Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, April 8, 2012 9:05 pm

He Is Risen: An outsourced reflection, a prediction, a prayer

I spent this weekend finishing up a final project for one of my courses for the semester. Save a proofreading, it’s done, and I can turn it in two weeks early. Which is good, because the project in the other course is going to kill me, but that’s not today’s point.

What’s today’s point, and yesterday’s, and, really, the point for all of Holy Week and the point for all time for anyone who claims to be a Christian or just admires Christ as a historical figure, is the radical nature of what Jesus asked us to do and who he asked us to be. I’ve read volumes on that subject over the years, and despite my misanthropy, recent dearth of church-going and occasional proclivity for PG-13 language here, I take it seriously.

And I’ve found few pithier summaries than this one, posted on Good Friday by Charlie Pierce. He responded to a temporal event in a specifically Roman Catholic context with small-c catholic truths that show no sign of dimming after 2,000 years:

… the liturgies of Holy Week … are the most moving because the one thing they’re not about is authority.

Authority is the villain during Holy Week. Secular authority, in the person of Pontius Pilate. Religious authority, in the institution of the Sanhedrin. What matters most throughout the season is the individual conscience. As Garry Wills never tires of pointing out, Christ did not make priests. He did not make a Church. And he sure as all hell didn’t make a Pope …

What stands out in the Holy Week services is humility in the face of unreasoning authority. What stands out, ultimately, and whether you believe in the Resurrection or not, or think the whole thing is a bunch of hooey imported from the Egyptian mystery cults or somewhere, is that, in the story of Easter week, unreasoning authority loses. It loses badly.

I am under no illusions about what life is going to be like in this country in the coming decade or two. Our bankers are going to insist that the rest of us kiss their asses and give them our money, and no one is going to stop them. Our church leaders are going to continue to engage in the decades-long continuing criminal enterprise of protecting child abusers and enabling history’s biggest thieves. Our police officers are going to use sexual humiliation to subjugate us and pepper spray and worse to keep us from exercising the rights our ancestors (and some of our contemporaries) died to obtain and protect, all in the name of protecting unreasoning authority. And our so-called leaders are going to continue to ignore the protests that the Earth itself is voicing in the plainest language, because, as Upton Sinclair famously observed, it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends upon his not understanding it.

And, make no mistake, the pain will be widespread and it will be awful. We or people close to us will lose jobs, homes, health, even lives. And as bad as it will be here, it will be worse still in other places, many already enduring suffering unimaginable to most Americans.  I’m old enough not to care so much anymore about myself, but I’m terrified for my kids.

But, as cynical and pessimistic as I am, I also have faith — literally, the belief in and hope for something of which no evidence is visible — in this: Every single theft, every single swindle, every single assault, every single official lie, every act of abuse and dereliction of duty, every sin of commission and sin of omission by our unreasoning authorities, will, by engendering actions by Americans, others, or even God’s creation itself, bend the long moral arc of the universe just a tiny fraction closer to justice … in this world or the next.

Amen. Be armed, but go in peace.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011 8:31 pm

I told you years ago that this would happen …

Yes, I did.

… and now, as Matt Taibbi points out, it has:

Every time we looked the other way when the president asked for the right to detain people without trials, to commit searches without warrants, to eavesdrop on private citizens without even a judge knowing about it, we made it harder to answer the question: what is it we’re actually defending? …

We had all of these arguments in the Bush years and it’s nothing new to assert that much of our population made a huge mistake in giving up so many of our basic rights to due process. What’s new is that we’re now seeing the political consequences of those decisions.

Again, when we abandoned our principles in order to use force against terrorists and drug dealers, the answer to the question, Who and what are we defending? started to change.

The original answer, ostensibly, was, “We are defending the peaceful and law-abiding citizens of the United States, their principles, and everything America stands for.”

Then after a while it became, “We’re defending the current population of the country, but we can’t defend the principles so much anymore, because they weigh us down in the fight against a ruthless enemy who must be stopped at all costs.”

Then finally it became this: “We are defending ourselves, against the citizens who insist on keeping their rights and their principles.”

