Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #2

When the Blinders Are On, The Knives Come Out

By Chris M. Barkley:

Belief – Understanding = Ignorance

We, collectively, live on a very large, complex, noisy, crowded and messy planet.  And on this planet, at this particular time, communicating your ideas clearly and concisely is not only important, it’s essential.

If only it were that easy.

Mind you, if you wanted to communicate your feelings to a broad audience, you can do it as easily as ordering a latte from Starbucks. Which can be a big problem when you have a lot of people with conflicting ideas and ideologies competing for you money, attention and time.

But consider this; what if your fervent belief in your own values could be hindering your ability to engage your empathy for those who you disagree with, politically or socially?

On the afternoon of September 15, on Hoffman Avenue in the Olde Towne East neighborhood of Columbus Ohio, a thirteen year old black teenager, Tyre King, was shot left temple, the upper left chest and upper left side of the abdomen by Bryan Mason, a white Columbus Police officer. It was alleged by police that King, along with several other teenagers, had robbed a man of ten dollars with a gun. When police responded and confronted two of the teens, King allegedly pulled a gun from his waistband, which is when Officer Mason fired.

On September 16, knowing just these few scant details, I came across a post on Facebook page of a prominent fan from the United Kingdom, lamenting about this latest police involved shooting.

(Note: I am not naming this fan or any of those who support this point of view, because as much as I disagree with what happened next; no one should not be subject to recriminations or harassment by anyone reading this.)

I wrote that the situation was terrible but, under the circumstances, we should withhold any final judgment about what happened until the investigation had been completed. The reaction, from this person and other friends from around the UK and Europe was swift, harsh and unrelenting.

What the hell was I talking about? A cop shot a child. America’s police forces were out of control. America is full of corrupt cops. America is like the Wild West. When will the police stop killing? End of story, pal.

I found myself being quite startled and bewildered by these reactions. I have to explain that I have always been a bit of an optimist and that I have always considered myself to be a human being first, then an American and black, in that order. But being an African-American, I have always had to walk a tightrope of emotions when it comes to living here. I have experienced the worst sorts of discrimination, violence, insults and racism just based on my appearance as a black man. I feel and experience it every day, whether I like it not. But one of the safe spaces I have enjoyed over the past forty years, until very recently was being in the company of fans, writers, artists and editors in sf and fantasy fandom.

When I was in my formative years, I briefly entertained thoughts of being a police officer myself. And that period, the late 60’s through the early 70’s, the United States was rife with more violent crime and domestic terrorism than we do today. But as a teenager, I was more attracted to the gritty movies and tv shows of the day, The French Connection, Dirty Harry, The Seven Ups, Kojak, Hawaii Five-O and Adam-12.

All of this came to a grinding halt at the tender age of fifteen, thanks to Detective Sergeant Joseph Wambaugh of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Wambaugh, a former marine, served with the LAPD for fourteen years before retiring to write full-time.

I first stumbled across his first novel, The New Centurions (1971), at the public library in 1973. That, plus his other early novels, The Blue Knight, The Choirboys and his stunning non-fiction best seller, The Onion Field, pulled back the glamorous veneer of police work and showed me what it truly was, dark, dangerous and only occasionally fulfilling. He was also an executive story consultant for NBC’s Police Story (1973-1979), an anthology series whose episodes, more often than not, dared to show the dark underbelly of policing.

Reading Joseph Wambaugh’s works probably saved my life. I could not imagine that I would have survived the emotional and physical toll the job would have taken on me over any lengthy period of time.

On top of all this, my brother-in-law, who married my sister straight out of high school, went straight to the police academy and served in the Cincinnati Police department for thirty years, on patrol duty, undercover, an elite street robbery unit and internal affairs. I find it remarkable that he appears to be whole and sane after seeing, hearing and experiencing what he did over his career in police work.

So, when I graduated from high school, I opted for a slightly safer occupation; journalism courses and a degree in English.

Throughout my life of sixty years, I have stayed alive because of my knowledge of the police and how they operate, along with a good dose of common sense. I also have a great deal of empathy for the police, because I know what it is doing to them on emotional level.

Which brings me back to the Facebook discussion; I explained, several times to the posters on the thread that police work, no matter where or who is practicing it, is not only physically dangerous, it is, more importantly, emotionally dangerous, which is what Joseph Wambaugh taught me. No one wants to see a cop unless someone is shooting or robbing them. Otherwise, some people feel, your speeding, broken car parts, expired license, decrepit vehicle, driving with your headlights off, public drunkenness or impaired driving, is no one else’s business.

And of course, this is dead wrong. Public safety, which incorporates all of the activities above and countless other infractions, comes under their purview.

The police, I explained, are human beings, too. And like all human beings, they miscalculate, misunderstand and, through their own experiences, come with a set of values and judgments that come from dealing with the public on a daily basis. Most cops deal with this precarious balance of sense and sensibility. Others, unfortunately, do not.

Over the decades, the police departments in many cities, most notably in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and yes, even Cincinnati, have been placed under investigation or scrutiny by the Department of Justice for unwarranted shootings or violence, against unarmed civilians, most of them being minorities.

I tried to explain to the thread that In this day and age of cell phone cameras, dashcams, the internet and the vigilance of an informed public, police shootings, justified or not, will not go unnoticed. I told them that as flawed as it was, I believe in our system of due process and trial by evidence, not public opinion.

