Fear Makes Enemies from Allies

The purpose of terror is to affect disproportionate change, to enlist emotions in recruiting unnecessary armies

Advertisements

The world is a complicated place.

Freddie Gray dies in the back of a police van after being picked up for nothing. No one is seemingly held accountable. Maryland a black state attorney, Baltimore has a black mayor, a substantial minority presence in their police force, a majority-minority city council, and has basically been run by local Democrats for fifty+ years.
 
There are issues here of accountability, but they run all over the place. If they belong to any political party, they belong to the local Democrats. They certainly appear to transcend easy racial narratives on the side of any oppressor, though personally I find it easy enough to imagine the state being a tool of minority/poor oppression regardless of who’s in charge.
We know that, for example, police use of force is disproportionately applied to minorities. There’s some ongoing discussion of shootings – most research indicates a bias, there’s at least one recent study (though only examining incidents in Houston) which counter that conclusion – but personally I think it’s enough to point out that minorities get beat more often than whites in similar incidences to say that there’s smoke.
But what now?
The panacea of “better government” is not enough. Government is, by-and-large, a manifestation of society at large and for good reason. The downside is that transformation in government comes after transformation in society at large, and American society at large is struggling with itself: Black Lives Matter against All Lives Matter, awareness of the state’s largely out-of-sight minority oppression against a struggle to maintain deference to law and order. The good news is that the civil rights movements of the 60s were decried in their time for being disruptive, and that Black Lives Matter being considered similarly is at least a reminder that struggles can tip quickly.
The new, ugly wrinkle in all of this is the string of murders of police officers.That is the wedge, the worst fears of All Lives Matter come to manifest, an erosion of the ideal that it is possible to be both aware of the minority experience of the state’s violence and power, as well as aware that minority and poor communities in general require the help and aid of police. Just as any kind of terror attack is designed to drive rifts between populations, to make estranged allies and neutral parties into enemies, these shootings are terror attacks. If they work, they will erode the social capital required for change, and everyone will come out lesser.
I hope it doesn’t go that way.

Freddie Gray’s death: an “oops”

In America a system can kill and no one can be found accountable

No one has yet been found guilty for the death of Freddie Gray.

Once upon a time, it was generally held that the Nuremberg defense – that you were merely following orders – was inadequate. Today, the question of a system’s failings and how that system’s members can avoid responsibility seems to be answered with Alfred E Neuman defense: “I was oblivious”. Ignorance of the consequences of your actions is apparently sufficient.

The charges were: second-degree depraved-heart murder, second-degree assault, manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct. I personally thought that the depraved-heart murder charge was never going to fly, but how can reckless endangerment not stick? A man goes into a van under the protective custody of the police and comes out with a severed spine. The particulars of the case are even worse: Gray is loaded into a van without breaking any laws, is injured at some point, and eventually is rendered comatose.

The full decision is here and I’m pretty disappointed: “Seemingly, the State wants this Court to simply
assume that because Mr. Gray was injured, and the
defendant failed to seat belt him after stop 2, allegedly
ran a stop sign, and made a wide right turn, that the
Defendant intentionally gave Mr. Gray a rough ride. As
the trier of fact, the Court cannot simply let things
speak for themselves.” The judge then proceeds to lay out that hey, no one actually checked this guy asking for a hospital well enough to know he was injured and then he ended up dead, and everybody thought it was okay to not have a seat belt on him despite, you know, asking for a hospital after being found on the damn floor of the van, and even if they did check him he went from okay to literally shifting himself, and all of that is okay because no one at any time actually put any effort into checking on Gray.

That’s literally the reasoning: no one did a damn thing to actually figure out if any of this was okay, so it was okay. Ignorance is not just bliss, it’s also apparently a good defense if you’re a police department who arrests an innocent man and kills him while he’s in your custody. No one could’ve known Gray was injured, no one really needed to belt him in, no one could’ve known he was going to die, and nothing proved the rough ride occurred.

Law is not justice. I get that. And the prosecution indeed didn’t prove that it was a rough ride that killed Freddie Gray rather than a freak accident. But the circumstances around Freddie Gray’s death seem, like so many things as of late, to have no one held accountable. We live in an era where “mistakes were made” is more and more an unassailable defense for the privileged. Banks can defraud, but no person is charged. A war can be started, but no one was held to be at fault. A man can die after being rounded up by the cops, and no one is responsible.

Trust of institutions in America are at an all-time low, and this is why. No one is ever at fault, it seems.