Category Archives: police brutality

The Case for Hope

If a soothsayer last year told me that 2020 would consist of a mutating and elusive virus, resulting in the necessity of the world to self-quarantine, along with being the year of the greatest civil unrest ever experience in my lifetime, due to another brutal police murder of an unarmed black man, well, I’m pretty positive I would’ve had a panic attack. However, we have arrived, and surprisingly I only really had one panic attack this year, the catalyst being the final democratic debate between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in mid-March. That debate was so surreal… It was so satisfying for Bernie to speak undeniable truth to power in the face of a bewildered Biden, and to speak so passionately, but to a silent, empty audience. It was cinematically bizarre, cathartic, and so very disturbing. But alas, I digress. 

I’ve been thinking about all this unrest that has been 2020 so far (as we all have been): all the anger I believe we are all collectively feeling, the role of mass communication and fast information, and the necessity of compromising one’s psychological safety in order to achieve a degree of clarity concerning the state of America. I also have been reflecting on how I used to write so much, and how privileged I was to go to graduate school for social(ist) work 2015-2017, and what changed for me personally- why I have hardly written anything in the past two years. The answer to my lack is that I’ve been overwhelmed and then recovering from all of these political and cultural shocks to my system, my psyche. 

Shock therapy for the US has been full throttle for the American public over the past five years, the most visible origin being Trump’s campaign announcement. I believe that this is when our current new chapter of America’s book began, and I find it as perturbing as other stories in our dark past.  Shock therapy has been used for as long as there’s been power and corruption, and I highly recommend everyone who hasn’t read the primer on this, “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein, to pick up as soon as possible. This is the text that really woke me up personally in 2015, and wiped away any rose hue left on my glasses. Shock therapy centers on the idea that neoliberal free trade markets exploit national crises (disasters, upheavals, global pandemics, etc.) to establish controversial and questionable policies, where citizens are excessively distracted that they cannot engage and develop an adequate response, resist effectively, or even process the information at hand. When you recover from a shock, you have to take time to rest, recover, and try to make sense of the new reality. After a shock, we naturally find a new homeostasis, which more times than not, requires normalizing our environment, regardless of how abnormal it is. 

I haven’t written seriously in a while because I’ve been recovering from all of these shocks, all these horrific acts of violence we’ve experienced as a nation over the past four years, all the things I’ve previously written about from 2015-2018. I’ve been tired, atrophied, and apathetic. I’ve allowed myself to stay quiet, because really trying to process and learn about our current environment is so taxing and can feel so hopeless. I’m doing my best to break out of that now, but it is hard and I am still weary. However, I am grateful that I feel this spark of motivation growing brighter inside of me, and I’m trying to fan this flame. For myself, the best way to grow and harness this energy comes from illuminating hope and consciously choosing love over fear. 

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Me at Trump’s Inauguration in DC when my brain was focused on this truth rather than fear

I subscribe to the theory that there are only two emotions- love and fear- and all other emotions stem from these two primary emotions. It wasn’t until I had a recent conversation with a close friend that I recognized just how much I have been fearful in the past two weeks since George Floyd’s murder. I have been so angry, so overwhelmed, so stressed, so nervous, and dare I say even hateful, that I almost lost sight of love. I had not been feeling much compassion, only horror and outrage. 

 I was not super productive during this quarantine, and although I’ve enjoyed having more downtime, my personal mental health hasn’t been great. I’ve been worried, lonely, and sad. I regressed into old routines, like not having a routine, and even stopped meditating daily, which I’m terribly ashamed to admit. I share this personal accountability in order to give insight into where my head and heart had been lately; they’ve been pretty fear-based and loveless.

Quarantine did allow me to finally read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, an account of a Viennan psychiatrist who survived three Nazi concentration camps. He was survived by no one, his entire family was murdered in the camps, including his young wife. After liberation, he went on to create the theoretical basis for logotherapy, a therapeutic modality that is based on the premise that humans are driven to find meaning and purpose in their life. I’d been familiar with logotherapy, but never read this seminal work until a month ago. One of the most important points I took from “Man’s Search from Meaning” was Frankl’s observation that the first people to perish in the concentration camps were those who lost hope. Hope is necessary for survival, it is a requirement for resilience. 

When I reflect on this myself, it becomes crystal clear how fearful and hopeless I’ve been the past months, especially these recent two and a half weeks since George Floyd’s murder. I’ve been consumed by the constant shocks to my system and instead of trying to hold on to hope, I’ve been drowning in dread. Now that I am aware of this, that I’ve gained this clarity, I have the power to change it. I must don an old perspective I have not worn much this year, where hope acts as my lens. 

