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Violence: As Above, So Below
July 18, 2016
by William P. Meyers

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Need we repeat the violence of the 1960s?

Last year, one day, I drove into the town of Point Arena with my wife, Jan, to do errands. Most of Point Arena is on Main Street, which is Highway 1. I parked the car near the credit union. A guy I did not know, of odd demeanor, came walking north, uphill. Walking about twenty yards behind him was a cop, not one of the ones I know.

The cop yelled something like "I'm not going to hurt you." The guy, a white guy probably in his thirties, just shook his head and kept walking. Uphill a cop car was parked across the street. I spotted another cop car parked downhill. But what shook me up was that the cop near me was dragging wires behind him. Taser wires. So either he had already tasered the guy, which does not fall under my definition of "not hurt," or he had tried to and missed.

I try not to glorify criminal behavior. I try not to hate cops in general. I figured the white guy did something wrong, because there are no cops in Point Arena. When there is trouble you have to call the county cops.

So Jan and I went into the credit union.

When we came out White Guy was not in sight, but down at the intersection of Mill Street and Main a crowd had gathered. We know people who live on Mill Street so we walked down there. By this time an ambulance, a couple of fire trucks, and even the California Highway Patrol had shown up.

Towards the end of Mill Street (it is one block long, ending where a bigger development has been in the plan for maybe 50 years) were some of the official vehicles, and White Guy writhing to the tune of a Taser.

It was hard to see, the police kept us back, but eventually White Guy was not moving, and was being attended to by emergency medical techs. We learned the guy's name. He had been a local in high school, but recently had been living with his mom up in Fort Bragg. He had been visiting, taking drugs, acting erratically, and even threw a stone at someone, but he missed. Now drugs are no stranger to Mendocino County, in fact they are a bit of an export business, but they seldom result in any real trouble, less than alcohol, I would estimate.

Only White Guy was dead. He had been Tasered to death. I am sure the cops did not mean to kill him. They just were too cowardly and lazy to tackle him.

Since it was a white guy, it did not make the national news. No racism involved, just us white people taking out our own trash. Just another day in America. Life is not always alright in America, even if you are a White in America.

I would not argue that cops don't have a difficult job. I would not argue that the criminal culture of America is deep and dangerous. Based on personal experience, and reading, I would argue that most of the time most of the cops are not doing much about real criminals, whether white collar criminals or gangster hitmen. They seem to spend most of their time harassing basically honest citizens. They make a living from it. They ticket people and the fines keep the police and courts running. It is, clearly, a conflict of interest. No different than the South of my childhood, where there were always enough arrests to fill the chain gangs to work on government roads, no matter how little actual crime there might be.

Some conditions have changed since I was a child (say 1965). Lots of black people have college degrees now. A large percentage don't live in ghettoes. The black middle class has expanded. But just like a lot of white people have been left behind when it comes to actual money prosperity, so have a lot of black (and Hispanic & etc.) people.

Women have come a bit of a ways too, and so have non-heterosexuals.

By the end of the 1970s the legal framework had become, basically, an even playing field. But the economic playing field was as stacked as ever. It is easy to say that the children of the poor should go to school, pay attention, do their homework, and keep their noses clean when away from school. With a even legal playing field, it could only take one generation to go from poverty to the working class, or even to the lower middle class.

Only that is not the way humans work.

I have had the privilege of going to school with a series of elites. I've seen how hard it is for the children of privilege to pay attention in school and keep their noses clean. It seems to just plain go against human nature, or at least the personalities of a significant proportion of the juvenile population.

I have dozens if not hundreds of personal examples, but to allow me to get to the main point, I'll give just two. One is someone who broke into an office and read confidential information, and went on to become a professor of law. Another vandalized and stole city property and went on to work as a Justice Department lawyer. Then there is an example I know from reading: Bobby Kennedy, unprovoked, putting a fellow student in a hospital with a serious concussion. He got pretty close to becoming President before the cycle of violence caught up with him.

No, problems don't go away if you just teach a police force to be kinder and gentler. But problems also don't just go away if you capture people in Africa, work their families as slaves for a century or two, then treat them to Jim Crow from 1865 to 1965, and then say: hey, you're equal under the law now, get an education, work hard, and remember to always keep all your car lights working, and signal before doing anything, and if stopped anyway, wave your right to privacy so we can search your car.

You want peace? Here's a good start: send back all the fines, with interest, imposed on working class and poor people since, say, 1965. Take it out of the defense budget, tax the rich, empty the pockets of lawyers and judges, take the pensions from police, I don't care. It is just basic justice. Every penny, with interest.

Then there is back pay. Not just for black people and American Indians, but for everyone who has not been paid fair value for their work since, say, 1776.

The 1960s have been whitewashed by the media. They were supposedly a time of love, art, and doing your own thing. It is lie. They were a time of violence, of rioting, of the SLA and Black Panthers and Weathermen. And do you really want to wake up again to the beautiful, rich, and famous, drowned in blood from multiple stab wounds, lying in their mansions, Piggies written in blood at the door? Think about it. What's a few percent more in taxes on millionaires, to prevent that sort of thing?

I don't advocate civil war or violence. But I do believe that, in the types of situations we have now, those who are oppressed, if determined enough, can make the rich and powerful choose: peace and justice, or more injustice and more resistance.

Barack Obama talked a lot about hope in 2008. People hoped for peace and justice. They got an economic recovery, which is better than nothing, but no peace and no justice.


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