Sunday, December 21, 2014

Violent ones! You got your wish--and it will hurt the movement tragically

Since the terrible gunning down of young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last summer, I've been arguing against those who increasingly call for "armed self defense" against police violence and for similar strands of argument for justified retaliatory violence when cops act like thugs and murder African Americans. At each occasion, I have been scorned by those who equate nonviolence with passivity. Often, but not always, those heaping ridicule have been young white males. I believe that they believe themselves to be superior allies to African Americans who have suffered so much injustice for so long.

I also believe they don't have a strategic thought in their heads. I get the emotional flare up when we can watch the thugs calling themselves NYPD choke an unarmed family man to death, on film, no indictment. The compound crimes beg for justice.

Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley
Was the benighted man who just executed two NYPD officers and then took his own life acting in the belief that he would be lionized by the movement that has been in the streets of virtually all American cities in the past weeks and months? Did he think he was acting in their name? Apparently.
The slain police officers: Rafael Ramos, 40, left, and Wenjian Liu, 32. CreditNew York Police Department

Brinsley, the shooter, sent out an Instgram message, “I’m putting wings on pigs today … They take 1 of ours. Let’s take 2 of theirs.”

Knowing what this will do, Al Sharpton, the families of both Eric Garner and Michael Brown all denounced the murder.

So, those who have been calling for such violence against police have their wish now. Last evening I was out with many hundreds of others first in an African American church and then in the rain on a long walk to the site where Kendra James, a young unarmed African American mother of two was mercilessly shot down and allowed to bleed to death by Portland police 11 years ago. The national movement has fed into the local movement and now I wonder what will happen.

Certainly the cops nationwide now have far more sympathy from the public, who are instantly made grateful for the cops who protect them, by the cops who come to work prepared to risk their lives, and now in the fresh memory of two cops--neither of them white--who have been slaughtered while sitting in their patrol car. Cops in New York city have already declared war and the consequences will be predictably nasty for regular folks, including those who have been demonstrating against police violence. It is going to get ugly fast there, much more violent, and the public will allow it much more than they have. These murders, done in the name of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, may destroy a movement. We shall see.

Those who have been calling for this now have their wish. I wonder if they are well satisfied? If they never actually cared whether a movement succeeded or not, I suppose this feels thrilling to them--their rhetoric, no doubt, inspired the killer. As someone with two African American sons and as someone who has been working on these issues for a long time, I remain deeply opposed to violence on any and all sides for any and all reasons. All violence backfires. The backfire against a largely nonviolent movement is commencing and those who have advocated for violence have much to answer for.


Timothy Martin Flanagan said...

“The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice does not exempt you from acting in what you sincerely and reflectively hold to be the best interests of your community.”
― Susan Sontag

Fortunately, the world is not divided between the violent and and the nonviolent. The human condition includes a whole glorious profusion... a continuum between love and hate, violence and nonviolence, peace and war, ignorance and truth.

The pretense that any who choose to defend themselves are violent, may certainly be accepted by Quakers or other sorts... but sometimes in the course of human events, reality intercedes.

“I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
― Malcolm X

Self-defense certainly matters. Only a rank fool would have stood by and allowed Adolph HItler to continue with his slaugher of innocents. At a certain point
one has to choose between surrendering to violence or standing up for justice.

When cops are thugs who murder, rape and torture at will... they must be stopped. And they will not stop because we hope so. We must hold them accountable. They must be arrested, indicted and do the time for their crimes.

And if they enter my home and threaten me or my family, they will certainly be met with active resistance instead of surrender.

“We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant
in its evil.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

The nutcase who shot two cops had nothing to do with the new civil rights movement afoot in America. He had more in common with the gangs of thugs in blue with badges... who beat on citizens and murder at will because they can. He was sick. To pretend he was anything more is ingenuous.
His crimes were his own.

This is no time for fingerpointing or playing the blame game. We are up against an armed force who are backed by corrupt officials and the corporate press.

We must continue to fight the
good fight, organizing resistance, marching, holding rallies, and defending ourselves when or if that becomes necessary.

No fear, no compromise and no surrender. Values matter and we must not become part of any sort of surrender to fascism.

~Tim Flanagan, editor, writer
and semi-retired educator...

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it,
and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old
age, we are thereby ripping
the foundations of justice
from beneath new generations.”

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Tom H. Hastings said...

Lots of quotes, but not a single bit in your comment that addresses the actual strategic points of my blog post. Your analysis is a lot of bluster--what you are going to do to the cops who come in your home. Good grief. That has zero salience to the strategic path I'm trying to discuss. You say "the nutcase" who executed two cops had nothing to do with the movement. Tell that to the cops. Tell that to the average American. That is my point. People like you rant on about using violence and you are shocked when you are held accountable when, guess what, someone does. You call yourself a peace person but your analysis is pure reactionary leftwing tedium. The standard analysis of you and your ilk is the same same same choice that mainstream media frames for the American voter; Do you want to use violence or just surrender? Violence is a morally, ethically, and strategically poor choice, every single time.

annemm said...

You're buying into the same flawed logic as the NY policeman's union who have taken the opportunity of their colleagues' death to declare war on peaceful protestors. What causality is there between anti-police rhetoric and this man's actions? Others want to draw a straight line from nonviolent anti-police brutality protest and this man's actions using the same reasoning. How do you account for Brinsley shooting his girlfriend? Was that inspired by the overzealous whites allies of Blacks? We don't know whether he was crazy, ill, bad or angry. It's a further stretch to say that a certain group of people incited him to attempted murder and murder.

Tom H. Hastings said...

I'm buying into no such logic and you overlook two things (both of which are covered in my blog post).

One, there have been many calling for violence against police, either in self defense or in retaliation. Obviously, any reasonable observer will say those are the minority voices, the fewer, but they certainly documentably exist and need to be confronted if the movement is to grow.

Two, the shooter not only clearly resonated with those who called for violence, he used the plural when he Instagramed his intentions. "I will" is radically different from "Let's."

The movements which have achieved serious public policy change have almost always first changed public discourse by earning sympathy and recruiting participation. A movement which tolerates big talk of violent retribution invites rejection by mainstream society and opens itself to charges of incitement, if not complicity, with such horrific events as this shooting.

Kelly said...

I am stunned that both Timothy Martin Flanagan, and annemm are both not only condoning violence, but actively working to incite more violence in the comments of a nonviolence blog and post.

This is a tragic loss of human life period. The lack of compassion and empathy is astounding.

The only true path to justice is through peace/nonviolence, it is a proven "soul force" which is extremely powerful.

Tom H. Hastings said...

Thanks, Kelly. I usually ignore comments but this is too important to let misdiagnoses and misconceptions stand. Thanks for your note of sanity.