Stop the U.S. of Lyncherdom, Colltalers
‘Get your knees off our necks.‘ The eloquence of Rev. Al Sharpton’s eulogy of George Floyd, choked to death by a white Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day, was appropriate to match the public horror about his death. Hundreds of thousands across the U.S. and the world marched in protest.
The massive 11-day rallies are not only a response to the horrifying 8:46min video of Floyd’s killing but also a demand for change, redress, renewal of our tenets as human beings. Not surprisingly, the police behaved badly all along, arresting and beating people up. So now there’s talk of defunding it.
The crowd also paid respects to Breonna Taylor, whose 27th birthday was Friday, and countless of young black lives cut short by police brutality and cruel social inequality now reigning in the U.S. Breonna, an African-American medical technician, was shot by police at her own home in the middle of the night, mistaken by someone already in custody. And then there are all the people of color who face daily the wrath of white supremacists.
The grief also brings up our desperate need to comprehend the magnitude of what’s happening for 400 years. The toxic legacy of slavery boils up again about the disproportional number of COVID-19 fatalities among minorities, biased laws, overcrowded jails, prison-for-profit, police unions, restitution, and, yes, police defunding. In four decades, wages, safety nets, health, and education budgets got all savagely slashed. But not the funding for security.
American police forces today act like armies and there’s always a tragedy in the wake of their street deployments. And a crucial reason for such status quo is rarely mentioned in the same sentence, or articles about it: defense budgets. If city and state budgets prioritize police over community building and other badly needed social reforms, it’s almost redundant to remind everyone that the U.S. military budget surpasses entire groups of nations.
That includes billions of dollars allocated yearly to weapon makers, military equipment suppliers, intelligence, and especially, defense contractors, the expression that replaced the word ‘mercenary’ in the crooked lexicon of Pentagon insiders. Now, these
agents spent millions scouring the world for potential conflicts to which sell their wares. Until recently, there seemed to be no limit for what they’d do to promote just that: wars, small and large.
But even they could see that there’s actually a limit and we probably already reached it circa 2001. That perceived diminished demand had no impact on arms production, though. After all, the funding for today’s continuing development and manufacturing of sophisticated weaponry may’ve been set over 10 years ago. So, what do to with this expensive surplus of rifles, tanks, bullets, handguns, ‘legal’ chemical gases, and such: sell it to the police.
And that’s why talk about defunding police has to be in synch with cuts in federal budgets dating back from the 1990s. So, while state and municipalities make sure their local police forces destroy the unappropriate tools they were given to fight traffic violations, for Pete’s sake, Congress has to show the cojones needed to get it done. It’s complicated but absolutely crucial. Will it happen? Of course not, not now anyway. But it’s worth the fight about it.
As a demographics, African-Americans, and people of color could hit the streets every day for the next 20 years demanding what was taken from them long ago, what used to be called the American Dream. And organize. And vote for people that will have a place at the table with the powers that be. But it won’t be enough; we know who’ll stand against it to defend their privilege. We’ll need a bigger boat but with another president as its captain.
Speaking of which, with due respect to President Obama, a man whose arousing and brilliant oratory was never matched by radical actions, he should sit this one out if he’s not coming out to protest. He’s more valuable behind the scenes turning the Joe Biden candidacy into something meaningful.
What we need is grassroots efforts of countless groups dedicated to human rights and social reform, the Women’s Movement leadership, organizations fighting for climate change action, antigun groups, all aiming at getting a seat at that table. Black Lives Matter is an American cause: it’s essential to the survival of our democracy just as climate action is for mankind’s survival. No armed-to-the-teeth police force can beat these issues into submission.
For now though, as curfews are being lifted and a misguided order to reopen the economy goes into effect, as global cases of coronavirus cross the seven million mark, with hundreds more and their implicit fatalities expected to increase, the police will have the momentary reign. It’ll continue to oppress rather than protect Americans, using military antics to dispel peaceful protests, and, naturally, going after reporters and journalists.
Just as the NYTimes published a list of black people killed by the police on its front cover, Bellingcat, an investigative online forum, accused U.S. law enforcement of deliberately targeting journalists during protests against police brutality. Reporters were shot with rubber bullets, hit, assaulted, sprayed with tear gas, and arrested, all for doing their job. Remember the bit about democracy being under siege? there isn’t one without freedom of the press.
The world keeps spinning around; we are the ones stuck with hate that defies comprehension and challenges our self-attributed ‘democratic spirit.’ But there’s no room in this newsletter to cover even the highlights of what afflicts us. For instance, in Brazil, apart from a reduction of 14% of the Amazon Rainforest due to President Bolsonaro’s policies, there’s now a threat of widespread genocide of indigenous populations contaminated by COVID-19.
Just as solar, wind, and other renewable sources have toppled coal production in the U.S. for the first time in over 130 years, the president has relaxed regulations allowing commercial fishing in marine sanctuaries. It wasn’t a sneaky attack: he’s been doing that for years, climate emergency be damned.
Friday was also the 76th anniversary of D Day, the fateful sacrifice of thousands of American, British and Australian troops to land in Normandy and start the final cavalcade that ended WWII. And while the illiterate leader of the free world promised to go after ‘Antifa terrorists’ supposedly abetting protesters – which is not true, according to the FBI – someone had to remind him that it stands for Anti-Fascism, the scourge the U.S. helped defeat.
In fact, it was a sitting U.S. president, Ike Eisenhower, who founded Antifa in 1945. And if it was involved at all in the Floyd protests, it’d be doing the exact job for which it was created: to fight the threat of Fascism. They’ve thought they’d beat it but the beast’s back and it has now a White House ally.
In 1901, after witnessing a lynching followed by the carnage of hundreds of African-Americans in Pierce City, MO, hunted down and killed by white citizens, the great Mark Twain wrote ‘The United States of Lyncherdom,’ a devastating indictment of his contemporaries. But despite being at the time the most celebrated American writer, Twain thought it over and ended up not publishing his essay, something his biographers say he bitterly regretted.
When it came out, 13 years after his death, it lacked the authority of being spoken by a living legend. Twain’s humanity is beyond reproach. But let’s not repeat his error: let’s keep flooding media and the Internet with true tales of oppression told by those whose lives were snapped out by a murderous police knee or bullet. We’re witnesses, participants and architects of our time here. It’s up to us to make it better. So put your mask on and join the resistance. WC