Will justice be served in the case of every shooting? No. But the record for posterity and the memories of those left behind will never be erased from history.

As far as I could tell, all of the correspondents condemned me.  One poster wrote, “Well, obviously you must be white”, an astonishing and surreal accusation that could have been easily avoided had she bothered to check my Facebook profile. A child was dead and a cop shot him, case closed. I, in turn, asked if you were a police officer in that situation, and a gun was present, such as a 2014 case in Cleveland, Ohio, when twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in a public park while holding a realistic looking air rifle, could you tell the difference between a real gun and air gun? A police officer, who is already under duress, has to make a choice in seconds whether or not that gun is real. No one wanted to deal with the reality they face EVERY SINGLE DAY that they might end up being on the receiving end of a fatal gunshot.

But this argument came to a head the very next day. Some of my posts featured words in caps, when I tried to emphasize a point when everyone was ignoring my arguments, the owner of the wall declared that I was “shouting” and I summarily blocked.

Now mind you, I have known this person for a few years and had some pleasant conversations at Worldcons in the past. Being summarily dismissed over a difference of opinion shocked and angered me.

And as for the shooting in Columbus that started this argument? Upon examination, the weapon in fact, turned out to be an air gun fitted with a laser sight. An autopsy released by the coroner on November 10th revealed that King had no drugs or alcohol in his system and that the left side wound indicates that King was turning to run or was running when he was shot. An independent autopsy done at the behest of the King family matched the official autopsy. Sean Walton, an attorney for the family, planned to call for an independent investigation and send their report to other forensic experts for further analysis.

On November 22, Demetrius E. Braxton, 19, who was also arrested at the scene, was sentenced to three years in prison for one count of robbery as part of a plea agreement.

As of this date, Officer Mason is still on desk duty and Columbus Police are still investigating the shooting. I wonder if any of the people who denigrated me actually followed up on what happened in Columbus?

Indeed, I wonder if any of these righteous people had heard of or care about the five valiant police officers who died protecting Black Lives Matter protesters when the officers were brutally ambushed by a sniper this past July.

How about Detective Benjamin Marconi of San Antonio, Texas, who was fatally shot on November 20th while writing a traffic ticket. And Deputy Sherriff Eric James Oliver of the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, Florida, who was struck by a vehicle while pursuing a suspect on November 22nd.? And what about Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez of Tacoma, Washington, who was killed by gunfire when he responded to a domestic disturbance call on November 30th? NOTE: The total of police killed in the line of duty in 2016 as of November 30th stood at 133, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Of those, 60 deaths were from gunfire.

So yeah, I get it; there are some police officers who kill or maim unarmed civilians with malice. Some of them are caught and punished, others are not. But do you care, do you give a damn or a thought to the police officers who are hurt or killed performing their sworn duty to protect the public?

Why do some people vehemently turn on other people they know over some minor disagreement?  Especially people, neighbors or friends who have similar views and outlooks?

Actually, as a progressive leaning person, this is not something I had really not given much thought to until, strangely enough, Black Friday morning. I had planned on getting up at 5 a.m. to attend a sale at a local bookstore but, in deference to my rather sleepy partner, I opted to listen to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition instead.

The very first story that morning featured host Steve Inskeep interviewing Columbia University professor Mark Lilla, who had published a controversial essay in the New York Times on what he called identity liberalism and how that was one of the main causes of the startling election of Donald Trump. The interview can be heard here and the essay is here.

In brief, Professor Lilla thinks that enlightened self-interest is at times overcome by myopic concerns on a few or even one issue. As I lay in bed listening, I found myself flashing back to that incident on Facebook. And what Lilla theorized made perfect sense in retrospect; when the blinders go on, the knives come out.

Now, before we all start feeling all smug and condescending about liberals or sf fandom, these same of standards could be equally applied to the conservative forces that have been obstructing President Obama’s agenda during his two terms or any of the more strident supporters of President-Elect Trump.

We all carry some inherently bias in one way or another, either through our political or social or intimate interactions.

A few days after the NPR interview, I encountered a few Trump supporters on my open and public page. Instead of blasting them and summarily blocking them, as I had done in the past, I tried a different approach. I told them while I was not pleased at all with President-Elect Trump and his cabinet appointees; there were serious concerns about his conflicts of interests with his businesses. I also pointed out that the people peacefully protesting were not the enemy, they were citizens and had a right to do so. Furthermore, since we’re all in this boat together, we should concentrate on finding common areas to work on together instead of attacking each other on everything we disagree on.

And the responses in return were remarkable. One man explained why he voted for Trump and said that for one, he enjoyed engaging with someone who wasn’t calling him an “alt-right nazi” at the drop of a hat. The other said that he did not like fighting all the time online and wished that more people like me would just try talking instead of shouting at each other all of the time.

Buddhists have a phrase, “the middle path”, in which they describe a philosophy where extremism is avoided and wisdom is gained through understanding. Western political thought has other comparable terms, compromise and empathy.

Over the past few years, fandom has faced a problem with dissidents; the Sad and Rabid Puppies. The us and them, push and pull and political gamesmanship over the very nature of the fandom has stressed it to the point of being permanently fractured, much like the United States is presently.

The only way any of us are going to survive the Trump Administration, or each other, is to stop shouting at each other and start listening more. I say this not as an excuse to accommodate the racism, sexism, homophobia or religious persecution. We are going to be fighting these battles for some time to come and we, collectively, should spare no effort to combating it.