What happened at UC Davis was the inevitable result of our failure to make sure our government stayed in the business of defending our principles. When we stopped insisting on that relationship with our government, they became something separate from us.

And we are stuck now with this fundamental conflict, whereby most of us are insisting that the law should apply equally to everyone, while the people running this country for years now have been operating according to the completely opposite principle that different people have different rights, and who deserves what protections is a completely subjective matter, determined by those in power, on a case-by-case basis.

If you let them build a police state, they will use it. And eventually, they will use it on you.

Saturday, November 19, 2011 1:21 pm

What police brutality, and nonviolent resistance, look like

Yesterday at the University of California at Davis:

Angry Black Lady at Balloon Juice comments:

Today [Friday — Lex] at Occupy Davis, a police officer approached a group of students sitting in a line peacefully on the ground, walked up and down the line and pepper-sprayed them directly in the face—as one would spray pesticide on weeds. What you’ll see in this video is such a callous display of police brutality, I don’t know how this police officer is going to go home and look at himself in the mirror.

As the students cry “Shame on you!” the police arrest a few students; but as the crowd circles them—non-threateningly, but insistent—the police begin to retreat. Then, amazingly, the students (via People’s mic) offer the retreating police a moment of peace: “We are willing to give you a brief moment of peace so that you may take your weapons and your friends and go. Please do not return.”

And the police do.

If you’d like to object to this crime by the university police, you can call the university chancellor’s office at (530) 752-2065 and/or the UC Davis police at (530) 752-1727. The officer who pulled out the pepper spray was identified as Lt. John Pike. You can contact him at (530) 752-3989 or  japikeiii@ucdavis.edu. (UPDATE: Forget calling the chancellor’s office. Chancellor Linda Katehi has demonstrated that she doesn’t know the difference between legitimate law enforcement and unprovoked brutality.)

Unless or until the Bill of Rights is repealed, what Pike did in this video is a crime. He should be prosecuted and punished.

UPDATE: John Cole at Balloon Juice agrees:

It’s really just amazing that any administration official would think that [Katehi’s] is the appropriate response. It’s mind-boggling that anyone with law enforcement training thinks that was the appropriate response. Lt. John Pike wasn’t maintaining the public order or using appropriate force, what he did was to physically assault a bunch of kids who pay a hell of a lot of money to be on that college campus. He shouldn’t have a job today, and if any of his colleagues had any balls or any sense, they would have arrested him on the spot on multiple counts of assault. …

The balls on this lady. She orders the cops in riot gear to go pepper spray the kids, then when everyone is horrified at what she has done, she forms a task force to figure out what happened. You don’t need a [expletive] task force to figure out what happened. You’re the problem. Just look in the mirror and ask yourself “Why am I such a blithering idiot?” And then resign.

 

Saturday, November 12, 2011 8:33 pm

“If you build a police state, they will use it.”*

And they’ll start with the kids:

The videos taken by protesters, journalists and casual observers show UC Berkeley police and Alameda County sheriff’s deputies in riot gear ordering students with linked arms to leave a grassy area outside the campus administration building Wednesday. When the students didn’t move, police lowered their face shields and began hitting the protesters with batons.

University police say the students, who chanted “You’re beating students” during the incident, were not innocent bystanders, and that the human fence they tried to build around seven tents amounted to a violent stance against police.

But many law enforcement experts said Thursday that the officers’ tactics appeared to be a severe overreaction.

Both the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild said they had “grave concerns about the conduct” of campus police.

“Video recordings raise numerous questions about UCPD’s oversight and handling of these events, including whether law enforcement were truly required to beat protesters with batons,” the two groups wrote in a letter to campus officials.

In total, 39 people were arrested Wednesday; 22 were students and one was a professor, police said. All but one were taken to jail and released.

“The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence,” UC police Capt. Margo Bennett said. “I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest.”

Capt. Margo Bennett, you, ma’am, are an idiot, and the officers under your command are violent criminals who should be going to prison for assault with a deadly weapon and depriving American citizens of their rights under color of law.

*h/t & quote from Digby

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