Monday, January 19, 2015

Revisionist History ~ When A Movie Isn't Just A Movie

This past week, everyone was talking about Selma. There has been so much written about the film, both pro and con, that I am loath to write about it here, yet  I cannot escape the feeling that something must be said about not just the movie, but about history and biography in film.

The first "biopic" I remember seeing was The Miracle WorkerI was 10 years old. I think it was the first real play I'd ever read. Miss Myrus said I should read it and if she said I should jump off a bridge, I would've done that, too. But I did read it, and it changed me forever....mostly because I figured out there was a format I could use to put words in other people's mouths....something that came in handy when I decided to be a playwright. But I digress. 

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan ~1888
The story was riveting. The movie was spellbinding. And I decided to read whatever I could find about the real Helen Keller and the real Annie Sullivan. The Story Of My Life, Keller's autobiography and the book upon which the play is based, was a bit different from the play, and my own teacher explained to me the merits of artistic license. I remember the conversation if for no other reason than Miss Myrus told me when writing a play, you have to make allowance for time and the space you are in, and sometimes things are telescoped in order to present a larger picture. But, she cautioned, it's not nice to change the truth so that people can no longer recognize it. That admonition stayed with me...and served me well. I became a reader of stuff, a collector of factoids, and when the web became something other than a spider's weaving,  the world was mine. I was the second person I knew who knew what Mosaic was. The first, of course, was Ziggy; he showed me how to ask a question.  

Mosaic begat Netscape. Netscape begat Mozilla Firefox. Google happened somewhere in there. And I no longer needed whole days at the U's library to do research on stuff. I could do it sitting at my desk at home, pin down what I needed, and if I couldn't get it on the web, I had a list of books to find on the shelves. There was no excuse any more for not doing your homework.

40 years later, I was so excited about this movie. I was anxious to see who was going to play Dr. King and the others. And I was anxious to know who would get to play Rabbi Heschel.

Dr. King is in the middle. Rabbi Heschel has the white beard
Years later, I would sit at a table in the city and listen to Rabbi Heschel talk about what it was like on that March 17th when they finally marched from Selma to Montgomery. He said it was "praying with our feet." He told us there was no way to express the emotion he had as he marched, only that it was a giant prayer, a great moment of faith, and it had to keep going even though Dr. King had been assassinated.

The more I heard about the movie, the more I wanted to hear what the director had to say. Here was a black woman, Ava DuVernay, directing a very major motion picture on a subject so important, so crucial to the social history of this nation that I believe she would share great insight into what it was like to put this on film. Then I heard Dr. Heschel and the other Jewish leaders weren't even in the film. I was crushed. 

As Ms. DuVernay said on all the chat shows, ...and finally quoted in reliable news sources as stated at a New York City luncheon celebrating the opening of SELMA:
I think everyone sees history through their own lens and I don't begrudge anyone from wanting to see what they want to see. This is what I see. That should be valid. I'm not going to argue history. I could, but I won't. 
I have a problem with that. it is is not artistic license and it is not valid. This is re-writing history according to her version. The pictures from that week, and the stories in the papers, and film clips and other reliable standard evidence tell a different story: the one where Dr. Heschel and the others are present and visible. 

Now, this might not seem like a big deal, but think about it over the long term: all the kids that are going to see this film are going to take this as an accurate accounting of the fact. They may know it's not a documentary, but as far as they're concerned, this shows who was there and what happened. 

This is a problem....and here's why. 

I had a comment about this published in the New York Times. It has a yellow NYT pick ribbon and it's the 2nd most recommended reader comment on Maureen Dowd's column: Not Just A Movie. Look for yourself. But after the comment submission closed, but the editors were still putting up the comments, the follow comment appeared under mine:


 IL Yesterday

Before he became supporter of civil rights Lyndon Johnson was a segregationist Dixiecrat protégé of Sam Rayburn and Richard Russell. After Lyndon Johnson became a civil rights activist he continued the John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy alliance with J. Edgar Hoover to spy on and harass Dr. King and other civil rights activists.

Black African Americans did most of the leading, bleeding, sweating, crying and dying for their civil rights from the end of Reconstruction to the end of the civil rights era. Black people were a physically identifiable enslaved discriminated against despised disenfranchised socioeconomically politically educationally weak minority.

