological wages of whiteness in the form of "law and order" and a sense of safety and security from black people in a hyper-segregated society.

Torture as public policy by America's police and prisons has been condemned by groups such as Amnesty International and the United Nations:
The U.N. Committee against Torture urged the United States on Friday to fully investigate and prosecute police brutality and shootings of unarmed black youth and ensure that taser weapons are used sparingly. 
The panel’s first review of the U.S. record on preventing torture since 2006 followed racially-tinged unrest in cities across the country this week sparked by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury’s decision not to charge a white police officer for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager. 
The committee decried “excruciating pain and prolonged suffering” for prisoners during “botched executions” as well as frequent rapes of inmates, shackling of pregnant women in some prisons and extensive use of solitary confinement. 
Its findings cited deep concern about “numerous reports” of police brutality and excessive use of force against people from minority groups, immigrants, homosexuals and racial profiling. The panel referred to the “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.”
Incidents of torture by the police against black and brown people are many.

In 1997, New York cops tortured Abner Louima, by anally raping him with a broomstick:
One officer, Justin A. Volpe, admitted in court in May 1999 that he had rammed a broken broomstick into Mr. Louima’s rectum and then thrust it in his face. He said he had mistakenly believed that Mr. Louima had punched him in the head during a street brawl outside a nightclub in Flatbush, but he acknowledged that he had also intended to humiliate the handcuffed immigrant. He left the force and was later sentenced to 30 years in prison. The commanders of the 70th Precinct were replaced within days of the assault. As the legal case wore on, Charles Schwarz, a former police officer, was sentenced in federal court in 2002 to five years in prison for perjury stemming from the torture case. A jury found that Mr. Schwarz had lied when he testified that he had not taken Mr. Louima to the station house bathroom where the assault took place.

Mr. Louima, who was born in Thomassin, Haiti, in 1966, and immigrated to New York in 1991, suffered a ruptured bladder and colon and spent two months in the hospital. The charges against him were dropped.
More than 100 black men in Chicago were tortured by police over the course of several decades in order to force them to give false confessions:
Men who say they were tortured by Chicago police into confessing to crimes they did not commit are renewing calls for compensation from the city. 
They held a news conference Thursday to ask the City Council to pass an ordinance establishing a $20 million fund to torture victims who didn't qualify for settlements because of the statute of limitations. 
More than 100 men have accused former police commander Jon Burge and officers under his command of shocking, suffocating and beating them into giving false confessions. Burge has never been criminally charged with torture. 
But he is serving a 4 1/2 -year sentence for lying about the torture in a civil case, and was scheduled to leave prison on Thursday to serve the remainder of his time in a halfway house.
Michael Brown's body laying in the street for four hours; Eric Garner's plea for mercy that "I can't breath!"; the sodomizing of Abner Louima; the tortures that are day-to-day policy in America's prisons and jails; police brutality and militarization; the beatings, anal force feeding, sensory deprivation, drownings, and other cruelties detailed by the CIA torture report, are part of a broader culture of cruelty where human life is cheapened and debased.

Moreover, the culture of cruelty is international and domestic. On both terrains, it is far easier for the American state and its representatives to torture and render other violence against non-whites. White racial logic deems it acceptable to kill some nebulous brown Muslim "terrorist" Other in the same way that unarmed black men are transformed into "giant negroes" with superhuman strength who are demonically possessed while they supposedly attack white police officers.

If the Pew survey is correct--and half of the American people actually believe that "terrorists" from abroad should be tortured--then philosophical consistency should demand the same treatment for (white) American terrorists at home who harass, kill, or otherwise benefit from institutional and interpersonal white on black and brown violence by police and the state.

Such a suggestion may be met with shock or upset by those who are afraid to ask foundational questions about human decency and the Common Good outside of the comforting blinders of flag-waving nationalism and the panoply of myths which sustain a belief that America is "the best country on Earth".

Torture is wrong. It is unacceptable when done against "terrorists" or other "enemies of the state" abroad. Torture and terrorism are unacceptable when done by the United States government, police, or other representatives against its black and brown citizens and communities, as well as white folks too.

Moral consistency is the simplest of principles and behaviors; it is also very difficult for many Americans, especially those drunk on American exceptionalism and Right-wing authoritarianism, to comprehend and understand.