I’ve always been an advocate for dreaming big and consider myself a radical idealist. People across the US are finally being confronted with the truth that is police brutality and the militarization of the police. There’s no hiding these horrific displays of unmitigated violence and cruelty by the police during the major protests. It’s shocking (yet extremely gratifying) in itself that finally, the mainstream media cannot avoid showing this systematic reality because of the digital age!!! And with this greater realization, that police brutality is a systematic injustice ingrained into the foundation of the police FORCE, there is meaning to be made, there is hope. I am hopeful that those who believed it was “only one bad apple” now begin to recognize the truth about police brutality and learn that the institution of policing was created on the foundation of oppression. The more people are confronted with this truth, the more we can imagine a new way of policing (or dare I say abolishing). The more people learn the truth, the greater the chances for real, true change. 

I’m hopeful that all of this civic unrest spurred by racism will bring light to the structural forces embedded within the heart of America that continue to perpetuate unjust treatment of black, indigenous, and other persons of color. I hope that this conversation of racism grows into a conversation about class. I hope poor white folks are able to see how they are so much more similar to poor black folks than they are to Donald Trump. I hope more middle-class white folks see how they are much more similar to poor black folks than they are to Donald Trump. I am hopeful about this awakening. 

I am hopeful about the positive evolution of culture, spurred by greater access to education via the internet. I am hopeful that as a culture we begin to question polarized thinking and instead start to see how everything is gray. At risk of sounding like a kumbaya drum circle leader, I am hopeful about evolving morally. I am hopeful that we evolve together spiritually. I am hopeful for peace.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying hope replaces outrage. That would be impossible, and outrage has an incredibly important motivating purpose. However, I know for myself, being in a constant state of outrage is exhausting, and that all of these continuous shocks inevitably wears you down to an indolent state of apathy if you’re not careful. What I am saying is that we harness hope in order to recover quicker, and less scathed, from these shocks. The world is not rainbow and unicorns, I am aware of this, and the current state of America is dire. But let us not be fearful. I am advocating that our outrage begets hope, not fear, and that hope catalysts a meaningful change, and welcomes a new reality that us dreamers have been tirelessly waiting for. 

 

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Being Afraid of The Police as a Law-Abiding White Woman

I’m afraid of the police. No lie: I’ve been afraid of the police for the past 10+ years due to witnessing police brutality and abuse of power. Over the past few years I have worked on this, but there is still an unconscious response of anxiety when I happen to be in a convenient store and a police officer walks in, or when I’m driving down the road and a cop car pulls in behind me, or when I witness a cop pulling over someone else, or when I have to talk to the police for any reason.

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How is this not frightening to see coming down your street?

This shouldn’t be the case, and certainly one would think that a young white woman wouldn’t have a fear of police… but I do. And the more and more the police forces become militarized, the more and more I worry about abuses of power. My town recently had a “Police Appreciation Parade” and my house sits on the parade route (legit, my town has like 20 parades a year, and they are all in front of my house. I never thought I would hate parades until I moved here). So, the police force in my town has a lot of money that is partially funded by a huge, stinky landfill that you can smell from my back yard (and I’m about 4 miles from it). So the police have a lot of toys. The parade scared the crap out of me. Police vehicle after police vehicle set off all of their freaking ridiculously loud sirens, with officers armed in heavy duty SWAT team armor and heavy duty, scarily huge guns (I’m sorry I don’t know anything about guns. These looked like big machine weapon guns). The alarms were so ridiculously loud, and really scared me, and my poor dog. They weren’t just the regular police siren, but were the alarms that were the high pitch beep and the one that says “This is not a test” and stuff like “Stay in your houses, we are on lockdown”. All I could think about was how re-traumatizing this probably was for veterans and people who have been in warzones. The end of the parade had camouflaged humvees and other war vehicles. The only thing that makes living on a parade route tolerable is the candy thrown to those watching the parade. Needless to say, there was no candy being thrown for “Police Appreciation Day”.

Now listen. I realize that most police officers are good people, people who want to legitimately make the world a better place, and for these people, I can’t express my gratitude. I cannot imagine what it is like going into a job knowing that you could encounter dangerous situations, that maybe this is the day you don’t come home. I also can’t imagine the stress police officers are going through, knowing that now people are watching their every move and the blanket of criticism that has been laid on the police force since Ferguson (well, I mean, really since reconstruction, but Ferguson seems to be the easier chapter to look at for millennials to understand the effects of authoritarian policing and stigmatized racism).