But we need to start somewhere. We need to understand in order to overcome the conflict, animosity and anger we all carry with us each day.

We start by listening.

Knowledge + Empathy = Enlightenment

60 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #2

  1. So yeah, I get it; there are some police officers who kill or maim unarmed civilians with malice. Some of them are caught and punished, others are not. But do you care, do you give a damn or a thought to the police officers who are hurt or killed performing their sworn duty to protect the public?

    Who is that question aimed at? More to the point why is one premised on the other?

    People in many professions die or killed performing their jobs. If a teacher killed a student, for example, I’d be puzzled by somebody asking whether I cared about how many teachers were killed doing their jobs.

    Let’s take a step away from deaths. Recently in Australia, a member of a volunteer group of firefighters was arrested for arson. Now firefighters routinely put themselves in danger to protect others. I’d find it odd, if when people were suggesting that the suspected arsonist should be prosecuted, or that more careful screening of prospective firefighters should happen before they could join a unit, or that various other measures should take place etc. etc. that somebody said “But do you care, do you give a damn or a thought to the firefighters who are hurt or killed performing their sworn duty to protect the public?”

  2. Now if only Mike Glyer would read this the next time he feels like trolling Mad Genius Club.

  3. No one wants to see a cop unless someone is shooting or robbing them.

    This did not use to be true.

    A little thought as to how and why things changed might be of use to people who seem to think that cops shooting the wrong people way too often is an acceptable situation because cops are under stress.

    Police used to be seen as part of the community.* Now they’re seen as a threat. How and why Officer Friendly turned into Officer Dangerous is something worth figuring out.

    *much less so for various ethnic and social groups, but even for them the effect has become exaggerated, not lessened.

  4. Nice post.

    People who live in bubble worlds are more likely to fly off the handle when their bubble is invaded by thoughts outside of their world. The more insular the world, the more likely the individual is to fly off the handle.

    In another case the prosecutor in Charlotte, NC has released the reason the police officer was not indicted for that shooting. The black male who was shot had illegal drugs, had an illegal gun, his DNA was on the gun, he had obtained the gun unlawfully, he was told multiple times to drop the gun, and he eventually got shot and died. There was video evidence and forensic evidence to back up the cops story.

    But there were still riots, major streets closed, and a lot of property damage from the false claim that “he was only holding a book.”

    If you try to be polite most people will be polite back. But not all.

  5. I think some of it might be a perception that something that ought to trigger outrage, ought to trigger strong emotion, has or is becoming normalized? Respecting the difficulty of a police officer’s job doesn’t reduce tragedy of the death of a child or an unarmed person, especially one who wasn’t an immediate threat (including someone trying to flee). Yet time after time the victim is blamed, or these events are treated as inevitable and acceptable.

    And of course, each new event carries the anger of all the previous unresolved conflicts behind it. You can try to keep the discussion to the nuances of the case at hand, but it’s always going to be an emotional synecdoche for the larger problem, for the worst aspects of recent history. You’re in the minefield of people’s fear and pain, on all sides.

  6. airboy on December 5, 2016 at 7:47 pm said:

    Nice post.

    People who live in bubble worlds are more likely to fly off the handle when their bubble is invaded by thoughts outside of their world. The more insular the world, the more likely the individual is to fly off the handle.

    In another case the prosecutor in Charlotte, NC has released the reason the police officer was not indicted for that shooting. The black male who was shot had illegal drugs, had an illegal gun, his DNA was on the gun, he had obtained the gun unlawfully, he was told multiple times to drop the gun, and he eventually got shot and died.

    Perhaps somebody here can explain how this works to me. NC is an open carry state, yes? It is legal to openly be carrying a gun? Now in the Keith Scott homicide that airbody is referring too (I assume that is the police shooting he means – one of 32 in NC this year) the police at the time wouldn’t have known that Jeith Scott had ‘obtained the gun unlawfully’.

    So openly carrying a gun is both legal AND also a legal justification for another person* to regard themselves as being in immediate danger and to shoot to kill?

    I guess it’s my insular bubble stopping me from seeing how that makes sense.

    *[in this case a police officer but presumably this equally true for everybody?]

  7. I remember meeting the cop on the beat when I was walking my dog at night, as a kid. Meeting the cop on foot walking his beat. He knew the neighborhood, and knew us kids and our dogs.

    Now I have no idea who the cops are who may or may not patrol here. If they do, they do it in cop cars, not on foot. They are not neighbors.

    It’s not a good change. I’m aware that for minorities it was probably never that way, but now it isn’t that way for anyone but maybe a tiny, privileged minority.

    And when I watch the video of Tamir Rice being shot, I see a 12yo kid getting shot almost instantly on cops pulling up and leaping out of the car.

    And I’ve watched former cops insistently argue that Tamir Rice was six feet tall, or nearly, and that he was a muscular hulk who didn’t look at all like a kid and was an obvious threat behaving threateningly.

    And I’ve watched the video. He was a kid, a normal 12yo boy who hadn’t had his adolescent growth spurt yet. And he was acting like a young kids.

    And we know the older cop had a record of complaints against him, and that the younger one, who actually shot Tamir, should never have been hired, except the city had never bothered to check with the town where he’d previously been a cop and had been let go for manifest inability to do the job professionally.