The Black- Jewish "alliance" was among the elite. While most poor Blacks then and now had to deal with the tiresome condescending paternalism combination of pity and contempt from their Jewish "friends". About 5000 black men, women and children were lynched. The film "Selma" is about and told from the perspective of the Black African American holocaust which happened in America to Americans by Americans. Rabbi Henschel was no Schwerner, Goodman nor Levison.

Blacks died and were wounded fighting in every American war for a country that denied their humanity as persons and their equality for most of it's [sic] history. And the unsung Black giants are legion. Edgar Daniel Nixon, Joanne Robinson, Diane Nash, Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, Robert Moses and Fred Gray.

When will the life of Judah P. Benjamin become a film?
[My highlight]

Blackmamba apparently wants to live up to his/her reputation as a highly poisonous snake because this is pure poison.  The Judah Benjamin reference is racist and antisemitic all at the same time. Plus, he/she couldn't even be bothered to get Dr. Heschel's name right. How are we supposed to respond to this? How do we get to set the record straight when the message is tainted in this way?  And no, this is not the first time I've seen Blackmamba's thinly veiled antisemitic screed. 

We worry about Jews in Paris. We worry about BDS and Gaza and the West Bank and all that other stuff....for good reason. But I think we might not be worrying enough about what is happening here, in the United States. People like Blackmamba are out there and they are looking for ways to throw us all if not under the bus....into the ovens. This is not to be lightly dismissed; this is just one more canary in the coal mine. Either we begin to address this directly, or we continue to put ourselves at peril. Blackmamba and his/her ilk will not go away if we ignore them. 

The big question really is: what do we do next?

Wifely Person's Tip o' the Week
Going to the movies to see a biopic?
Bring your skepticism along with the Milk Duds you're smuggling in.

Monday, January 12, 2015

What A Hero Looks Like

This is what a hero looks like:

Please note: he is black. He is wearing a hoodie. He is an immigrant. He has a foreign sounding name, Lassana Bathily. He is Muslim. 

And he is a hero of France and of the Jewish people. 

He put his own life at risk to save the lives of Jewish customers in the Hyper Cacher market by hiding them in a walk-in freezer. He told them to stay calm, turned off the refrigeration, and locked the door behind him before he went up a freight elevator and out to the police...who immediately handcuffed him and treated him like a terrorist. 

Thank G-d, they listened to him anyway. Still, they kept him cuffed for about an hour and a half. 


I knew what Charlie Hebdo was before the massacre last week. Over the years, I'd seen their work, and it was not nice. It was pretty vile. They were equal opportunity offenders. Yeah, some of the stuff was antisemitic, anti-American, anti- whatever. And grotesque. And not all that funny. Their brand of humor was (in my humble Pollyannaish opinion) gross, disgusting, and, well, really vile. But never did I think they should be shut down. 

On the backs of the peasants
Laval's capitulation

This kind of cartooning is so rooted in French social tradition. There are so many seriously subversive cartoons from the moment the printing press was in common use that one cannot really come up with a period of time when political cartooning was not being published in France. Even during the Nazi occupation of Paris cartooning did not stop; it just went underground. 

There is no requirement to like this stuff. And as Americans, quite frankly, we don't even get to have an opinion about what France's cultural/social policy should be in regard to what constitutes a free press. We don't get to tell them how to censor or restrict what comes forth from the pen of a French toon-guy. 

What we do get to do is be enraged that radical jihadists have fire bombed Charlie Hebdo offices in the past, and now have murdered members of their staff. This is the moment when we have to decide what freedom of speech really means in our own society. This is when we figure out what constitutes freedom of expression. 

I can loathe was comes out of the mouths of Faux News guys but they get to report the news with their own spin for people who are unable to discriminate between news and news with an agenda. Nobody says I have to agree with Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh....and that means they get to have their opinions heard on their shows no matter how vile I think either of them can be. I will defend to the death their right to be assholes if they so choose. 

So many of us cut our satirical teeth on Mad Magazine. I first started filching them from my brother, and then I just bought my own. Ziggy and I were known to read Mad while browsing in Barnes and Noble. And when the kids were old enough, we introduced them to Mad as required reading....and we would both read whatever copies came into the house. Spy vs Spy, the Lighter Side of..., the movie parodies, the fold-in-back covers...we loved them all. Ever-so-slightly subversive, furtively I still will thumb a copy when I see it on the rack. Mad is an equal opportunity offender, even if it is not nearly as vicious as the Charlie Hebdo, and it does garner its share of criticism. It's an American rite of passage. 

