Saturday, November 06, 2010

Security forces

When Oscar Grant III was murdered by an Oakland, California white policeman, the community's explosive reaction was understandable and justifiable. Grant was unarmed and on the ground. Indeed, he was shot in the back. How blatant is that?

Now that his killer has been sentenced to far less--two years--than many of us are sentenced to when we symbolically disarm weapons (my last sentence for cutting down poles that supported a thermonuclear command system was three years in prison and many received longer sentences), the black community and its allies in Oakland are angry indeed. There were 152 arrests when the outraged mob confronted the police on the streets following the sentencing. With "protectors" like the Oakland police, who needs murdering gangs?

Meanwhile, in Congo, more than 600 women and girls were "gang-raped by security forces" for the crime of being refugees in flight from "security forces."

Security? Do armed thugs deserve the term "security" forces? If so, the word security has an oxymoronic definitional issue these days.

It is time to stop relying on police and soldiers to handle conflict, but this would mean taking civil society responsibility for that and doing it nonviolently. The methods of nonviolence are there if civil society is ever interested enough to give it a try. We have learned enough to at least engage in pilot projects--neighborhoods that use civil society de-escalation, mediation, counseling, and other nonviolent sanctions--both positive and negative--and professional relational workers. This is way past warm fuzzy and deeply practical.

How much insecurity do the 'security forces' have to inflict before we are ready to try something innovative, even if only on a small scale experimentally? I would challenge the folks who don't like violence on the part of police and soldiers to think about this. If we see Oakland, California, with a black mayor and black police chief, unable to stop this kind of white cop violence, perhaps the problem goes beyond just race. Perhaps it's the reliance upon others to handle our conflict for us. Perhaps it's giving weapons to people and telling them it's somehow honorable to shoot others or threaten to shoot them. We give away far too much to these people when we do that.

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