    There have been other cases, cases where the video supports the idea that, whether or not a gun was found, the cop could genuinely and not unreasonably have believed he was in danger, that there was a weapon and it was about to be used.

    But there’s also this week’s hung jury in the case of Walter Scott, with at least one juror looking at a video that shows Scott running away, the cop shooting him repeatedly in the back while runs away, and then planting his own taser on the ground near Scott’s body to support his claim that he shot because Scott was wrestling his taser away from him, and concluding that he could not “in conscience” find the cop guilty.

    And I think of Eric Garner, and the times I’ve struggled to breathe and said, “I can’t breathe,” and I think about the fact that there was never any evidence offered that he was really doing that Very Dangerous Thing that was supposed to have justified the actions that led to his death, selling loose cigarettes. Man, I’d have said no one hated cigarettes more than I do, but apparently not!

    I’m seeing cops all over the country who apparently have no idea how to, or even that they should, de-escalate a situation. No idea at all.

    And that’s scary. And sad.

  8. There was a comparison made two years ago between Swedish police and the police of Norway and Finland. In Finland, police had shot one man to death since 2002. In Norway there were two persons shot. In Sweden there was thirteen. This is a matter of policy.

    Norwegian police is almost always unarmed. They have their weapons in their cars and have to get a permit before they are allowed to bring them out. This leads them to back off during violent encounters, wait until they get permission to bring their weapons and during that time see if they can find another solution.

    With regards to Finland, it is not as clear, as the police there is also armed. But there seems to be a large difference in policies there too. And of course, Swedish police use different ammunition. Here we use hollow points.

    Oh, and we have discussed gun laws before. Denmark implemented a new law not that long ago where illegal possession of a firearm in itself would lead to one year in prison, active immediately, with no chance for a more lenient sentence – and soon they will double it two at least two years if the possession is gang related. It has drastically reduced number of firearms and shootings, so it will most likely be implemented in Sweden too.

    * * *

    I’m not really that surprised with your problems to communicate, because the whole american landscape with the amount of guns is so alien to us. I mean, number of death shootings by police here is usually around 1-2 a year at most, so it is a very big deal when it happens. In Sweden, police are by law required to first shoot a warning shot and is never allowed to shoot unless they are attacked.

    So if you enter a discussion with, as an example, a swede, the starting point must be that the death was a total failure. From that you can then discuss where the blame should be put, on the individual or on policies. But a failure it was. And if the victim was underage? Carrying only an air gun? There would be an outrage. And to discuss it as if there shouldn’t be would seem deeply offensive.

  9. @Kurt Busiek

    I disagree with your statement, at least in part. Police have never been very popular in cities, from my reading of history. Local police who you know ,such as from small towns, have been thought of somewhat better but that is still true today. Police who you only interact with as law enforcers are easy to see as just obstacles to whatever you want to do. Which are never popular.

    As to why the police have become less well thought of in the US over the years I point to two main reasons.

    First, the fact that more people live in large towns or cities so that the effect I mentioned earlier becomes more widespread.

    Second, the rise in violence against police which began with Prohibition and has become even worse with the war on drugs. Back in the days when the about the worse thing cops had to worry about was someone taking a swing at them they could afford to be easy going with people. Nowadays any traffic stop or such they make could be a meth head so strung out that they will shoot you if you look at them wrong so they have to treat most interactions with the public as if it was a life or death struggle. Having to worry that anyone you meet might shoot you does not make it easy to be all sunshine and smiles. And it keeps their nerves on end almost like a war zone which leads to an increase in police shooting.

  10. How and why Officer Friendly turned into Officer Dangerous is something worth figuring out.

    One driving factor is that a lot of municipalities decided that lowering tax rates and using their police force as a revenue generating center was a good idea. The moral hazard of allowing local municipalities to keep the fines that result from citations issued by police officers has resulted in making the police into a shake-down crew, placing them at odds with many of the people they are supposed to be “protecting and serving”.

  11. Nowadays any traffic stop or such they make could be a meth head so strung out that they will shoot you if you look at them wrong so they have to treat most interactions with the public as if it was a life or death struggle.

    Killings of police officers are substantially lower than they’ve been in decades in terms of absolute numbers (even though the population has grown).

    The “133” mentioned in the piece above includes officers who died of natural causes or by accident – of course that doesn’t lessen the loss to their families but it does indicate that being *murdered* while on duty is relatively rare.

  12. I disagree with your statement, at least in part. Police have never been very popular in cities, from my reading of history.

    Not that I didn’t use the word “popular.” I said “part of the community.”

    I tend to agree with Lis Carey on this.

  13. Yes, being a police officer is dangerous. In fact, according to the latest statistics, it is the 15th most dangerous occupation in the US. But for some reason, aggressive and violent behavior by police officers is in the news. Why aren’t we hearing about all the people shot by loggers (#1), fishers (#2), aircraft pilots (#3), and so on down to maintenance and repair workers (#14)? Maybe because they actually aren’t shooting people?

    I empathize with all workers who do dangerous jobs for the benefit of society.

    Maybe we should empathize more with police officers because, unlike roofers (#4), their work is dark as well as dangerous. But what is meant by “dark”? Refuse collectors (#5) and farmers (#6) have to get up well before dawn, so it must be meant metaphorically, not literally. Violent? Cruel? Unjust? That is what we see in a lot of those videos of shootings and beatings and macings. But in those cases I find it a lot easier to empathize with the victims. Where did this idea come from that police work has to be “dark”?

