Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This senseless world

This country—or the world—will never learn. I was watching the Smothers Brothers documentary Smothered, which featured a skit by Pat Paulsen in which he “editorialized” on  whether the country should pass gun control laws. This was in 1968. Paulsen deadpanned that “If you are old enough to get arrested, then you are old enough to own a gun.” He then admits that even he owns a gun, and pulls out a pistol. Visibly shaking like a spastic, he declares that there should be no restrictions on owning a gun, even for a child—before accidentally “shooting” one the set workers. 

Senseless violence is everywhere, not just in places where it is “expected,” like the Middle East and Africa—and guns are not even necessary. In Australia the other day, eight children were stabbed to death by a “mother” who apparently tried to fake her own stabbing. But CNN thought tbat Colin Kaepernick’s 90-yard touchdown run on Saturday was more “newsworthy” than a story about a 19-year-old who falsely claimed that two men kidnapped her 5-year-old cousin she was babysitting, but is now under arrest for strangling the boy and tossing his body "like a piece of trash" on the side of the road just 40 yards from her trailer home, according to the Albany County Sheriff’s Department. 

Now there is outrage all over the country—if not in every community—concerning the “assassination” of two New York City police officers who sitting inside their squad car outside a low-income housing project. The “irony” of the incident is that one of the officers is Hispanic and the other Asian; nearly all of the shootings by police officers have been the “work” of white officers—and in New York, 86 percent of those killed by police are either black or Hispanic, and 27 percent were “armed” with nothing that could be mistaken for a weapon. Also ironic is that the black male who did this killing wasn’t even a resident of the city, but had traveled all the way from Maryland to find someone to kill, claiming on Internet rantings that he was out for vengeance in the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner shootings. 

And this after an NYPD police officer was anointed as a “saint” for buying a pair of socks and shoes for a homeless man who said “bless you” to him, probably in the hope that the cop would just leave him alone if he wasn’t antagonistic toward him. The officer was suitably “humble” about this act of kindness, claiming that this kind of thing happens every day, although I’m not sure he was referring to his colleagues or not. Some residents of the city might find this act highly ironic and a public relations ploy. After the Garner choking, another unarmed black man was killed by police; Akai Gurley was supposedly killed by a bullet fired by a rookie cop that “accidentally” ricocheted against a wall in a darkened stairwell in a Brooklyn housing project. Was even the shot “accidental”? 

We can say that the officers who were killed were “martyrs” and their lives ended by a senselessly. But most shootings are senseless, regardless of who does it. When are people in this country going to learn that this insane love affair with guns allows this kind of thing to happen? According to a New York Daily News investigation, since 1999 NYPD officers have killed 179 people; during the same period, 12 officers were killed in the line of duty (not including those related to 9-11). That is a 15-1 ratio. Let us not forget that while whenever a police officer is killed in the line of duty, it is as if a “saint” had just been killed, and that the vast majority of those killed by police don’t even have a name.

Has the New York City Police Department, which seems to think that Mayor Bill de Blassio is some kind of Communist revolutionary, learned anything from the failure of disciplining its own, especially in the Garner and Gurley killings? Just listen to Patrick Lynch, who is president of the NYPD’s largest union:

If we won’t get support when we do our jobs, if we’re going to get hurt for doing what’s right then we’re going to do it the way they want it. Let me be perfectly clear. We will use extreme discretion in every encounter... Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies, extreme discretion. The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well now we’ll use those rules to protect us.

I admit that the mobs of people protesting the Garner killing seem to be “unfriendly” to police, but don’t they have a reason to be? As I’ve mentioned before, yes, there are a lot of killings in New York, but they almost always occur after the fact—the police were not there to prevent it. The fact is that police are almost never there to prevent a murder; in general, most of the people they kill are either people like Garner and Gurley, who were unarmed, or people who were found to have weapons on their persons or in their vehicles—such is the proliferation of gun ownership—but were not in fact intending to use them against the police or anyone else. Further, 43 of these shooting deaths were committed by off-duty police officers. 

The only case in recent memory in which a NYPD police officer was actually punished for a shooting was in the Ousmane Zongo case in 2003. Zongo was an immigrant from Africa who repaired art objects and musical instruments in a Manhattan public storage facility. NYPD officer Patrick Conroy—dressed as a postal worker for a sting operation concerning a CD/DVD piracy ring operating out the facility—was hiding in the darkened facility and apparently startled Zongo when he came in and turned on a light. The unarmed Zongo was chased by Conroy into a dead end hallway and shot four times in the back. Conroy was charged only with second degree manslaughter, and after a jury deadlocked, the judge unilaterally convicted Conroy on the lesser charge of negligent homicide—sentencing him to no jail time, merely probation and community service.

And now we have a representative of law enforcement actively calling for officers to act with all due force against their “enemies”? 

I do not own a gun and never wish too. I don’t like to be around anyone who thinks a gun is merely a part of their person. This world is out-of-control with violence, and both society and law enforcement have played their part in making it so. The media and public can act with “appropriate” outrage all they want about the latest killings—whether of police, unarmed civilians or serial rampage—but as long as this country does not address the core issues behind this violence (societal and economic as well as the proliferation of guns), then it will never end, and the “outrage” will simply be “outrageous” hypocrisy. So much for this “holiday” of “goodwill” for all man.

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