On CBS's Sunday Morning program, John Ficarra, editor of Mad, spoke eloquently about the right to create satire. Take a moment to read... or to listen... to what he had to say. It's not about liking whatever is published; it's about understanding the right to a free press. As he said,
The worst that could happen to us was that we would get a stern letter from their lawyers -- we live for those.
Now, they all have to worry about wearing targets on their backs. 

I may be just a small time blogger, but

©2015-Steven G. Artley - Artley Toons Online

Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls' tip o'the week

“The choice was made by the French Revolution in 1789 to recognize Jews as full citizens. To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle.
If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. 
But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France.
The French Republic will be judged a failure”

Monday, January 5, 2015

What I Heard On My Winter Vacation

Not that I went anywhere over what is lovingly called "Winter Break;" I was at my desk in the office every day except Christmas and New Year's Day when the office was closed. Back in olden tymes, when we were open 7/24, I always used to volunteer to work Christmas since it's not my holiday, and I thought it would be nice to give someone else the chance to have the day. These days, I just work as late as I can on Christmas Eve, again so someone else can split early. But that's not to say I didn't enjoy the relative quiet.

But the holiday week is interesting all on its own. People "wrap up" the past year, talk about big events, and some write about it. Others stand in public places and talk like they're in their own homes. And let's not forget the alcohol-driven yakkers who just say seriously weird stuff to anyone who is in earshot. If you hang around any place where people are present, you definitely hear stuff your brain tells you can not possibly be said anywhere but Comedy Central. These are just a few snippets of what I heard/read during my winter vacay:

At a birthday brunch this past weekend for one very sweet and darling 18-year-old, one of her relatives said two income families were the cause of the degradation of the American social fabric. In the strictest confidence, he told me:
It's really all about greed. One salary should be enough to put food on the table. People just want too much. They should be satisfied with what they have.
I actually had to go shopping for a gift and as long as I was in Hugedale, I decided to just take a walk. Yes, it was crowded, but if you're not necessarily interacting with sales people, it's not bad. I did, however, find this really cute little outfit for my granddaughter while wandering Nordstrom's Rack. Standing in the check-out queue, I listened to a fascinating discussion between a middle-school girl and her mother:
Daughter: It's not like she has anything to put in her bra...Mother: She stuffs her bra?
Daughter: Yeah. You mean you couldn't tell?
Mother: No. I mean, I don't think I noticed.
Daughter: (rolling eyes) Well, you must be like the only one.
I thought this might have been considered a bit precocious, but I am assured it is not. 

At the local Michael's Craft Store, two women were discussing in-laws. 
Lady #1: I am always careful about what I say around him because it always gets back to her.

Lady #2: So what are you giving her? You are giving her something, aren't you?

Lady #1: A giant can of macadamia nuts.

Lady #2: I thought she was allergic to nuts.

Lady #1: Exactly.
I combed the newspaper for days after Christmas looking to see if some poor woman died from macadamia nut poisoning. 

From the "if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes," category, Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist who usually sends me to the edge with his self-hating view of the Jewish world, wrote a column taking Hamas to task. It included the following:
Gaza is shameful.