This is the failure of national character that made the horrors detailed in the CIA torture report possible.

All Americans of conscience should decry, condemn, and hold accountable the individuals, government behavior, and cruel policies detailed in the CIA torture report. Those same Americans of conscience should demand accountability from the police who kill unarmed and innocent black and brown people.

"Not in my name!" is a slogan and command for America's broken foreign policies to be corrected.

"Not in my name!" should be shouted (and acted upon) by all of our white brothers and sisters at the police thugs who are engaging in racial terrorism against the black community.


Justin M. White said...

You’ve given me an idea for a paper I’d like to write up. I was thinking earlier today about the re-enslavement of Black Americans via prisons, and the continuing profiteering from creating a prisoner-class, who can be exploited for cheap labor and the “job creation” prisons will bring. There’s a connection to be made to my historical speciality, which is bound labor in the early modern Atlantic. Prisoners were “pardoned” from death penalties (which were increasingly deferred anyway) by being bound into long indentures (7 years; long past the average life expectancy) and sent to American plantations. They were particularly useful for increasing the white population of unpopular destinations for white immigrants, such as Barbados and Jamaica, whose slave economies had replaced all free labor.

Many of these “criminals” were actually just vagrants, and often were pogroms against people of color or other undesirables like Irish. They were removed with the justification of the legal system. Political prisoners (primarily Scots) were also de-facto exiled this way. At the time, it amounted to state-sponsored kidnapping, another idea I’ve wanted to explore more. As far as I know, no one in the field has characterized the criminalization and exportation of the population in the 17th century British Isles in that way. It is also a good characterization of the modern prison-industrial complex. The cruelty towards “criminals” has always crossed the color line, though it has disproportionately affected Black peoples all around the Atlantic. With the advent of the national security state, today’s version also has an international aspect. Then and now, both are promoted by monied interests’ profit, whether it’s plantations, colonizing, private prisons, or defense infrastructure.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

Torture is unconstitutional (8th Amendment). Torture is unconstitutional by international treaty being signed and ratified by President Reagan in 1988 and the Senate in 1994.

If we listen to CIA spokesmen and their political defenders I hear Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil." But you also point to the larger historical context of torturing the Black body, male and female, young and old, as well as the deliberate policy of exterminating the Indians. While waterboarding was illegal from at least the 1860s, Black lynching was not.

And, we now have a president who simply cannot take the legal actions required of our treaty commitments to prosecute those who torture. He will not fire anybody who tortured or approved the policy. Any American who thinks that this country is guided by the rule of law is seriously deluded.

Our political and economic elites, both Republican and Democratic, operate beyond the law with impunity. Our police and prosecutors operate with impunity. The police can kill whomever they want on the flimsiest of excuses and be protected by prosecutors. Our economic elites can destroy our jobs, steal our homes, rob our college education funds, and generally plunder the 99 percent and get a thank you and a bailout from the taxpayers. Our Drone President can kill whomever he wants from his daily Kill Matrix, even people who have done nothing wrong, without a peep from the media, the Congress, or the elites. And, for all those Americans who aid and abet this gross unconstitutional behavior because you will trade a moment of false safety for an eternity of shame--you don't deserve freedom.

chauncey devega said...

shameful isn't it. as long as they get their cheap electronics to offset decreasing wages and are stimulated via dopamine from Facebook and Twitter the sheep are fine. The rule of law is as you know whatever the powerful deem it to be at a given moment. I remember when they started taking civics out of the public schools. I worried about what would happen. Now we see the result with clear eyes.

chauncey devega said...

Class and race my friend. Take a class of surplus people, extract labor and whatever else "you" want, rinse and repeat. The colonies were a product of black stolen labor, poor whites, and killed First Nations people. Too bad poor whites sides with rich whites when the colorline was created in the West.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I cannot speak for white people or why people do not comment on this and other articles. I have a hard time thinking of myself as white, even though I have a whitish skin color. But, that is a different story.

Here, let me say that once one drills past America's founding myths as taught in high school and perhaps many universities you come face-to-face with an existential crisis for white people.

Now, I went to good universities in the 1980s and never encountered WEB DuBois. He is an excellent sociologist, yet even on classes on race in America, DuBois was not a required text and probably not a recommended text. That is a great deficiency on my part that I am rectifying by reading Douglass and DuBois and West and Morrison, etc.