  14. Mr Barkley, here are some very good answers to the points you raised. Would you like to respond? I will add one more. You say over 130 police officers were killed in a year. The Guardian puts the count of civilians killed by police at around 700, more than three times as many. This is unacceptable, to put it mildly.

  15. Thinking about the comparison of one kind of death with another still. It feels like a rhetorical trap – as if one is a price for another. Yet there is no evidence that this is the case. Nations with low numbers of killings BY police officers have low numbers of killings OF police officers.

    High professional standards, accountability and the avoidance of lethal force (and where possible the avoidance of force at all) IMPROVES the safety of police officers. It all improves the REPUTATION of police officers.

  16. To comment further on the Walter Scott case:

    Since Scott was running away at the time of the shooting and was no threat to the officer, regardless whether or not the two had struggled over the Taser minutes earlier, what business did the officer have pulling his gun and firing at all? Scott had left his car behind and very possibly his wallet and driver’s license as well. (In my case, I have my wallet attached to my key ring, so if I jumped out of my car and ran for whatever reason, I would have nothing on me, not even a credit card.) What exactly was Scott going to do? The officer should have let him go. If he needed to be arrested, that could have happened later, with appropriate backup.

    In the case of Tamir Rice, by the time the police got there, nothing was happening. The video shows the kid just sitting on the bench. Instead of roaring up with guns blazing, why didn’t the officers stop and observe the situation, then perhaps park some distance away, get out in a non-confrontational manner, and talk to him? Yes, perhaps that could be construed as placing themselves at higher risk, but since police officers literally have the power of life and death, shouldn’t they be willing to take that risk to serve the public? This trope of “always go home at the end of the day” is, I think, misguided and dangerous. If you have to shoot and kill unarmed people just for the privilege of going home at the end of the day, then I don’t think it’s worth it.

    @Hampus

    This leads them to back off during violent encounters, wait until they get permission to bring their weapons and during that time see if they can find another solution.

    That sounds pretty damn good to me.

  17. @Camestros Felapton
    In Charlotte the police were on a stakeout for a different individual.

    The guy in the car started using illegal drugs. The cops ignored the illegal drug use. Then he started waving a gun around inside his vehicle. Gun + Illegal drug use is bad and illegal. Then they ran the tag of the car. Driver was a convicted felon. Convicted felons cannot have guns. At that point they decided to make the arrest.

    Hope this clears things up.

  18. @Aaron – I agree, but it is even worse than the fines. Property used in the commission of a crime can be easily confiscated and sold by the police. Think cars, boats, etc…….

    The side effects of the War on Drugs have been substantial.

  19. Great piece, Mr. Barkley.

    Waiting for the rest of the story is sage advice. I try to follow it as often as possible.

    Listening to others is also sage advice. Both Mark Lilla’s article and the NPR interview are highly instructive.

    @airboy

    The side effects of the War on Drugs have been substantial.

    Indeed. There are good reasons for the decline in crime following the repeal of Prohibition.

    @Camestros

    But do you care, do you give a damn or a thought to the police officers who are hurt or killed performing their sworn duty to protect the public?

    Who is that question aimed at? More to the point why is one premised on the other?

    There are elements of society that are openly supportive of cops being assaulted and killed for legally and appropriately enforcing the law. It is hard to embrace the legitimate criticisms of law enforcement from groups that allow such opinions in their midst.

    FWIW, I have an ongoing discussion with a person with whom I graduated high school who is now a LEO of some flavor. We disagree from time to time on some of these kinds of issues. But still get along well despite those disagreements.

    Regards,
    Dann

  20. I’m still waiting for someone to address the meat of the article.

    It doesn’t matter how polite you are to Trump supporters, they still voted for a fascist.

  21. @Aaron – calling the President-Elect a “fascist” is the same as calling President-Elect Obama a “communist” before he took office.

  22. @Hampus – Only if you are a leftist in a bubble-world “with no knowledge of political ideologies.”

    Within your own country’s politics I doubt that many of the 770s could pass an ideological Turing Test. See the link below.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideological_Turing_Test

    Hampus – there is no reason you would understand US politics or gun laws to be able to pass this Turing Test for the USA. Nor would those of us be able to pass one for Finland, Sweden, or Norway. But could you do this for those you have political disagreements within your country?

  23. @Aaron – calling the President-Elect a “fascist” is the same as calling President-Elect Obama a “communist” before he took office.

    No, Airboy, it’s not.

    Trump has said he would ban all Muslims from entering the country, make American Muslims carry special ID, actively surveil Muslim communities and mosques as presumed breeding grounds of terrorism. His “chief strategist” is a white supremacist who built Breitbart into a leading white supremacist website. American neo-Nazis actively supported him, and American neo-Nazis celebrate his victory. He’s made it very clear, on multiple occasions in statements not even remotely “walked back,” that he wants to crack down on freedom of the press. During the campaign he encouraged cheers of “lock her up” about his political opponent and had no problem with members of his campaign publicly talking about shooting or hanging her. He publicly said Russia should find more of Hillary’s emails and said they’d be “rewarded.” He wants to break up our NATO alliances, and adopt a foreign policy favoring Russia. He admires the dictatilor, Vladimir Putin. His appointees and nominees so far are hard right, or completely lacking in experience fitting them for the position they’re nominated for, and in most cases actively opposed to the mission of the agency they’re nominated for. He wants to eliminate Medicaid, Medicare, and ACA.

