Saturday, April 24, 2021

Both Sides, Now

 The title of this blog is also the title of what is, lyrically, my favourite song of all time. And more: it is a song I wrestle with, on so many levels. My ideas on love and life are constantly evolving, but the older I get, the more I realize how little I know to be true.

In an effort to inject certainty into an uncertain life, I will make assumptions. We all do it: don't lie and say you don't. My stepdad used to quote that weird saying "when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me". I never dared ask him how MY assumption made an ass out of HIM. It was always better to just let the parental words wash over you, nod and say yes, sir in all the right places, and Jesus will he shut up so I can go do something fun?

I am so deeply torn on the police and judicial system that I find myself spinning in circles. On the one hand, I love the many, MANY cops I count among my family, and all of them are unreservedly GOOD cops. I can not stress this enough, even as I am deeply aware of the ACAB mentality: "all cops are bastards". There is nuance here. I've talked to a number of friends who firmly believe all cops are bastards, and what they mean by that is NOT a personal attack on any one cop. They insist--and they have reason to--that the so-called "good cops" CAN'T exist so long as there are bad cops. 

There are assholes in every profession. Policing is the only profession I know of where fellows in your profession will defend assholes no matter what they do. Derek Chauvin marked the first time I can recall where colleagues of his testified against him. Doubtless some of them have faced professional consequences for doing so. And every single cop who tolerates what Chauvin did should, at a very minimum, have their badges pulled. You can not change my mind on this, so don't bother trying. 

But I'm serious: you don't ever hear pilots rallying around a guy who has crashed three planes saying the planes were asking for it and he did nothing wrong. No doctor would tolerate a doctor who killed instead of healing. But police, nearly to an officer, have no problem standing by and watching a fellow officer kneel on a Black man's neck for nine and a half minutes. If any civilian tried that against another civilian, they'd be arrested at best and shot at worst. Why wasn't Chauvin shot? Because to the American police ethos, killing Black people you have subdued and handcuffed big deal. It's just a bunch of paperwork, really. That part's a downer, but hey! Here's America's #1 police trainer telling recruits to "feel good about" killing. And after you do it, the sex is awesome!

I repeat, this man is a cop TRAINER, paid by departments nationwide. Yes, there are good cops, many of them, but they live in and fully accept a monstrous system. When people say "all cops are bastards", there's a real connection with #YesAllMen. Not every man rapes -- I would never -- but you'd have to know me well to know that. To strange women, I am a strange man. Like all strange men, I am very much potentially a rapist.

Some of the racial discrimination isn't even a cop's fault per se: we all do it. We -- by which I mean humans of all races and genders --  are programmed to notice tiny variations of facial structure and such amongst people of our own races. Not so much amongst others. Ask Chinese people and they'll tell you whites look all the same to them. This is how Black people "fit the description" when they don't, at all. 

So you need to be aware of this ingrown bias we all have. How many are? Maybe that's something America's top cop trainer can discuss instead of the intensity of a murder-fuelled orgasm, what do you think?

Twenty minutes before that Derek Chauvin verdict was read out -- the verdict almost nobody was expecting, because cops who kill almost never even get to trial, and all the video evidence in the world doesn't change that sad and infuriating fact -- a young Black woman named Ma'Khia Bryant was shot and killed by police in Columbus, OH. The backlash was, as you can imagine, swift and severe. LeBron James tweeted "YOU'RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY" and the right-wing shitosphere that defends cops without fail until they stand between them and overthrowing the government--well, they went crazy. "Here's the most famous basketball player in the world threatening the life of a police officer!" No, that's not what he was doing at all. Was Derek Chauvin murdered? NO.

LeBron deleted the tweet, and in doing so he said something my father has said more than once. 

"ANGER (doesn't do) any of us any good and that includes myself! Gathering all the facts and educating does though! My anger still is here for what happened that lil girl. My sympathy for her family and may justice prevail!