Here is the existential crisis for white Americans. The Founding Fathers revolted against the King because Britain was going to outlaw slavery and free the slaves. White colonists were terrified of slave rebellions and what free Africans would do to them.

Enslaved Africans were the source of America's wealth. To borrow from my mentor SM Lipset at Stanford, no slavery, no capitalism. White Americans did not create the wealth of America in the 18th and 19th centuries--enslaved Africans created that wealth; enslaved Africans knew how to grow rice that made South Carolina profitable. Whites, North and South, profited from enslaved Africans and were joined together in white supremacy.

Thus, once you start reading the new scholarship (at least five scholarly books in 2014 created this narrative) the whole image of America is challenged. You don't get ahead in America through hard work; you buy enslaved Africans and put them to work and extract the profits from their bodies; you create more slaves by raping Black women.

And, if you see that reality, it is very very difficult to square that with American Exceptionalism, with America as some kind of providential nation.

White Americans expanded the country by explicitly adopting a policy of exterminating Indians and stealing their lands.

Slavery and genocide are the foundational policies of America. Every white American should read Du Bois's essay on "The Souls of White Folk" from his book of essays in Darkwater.

I am not an expert, but I would suggest that when you challenge, as you do in some essays, what it really means to be white, you create an existential crisis for white people. Many white people may turn away, or read and want to turn away. I can't say I don't suffer a crisis of conscience. But, the unexamined life is not worth living.

Jim Wagner said...

Personally, I'm casting my vote for "a bit long." Not tl;dr long -- but it just went up yesterday, and it's that busy time of year, give us all a chance to find enough time to digest all this truth. ;)

chauncey devega said...

Few folks want to be introspective and to challenge the lies they have internalized as their reality.

That is true across the colorline too.

Funny how one can go to good if not great schools and miss out on essential texts. Du Bois should be required readings across disciplines. He was one of the country's first great intellectuals.

What was it like to work with Lipset. He was a titan.

chauncey devega said...

That is why I am leaving it up. I promised the podcast today but given the CIA report's importance I will post the podcast on Tuesday and Thursday next week.

Shady Grady said...

"Moral consistency is the simplest of principles and behaviors; it is also very difficult for many Americans, especially those drunk on American exceptionalism and Right-wing authoritarianism, to comprehend and understand."

Now this is so precise and clear that I wish I had written it. Quite well stated. Excellent post. People don't understand that the people who defend torture of arguably "non-white" foreigners are the same folks who see no evil when Michael Brown or Eric Garner were murdered because after all the murderers were "keeping us safe". "Us" of course is wholly circumscribed by whiteness.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

Marty was a giant. He was so intellectually curious. He was demanding of his staff (I was a research and teaching assistant), but he was also ferociously protective of his staff. He was tolerant of differing viewpoints, even those he disagreed with. In many ways the book I am working on is a defense of how he saw American politics. He very much feared the "monists" on the fringe would enter the mainstream. We now see them rampaging through the Republican Party, the Christian Right, the Patriot movement, and the Tea Party, and whatever iteration comes after them. The America they want is a white Christian conservative America in which rich, white, conservative Christian males are at the top of all hierarchies. It is why race is central to understanding American politics. I would hope that other of Marty's assistants would like my book as I see it in the Lipsetonian tradition.

Gable1111 said...

Its the political calculus that is really sad here. Democrats release this now with the knowledge that the upcoming GOP congress is going to play the exceptionalism card and squash it, thereby relieving them of any responsibility to really address it. Addressing it means people have to be held accountable, and criminally so. But here we see how the entire political establishment has come together to try to make all this seem normal.

And in many ways it is, thinking about the torture visited upon blacks by the Klan, and the torture and genocide of Native Americans.

One reason why it was hard for me to comment on all this because rather than being shocking it made me numb. We're way past attempting to hold onto any moral high ground, and obviously these people are beyond any shame.

Given the past history of racist violence, lynching, genocide against Native Americans no one should be surprised at any of this.

drspittle said...

Chauncey, this is the most comprehensive, best researched and compelling descriptions of this country's malaise I've read. I did a one sentence summation of this article yesterday while commenting at Smartypants. Any writer or "thought leader" who can't make this connection is not worth reading or listening to. I read DuBois years ago, and I need to re-read Souls of Black Folks. Thank you, James, for the reminder.