The enclave is a thorny quandary. Hamas has a vile Charter, a goal of destroying Israel, and it fires rockets on Israeli civilians from among Palestinian civilians. But it is not monolithic. Putting Gaza first would have several merits: forcing Palestinians to unify their national movement and hold long-delayed elections; averting yet another war with its heavy toll in human life and negative impact on Israel’s international standing; ushering a large group of Palestinians out of radicalizing misery; obliging the peacemakers, so-called, to get real or go home; stopping the distraction at the United Nations.
A few days later, the NYT ran an editorial entitled Stop Giving Palestinians A Pass . It's an interesting enough piece, but the comments are another story. The hatred of Israel is palpable, and it's not just Israel. No one is denying there are real issues that must be addressed, much of the so-called commentary is just plain screed....written by people who have no idea about the history or the reality of the region. Fadia from California,  with a NYT Pick ribbon, writes:
The title should be "Stop Giving Israelis a Pass". The Palestinians have been negotiating in good faith for decades and all they got is more occupation and illegal settlements. The Palestinians have already offered Israel a very generous deal, they want a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is 22% of historic Palestine and less than half of the land given to them by the UN partition. The world must hold Israel accountable for it's [sic] ongoing violations and the U.S must stop supporting Israel's crimes against the occupied, oppressed and horribly abused Palestinians. 
I wonder how the air is on her planet....and in the NYT's OpEd department. Palestinians negotiating in good faith? Yeah, sure...if that means you accept the notion that Hamas' charter pushes all Jews into the sea. That their version of the land is Judenrein. I read that and I go nuts...not because she has the opinion....but because the NYT sees fit to endorse her distorted view of history as fact. The Palestinians OFFERED Israel a deal? Is that woman on drugs???????????????????? Then I have to stop and think....This op ed piece isn't about Israel's right to exist. It's about giving the Jew haters another forum from which to preach annihilation. And that's exactly what Hamas says it wants. Read the charter. Roger Cohen was right about that much; it is vile. 

And to end this little adventure on a high (as in Rocky Mountain kinda high) note, we cannot omit even a small mention of the Queen of Quirky, Madame Bachmann. She has left the building in a non-dead way, which means she can return.

Seems while running for POTUS, she predicted that gas would be $10 a gallon if President Obama was re-elected. Now, she is taking credit for the low price of gas. I'm going to miss Michele Bachmann. To be fair,  Madame B. provided some pretty good fodder, and there is something to be said for comic relief when Congress is run by a bunch of clowns. Somehow, I don't think she's done. I'm not sure about which incarnation she'll use when she comes back, but whatever it is, it'll probably be pretty interesting....and that's a Minnesota kinda interesting.

I am going to try to enjoy the calm before the political storm, but I'm pretty sure the kick-off to Happy Hour is going to be the State of the Union Address. I predict that the rebuttal comments will signal the start of an all-out war of word that will dovetail right into the Presidential elections. 

It's gonna be a painfully long two years. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
NBC would do well to make that Todd fellow on Sunday mornings go away.
He is undermining their entire news team with his inability to process information

Monday, December 29, 2014

Out with the Old ...Welcome 2015

I promised a few friends that I would attempt to end the year on a more fluffy note. Not that I am a fluffy person by any stretch of the imagination; I am not. So in keeping with some kind of inadvertent tradition, I hereby present the year in review.

I didn’t break anything, thank G-d. I paid off the mortgage. I did a bunch of stuff to the house, including “winterizing” the sun porch and, of course, the kitchen. I turned the living room into a bedroom so FIL could remain at home, and together, we faced his end of life. He didn’t quite make it to my granddaughter’s beginning of life, having left us on the morning of Yom Kippur, quietly, in bed, just as he wanted. He missed meeting his great granddaughter by 17days. He was cremated just as he wanted, and on the weekend of the baby-naming, when the senior son came in, we buried his ashes at Fort Snelling, just as he wanted. In attendance were just us: me, his grandsons and granddaughter-in-law whom he adored, his new-best-friend Handy, and his great-granddaughter. No service, no speakers, just a 21-gun salute for this proud WWII naval officer. Just as he wanted.
So now, it’s just me and dog heading into 2015. Funny thing is that I’m rather enjoying this process. Instead of being terrifying…and I thought it might be…it’s been freeing. I am only responsible for myself…and dog. I think she’s having a harder time. She’s taken to dragging her bed so that it’s all the way on the side of the couch in the study and you can’t see it from the door. I’m trying to teach her to play. She can now catch a little cookie midair, but she won’t pick up a tennis ball. We have all winter to work on this, so that when the spring comes, maybe, just maybe, she’ll want to hang out with me outside. She’s misses FIL; that much is very clear.

As for politics and news, I can only say that I am disappointed beyond reason. In the 4 years since the blog was started, the proliferation of hate speech and divisive media behavior is astounding. Media outlets on both sides have chosen to publish half-truth spun in the most hateful, hurtful manner humanly possible. There seems to be less and less balance and more and more partisanism. And it’s ugly. Very, very ugly.  And it’s not just Fox News or CNN; it’s Huffington Post, the NY Post, and even the Washington Post. It’s RawStory, Politico, and New York Magazine. Journalism is a rapidly disappearing profession and become interpretive art at a time when we need it to be factual and balanced. I would rather read a string of unvarnished facts than a Rumplestiltskin version of events spun into salacious pyrite…because folks, that ain’t gold.

