Tuesday, April 28, 2015

State of Emergency

   In the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore has erupted into a city on fire. It has gone from a city in protest to a city in revolt. The Governor has declared a state of emergency, but really it’s not just this city that should be labeled as such, but the entire country as we live in a climate that threatens to erupt anywhere at any time with every life lost where inaction is deemed the appropriate response. 

   The story of Baltimore has become nothing more than a narrative of violence and criminality exacerbated by narrative-driven media coverage of police under fire and unabated looting. Indeed, the cause of the unrest has long ago become a footnote in what has become sensationalized coverage of an imploding city. The way clear of the plaguing problem of police brutality has been muddied by a city of youth bereft of parental guidance.

   Let me be very clear in pointing out that the situation in Baltimore did not start in Baltimore. I have long ago sounded the trumpet of a nation in peril when I posited that the good guys are not the people wearing the badges (parts onetwo and three). Looking at any city in riot conditions simply shows that “good” and “bad” is a part of the human condition regardless of your occupation, race, or philosophy. People have justified some of the heinous acts of authority caught on film just as they have justified the destruction of their own neighborhoods. I don’t justify either and think real justice starts when we hold everyone accountable for what they do.

   Maybe I missed the riots in South Carolina over the death of Walter Scott? Or perhaps instead, I didn’t because the swift action taken to arrest and prosecute Officer Michael Slager curtailed the tide of outrage that surely would have erupted had he been simply suspended with pay pending an internal investigation that resulted in the department finding nothing wrong with his actions. I’m curious when those in power will finally understand that they live in a nation no longer willing to accept the systematic justification of abuse of that power? 

   Like all situations, there are many angles from which to observe them unfold, and so I have to equally wonder when the people being abused will understand that destroying the very infrastructure they depend on to survive is the least effective way to facilitate the change they are so desperately seeking? If the systemic application of abusive power is perpetrated by an authority that views you as little more than an animal, it only exacerbates that view when you take it upon yourself to actually act like an animal.

   The plain truth is the story of Baltimore is a reactionary tale. Although the media will have you believe this story began in Ferguson, it is a tale much older than the fate of Michael Brown. It is a story that has been often told, but rarely believed…and now with the advent of a society under constant surveillance, simply can no longer be denied. 

   As the world watches, America is squandering an opportunity to be the leader it always claims it is. Those in authority are dropping the ball on a problem that has a solution as simple as having professional accountability for the personal decisions of those in the profession. Meanwhile those not receiving the professional treatment afforded them are stripping themselves of dignity and liberty at a time when they should be empowering themselves through solidarity. This cycle must end if we are ever going to move from a state of emergency into a state of emergence.

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