Nick Dahlheim said...

Chauncey, when I read this essay---which is one of your best--and there are some people who probably are blinded by the searing light of truth. But I wonder--I think most white people just don't get it and never ever will. Speaking of black folks specifically and white attitudes towards them, when I think only 2-3% of white folks TRULY see black folks in America as fully human and fully worthy of dignity as such---I don't think things can change. Maybe the issue goes beyond race and maybe it's an issue of nationhood. The police do what they do because blacks are enemies of a White Racial State. As Sheldon Wolin stated, blacks have been the only real consistent and persistent rebels in the face of white supremacist-imperialist-slave-driving-capitalism. And the incarceration state created after the end of Jim Crow by the "War on Drugs" is just the latest iteration of White backlash against black struggle for rights. I think the struggle for rights in a White state must end and maybe some new 21st century form of Black Nationalism must arise. But the strategy first must be the revival of a Black Internationalism. Blacks must seek the aid of countries like Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and the many countries of sub-Saharan Africa. It would be fitting that those countries come to aid Blacks in America as America regularly supports national separatists as part of its strategy to destabilize regimes which are too independent of American imperial capitalism.

Justin M. White said...

I'm not sure that it's necessarily the length, but you are digging into a lot of concepts that draw lines between a culture of fear, the prison-industrial complex, and the national security state. All of which are predicated on our devaluing of human life in some way or another (which is what got me thinking about early modern Europe, since prisoners were just disposable people--along with many other classes).

So that's cultural, domestic, and international analysis all in one place, coupled with the uncomfortable truth that we're overwhelmingly on board with this program. It's not that surprising this piece isn't as accessible to a wider audience. I'm glad you went ahead with it because these connections are being made and reshuffled in the scholarly literature, as I've discovered in my preliminary research gathering articles this morning.

kokanee said...

Re: "If the Pew survey is correct--and half of the American people actually believe that "terrorists" from abroad should be tortured..."

The Big Question: Is torture justified? The question tends to provoke a "yes" or "no" answer. In a May 2004 ABC News/Washington Post poll, for example, 63 percent of respondents said that torture is always unacceptable. At the same time, U.S. entertainment--from 24 to the latest action-adventure flick--almost ubiquitously portrays torture as acceptable in extreme cases, and these portrayals do not generally inspire noticeable protest. —

I think what we are seeing is the "manufacturing of consent" from the U.S. media and entertainment. Sad country we live in.

Not in my name!

Waterwitch said...

It's hard to know where to even start with this. Your article has said so much about the connection between domestic and international terrorism (I mean US-sanctioned State terrorism as well as the domestic kind like the KKK, prison guards, the clinic bombers and more).

People want to take pride in their ancestry. I have abolitionist activists and enslavers in the same generation on the same side of the family. It's a hard thing to admit that people who helped create me were capable of these monstrous acts, and yet I know they were--and the White American myth of exceptionalism has the same difficulty. Surely it couldn't have been THAT bad? Like the community that can't hear the abused child accuse the pillar-of-the-community father. How do we cleanse America of these crimes--foreign and domestic--unless they are outed and atoned for, but how can they be outed when the shame could destroy the illusion of community?

I'm curious to know, in the stats about how many Americans approve of the use of torture, what the racial breakdown is of that 49% approval rating. Are black and brown people, who have witnessed or experienced it first- or second-handm part of that number, or are they over in the "rarely" or "never justified" columns? Does anyone know?

Justin M. White said...

Most of our history has become so sanitized (and in most cases, romanticized), that it's nearly impossible for Americans to realize the endemic culture of cruelty that spans this country's history.

Exhibit A:

History is commodified, manufactured, and disseminated in a tradition of Whig history: a narrative of continual progress. Every reversion, every line that can be drawn to the cruelty of the past, disrupts the entire framework that children are indoctrinated to apply to civics and history. The same defense used against reparations for slavery ("no one who owned slaves is alive now") is used, without irony, to dismiss the CIA torture report ("why are we talking about this, it was so long ago?"). The idea is: we're past it, it's over, stop talking about this and let the world advance. That progressive narrative poisons the debate so much that even bringing up the continuing effects of racism is seen as preventing "history" from moving forward to a better world.