    He’s a scary, scary man, who is not even intending to try to do what he promised. He was going to “drain the swamp” but is instead filling his cabinet with Wall Street insiders and other billionaires. He’s not going to bring jobs back to America; he’s going to accommodate his buddies and his own business operations, and make it even easier to export jobs.

    There will be no worker protections.

    His policies and intentions as he presents them are like Hitler’so.

    Whereas Obama simply didn’t express intentions remotely like the socialist-totalitarian imaginings of his haters. Or threaten to take your guns. Or threaten his opponents or freedom of the press.

    He saved the American auto industry (way to wreck capitalism, right?) and pulled us OUT of the Great Recession. His big, horrible, socialist program was a Republican plan to make medical care more accessible to millions of Americans. And no, his nominees and appointees were middle of the road, not left-leaning, and certainly not communists. The American left was never happy with him.

    Not similar or parallel at all.

  24. On a recent discussion on the topic of police shootings, someone talked about the consequences. The consequences of assuming any/every police shooting was motivated by racism and/or by officers treating everyone they encounter as potentially a meth-head about to murder them: people look at ways to better train officers in evaluation, observation, racial understanding instead of racial profiling, de-escalation. Likely result: shootings overall go down, racist incidents overall go down, the reputation of police goes up.

    The consequences of “wait and see” attitudes, “police work is dangerous” attitudes — potentially perpetuating a system and excusing an officer.

    (Am I saying don’t investigate and look for all the facts? Hell no. I want more investigation, from a more outside and non-partisan board. Police are notoriously bad about actually prosecuting their own bad apples. At worst one place will fire the bad apple… and the officer gets hired at the next one over.)

    As for the meat of the article, the engage more kindly and ask and discuss — there are times and people where this can work. There are also times when it is flat out insane to expect someone who sees you as inhuman to be worth addressing. Suggesting it as a blanket approach… no. Nothing is a blanket approach that garners success regardless of circumstances.

    I recently tried to sign out of a heated conversation by genuinely saying I didn’t know if I would like or not like the other person if we were talking uncontentious things, but I wished no ill on them, and even wished them well. I believe in de-escalation where plausible (I also have a temper and can’t 100% practice what I preach but I do try.) But no, Not everywhere. not for everyone and everything.

    I don’t go into discussions with Trumpists by calling them Nazis, but neither will I cede the ground that they made a terrible choice with terrible and potentially catastrophic consequences, especially for minorities and women. I will not call them fascists, but I will not cede the ground that they opened the door to fascism.

  25. calling the President-Elect a “fascist” is the same as calling President-Elect Obama a “communist” before he took office.

    Only to a fool who has no understanding of reality.

  26. Aaron: Only to a fool who has no understanding of reality.

    Huffy namecalling. I always find that a conclusive argument.

  27. @Lis Carey:
    Your rant makes it difficult for me to believe that you could pass an ideological Turing Test.

    @Aaron – Leftists are often dismissive of people who disagree with them. See your use of “fascist” and “fool.” Other common devices are claims the other individual is “ignorant,” “needs to do research,” or “I understand your arguments better than you understand your arguments” and “you did not comprehend what I wrote.”

    To better fit with Lis I suggest you add: Racist, Nazi, Klansman, etc….

  28. Dann on December 6, 2016 at 7:53 am said:

    There are elements of society that are openly supportive of cops being assaulted and killed for legally and appropriately enforcing the law. It is hard to embrace the legitimate criticisms of law enforcement from groups that allow such opinions in their midst.

    You mean like when Wayne LaPierre called law enforcement officers ‘jackbooted thugs’?

  29. airboy on December 6, 2016 at 6:00 am said:

    @Camestros Felapton
    In Charlotte the police were on a stakeout for a different individual.

    The guy in the car started using illegal drugs. The cops ignored the illegal drug use. Then he started waving a gun around inside his vehicle. Gun + Illegal drug use is bad and illegal. Then they ran the tag of the car. Driver was a convicted felon. Convicted felons cannot have guns. At that point they decided to make the arrest.

    Hope this clears things up.

    Not really, as you appear to have details that don’t match the District Attorney’s report.

  30. @airboy: A communist is not someone who is “very far left”, but someone who wants to disband private ownership – and everything is owned by everyone – sort of like within a family, where the daughter usually dont pay to take daddys/mommys car. I am not aware that Obama wanted to do this or even something remotly like this.

    Fascism is harder to define, because its usually defined over things against: Against communism, anti-liberalism, antidemocratic and dictatory – in the newer sense (Neofascicm) also seeing their own people as the greatest and other minorities as less human. Trump does show anti-liberalism, antidemocratic (threatening to jail its opponent, threateníng to not accept the results of a vote, if he loses, threatening the press) and dictatory (in the sense, that he sees himself as the sole leader) tendencies. I dont call him a fascist (I dont see ideology in his motives, more greed), but I see fascist markers in Trump, while I dont see any communist markers in Obama (And no, Obamacare is not communism).

    And I live in a country that has seen fascist and socialist regimes.

  31. Hi Lenora,

    The consequences of assuming any/every police shooting was motivated by racism and/or by officers treating everyone they encounter as potentially a meth-head about to murder them: people look at ways to better train officers in evaluation, observation, racial understanding instead of racial profiling, de-escalation. Likely result: shootings overall go down, racist incidents overall go down, the reputation of police goes up.

