Ray Rice, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, and his wife, Janay, have been all over every kind of news site this week. An achingly violent video released by the gossip channel TMZ has again vaulted domestic violence to the fore of cultural discussion.
I have already heard people who have seen the video say they wish they had not seen it. Others say they do not want to see it. One thing is apparent: you will not be able to unsee it once you choose to hit play.
Edging around this conversation, however, is the oft missed reality of domestic abuse with the husband as the battered spouse. If battered wives is the abuse we do not talk about, battered husbands is the abuse we do not admit.
Tragic news hit this week over the death of a shooting instructor. A 9-year old girl at a shooting range was allowed to handle a fully automatic Uzi machine gun. Unable to control it, she ended up shooting her instructor to death.
I am a gun owner and a supporter of the second amendment. I am not convinced fully that the right to bear arms is limited to militias. Having an armed citizenry is a good start in protecting ourselves from whomever might unwisely take it upon themselves to mess with us.
In the wake of Ferguson one thing that stands out to me is the difficulty many white Americans have empathizing with the plight of the urban poor, especially those in the black community. “That’s terrible” or “I wish something could be done” soon give way to frustrations about Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. Then so much talk of “thugs” and “gang bangers.”
If Americans are smart—a condition with which we seem rarely afflicted these days—the single word “Ferguson” will join the lexicon of terms indicating a significant change or challenge in race relations in the United States. “Brown vs Board of Education,” “The Voting Rights Act,” “The Rodney King Riots,” and “Amadou Diallo” should gain company.
Another tragic death of a black American man, demonstrations, riots, looting, devastated parents, and a grieving community. Then, questions about aggressive law enforcement tactics.
The first time I became truly self-aware of being a member of the white race (not just a white guy) was when I visited Africa in 1995. My mission team had been dropped off in a town to do evangelism, but two of the team were being driven to another area for reasons I don’t remember.
So I stood on the side of the road in this small Kenyan town with only black skin in every direction. Except mine. The object of some curiosity, I wondered if it was how a black man in 1950s South Georgia might have felt. Minus the racial slurs and potential lynching, of course. I was not merely white, I was the sole white. And did I ever stick out.
The recent killing of an unarmed black teen by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer has sparked outrage in the community of 21,000. Initial reports stated that 18-year old Michael Brown and a friend were walking down the middle of a street when an as-of-yet unnamed policeman asked or ordered them to move to the sidewalk. Some kind of altercation ensued between Brown and the officer.
Witness reports at this time as to how the altercation started conflict. Another man from the community, Dorian Johnson, claims to have been with Brown at the time of the shooting. The most recent witness to come forward is 27-year old Tiffany Mitchell, who did not see the run-up but claims to have cell phone video of the altercation and of the shooting (that video has not been released as of yet).
The testimonies of both Mitchell and Johnson seem identical, however, in describing the scuffle as beginning through the window of the police vehicle (Johnson says the office reached out and grabbed Brown first around the neck, then by the arm), when the shots were fired (at least one from inside the car, and the fatal shots outside the car), and how the unarmed Brown with hands raised was ultimately shot to death in the middle of a community street.
The question in Ferguson is “Why?” Why does a cop shoot an unarmed man to death? Why does the police force arrest reporters “for their own safety” when those reporters are not in danger from anyone expect the police themselves? Why are police indiscriminately firing rubber bullets and tear gas at reporter and residents? (Language warning.)
But there are deeper “why” questions that must be asked and answered before more Mike Browns and Ezell Fords are stacked up on the sides of the road like cord wood.
Why are the police acting as if martial law has been declared?
Why are they lying to the press and arresting members of the same?
Why are the police trying to illegally suppress filming of their actions?
Why are the results of Brown’s autopsy being delayed indefinitely?
Why is the police force in a town of 21,000 militarized with armored personnel carriers?
Why are multiple automatic weapons in the hands of the police trained on a single black male on the sidewalk? Read that article and look at the photos very carefully. Maybe someone should kindly inform the police of the lack of suicide bomber history in the ‘hood.
Here is a simple answer to the why questions: The “War on Drugs” in the 1970s leads to a trillion dollars of expenses to eliminate trafficking and use of illegal drugs. This leads to the empowerment of the cartels which leads to more violence. More violence leads to more money spent by the U.S. government and more sophisticated means of combating the cartels. Police forces feel they must up their ability to combat the more sophisticated cartels. That cycle continues to this day.
Into the mix through a 10+ year long war for which weapons of all kinds are steadily manufactured for overseas use. Police forces become the recipients of free or cut-price ex-military equipment; at least the ones not left behind to be used by the Islamic State. Small-town police departments now have SWAT teams and tactical units, once the domain of state police or urban centers like LA and NY.
(This is barely to mention the hiring of less qualified officers. As a former-sheriff’s department friend once told me, “Forces are hiring guys now they would not have hired 20-25 years ago. These guys just want a license to beat and hurt people.” Another source in state law enforcement told me of the rife corruption in local departments in the state he served.)
Why Ferguson? Start with the “War on Drugs,” go through the War on Terror, revisit the shredding of the Constitution, and the contempt with which young, black males are treated in many urban areas. There you’ll find Ferguson.
Also check this photo essay compiled by Paul Szondra from Business Insider. It appears we are becoming Ukraine.
Nothing in this post should be construed as a broadside against honest, hard working police officers across America who put their lives on the line to protect and to serve. There are thousands upon thousands of them.Read More »
In light of Robin Williams tragic death Monday morning, here are three really solid articles on depression and suicide. I encourage you to read them when you can.
Ultra right-wing pundit Ann Coulter has long made her living saying and writing shocking things. Long has her support base included conservatives who, I can only surmise, have grown accustomed to the stench of the sewer.
It happens every day. It happens all the time.
Talk show hosts and political columnists are masters of it. It is their stock-in-trade.
Editors do it with headlines and titles of articles of posts designed to elicit something greater than interest.
It’s called fear-mongering.
If you are just starting this series you may want to start with Part 1, which kicks off Millennials, religion and culture and Part 2, which deals with things important to Millennials.
In order to categorize the changes I think are necessary to attract younger people, I’m going to borrow from my pastor: he states that at our church our Christology (our view of Christ) informs our Missiology (how we deal with the world outside our doors), and those two come together to form our Ecclesiology (how we do church). Those are listed in order of importance, with our view of Christ being first and foremost. Much of what you see here will be a reflection of what I see at my church (we average around 1,300 people every Sunday and our median age is below 30) in comparison to what I’ve seen at other churches where I’ve been a member in the past.