Learning IS Eternal said...

Ran across this comment in reference to Glen Beck agreeing that this was murder.

Joe E Dangerously

It seems like I've been saying this a lot lately but I'm going to keep saying it. The cop who killed Eric Garner is an American hero. That's right. A hero. He did exactly what he was supposed to do and exactly what we wanted him to do.

Oh, I wish he didn't do it. I wouldn't have wanted it were I there that day. I'm not happy about it and honestly I think it's cold-blooded murder. But it was the right thing to do. You see, Eric Garner was black. And this is America. I know a lot of you have talked yourselves into believing that black people are treated equally in this country but that is not the case and never has been. Those of you who say racism is less of a problem now than ever before... Are probably right. And that's the sad part. Well, according to me anyway. But my opinion is not the majority. And if you agree with me yours is not either. Right and wrong are two subjective terms. You can argue about how consequences determine morality and how that is in many ways objective and you'd be right but practically speaking what is considered right and wrong is determined by the will of the people. And all the cops killing people, especially black people, lately absolutely is in accordance with the will of the people. America wants this. We love this. We want black people dead because they defile our pure innocent white daughters, rob, murder, and carjack white people, and ruin our neighborhoods and everything else with their graffiti, drugs, gangs, and guns. Now you may disagree with that, as I do, but we don't get to determine what society wants. And clearly, as all these recent verdicts, acquittals, and refusals to indict, prosecute, etc. show, this is what our society wants.

So why are we pretending there was any wrongdoing here? They were just doing their jobs. They were following the will of the people. These cops are great Americans. They are American heroes. Darren Wilson is an American hero. George Zimmerman is an American Hero. Wayne Burgarello is an American hero. And the list goes on. Oh, you don't think they're heroes? Okay. I agree... Personally. And as much as Hitler has become the go-to example for all the idiots on the internet in this case it effectively drives my point home. Hitler was a hero too. A Nazi hero. Bin Laden was a terrorist hero. Hitler was a great Nazi. Bin Laden was a great terrorist. And these cops, along with everyone else who has been spilling blood willynilly lately are great Americans.

Do you like what you see, America? Because this is what we are. It's what we've always been. If you like it, keep on keeping on. If not, maybe it's time to start changing the culture. But until the culture changes, until the will of the people changes, these people did the right thing and they are heroes. In 2014 America what they did was right and heroic. Because that is what America is.

Gina said...

Russell Brand on CIA Torture Report:
The comedian suggested that the report should make the public question “the considerable clandestine power these organisations hold”, but noted that government torture techniques are becoming more acceptable. A recent study showed that 36 per cent of Britons think that torture is sometimes necessary.This reminds of the attitude too many adults have towards "spanking" children. Although it is scientifically proven that corporal punishment has a pernicious effect on a child's soul, it is done mercilessly. Society as a boot camp for all these atrocities?
Sometimes children just need a good smack on the bottom to
get their attention.

Torture is criminal behavior
Video: How to Prevent Violent Criminal Behavior in the Next Generation

Jim Wagner said...

I share some of your pessimism but also wonder if education couldn't play a significant role in changing this status quo. I'm wary of holding out education as a panacea, of course, but considering how little American students learn about the real history of this country, I've got to believe it couldn't hurt. It seems that at least some measure of white resistance to black justice claims is rooted in white Americans' shoddy understanding of history. "Geez, we know slavery was bad and all, but it was so long ago, and then Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King did some stuff and got you people all your rights, so what are you still complaining about?"

joe manning said...

Lipset posited pluralism as a countervailing force against monism, but the monists appear to have gained distinct advantage.

chauncey devega said...

Great use of Wholin. Thanks for the kind words too.

Re: foreign aid. I believe that Iraq and Cuba have actually supported black political organizations? No. And this is an interesting historical question, during the Cold War, were the Russians and their allies ever successful at sending resources enough resources to black political organizations to ever influence their behavior? Very doubtful because the Black Freedom Struggle--with very few exceptions--was about forcing American democracy and capitalism be more inclusive and fair. Nevermind how the FBI and Cointelpro would have had a field day with the info.

chauncey devega said...

America's formal educational system is a system designed to create compliant corporate consumers who believe in American exceptionalism. Now, we need to work outside of that system to educate proper citizens.

chauncey devega said...

