A few days ago, I was talking to a fiend about the recent police shootings of unarmed black men in Oklahoma and North Carolina and the protests that followed. She made a comment that went along the lines of “People think this is the worst it has been but it was worse under slavery, it was worse when people were being lynched all over the United States. Things may be bumpy now but it was worse. People do not remember that because they are only seeing what is happening today.”
While that is true, we do not live in the past, we live in the present, it is hard to feel that things are “better” when you know that you or the people you care about can be killed by the police for a host of reasons that make no sense.
They have actually added a few new ways in lieu of recent events but the point is the same. It is hard to see things as being better when you are looking at life through the prism of not being safe from this kind of violence anywhere you go. When a person who has been suspected of planting homemade bombs in two states can have a shoot out with police officers, get hit 10 or 11 times and survive, you have to wonder why these innocent and unarmed people are dead. I am no firearms expert nor do I know everything about law enforcement techniques but it seems to me that the police should have an option somewhere between nothing and lethal force.
We have to do better.
When you think about the idea that “things are better now…” You can apply that to the rights we give the LGBT community. Now that same sex marriage is legal, things are better but… it is sill legal to be fired for being gay.
It matters little if you can get married if doing so will get you fired. New laws in places like North Carolina that dictate what public restrooms people can use are both horribly discriminatory but meet the criteria of being a solution in search of a problem if there ever was one. Republican lawmakers have been on the wrong side of this issue for a long time but comments like some made by Florida Congressman Ted Yoho do not help. He said:
“If I feel like a dog today and I want to urinate on a tree outside, can I do that because I felt like a dog? I mean, that’s kind of where we’re going,” he said. “Boys are boys, girls are girls. And the ones that are in between, you know, I’m [going to] be real insensitive, but there’s bathrooms that have both men and women on them. It doesn’t have to get involved in the…national debate.”
You can watch this exchange here:
Things have gotten better for this community but we must do better.
When you look at the history of how women have been treated in the United States, it is easy to think that, “you’ve come a long way, baby.” In 2016, women do not make the same amount of money for their work as their male counterparts do. In 2009, the very first bill that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act that made it illegal to pay women less but the fact is, it still happens. In terms of other problems women face at work, you only have to look to the recent problems with Riger Ailes at FOX News. He was forced out because Gretchen Carlson was smart enough to record her conversations with her boss. It is sad that this is something that we have to do in 2016 (it is also sad that I agree with Carlson on anything).
Violence agains women is another problem that may be better now than it was but one in six women is raped or has been the victim of attempted rape in the United States. One in three women is the victim of domestic violence (men are also victimizes, one in four men will be abused this way). One problem I had with George W. Bush was his appointment of the “Concerned Women for America” to watch over the enforcement of the Violence Against Women Act. They think the act should be repealed because it has “special protections for homosexuals.” They have also been instrumental in the defeat of the ratification of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which basically says, “We do not support child abuse.”
I lived in New York City when America’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in charge. During that time, Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by the police when he reached for his wallet. One of those officers was later promoted. Abner Louima was brutally sodomized by the police after he was arrested. I remember one instance where the police broke down the wrong door in a home in the Bronx. Giuliani’s response was pretty much, “shit happens.” I was more afraid of the police than I was of the criminals.
It is not enough to be in a “better” place than we were 10, 20, 30, 100 years ago. We need to be in a better place than we are today. It is not acceptable for people to live in fear of their government. Doesn’t the famous Thomas Jefferson quote go, “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is democracy.” We need a little more democracy and a little less tyranny, doncha think?
As long as we treat any people like they as disposable, we are all disposable.
Here are the last words for some of these victims.