How can you not wonder about what we’re doing to our own society when we publish headlines that are just lies? How is that different from anti-American propaganda from China or Pakistan? Not really. It’s still propaganda even when it’s directed at our own population.  It doesn’t do anyone any favors to further divide the American people along political/racial/regional lines. I cannot help but wonder what the real reaction to the lack of indictment against Darrell Wilson would’ve have been without the 10 second news cycle. Would we have had a better understanding of the anger? Would there have been riots without the press?  I don’t know, but I would’ve been more comfortable with reporting that focused on what we did actually know about the Michael Brown shooting rather than what was speculation. At the same time, when we know exactly what happened, as in the case of Eric Garner, how was the officer not indicted?

As we head into the next presidential election cycle, I am dreading the role the press will carve out for itself. It sure as hell won’t be that of an unbiased moderator. There isn’t an organ out there that won’t manipulate the truth for the sake of ratings. Gone is the idea that a newspaper is supposed to present news. Now, they are simply in the opinion biz and everyone and everything else be damned.

So let’s welcome 2015 with a dash of disbelief, a healthy dose of skepticism, and a soupçon of unbridled optimism…because that’s about all we can afford these days.

Whatever the year brings….and it’s probably bringing my nonagenarian parents from sunny Flah-rida to Minnesnowta for assisted living….it’s gonna be an interesting year at the very least. And ever the optimist, I’m hoping for a fun ride.

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week

Make a difference in your own life…read something you wouldn’t normally read.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Who Ya Gonna Blame?

On FOX-News, Rudy Giuliani said it was the president's fault because President Obama told everyone to hate the police:
We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police. The protests are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence, a lot of them lead to violence, all of them lead to a conclusion: The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong.
On ABC, NY Police Commissioner Ray Kelly blamed Mayor de Blasio:
I think when the mayor made statements about that he had to train his son — who is biracial — to be careful when he's dealing with the police, I think that set off this latest firestorm.
Frankly, my friend Jennifer lives in Baltimore and it's her fault. She should've known Ismaaiyl Brinsley was going to go to New York to kill two cops right after he shot his girlfriend. Not that she knew him or met him or ever had any contact or anything. But she lives in Baltimore so she must be to blame. 

Never mind that someone sold a crazy person the gun, or that both Georgia and Ohio had long rap sheets on the guy and he'd done jail time in both states. Surely they can own some of this.....or not.

Of course, there is that bothersome issue of the truth. The President did not tell anyone to hate the police. This is what President Obama said,
 “There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting.”              August 14, 2014
“I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur. Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community, to distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury’s decision as an excuse for violence — distinguish them from the vast majority who just want their voices heard around legitimate issues in terms of how communities and law enforcement interact.”                                                                                                           November 24, 2114 
The mayor and his family
at the inaugeration
And yes, Mayor de Blasio and his wife did have long talks with their son about being a black teenager in the city. That was not to incite hate or anger; it's to protect the child and prevent him from becoming a statistic. Any parent of a teenager of color, whether that parent is white, black, Asian, Native American, or Purple-Polka-Dots will tell you there comes a moment when you have to have the talk...the one about what to do if you're stopped or, if driving, pulled over for no apparent reason other than you "fit the description." The de Blasios are no different. As the mayor told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, December 7th:

“It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country… And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cellphone, because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color."
There are real problems with guys like Rudy Giuliani and Ray Kelly blaming the President and the Mayor. They are not helping calm the masses; they are spewing hate speech. This is not a political opportunity....this is a tragedy, and there are those who will exploit it. If you are looking to blame someone for the death of Officers Liu and Ramos, let's start with Ismaaiyl Brinsley. He got the gun, he headed to New York for a little cop hunting, and he pulled the trigger. Let's not forget he also shot his girlfriend.