Your second paragraph is spot on. The Right-wing American authoritarian is a fascinating creature. They drone on about "tyranny" from "big gov't" but then support torture, police brutality, wanton cruelty, etc as long as the victims are not white. Good old herrenvolk logic.

joe manning said...

All manifestations of antinomianism are maladaptive and in contravention of the main value patterns of all cultures. The human race would not have survived thus far if it was innately pathogenic. The power elite's attempt to routinize torture and brutality is an exercise in futility. "They've" pulled off a shotgun marriage of nazism and corporatocracy that's full of irreconcilable differences.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

Yes, I am reading Baptist's book. There are others that amplify different parts of the slavery-capitalism-democracy connection. You are absolutely correct that the North-South division taught in schools is nonsense. I don't know which book I read it in, (oh, it was Complicity by Connecticut journalists), the mayor of New York City wanted to secede from the Union to protect the slave business in New York City. Even then "Wall Street" was on the side of oppression and exploitation.

OldPolarBear said...

Chauncey, I read the whole thing and the comments and noticed your observation that people weren't commenting. I was pretty active commenting for a while and then lately I haven't been a very good commenter. Sometimes I read your posts and you say everything so thoroughly and so well that there just doesn't seem to be much of anything I can say and my comment would just be, "everything you said." Which I have also posted a couple of times.

I have gotten to a point where I am so disgusted by it all that I am somewhat numb and don't know what to say any more. This is not helpful to anybody, of course, and I have no right to be that way and I can only try to imagine what it is to deal with this crap for black people. Perhaps a lot of people are that way.

Other people are just hardened into their beliefs and there doesn't seem to be any way to get to them. Often I try to think what I might do. I tend to be pretty solitary and don't talk to people a lot to begin with, but occasionally I try.

I have a younger acquaintance, early 40s, a relative of a relative, who I see fairly often. He epitomizes the problem in many ways. Single parent with a teenage daughter, both of them living in his divorced mom's house. Something of a n'er-do-well, educationally and career-wise, with a low-paying job. Not a mean bone in his body, really, although he can fly into a rage if he's slighted or think he's been wronged. Will often go out of his way to help people in trouble, including people of color. Listens to Fox News, Limbaugh, right-wing radio talk (e.g., Tom Merino) and the like. Spouts the crap he hears from these. Not the racist parts -- I think he honestly works on not being racist, which as we know can be a problematic approach in itself -- but other really repressive right-wing talking points. I try, when I hear it, to very carefully and calmly reason with him about these. There are complications, for example, his mom has no patience with it (can't blame her, really; she is around it all the time) and will be yelling, "shut up; you're an idiot," etc.

Fortunately, his daughter is better, she will flat-out call him out on the worst stuff, mostly anti-Muslim statements. But it's just hard to make headway. And the same is true of coworkers, the main group of people I see and interact with. Most of mine are actually a pretty liberal lot, but they will also repeat some of the conventional wisdom about the police killings, which I know they are mostly just parroting from the mainstream media sources. I try to push back, perhaps too gently, after all it is work and I have to, you know, work with people, but it seems like it is always immediately, "Yeah, but what about blah blah blah ..."

So here I am not having commented, and now having rambled on and on. Seriously, I don't want it to be about me and what a good, white anti-racist I am. People were talking about education and the like and I am just trying to figure out what to do.

Jim Wagner said...

I was heartened to see at least some high school students and teachers this year launching counter-protests against the various bullshit right-wing protests against the College Board's updated AP American History curriculum. These right-wingers even essentially admit that there is nothing inaccurate about the new curriculum; they simply feel that to emphasize all of these actual facts would paint too negative a picture of this country. Their problem isn't with the truth of the matter, but with its truthiness.

As for myself, only in the past couple of years have I realized how astounding it is that I never encountered authors like DuBois, Baldwin, Morrison, Ellison, Wright, etc. during my high school or undergraduate years. Some of that is on me; I studied English as an undergrad, but my focus was on the British tradition, and at that time it wouldn't even have occurred to me to seek out an African-American literature or intellectual history course. But how did I go through four years of high school without ever picking up "Invisible Man" or "Native Son"? I know the answer: my high school was private, Catholic and overwhelmingly white. In Florida, too, and yet we never even took a glance at Zora Neale Hurston. (All that aside, I'm actually not sure that books like "Invisible Man" and "Native Son" ought to be taught in high school anyway; how is a 16-year-old supposed to wrap his or her head around all that, especially when they're not getting the proper background knowledge in their history classes as it is?)

chauncey devega said...

