Our Government is Violent and Cruel Because We are Violent and Cruel

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Photo by Flickr user katesheets (CC)

“After all the analysis of the normalized dysfunction of democracy in America,” writes David Masciotra at Alternet, “launched with the assumption that the political system fails to represent the will of the people, the question remains: what if it actually does represent the will of the people? That the system is actually succeeding in upholding its representational promise might be the simplest and most probable answer to the mystery of America’s comatose slumber in a nightmare of torment for the oppressed and treasures for the oppressors.”

It seems police can get away with anything: choking men who have surrendered; shooting unarmed teens; knocking pregnant women to the ground. While the issues involving race, civil rights and the relationship between law enforcement and communities are essential for examination and correction, few are talking about how all of this fits into the larger pattern of America’s cultural decline and decay. America has become a society addicted to violence and indifferent to the suffering of people without power. Whenever there is a combination of a culture of violence and an ethic of heartlessness, fatal abuse of authority will escalate, and the legal system will fail to address it.

Critics are right to condemn the criminal justice system for its embedded inequities and injustices, but they are hesitant to condemn the actual jurors giving killer cops get-out-of-jail-free cards. These jurors are representational of America: ignorant and cold. They hear testimony from eyewitnesses claiming Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown while he had his hands in the air, and set Wilson free without trial. They listen to reports of three officers choking Robert Saylor, an unarmed man with Down syndrome who wanted to see a movie without a ticket, and they send the police back to work. They watch video footage of police choking Eric Garner in New York, and of two police officers brutally beating Keyarika Diggles, a woman in Texas, and they decline to make them pay for it.

Have they been programmed into cruelty and apathy by American schools, churches, families, politics, and pop culture?

There are practical demands that the sane minority of Americans can make as they march the streets of Ferguson, New York and Chicago. Body cameras on police officers is a technological aid to the people who live under military occupation from the blue army. Tougher requirements for entering the police force, and better training methods for those in the academy are essential, as is a sweeping and radical review, best led by the White House, of a racist and predatory criminal justice system.

Jesse Jackson has offered the excellent proposal that the Department of Justice begin investigating police departments to determine if they are following civil rights laws on hiring, employment issues and law enforcement policy. If they are not, as it appears with Ferguson, they should no longer receive any federal funding. Jackson’s idea to “fight civil rights violations with civil rights law” is a brilliant plan to punish police departments that obstruct justice, prevent further abuses by exerting financial pressure for compliance and strike a blow against the militarization of police. No more armored vehicles or special forces gear for police departments that do not hire minorities, or that systemically target Latinos and African Americans for arrest.

While this all seems unlikely to happen, let us pretend America magically transforms into a decent society and begins policing the police, moves toward fairness in criminal justice and actually prioritizes civil rights. There is still the cancer at the heart of a culture committed to venerating violence, celebrating selfishness and condemning compassion.

Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman wrote the classic  Manufacturing Consent, about the manipulative and exploitative relationship corporate media has with the American public. What if the consent is not manufactured? What if, as historian Morris Berman contends, the plutocratic theft of American lives and treasure is not actually a robbery, but a transaction?

[Read More at Alternet]