Tag: BLM protests

What matters

Problem is that the ‘all lives matter’ response encompasses both the rational assertion that, yeah, all lives matter and the unhinged belief that, systemically and institutionally, all people get the same treatment.
The best response I’ve heard to ‘all lives matter’ is ‘no one needed to be told that *your* life matters’. Spent some time contemplating that idea. Historically, lives have not been ascribed the same value — healers, religious leaders, kings had more value than peasants, criminals, mentally ill, physically ill. Romans enslaved defeated nations and demanded tribute. I’m sure the best hunters in prehistoric tribes got preferential treatment. Academic agreement that all lives matter is fairly modern. It takes time for people’s beliefs and default actions to change.
Strange comparison, but I had a maths professor who had started Uni when electronic calculators first went mainstream. You’d do the problem and, if you had time, use the calculator to check your work. It took years of conditioning to get a “the calculator is going to be right” mindset. By the time he finished his PhD, a lot of people would use the calculator and then check the calculator’s work. He mentioned the story because, by the time I was in Uni, encountering a long addition problem had any student grabbing their calculator instead of a sheet of paper. Default state, over 30 years, had changed. And it would never have occurred to any of us to *check the calculator’s work*. Sounds silly even saying it. Which gives me hope that people’s default actions will eventually actualize the idea that all lives matter.

Concerns About Defunding

A friend asked why phone bank organizers have been encountering liberal suburbanites who are concerned about the ‘defund the police’ movement. Why? Branding! Republicans are particularly good at it, and Democrats are stunningly bad at it. The de- prefix connotes removal and privation. They should use a re- prefix for the “again” connotation instead — reimagine, renovate, even restructure. It’s more difficult to come out against a positive-sounding slogan (think of the difficulty the BLM opponents have). I can explain why the death tax was a good thing, but I’d have to get someone to sit for ten minutes and listen to me. Someone advocating removing inheritance taxes just needs to yell “death tax” really loud. Saying ‘defund the police’ lets someone else say ‘save the police’.
And that encounters a problem of personal perception. There are a lot of people who are lucky enough to only encounter police as helpful public servants (or at least the pleasant/helpful experiences far outweigh the unpleasant one, creating the ‘few bad apples’ argument). Directing traffic when a tree fell across half of the road, cruising by when I was the only car in a park on Tuesday afternoon then letting me borrow a phone because I’d locked myself out of my car and my phone in it, coordinating the effort to return runaway cows to their field while the owner was on holiday, double-checking that my car seat was installed securely, getting in touch with the local business owner whose music was still blasting at 2AM because the employee cranked the outdoor sound system for closing tasks and forgot to shut it off when they left, providing road condition updates in the winter, letting me stop by and ask questions about the car-seat / booster seat regulations in a two-seater automobile, feeding and sheltering the dog someone found running down the street until the owner could stop by the station and pick it up, helping push the cars off to the closest car park after an accident, swinging by my house when a few motion detectors started going active while we were out of town for a weekend, alerting residents that a power line was down / truck in the ditch / multi-car accident on the main road, getting FexEx to stop delivery for an elderly neighbor who was rung up by Great-Nephew Timmy who needs bail money (cash of course) sent to this Nigerian prince (maybe I’m mixing my fraud, but you get the idea) thus returning the chap’s money. That last one? The Police Chief offered, for anyone rcv’ing such a call, that an officer would happily ring up the other police department, confirm the charges, and verify the appropriate way to send bail.
Those are all things I know about the Township police having done in the five years I’ve lived in my current house — many for me personally. No, you shouldn’t assume everyone else has your experience; but your personal experience will inform your beliefs. And I’m happy my tax money is used to offer these services within the community.
Now, if you tell me that you want to restructure the police so there’s not an armed response to pretty much any of those scenarios? That’s a perfectly reasonable idea. Or, from a fiscal conservative’s standpoint, that it would be more cost effective to have some less-credentialed response unit available for non-dangerous situations. Certainly some police action should be eliminated. I used to get stopped just for driving into the “bad neighborhood” in my “nice car” as part of the perpetual war on drugs, and that’s about the nicest race/class profiling interaction you’ll ever hear about. But I’m also fairly unique in my social circle in that I ever had bad interactions with police. I call this the ‘few good apples’ problem — even when someone is aware of systemic problems and abuse, they want to save the good apples that they’ve personally encountered.
There needs to be a pithy phrase that conveys “You will still have someone to ring up if the home automation system says there’s motion in your house while you’re all out at dinner. But you’ll also have someone with mental health experience to ring up when grandma has a manic episode and is brandishing a large butcher knife because she happened to be slicing up a watermelon. You’ll also have someone with social work experience to ring up if your teenage kid runs away from home.”
Because, fortunately or unfortunately, the general public aren’t going to take half an hour and read through a nuanced proposal to address the issue (nor are they apt to put more time into understanding the extent of the problem than the videos they’re encountering in their FB feed). They’re *going* to judge the situation and solutions based on slogans.

