January 9, 2015
My brother once quipped, “The great thing about being a Leftist is never having to say you’re sorry.” He was talking about the propensity of those who erroneously describe themselves as “liberals” to endlessly pat themselves on the back for their allegedly grand intentions, while conveniently ignoring the actual consequences of their failed policies. As P.J. O’Rourke observed, “People who are truly committed to government exhibit the same dull self-satisfaction and slightly vapid peace of mind as do devout churchgoers.” True that.
The great Albert Jay Nock had his own unique take on the matter. In his Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, he noted that, “I had rather encounter rattlesnakes, – far rather, – for the rattlesnake is a gentlemanly fellow who can be relied on to do the right thing, if you give him half a chance. I have had dealings with him in my time, and also with the Liberals, and I speak from knowledge.”
So it is with their philosophical offspring, the Neo-Conservatives. Like their parent, the so-called “progressive movement,” Neo-Cons enjoy meddling – a lot – particularly in the backyards of foreigners. If said foreigners don’t care for the way they’re treated, they’re labelled terrorists and bombed into the Stone Age. When they grow tired of that, and start making things difficult for the Neo-Cons by acting with the same kind of savage disregard for human rights and decency displayed by those who always justify their own monstrous actions by reference to human rights and decency (those grand intentions on display, once more), the “exceptional” people of the West always seem so completely, utterly surprised.
King George III would have been right at home in today’s political climate. After he acted with a complete disregard for the rights of his American subjects, they started to get a bit uppity. He responded with coercion, force, and, ultimately, invasion. Henry Ellis, former Governor of Georgia and adviser to the Grenville Ministry, called the colonists’ jealousy of their freedom ”insolent licentiousness,” a position most assuredly seconded by the King himself: In his Royal Proclamation of August 23, 1775, he chastised those ungrateful troublemakers who had forgotten “the allegiance which they owe to the power that has protected…them,” calling on his loyal officers “to exert their utmost endeavours to suppress such rebellion, and to bring the traitors to justice.”
We’re reminded here of the abiding Leo Tolstoy, who wrote,“I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible….except by getting off his back.”
When things don’t work out, blame the victim. Certainly never – ever – take a look at yourself, or your actions.
Introspection is a virtue rarely employed by the authoritarian.
In the weeks following a grand jury decision to not indict police officers involved in the chokehold death of an unarmed man selling untaxed cigarettes in New York last summer, protesters, politicians, and civil rights leaders across the country have spoken passionately and forcefully against police abuse. Sadly, they, like the president and his attorney general, have focused too much on race in these cases – conveniently ignoring the many instances of unarmed whites being gunned down by cops or when the cops shooting unarmed people are non-whites themselves – but their anger is justified, and understandable: People are increasingly sick and tired of being treated like serfs by thugs with badges. The Eric Garner case, and too many others like it, have lead to a much-needed debate about police belligerence and, even more terrifying, the militarization of police departments around the country aided by the helping hand of the federal government.
Last Saturday that rage boiled over. A man named Ismaaiyl Brinsley assassinated two police officers, gunning them down as they sat in their patrol car in New York City, before taking his own life. The Washington Times reports that before the shooting, “The gunman…wrote on social media that he intended to kill cops and was deeply angry about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were killed by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York, respectively, earlier this year.” (Early the following morning, a man shot and killed a police officer in Tarpon Springs, Florida, but the motive for this is not immediately clear.)
According to the NYC police union, the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, blame for these police officers’ deaths should be laid at the feet of Mayor Bill de Blasio and others who have been speaking out against police brutality. PBA president Patrick Lynch said, “There’s blood on many hands” and it “starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor” and runs right up to “Those that incited violence…under the guise of protest.” After a member of the Cleveland Browns football team walked onto the field wearing a shirt protesting the shooting of an unarmed 12-year-old boy – and following the release of a Justice Department report revealing that Cleveland police officers ”engage in excessive force far too often” (!) – Jeffrey Folmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association, grunted and mumbled almost incoherently through an interview wherein he described non-violent protest as “disrespectful.”
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton made an unveiled threat to today’s malcontents who fail to properly maintain “the allegiance which they owe to the power that has protected…them” [sic] when he announced that investigators are looking into the possibility that Ismaaiyl Brinsley may have attended anti-police demonstrations and rallies – a move sure to have a chilling effect on future displays of public displeasure. Fox News reports that civil rights leaders fear a backlash and “police union officials and politicians [have] accused protesters of fanning anti-police fervor and contributing to the atmosphere that got the officers killed.”
The problem, we’re to believe, isn’t cops routinely acting like soldiers in a war zone – a particularly baffling disposition, especially when we consider that crime is steadily falling in this country, and has been for some time, and that the occupation of police officer is actually less dangerous than than that of loggers, fishermen, pilots, roofers, structural iron and steel workers, trash collectors, power-line installers and maintenance workers, truck drivers, farmers, ranchers, construction laborers, and firefighters, and about as dangerous as driving a taxi – but instead the problem is those who insist on drawing attention to police misconduct.
Mayor de Blasio caved to the pressure: The Associated Press reported on December 22 that he is calling for a temporary suspension of protests.
A witness told the Daily Beast that after Saturday’s shooting, ”A lot of people were clapping and laughing. Some were saying, ‘They deserved it,’ and another was shouting at the cops, ‘Serves them right because you mistreat people!’” Outside Woodhull Hospital, where the officers’ bodies were taken, a passerby called police “A bunch of killers,” and a crowd that gathered near the crime scene could be heard shouting, “F&*k the cops.”
Such callous displays of animosity are the bitter fruit harvested from a field of rage. Robert Wenzel, writing for the Economic Policy Journal, called the NYC police officer shootings an act of “domestic blowback.”
The anger [of young black males] is real, though generally misdirected. The problem is not racial but government oppression. Curiously, this anger is now being directed, though a bit in a confused manner, at the first line enforcers of government regulations, the police. It is, for all practical purposes, blowback against the government rules and regulations that have created a toxic brew of failure and anger among many black youth.
They experience the first line enforcers on a regular basis. They don’t understand the deep nature of the rules and regulations that are causing their plight, but they do know the police are on the opposite side of the plight, pushing them, stopping them, frisking them and arresting them. And thus the anger at the police.
The anger among black youth probably can be charted in the form of some kind of bell curve, with few actually wanting to kill coppers and willing to execute the killings[.] But there probably are a few – the exact number unknown.
The executions yesterday of two NYPD officers by Ismaaiyl Brinsley shows us that the tail end of the curve is not empty.
Watching and experiencing the continued brutality and oppressiveness of police, some people will take their protest beyond the realm of peaceful disagreement and into the arena of violence. After the Bloody Sunday rampage in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in 1972, when soldiers gunned down twenty-six unarmed civil rights protesters (killing fourteen of them), the Irish poet Thomas Kinsella wrote of the British government, ”You push us to your own extremes.” If government fails to rein in the hyper-aggressive and too-often deadly attitude that many police officers bring into their relationship with those they’re meant to serve and protect, we will probably see more of these retaliatory killings. Blaming the victims of police violence, and those who demand justice for these victims, is no substitute for ending police violence against the citizenry.