This is my dad in a nutshell. He's not a perfect man by any means, but he tries, and tries hard. I know damned well he brought that deliberative, get-the-facts-first mindset into his policing. And I know that, as a police officer and volunteer firefighter, he has saved more lives -- and more property -- than everyone else I know put together. He is the very embodiment of serving and protecting. I love the man without reservation.

We've been at loggerheads over my growing disgust at the rampant police brutality in the U.S.A., and he gets particularly steamed when I insist it's here in Canada, too: not to the same degree, but it's here. The racism against indigenous people in this country is scary in its persistence, its casualness, and its complete inability or unwillingness to imagine what life as an aboriginal in Canada is really like. Memo to all: a tax break doesn't even come close to making up for CENTURIES of malignant neglect, abuse, and outright genocide, not to mention the wholesale theft of trillions of dollars. The Canadian government keeps this money "in trust". The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the moneys are to go to the Native bands and communities -- and the government refuses to comply. Most likely because it can't. That money funded the CERB. It built McGill University, the Welland Canal, and countless other bits of national infrastructure. What it didn't do was address any of the crippling problems facing reservations nationwide. There are some places in Canada (a First World country, remember) where people have been living under a boil water advisory for decades. Where jobs are hard to come by and jobs that don't simply put money in white men's pockets are almost impossible to come by. Where alcohol and drugs offer the only escape from a life most of us would suggest is not worth living. 

Sorry for the digression. It was important.

Dad sent me a YouTube video I'm going to link here that is even more important. I will repeat the warning YouTube has put on it: this video shows the death of Ma'Khia Bryant. It's hard to watch. A Black man narrates it -- and defends the cop, concluding -- as I did after watching it twice -- that the officer who killed her most likely saved the life of a person she was about to stab in the FACE. 

She was shot fifteen seconds after the cop arrived on scene. There was a full-on brawl in progress, including one gentleman kicking another girl in the head right in front of the cop. Anyone who does that is too far gone to respond to "there, there, now". And I repeat: Ma'Khia Bryant, who incidentally doesn't look 16 at all, was about to most likely kill someone. 

Cops will say the same thing Mr. Tatum says in this video: what about that woman, the one she was going to most likely kill. Does her life matter? Why is the media focus on the murder, when --both sides, now--it could just as easily be about the hero cop who saved someone from being stabbed in the neck or face. 

Counterpoint, because "both sides". 

"I mean, I don't break up fights but I know teachers that do, and they've never had to kill a child to do it. And sometimes these kids had knives, scissors and chairs. So there's that. Maybe cops need teacher training, I don't know" - Alyssa Rose

Nurses break up fights and face drugged out, psychotic people with regularity. Is "nurse brutality" a thing?

My issue isn't so much with the officer who arrived on scene and fatally shot Ms. Bryant. The situation had escalated to imminent murder, stress on IMMINENT. My issue is with all the other cops there who failed to deescalate the situation. What in the almighty fuck were they doing? 

In the end, Bryant's death wasn't "unfortunate", it was tragic...but at the same time, that cop who shot her would have been tried and convicted in the press if he hadn't. You just stood there and watched someone die and did nothing. It was really the other cops who did nothing, and they should be held accountable for that. 

But again: cops are not TRAINED for this. It's not fair at all. You can become an Ontario Provincial Police officer in twelve weeks. I can't recall the lawyer who tweeted "took me 12 years of gruelling education to learn the law, but they learn enough of it in twelve weeks to enforce it? Are you kidding me?"

Officers do not, by and large, have degrees in psychology. They should. If a university degree is required for a fucking minimum wage clerical position, the people in charge of law enforcement are woefully ill-equipped for the shit they'll face. This is part of what is meant by the unfortunately-named hashtag #DefundThePolice. It's not abolishing police: it's placing them where they don't have to confront people they're not trained to deal with. You'd think cops would welcome that. 

I will submit that, given the situation that Columbus officer stepped into, he really had little choice but to kill Ma'Khia Bryant. I will also submit that the situation he stepped into should never have been allowed to escalate to the point he had so little choice. 

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