The Evolution of Protests

People who have been dealing with police brutality for decades need to be remembered as protests against police violence continue. I could get brutalized for showing up at a protest, but someone with different DNA could get brutalized for walking downtown. But the evolution of BLM protests into protests against police brutality used against protesters and protests against federal policing of American cities are perfectly valid movements too. I see people who had no personal experience with police brutality who joined a protest based on their reaction to the Floyd video got to experience profiling (you’re here with a sign, so must be a violent anarchist out to smash glass), police brutality, and violent over-reactions. Brings to mind the hypothesis that military action in Iraq was a huge recruitment driver for radical groups — people who disliked abstract America policy in a non-violent way experienced that policy as friends and family became collateral damage. And wanted to “do something” to push back.

Although, that may be the point of the BLACK Lives Matter movement — that given two equally valid movements, the one impacting white people hold the nation’s attention while the equally valid concerns from a minority group fall by the wayside.

The New Caravan

Federal agents policing cities is a total campaign-as-reality-show move, just like the caravans were in 2018. Enough legit story there to ensure coverage, attention-getting footage. “The caravans” was a “get out the vote” instead of “appeal to voters” strategy — make sure your voters fear the possibility of loss to ensure they show up. Caravan fear didn’t work well in 2018, so it’s not exactly a fail-proof strategy.
Why didn’t it work? Well, for one — people had bigger concerns. Republicans want to throw my 22-year-old kid off my health insurance, and they promise preexisting conditions aren’t coming back but have no answer for how that becomes financially sustainable to private insurers. Those are really personal concerns, whereas an invasion of caravans was a far more abstract concern.
But the caravans weren’t the boogie monster Trump made them out to be either. There was a pastor in Texas — Gavin Rogers — who spent time traveling with one of the “caravans” that I thought did a really good job of humanizing those refugees. I’m sure there were others, but he had a pretty public media tour and gained a lot of followers. Without having empathy for other people, I can see how Trump couldn’t fathom people having sympathy for refugees … and, yeah, there were some news agencies promoting racist views and villainizing “the caravans” even after stories about people fleeing cartel violence started airing.
In 2020, he’s replacing ‘caravans’ with ‘protesters’ — which seems even less likely to succeed. And not just because employer-based health care amid a pandemic an economic collapse means people have *way* bigger problems than protesters. And that protesters out in the big city are still a fairly abstract concern for the majority of the country. Not to mention voter’s desire for competent disaster response. The protesters seem like they’d be a lot more generally sympathetic than refugees — protesters are Americans, a huge majority of Americans think police brutality is a problem that needs to be addressed. I had a good discussion with an acquaintance a few weeks ago — she didn’t see why sports players had to kneel in protest when there were so many other ways they could have talked about whatever they wanted to talk about. I’m sorry you were uncomfortable, but do you think the message needed to get out there? (And, post George Floyd, she totally thought the message needed to get out there). Those people did try many other ways to communicate the problem. People ignored the protest until the form of protest selected made people uncomfortable. So, evidently they did need to kneel at public sporting events. Maybe protesters today need to destroy some property for people to take notice too.

Renaming Military Bases

If we’re not renaming military bases because Confederate generals are a part of our history (although it will be interesting to see if Trump gets countermanded again) … can we start applying the same “it’s part of history, so we need to remember it” logic when naming new bases (or ships)? The generally abysmal lack of historic knowledge probably requires very specific locations for the names to be meaningful if we go with Revolutionary War figures — Fort Burgoyne in the Satatoga area, maybe rename a naval base with Arbuthnot. And of course we’d need a Fort Arnold. But why ignore the last 150 years? Have a Fort Wilhelm II. Fort Minh. Fort Sandino. Or combine base renaming with current-day diplomacy. I’m sure Kim Jong-un will be honored when we unveil Fort Kim Il-sung. It’s all part of our history, right?

On a tangentially related note … how many people have actually stopped to look at a statue? Read the name on the statue? Read the blurb about the person? Gone home and spent an hour researching the individual? Does the fact a statue exists at Gettysburg mean the general population remembers Francis Channing Barlow? Are we really in danger of forgetting who Robert E Lee was if statues aren’t standing in our parks?

The Eventual Collapse

I’ve often pondered the eventual collapse of civilization — the zombie apocalypse, climate catastrophe, coordinated EMP strikes. Whatever the cause, most people depend on external sources for that which is most critical for life. City water, grocery stores, fuel, climate control systems, clothing stores. How can someone who isn’t a doomsday prepper successfully navigate the change?

I’ve always envisioned a distinct inflection point — one minute there’s a power company, food distribution system, repair services, communication services … then there’s not. But watching the creation of the Chapel Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) … I think this is a glimpse of the future. Short coordinated EMP strikes on a global scale, anything that precipitates the collapse of the government will be slow. And … I’ve always thought a community banding together to pool resources (and build a really big zombie-proof wall) would be the most effective approach. It makes sense that these communities would take over some set of resources they need. Now, I wouldn’t pick the police station. I’d go for lots of land with ample water — preferably a working farm with equipment and animals. Acquire solar, wind mills, battery arrays, and electric motors (need to convert the farm equipment and vehicles to electricity). Shortwave radio. And, if I was particularly lucky, a decent rack of servers.