FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Volatile America

In a flash I thought, oh God, the civil war has started.

Then the headlines shifted and, for the moment, “normalcy” returned. It’s a Trump-sated normalcy that’s anything but, of course, and the most recent heavily reported violence (at least as I write these words) — the murder of three police officers in Baton Rouge — blends into the endlessly simmering turmoil known as the United States of America.

And the civil war, in fact, started long ago. But until recently, only one side has been armed and organized. That’s why the two latest police killings, by disciplined, heavily armed former military men, loose a terrifying despair. The victims are fighting back — in the worst way possible, but in a way sure to inspire replication.

When people are armed and outraged, the world so easily collapses into us vs. them. All complexity vanishes. People’s life purpose clarifies into a simplistic certainty: Kill the enemy. Indeed, sacrifice your life to do so, if necessary. I fear this is still the nation’s dominant attitude toward its troubles. We’re eating ourselves alive.

One way this is happening was described in a recent New York Times story, headlined: “Philando Castile Was Pulled Over 49 Times in 13 Years, Often for Minor Infractions.” Castile, who as the world knows was shot and killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop on July 6, was a young man caught in a carnivorous system pretty much all his adult life. Every time he started his car, he risked arrest for “driving while black.” The Times quotes a Minneapolis public defender, who described Castile as “typical of low-income drivers who lose their licenses, then become overwhelmed by snowballing fines and fees.” They “just start to feel hopeless.”

The story goes on: “The episode, to many, is a heartbreaking illustration of the disproportionate risks black motorists face with the police . . . The killings have helped fuel a growing national debate over racial bias in law enforcement.”

A growing national “debate”? Oh, the politeness! How much racism should we allow the police to show before we censure them? It’s like talking about the “debate” we used to have over the moral legitimacy of lynching.

Here’s Gavin Long’s contribution to the “debate”: “One hundred percent of revolutions, of victims fighting their oppressors, from victims fighting their bullies, one hundred percent have been successful through fighting back through bloodshed. Zero have been successful through simply protesting. It has never been successful and it never will.”

Long, the former Marine, who served a tour of duty in Iraq, shot and killed three police officers in Baton Rouge on July 17, 10 days after Micah Johnson, the former Army Reservist, who served a tour in Afghanistan, shot and killed five police officers in Dallas.

America, America . . .

What we have here is a toxic mixture of racism and militarism and guns. We’re in the midst of an endless war against evil — or terror, or whatever — in the Middle East, a war that has pretty much been fought by low-income recruits who see military service as a way out of poverty. This war is a planet-wrecking disaster, though the raw horror created by our bombs and missiles overseas remains largely outside U.S. public awareness. Fifteen years in, it’s simply “war” — the background noise of American greatness. The consequences are somebody else’s problem.

For instance, this sort of news, as reported earlier this week on Common Dreams, hardly makes it into the debate:

“Dozens of civilians, including children, were killed on Monday and Tuesday by U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria.

“The strikes appeared to have been a mistake, with the civilians taken for Islamic State (IS or ISIS) militants, the U.K.-based human rights group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group told the AFP news agency.

“Fifty-six civilians were killed on Tuesday by coalition forces, and 21 civilians were killed by the coalition on Monday. The 77 civilian deaths included at least 11 children.”

But they’re not Americans, so such deaths just aren’t that important to us.

Indeed, the war — and the trillions of dollars it costs — go virtually unmentioned in the surreal race for the presidency that’s currently underway. Also unmentioned is the fact that the war is being brought home to our gun-saturated society by former soldiers fighting back against racist policing the way soldiers always fight back: They’re killing “the enemy.”

The potential volatility of this barely noticed situation is enormous. If protesters decide to arm themselves as they confront heavily armed police, the violence on both sides could morph into civil war.

The only defense against this is awareness, respect and disarmed openness on all sides of the conflict — openness of the sort that took place this past Sunday in Wichita, Kansas. On the same day, coincidentally, as the police killings in Baton Rouge, members of Black Lives Matter and the Wichita police department co-sponsored what they called a “First Steps Cookout”: an outdoor party with “free food — provided by the police, the community, and local businesses — and the opportunity to have open conversations with law enforcement,” according to Huffington Post. Nearly a thousand people attended.

This is what takes courage: to get to know your “enemy.” I know at the deepest level of my being that we can walk together toward such awareness. This is the only chance we have to disarm our volatile future.

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail