It goes without saying, although people would try to blame me for not saying, so I'm saying it up front, that police brutality is a crime, and a wrongful death in police custody seriously retards faith in democratic institutions. But then I think it should be equally obvious that some of these small backwater towns are institutionally bankrupt and the people know it. That doesn't get 20 million tweets or any competent attorneys from our top law schools interested in improving the quality of municipalities in Missouri. Nor does the hopelessness of the locals impel them to load up the truck and move. You'll hear all over the interwebs what a crappy place Ferguson, Missouri is in perfect clarity as if this killing were the perfect storm everyone saw coming over the horizon. Yeah but you didn't evacuate.
No man is an island and every man's death diminishes me. But rather like gravity it diminishes with the square of the distance. Socially, politically and physically that place is a long way away and no amount of echoes in the media is going to bring it closer to me. Aside from that, I'm supposed to be an independent thinker; well, I am. What strikes me this week, is how we really don't know what's boiling on the inside of people's heads. We don't know about cops, we don't know about robbers, we don't know about comedians or actresses. We just remark a lot when somebody dies.
It has been some time since I have thought about the Coalition of the Damned, and I misread something yesterday that gave me pause. Somebody said that folks 'showed up for a peaceful protest dressed like they were ready for combat'. At first I thought it was the crowd and I thought, what a wonderful idea. But it turned out, predictably, to be the police.
If the death of one man, by accident, or on purpose causes a neighborhood, community, suburb, town, ghetto or general residential district to break down civility, well I suppose you can call that person a hero by definition. His life is valued higher than law and order. Pinker has words to say on such honor codes. Essentially, they are tribal and inferior to the rule of law. But I've been saying this for years, tribal hierarchies are what people use when democratic institutions fail. Nothing at all surprising at that. What is surprising is the extent to which activists and political plotters and strategists try to co-opt the energy of tribalism and convert it back into democratic institutional power. It's really just swapping one alien committee for another. And of course the big problem is that it doesn't help the honor code or the tribe.
A real pitchfork and torches tribe working the hierarchy is ready, and I mean defiantly, militantly ready, to stare down and shoot down the System. That's what 'by any means necessary' implies, but it always turns out in America that the means of choice is sublimation to the New Committee (which seems always ready to grant permanent seats to Jackson or Sharpton). It almost makes you miss Khalid Muhammad. But the bottom line is, misappropriation of James Baldwin's Fire Next Time notwithstanding, the tribe is going to lose.
Nobody in the tribe is willing to take a bullet for Michael Brown. Nobody in the tribe is willing to fire a bullet for Michael Brown. But the loudmouthing will follow for years. It's all just talk.
The professionals will crank the gears in the Justice System, because the tribe unwilling as it is to be permanently anything but disgruntled will call for Justice. This reflects well upon them as Americans under the rule of law, but poorly upon them as a tribe. A tribe will call for Revenge. A tribe that gets stepped on grows remorseless terrorists. Americans, as rude as they want to be, are still constitutionally too nice for remorselessness. At least the ones in Missouri appear to fit the standard. The will get their gruntle on in due time. But they will never forget. According to precedent, the Protest Train will land in a new town within a year or two. If I remember correctly, the prior major stop was some town in Florida and the dead man was Trayvon Martin. Nobody has forgotten that yet. His name is written in iron on the locomotive.
You can also count on hearing a lot of the conspiracy theorists shout out to get the crowd to say Ho! And I've already heard one against the NRA, as in Not Representing African Americans. It's not ironic that some folks are dead frightened of guns in the 'hood. It stands to reason that people who could consider 50 Cent an idol or stand in awe of the lifestyle of Biggie Smalls are not the sort to generally be trusted with firearms. That doesn't change the fact of the Second Amendment right. All the bureaucratic means testing of Orwellian nightmares is already in place. The NRA stands against that of course, and encourages its big fat lawyers to strike down every fetter to un-infringed civil rights. But you'll never hear them called a Civil Rights (tm - Jesse Jackson Enterprises) organization from predictable quarters.
At some point, and it wouldn't surprise me under the Obama Administration (also not getting blamed for the DHS militarization of ordinary police departments) that some members of the Coalition actually decide to mix together some Molotovs and burn baby burn. Who knows, maybe even an active shooter might join the tribe and do things that only happen in gangsta movies and raps, truly fuck da police. But Michael Brown is probably not worth it, and Ferguson Missouri probably ain't the one. Maybe, in the long term we'll just say this one is worth a million dollars of looting and a couple hundred arrests. Nothing to call out the National Guard for.
While I'm at it, just to stir up a little dirt, is there anybody who is thinking about a serious swapping of democratic deck chairs through the peaceful process of protest, even a little curious about what would happen if the Ferguson looters were shooters? Isn't there something deep down inside you that thinks maybe the Founders had something actually rational in mind when they reserved the right to keep and bear arms against government tyranny? I've been arguing with people like this and I wonder if they don't quietly think that maybe... just maybe.
You may be reading this at several years distant from the event, but you should know that some sentimental segment of America are wondering in shock at the suicide of the universally loved Robin Williams, who apparently hung him self with a belt. A lot has been said about how certain things are diseases that tragically take lives. Williams had depression, but then again so do many many other people who cannot afford the best care on the planet like him. They survive. The lesson of course is that people choose suicide. They do so to kill the world and send a that world a message. I am not shocked by or sympathetic to suicides. We get 30,000 per year in this country. So likewise I am not shocked or sympathetic to those who have chosen and will choose to jump out of the civil box and commit social suicide at the hands of the local authorities in Missouri. But I would be respectful of a tribe committed to war in the streets. Not sympathetic mind you, and speaking for my class prerogatives, I would have the cops pacify such rebellion with all appropriate tactical response. But it seems to me that if Michael Brown was a real hero, he would deserve a hero's revenge. Who wants to avenge the hero? Who is prepared to get medieval?
But I think Michael Brown is just a martyr of convenience to political masterminds whose intent is to fuel the legitimacy of their committees, narratives and agendas as they scan the country for poor people who fall to their deaths on the wrong side of the law or other unusual circumstances. Nobody else gives more than a few tweets, including me. Same as it ever was. As they prove nothing, the Protest Train will roll on belching smoke, steam and noise, in circles. All Aboard!