    IMO, there is a subtle but important distinction between assuming that every police shooting is motivated by racism (or officers treating everyone like a meth-head) and making sure that the follow-up investigation gives serious consideration to the issue before appropriately taking it off the table.

    The latter approach affords a pause before responding that gives greater weight to the significant response required for incidents where racism ends up being an important factor.

    The former approach creates too many incidents where detractors can legitimately make claims of people “crying wolf”.

    Regards,
    Dann

  32. Dann, fair point, but I do think it should be on the table and examined every single time. And it doesn’t detract from the biggest change we need; independent and external review as a matter of course.

  33. Camestros — the only statement in airboy’s account that I don’t see in the DA report is the bit about running his tags and finding out that he was a convicted felon.

    But even if you ignore that, if you assume that the police on the scene had no knowledge of his criminal history, the DA’s decision makes sense, and the fact that NC is an open-carry state is irrelevant.

    Any time an officer has articulable suspicion that a person is about to, or is committing a crime, he may perform a “Terry Stop.” This allows him to detain the person, and disarm the person if weapons are detected.

    Having seen the marijuana (by itself, and in combination with a gun), a Terry Stop was appropriate. Therefore the orders to drop the gun were legal. When Scott failed to follow legal orders to drop the gun, it was reasonable for the officers to believe he intended to harm them, and that they could lawfully use deadly force to protect themselves.

    Note though, that Scott was seen removing the gun from an ankle holster. So at some point he was carrying concealed, and when he removed it from the holster, he may have been “brandishing” the gun, which is also illegal in most cases.

    This was not a situation where someone was peaceably open carrying, and should have been left alone.

  34. @Lenora Rose – The degree of independent review of a death by police officer varies by State. In Alabama and South Carolina any peace officer killing is reviewed by the State Police (a separate group from city/county peace officers).

    In Alabama the results of the State investigation go to the DA. The DA can choose to bring charges to a Grand Jury – or not. Other States do things differently. In Alabama DAs are elected positions.

    I doubt that anyone would want a police department to solely investigate a shooting death by one of their own officers. Who watches the guardians has always been important.

    In the US, the US Justice Department/FBI can usually do a second investigation as they did in the Michael Brown case in Missouri. However, I’m not aware of the FBI bringing murder charges or civil rights charges against the shooter law officer who was not charged by the local/State level in the last 2 years or so.

    Probably Camestros can find something mysterious to nitpick about this so he can claim that this is “not really” helpful.

  35. Thinking about the comparison of one kind of death with another still. It feels like a rhetorical trap – as if one is a price for another. Yet there is no evidence that this is the case. Nations with low numbers of killings BY police officers have low numbers of killings OF police officers.

    Barkley provides reasonable arguments for why the typical police shooting should not be blamed on a moral failing of the officer in questions, but rather on underlying systemic problems. However, it seems he fails to understand that those underlying problems are actually problems – he treats them instead as unavoidable facts of life that society just have to work around.

    That police in USA are shot at relatively often becomes a missing stair thing, something that just is and that everyone steps over without noticing – in this case by accepting that police adopts a “shoot first and ask questions later”-approach to suspicious situations.

  36. @ airboy
    Rather than trying to dismiss Lis’ courteously phrased factual statement as a “Rant”, why not demonstrate your commitment to a fact-based discussion by engaging with the facts she presented, or even presenting others?

    @ Lis
    Thanks. That was far more comprehensive than I could be at short notice.

    @ Mr Barkley,
    Are you going to engage in a discussion? It would seem a logical follow up to your post.

  37. OK MSB here are just a few. I’m not going to dig through all of her rant.

    “Whereas Obama simply didn’t express intentions remotely like the socialist-totalitarian imaginings of his haters. Or threaten to take your guns. Or threaten his opponents or freedom of the press.”

    Threaten his opponents – Did President Obama once say of Republicans: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” yes – see: http://www.factcheck.org/2011/01/obama-guns-and-the-untouchables/

    Threaten Guns – Actually yes. He said that he “did not have the votes” to take individuals guns. He also appointed justices who do not think that US citizens have an individual right to bear arms. He also banned importation of WW2 (non-automatic) firearms because he could. These weapons almost never were used in crimes – but he banned their importation anyway. Those were the only guns he had the power to “ban” and he did so.

    Obama threaten”freedom of the press?” Regularly. The individual who argued the Citizens United case said the courts could ban movies (the subject of the case) as well as books on individuals running for public office. Obama directly rebuked the Supreme Court justices during a State of the Union speech for the Citizens United decision. He was in favor of altering the First Amendment to the US Constitution. So yes, this is threatening freedom of speech & press when opposed to Obama and the Dems. The Republicans have not moved to Amend the First Amendment – the Dems have.

    “There will be no worker protections.” Really? Do you really believe “no worker protections? No minimum wage. No child labor. No mine safety. No OSHA. No nothing? Really? I wish I could make a bet on this one so I could take your money.

    About Obama again: “his nominees and appointees were middle of the road, not left-leaning” Really? According to any rational measure of US Politics? Perhaps on the 770 political scale they were “middle of the road” but not to any rational individual.