The bottom line is anyone who engages in inflammatory rhetoric should be stripped of public office. They are the ones who incite riots. They are the ones who deepen the fissure into a crevasse of unfathomable depth. They forget the shooter was a crazy person, a lone trigger, and a well-known violent criminal. Those things have nothing to do with the president, the mayor, or my friend Jennifer who happens to live in Baltimore. And blaming Jennifer for the execution of two NYPD cops sitting in the squad is just as crazy as blaming President Obama and Mayor de Blasio.

For the heck of it, compare the coverage of last June's Las Vegas cop executions by right wing radicals Jerad and Amanda Miller  to this weekend's murders and you will see some stark differences in how they were handled by the media. I won't go into the details here, but look it up. You probably don't even remember who they were, but let's just say their politics were extremely right of center and coverage of their acts of domestic terrorism is significantly different from what happened this past weekend. No one blamed the Tea Party for their actions even though Miller's Facebook rant most closely aligned with their agenda. There is a difference. And if you haven't noticed that, you're not living on the same planet as the rest of us mere mortals. 

So here's the deal: stop the hate speech. Stop fanning the fires. Before you post, ask yourself, "Am I helping or am inciting?" We are long past Reconstruction. We are long past the Civil Rights movement years. We have elected a black president. We are a maturing nation. It's time to start acting as citizen adults. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
You might get a little bit of an understanding what it's like 
to be the mother of a black teenager. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Who We Aren't

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for hate speech, homogeneity, and,  people who only see black or white but nothing in between. I understand people have differing opinions on all manner of things, and I believe this is a healthy part of a free and democratic society. But getting your news from Facebook is not getting news; it's getting other people's boiled down, biased spin in cutesy sound bites that have nothing to do with actual facts. Some of the stuff I've seen posted on Facebook and in the comment sections of various news organs makes me wonder about the reading skills of many Americans. It's becoming abundantly clear to me...and folks, this is not news....people don't read before they post. They skim. Sometimes. If we're lucky. But they don't read and they don't question. This is a problem.

Perception is everything. If you always wear Vikings purple and gold on game day, people are gonna guess you're a Vikings fan. Team colors, gang colors, head scarves, head coverings, just about anything you wear tells someone something about your personal preferences. Same thing applies to the internet. If you say, 

both of these thugs engaged in criminal behavior many times. They resisted the authority of the police who act in the name of the citizens who hire them. The police acted appropriately by engaging and bringing these criminals under control of the law. the idiots protesting are not looking at the facts, and al and jesse and all the black sympathizers are making the point that these thugs had their rights violated, this is TOTAL CRAP....these guys were criminals ...doing criminal things and were terminated by the police.....the world is better off without them.... GREAT JOB POLICE!.....keep up the good work. 
comment from Washington Post's "Winning Civil Justice for Michael Brown and Eric Garner (12DEC2014) 
are you really saying that due process does not apply...or that it's okay they were summarily executed without trial? I understand that anger is there, but is that writer really endorsing a totalitarian police state where the officers are judge, jury, and executioner? 

One cannot talk about the recent shift in our civil society without commenting on three recent events:  

  1. the response to the grand jury findings in the case of Michael Brown
  2. the refusal of the grand jury to indict after the killing of Eric Garner
  3. the exposure of the CIA's use of torture during interrogation 
Each one speaks to a separate shift in what We, the People consider to be our societal norms

First, let's establish that the killing of both Michael Brown and Eric Garner by police officers in Missouri and New York are not the same. The circumstances are polar opposites and there can be no correlation between the two other than to say they are both dead as the result of a police action. 

We will never know what really happened between Michael Brown and Officer Darrell Wilson. That encounter was not captured on camera, but the events in the convenience store were. That tape, together with the divergent testimony given by witnesses, damned Mr. Brown. Due process ended when his body hit the pavement. 

If the death of Michael Brown is unable to be explained with a reliable timeline of events, the reaction to the grand jury's refusal to indict Officer Wilson is equally chilling. In the cold, hard light of the media's cameras, Ferguson and the surrounding area exploded. Looting, fires, destruction....did any of this bring back Michael Brown? Did breaking store windows and ransacking do anything but focus global attention on acts of violence against innocent shopkeepers? What was accomplished in the rampage other than the destruction of their own community? How does this assuage the anger and frustration felt by the Brown family and their core supporters? Did it do anything to change the perception that Michael Brown and his compatriots are nothing but thugs? The riots did not change the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Wilson. The mob took over and the mob becomes judge, jury and executioner. Vigilante justice is as wrong as the original shooting. It cannot be justified. 