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True Dat

How I’ve dealt with my anxiety of police officers is consciously working on turning this fear into love. When cops pass me multiple times while walking my dog, I wave. I say hello when they’re drinking their coffee in the corner store. And I have a friend who is a police officer, and this helps me personalize police officers and reconfirm my belief that there are many good, hardworking police officers who just want to make the world a better place and improve their community. It’s unfortunate when one bad banana spoils the public opinion of the rest of the bunch, however, I can talk from experience, that after seeing police brutality up close I gained a strong distrust for police. I think this is appropriate though. If the only interaction I have with police is negative, then of course my view of all police are going to be tainted. So when there are police departments that support a culture of racism and authoritarianism, of course people in those communities are going to have a hard time believing that the harmful police methods (ie: stop and frisk) will cease.

Just thought I’d keep it short and sweet. In conclusion: wear your seatbelt and download Waze while driving, and try to think of police officers as your equal, not someone who should be feared. Easier said than done.

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has humanity become blood thirsty and desensitized by real life?

The brand spanking new violent viral video came out on Monday night for America’s viewing pleasure. It shows a high school student getting the fuck beaten out of her by a police officer. I accidentally pressed play while trying to click the link to the story on think progress‘s FB post, and saw the first few seconds, before my panicked clicking of the pause button worked and the video came to a standstill screenshot. I choose not to watch these type of videos, because well, I just can’t. I can’t watch the video of this girl, the video of the Eric Garner’s murder, Freddie Gray’s arrest. the police brutality to the children at the pool party in TX, the video of the child, Tamir Rice, who was shot by police for having a toy gun, the Virginia news crew, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, etc. etc, and on and on…

Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t have a strong stomach for violence and violent images. I’m a drag to watch horror movies with, I’ll end up passed out on the floor. I also don’t have the stomach for such viral videos, ones depicting real life violence, real life murder, real life fucking death. And through all of the constant talk and shares of these viral videos, I wonder if the true injustice is being to lose its power. Are we entertained? Are we still outraged? Are they watched with the same heart and compassion that we watch “Celebrity Reads Mean Tweets”? Are we being desensitized by real life? Is it wrong of me to think that we are?

one movie i've passed out during in recent halloween seasons

I passed out during The Antichrist last h’ween. Fuck this movie.

A few years ago an old my roommate showed me a video of R. Budd Dwyer, a PA State Treasurer who killed himself on live TV. It really fucked me up.  The same with JFK’s assassination. The people who saw these broadcasts live were affected and are probably still affected. These gruesome images are probably stored in the same part of their brain that nightmares are created. At least they are for me. But what about 2015? We’re used to close-up shots. We’re used to audio, to screams, to pleas. We’re used to seeing men beaten until they can’t walk, until they’re lying dead. We’re used to watching all of this, after we watch the first five seconds of that ad before we can click “Skip Advertisement”…

I think that humans as a species have always had a bloody thirsty taste for violence. (re: The Bible,) I don’t have a problem with violent video games, movies, or music, but I do have an issue with real life violence. So this is what I’m pondering- where is the line between real life violence and entertainment? Is there even a line anymore? The more these videos are surfacing the less their value and popularity. Is it wrong that I link these moments captured on tape akin to Gladiators fighting to their death, people watching and cheering on? (Or in the Walking Dead when the Governor has the Walkers chained up and townspeople fight them, and the crowd cheers on?) Is this the same type of feeling we get watching a stranger, a person who is disassociated from ourselves, as the victim of brutal, and often lethal, violence?

My generation watched the second plane crash into the second twin tower. We watched from our TVs the people escaping from the blaze, jumping from the buildings to their death. We watched and were (at least I was)  profoundly influenced by this violence, happening in real time. I remember riding my bike to meet up with my 7th grade girlfriends after school and not having words to describe our feelings about what we saw. Was this the start of it all- the true start of our desensitization? Should we stopping blaming mass shootings  on video games so much, and perhaps start examining what we are actually watching, what real life violence we choose to stream on our screens? And then how are we able to process this? Are we accepting it as reality or just as another video to watch between thumbing down Facebook statuses, on to like the next cute dog picture?

Then we are brought to the threat of censorship. My short answer is that these videos absolutely shouldn’t be censored. If Eric Gardner’s death wasn’t caught on camera, would the American people had the ammunition to question what happened and exposed an injustice that would have been covered up? These videos are becoming an integral part for social justice and intensifying awareness to the American people of how fucked up things are. These videos need to be processed as what they are- real life deathly oppression and violence, not just viral.

Here’s a video of a bunch of cute dogs and cute babies if you need a cute dog breather.