Curtain Raiser

Hurt & Loathing in America, Colltalers

Racism. Police violence. Guns. Grief. Inequality. Americans have been desperately trying to find the words that’d lend sense to what happened last week. It’s an almost impossible task: it was not just one of its most brutal, but amid all the acrid smell of spilled blood and gunpowder, it also reeked of repetition and escalation.
When Alton Sterling, of Louisiana, and Philando Castille, of Minnesota, both black and unarmed young men, were shot and killed by cops, it ignited a visceral but expected countrywide reaction of anger and disgust. But then, a black Army vet ambushed and killed five Dallas policemen, and suddenly we landed on new territory.
America’s infected, festering wound, which in over two centuries, never quite healed, is once again bleeding, and while racism oozes, society agonizes in pain, trapped in a vicious cycle with no discerning end. Many of us commiserate, grieving either direct or indirectly, over why we’re still stuck in this, even though we know very well why.
For most of us know exactly why and what has to be done to end this madness. But just as we watch hopelessly another unjustifiable killing followed by another massacre, we remain numb and desensitized, convinced that there’s little that can be done, and what there is won’t be probably put into effect, even if hell and high water is all we see.
A self-defeating delusion, to be sure, but one that holds some logic to it, since it’d take more than the proverbial ‘little things’

often invoked by shallow policymakers, as needed to stop the bleeding. For the whole country has to be on the same page about racism, and police bias, and rampant criminality, and disfranchisement, and disconnect.
They were all or in part at full display in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas this past week. Arguably, the worst part of being hurt is to be aware that the best solution to stop it is not even an option. Like the pain of even a flesh-wound gun shot in the arm, which could easily go away if the limb were severed, but who’s ready for that?
So we endure and grieve and regress to basic feelings of anger and frustration, rather than hoping beyond hope that we’ll ever be in the same page about race and class inequality, inclusion and social justice. Thus the reason for that soldier to gave in to fake retribution and revenge, and winding up contributing to more collective misery.
The irony of America acting like a hurt teenager when facing such complex issues is the fact that we often not only lecture the world on exercising magnanimity when dealing with ethnic and social differences, but inflict and make it pay for our own contradictions. No wonder there’s little sympathy from abroad about this particular foe of ours.
Syrians, Iraqis, Palestinians, refugees, migrants, and a whole set of countries and regions that have been forced to host our wars, know that for every flesh wound, there’s a potential escalation into dismemberment and death; that the sound of battles is their only possible lullaby; and that help won’t be forthcoming unless it’s for our best interest.
Given that they’re bound to live with this sense of dread, this ever-present state of mortal danger, a reason for the world’s lack of empathy with our predicament may be the fact that it’s actually baffled by our impotence to heal. For isn’t this the very reason why we spend more than anyone else in defense, so to preserve peace in the homeland?
Instead, even our police departments resemble small armies, and mass killings are now as common and American as baseball and ingenuity once were. We’re searching for the right word, the correct tone, the adequate remedy to what essentially we’ve incorporated as integral to our D.N.A., our M.O.: we shoot, that’s what we do in the U.S.
We come up empty on this one. This post can’t offer comfort to the wounded and their broken social ties, without sounding itself hypocritical. Thus we share the pain. We’re hurting, we need to stop shooting, and there’s no way but down from now on. We know what needs to be done, and it must be done together. A better week to all. WC


2 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. In the U.K. there has been a lot of violent racism over the years. I lived in an area of London where it could be witnessed first hand on the streets on a daily basis. Racism was rife the Metropolitan Police with stop-and-search measures being disproportionately aimed at black youngsters. I also witnessed several riots; it’s hard not to when they’re being played out in the streets below your home. Nevertheless, the violence almost never resulted in death.

    Police officers rarely kill their own citizens in Europe, even though racism has been proved to exist in many forces.

    The racism infecting the general popoulation on this side of the Atlantic might just as well be termed xenophobia in many regions, as it is spreading across the racial divide. This is often exploited by cynical politicians on the make. Far from being exclusive to white communities it now infects some long-term Asian and Carribean immigrants and their descendants, who have begun to express the desire to put a cap on immigration. This also explains part of the unexpected result of Brexit.

    Often poor and underprivileged, these rapidly-evolving communities have a point, but many fail to see a larger picture developing. Their ire is chiefly directed against Poles and other Eastern Europeans, who they see as flooding a tightening labour market forcing down wages and creating more unemployment in an overcrowded labour market. And so has it always been.

    When all’s said and done, there’s only one big difference between the U.S. and many European nations that counts. As far as the massive difference in kill rate is concerned, it is simply to do with the fact that most Europeans are not obsessed with gun ownership in the way too many Americans are. Added to that, European police forces genuinely seem to have far better training in the lowering of tensions and the use of firearms in potentially dangerous situations. Flooding an area with heavily-armed, trigger-happy robocops hardly seems like it was designed to get people on your side. But we are seeing armies of robocops taking over our streets, even here, on occasion.

    It’s a very sad situation that is even giving me second thoughts about travelling to the U.S. later this year, and I used to travel to Turkish Kurdistan regualrly in the mid-1980s when Kurdish rebels were kidnapping Westerners. Though I realise the chances of becoming a victim are slight, like water in the desert, the value of life grows in direct proportion to how much of it one has left.

    The people of Europe do care very much about what happens in the U.S. as our cultures and economies are inextricably tied for the foreseeable future. Whether we like it, as individuals, or not.

    Have a great week, Wesley. And you were right; whether on the field or off it, Ronaldo proved his worth.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Colltales says:

      You’re so right about robocops and highly armed security forces taking the role of policing, and the fact that Europe has shown more restrain than the U.S. dealing with B& W racism. This far from ideal balance however is also endangered by the political adventure the U.K. far right has engaged in, and we haven’t seen all the potential (negative) developments that this may cause. Gerry Adams, on a NYTimes Op-Ed today, mentions its possible impact on the Good Friday Agreement. Racism, xenophobia, state of urban war, the West seems to be turning back the clock to colonial times, and as crazy as those times were, such obscurantism will arrest the remainder of feeble political stability that exists in the world today. Btw, that future European Parliament member, C.Ronaldo, I believe his name is, has dedicated Portugal Euro title to refugees today. Cheers

      Liked by 2 people

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