Damn that is some truth telling. Knowledge enema as I like to call it.

chauncey devega said...

My school was only a tiny bit better. I got those readings from relatives and friends of parents and hanging out w. the grad students and professors my father insisted on feeding at our house or leaving me with when he would make his maintenance rounds. Life is funny, sitting w. a much younger Cornel West and annoying him with questions as a kid paid some dividends.

chauncey devega said...

I was looking for the same cross section and couldn't find it at first glance, maybe I missed the link?

chauncey devega said...

Rambling is good. I see none of that above. Isn't it hard when we want THEM to be monsters and they are just regular, confused, propagandized people who have internalized lies as truths. In many cases we love them anyway, they are still our friends, relatives, and kin.

Your voice is always welcome and valued here. I am really trying to work on more 4 paragraph style essays that are substantive yet leave something left to think about and can be easily shared online. One of my goals for the new year.

Do you think that would be a good addition?

chauncey devega said...

I am only one voice in a chorus to quote Star Trek: TNG. I appreciate you sharing the link.

There are some books we need to revisit because we appreciate them differently w. older eyes. I put Souls of Black Folks up there on the list of books that folks claim to have read and most certainly have not. His idea of "dual" or "double consciousness" is one of the most misunderstood yet oft discussed concepts in American letters.

drspittle said...

Interestingly enough, Robert Parry posted this today about America's unwillingness to face its past:

Lemaricus_Davidson said...

"This is the failure of national character that made the horrors of bombing and necklacing by Nelson and Winnie Mandela possible."

seeknsanity said...

Very good article,CD. "in its deranged madness," America has committed some of the worst acts of mankind. I'm glad you mentioned action either directly committed, or "inspired" abroad that go back to when everyone was under the impression that we were the beacon of freedom and democracy, and continue to this day. To the world we are not who we think we are.

And when you consider the documents that are now being released after their mandatory hiatus, which I think is designed to prevent any sort of justice being done to recover the effects of bad choices, I don't believe we ever were who we believe we are. Finding out that the most horrific act committed during WWII, the dropping of atomic bombs on cities full of civilians, in a country that they knew was on the brink of surrendering.

We then turned our deranged madness upon the threat of only real competition to our system of "democracy," communism and the idea that people might see it as an attractive alternative to feudal capitalism. Initiating the Cold War with Russia borrowing all of the propaganda techniques of the previous competitor to world domination, Germany and essentially stepping into thier role as imperialists seeking world domination. We've been on a tear since then, sowing dissent whenever countries chose to get cozy with Russia, or when people showed interest in a collective well-being, setting in motion the basis for killing millions of people worldwide. Mostly, people who were otherwise peaceful. The result being, capitalism has killed more people than communism has ever done, with estimates reaching in the six million range.

And we are still at it, in the name of freedom, of course. Witnessing the events unfold in Ukraine, in front of our eyes, and knowing how the targeting of Ukraine was outlined in the Wolfowitz doctrine.

And the how outlined in the current president's foreign policy advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski's book The Grand Chessboard. This man has been shaping foreign policy since President Johnson and the result have gotten us to the point where everyone is on edge of the threat of nuclear war. A threat which is very real because, as we have already demonstrated, at least one party is willing to use them.

Deranged madness.

seeknsanity said...

Would require an opening of the eyes, which are crazy-glued shut with propaganda. They fear it may tear at their eyelids.

kokanee said...

Russell Brand is great! The video was excellent.


Spare the rod,
Spoil the child.
{I learned this nursery rhyme from V for Vendetta.}

Gina said...

Spot on! That's exactly what Alice Miller says in her books: Parents take revenge on their children for the maltreatment they've suffered in their own childhood.

OldPolarBear said...

Thanks. I think the four-paragraph idea sounds very interesting. I deplore the constant pressure for ever more brevity, which is why I mostly don't have much to do with Twitter. But a few short, punchy essays like that could have a lot of impact.