Take down of Eric Garner
The case of Eric Garner is entirely different. The exchange is on tape. He was a large, cumbersome man asking the police to stop harassing him. Watch the tape. Seriously. Watch it in slow-mo if you have to. Watch the officers come up from behind and take him down. Was he violent? Was he threatening anyone? Is putting up your hands to shield yourself..or swatting away a hand as you back up against a wall an act of extreme violence? Eleven times he gasps, "I can't breathe," yet the officer never release his hold even after Mr. Garner is clearly down for the count. Then watch the second video...the one less often seen. The one where he lies on the sidewalk and is treated with absolute callousness by the officers and the EMT. Is that how a human being is to be treated?

For argument's sake, does it matter than Officer Pataleo has been named in two civil rights law suits in 2013 where suspects were falsely arrested and abused...on the street in public? If Eric Garner should be damned with his pattern of selling illegal cigarettes, should conclusions be reached about Officer Pantaleo based on his past record? 

We have stood by while that which we once held so dear, the principle of due process, is violated. 

And it's not just about how we treat our own citizens. We, the People seem to have taken leave of the Geneva Conventions to permit the CIA to use torture as part of the interrogation process. The same system that does not see the death of Eric Garner as the homicide the medical examiner declared it to be, also does not see water-boarding, rectal rehydration, and naked chaining in coffin-sized spaces as torture. Although I rarely agree with Senator John McCain, he might be the only person in Congress with a right to an opinion here. He was tortured. He has direct experience. I think he kinda knows what it is, and his opinion is that the CIA and its contracted subsidiaries practiced torture methodology on detainees. 

The US signed on to the Geneva Conventions in 1882 at the urging of Clara Barton (yes, that Clara Barton) and we've been a part of the agreement ever since. 

Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, last updated in August of 1949, is long and difficult to read; however, one section stands out
PART II: HUMANE TREATMENT - Art.4-Fundamental Guarantees 
2. Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the following acts against the persons referred to in paragraph I are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever: (a) violence to the life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment; (b) collective punishments; (c) taking of hostages; (d) acts of terrorism; (e) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form or indecent assault; (f) slavery and the slave trade in all their forms; (g) pillage; (h) threats to commit any or the foregoing acts. 
We are obliged to behave according to its precepts.

Former Veep Cheney on Meet the Press
Look, if the CIA didn't know they were on shaky ground, why were they constantly asking the Justice Department to declare what they were doing as legal? Vice President Cheney knew exactly what he was doing and it was an end run around responsibility. And if President Bush was unaware, well, that's a whole 'nother story. These things were deliberate, planned and executed carefully; they were not instant decisions made by soldiers in the field. There is no way to excuse detaining people you already know are neither combatants nor participants, and there is no excuse for abusing human beings under any circumstance. That is anathema to us.

The fundamental guarantee of due process applies to Americans and people in American custody. We subscribe to the belief that our citizens have the right to a fair trial, one where guilt must be proven without a doubt in a court of law. The Guantanamo detainees are still on American soil, albeit in Cuba, and still entitled to the right of due process and a trial, just as Michael Brown and Eric Garner should have had.

Either We, the People subscribe to a just society ruled by law as applied to ALL.....or we don't. There is no halfway here. 

The Brown riots, the Garner homicide, and the CIA's decision to torture are all undermining the Constitution and the laws of this nation. They are very much related to the denial of civil rights and due process. To strip away the trappings of the three events is to reveal the bare bones of civil rights...and how we approach those rights for everyone. Not just whites. Not just blacks. Not just purple with pink polka dots. 

We are We, the People. Doesn't mention anything about color, class, gender, sexual orientation or even nationality. This is about how we treat ourselves and how we treat the other....terrorist, criminal, or unfortunate bystander. When we walk away from those principles, we walk away from that which has made us exceptional. That which has made us the place people want to come. That which has made us America, land of the free, home of the brave. 

We seem to have lost our moral compass. It's time to backtrack and find it before we forget who We, the People are supposed to be. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

If you can't attribute the quote, don't post it.