    I could go on, but what is the point? I think that many of her statements were not factual and were a rant. But that is just my opinion. But the Republicans have more elected offices now than they have since the late 1920s. How many total elected offices have the Dem’s lost under the “middle of the road” Obama?

    Unfortunately, I think some of the comments have unfortunately reinforced Chris M. Barkley’s experience.

  38. @Hampus

    I’m not really that surprised with your problems to communicate, because the whole american landscape with the amount of guns is so alien to us. I mean, number of death shootings by police here is usually around 1-2 a year at most, so it is a very big deal when it happens. In Sweden, police are by law required to first shoot a warning shot and is never allowed to shoot unless they are attacked.

    So if you enter a discussion with, as an example, a swede, the starting point must be that the death was a total failure. From that you can then discuss where the blame should be put, on the individual or on policies. But a failure it was. And if the victim was underage? Carrying only an air gun? There would be an outrage. And to discuss it as if there shouldn’t be would seem deeply offensive.

    In Germany, a country of 83 million, police officers shot and killed 7 people in 2014 and 10 people in 2015. Even taking the much higher population of the US into account, US police officers shoot 25 times as many people as their German counterparts.

    Meanwhile, German police officers are shot and killed in the line of duty at a rate of about one per year. The last case happened in October, when a police officer was fatally shot while seizing the illegal gun collection of a far right nutcase.

    Ambiguous or clearly wrongful shootings by police officers are extremely rare and happen every couple of years. The last case I recall happened in 2011, where a police officer shot an unarmed woman (who happened to be black) for rioting at an unemployment office in Berlin. Before that, there were two cases in the 1990s.

    So the US figures both of police officers shot dead in the line of duty and of people shot by police officers are horrifyingly high from a European POV.

  39. Reasons perceptions of the police have changed abound. To call out just a few:

    Increasing militarization of law enforcement equipment and training. As Jeff Cooper (right wing marine, cia operative, firearms instructor, and writer) pointed out – the FBI had snipers in the ’50’s but they went to work in a three piece suit not bdu’s. The mindset of a soldier and a cop should not be the same. As the police become more militarized they begin to act more as an occupying army than a peace officer.

    This militarization has been driven by perception by police of increased threat due to modern weaponry like assault rifles and semiautomatic pistols being in the hands of criminals. The perception of this threat has led to police up-arming themselves and becoming more hair trigger in their their threat response.

    Police now patrol in cars and have less contact with the communities they serve. This contributes to a feeling of other on both sides of interactions between citizens and cops. This is particularly exacerbated when there are racial or cultural differences between the police and the community they are enforcing laws in.

    Prosecutors failing to enforce laws or decency on the police. While certainly not all police shootings and lesser use of force are unjustified those that are unjustified need to have consequences. I grew up in a large metropolitan area where no police shooting EVER had been found unjustified by a coroner’s inquest. That includes instances such as shooting an unarmed teen multiple times in the back. The perception of police as above the law is corrosive to community relations.

    And I’m rambling on too long. So let’s end with et cetera.

  40. airboy:

    I can’t see why I should try to pass a test to emulate someone with no knowledge of political ideologies, that instead will make them up in his head.

    Social liberalism does not become communism only because you think so. And fascism does not stop being fascism, because you think it should.

  41. @ Airboy
    Thanks for your reply. To return to facts, here are just a few. your first paragraph refers to a metaphor used by the President, as you should know, referring to a line in a movie. Converting this into a threat requires effort that I see no reason to make.
    Obama has made no effort to change the first amendment. He and other Democrats oppose the bizarre court decision in Citizens United, that corporations are people, and wish to pass legislation, not an amendment, to make clear that they are not. As you know, this decision has flooded elections with waves of dark money. To quote the famous t-shirt, I will believe that corporations are people when Texas executes one.
    There has been no effort whatever to confiscate private citizens’ guns, as the NRA has loudly predicted since 2008.
    The judge nominated for the Supreme Court nearly a year ago, and whom Republican Senators will not even meet, much less vote on, was voted by the Senate into his current job by 98-0, and was named by one of these very Senators as exactly the kind of moderate who should be nominated to the Supreme Court. Universal approval would seem to be the very definition of middle-of-the-road.

  42. Perhaps I’ve misread, but it seems to me the two most salient sentences come at the start:

    When the Blinders Are On, The Knives Come Out

    Belief – Understanding = Ignorance

    I must say this discussion has failed to expand on those points, but it most certainly has illustrated them.

  43. “I must say this discussion has failed to expand on those points, but it most certainly has illustrated them.”

    Those two points are more or less the only reasons Trump got elected.

  44. About Obama again: “his nominees and appointees were middle of the road, not left-leaning” Really? According to any rational measure of US Politics?

    Yes. In fact, Obama’s nominees and appointees compare fairly favorably to some of those made by Reagan during his presidency such as O’Connor and Kennedy. History, you should study it.

  45. @Hampus Eckerman:

    Those two points are more or less the only reasons Trump got elected.

    Which explains why those who support him are doubling down on it. What is the explanation for the rest of us?

  46. “Which explains why those who support him are doubling down on it. What is the explanation for the rest of us?”

    For opposing him? Less ignorance I guess.

  47. @Hampus Eckerman: One thing about politics is that the primary difference between the assholes on my side and the assholes on the other side is which side they’re on. It’s a useful, actionable insight that nonetheless doesn’t reduce the amount of assholism in my life. Far from it.

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