“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, on the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all”! – Mario Savio – Sproul Hall, U.C. Berkeley: December 2, 1964.
Announcing the birth of Rap music in 1970, Gil Scott-Heron spit “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised; The Revolution Will Be Live.” Witnessing the radical experiment in empathy on our streets these days is what he meant; proof of the theory that when something becomes true for enough of us, a tipping point, it becomes true for all of us. In Timothy Leary’s equivalent of Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Prison” he predicted the new revolution would be neurologic; “the familiar gnostic, hermetic, neo-platonic, alchemical, Faustian, Jeffersonian belief in the individual as microcosm, the all-out vision of multi-centered universe that gives life to individual existence, perennially recurring, always opposed by the Inquisition, always mocked by the current version of cynical cool-out stoicism.”
Watching the demonstration In NYC yesterday; a spontaneous gathering of folks who didn’t know each other the day before; I was struck to see everyone zoned in on the speakers at the daïs, the mothers of Eric Garner, Micheal Brown and Tamir Rice; the twelve-year-old boy who, playing with a toy gun, was shot dead two seconds after police arrived. Not one person in the crowd was looking down at their cell phone. The revolution will not be televised; the revolution will be live.
When Jesse Jackson watched Barack Obama inaugurated he wept. Allen Ginsberg, on first hearing Dylan’s music, wrote, “I heard ‘Hard Rain’—and wept. Because it seemed that the torch had been passed to another generation, from earlier bohemian and Beat illumination.” Watching CNN last night I know how they both felt. This revolution of compassion will change us. To paraphrase Gandhi; “no power can resist the aroused consciousness of the masses once they are dedicated and take to the streets.”
We will win this war for equality. It was won the day the first Air Jordan’s hit the pavement to protest in what Dale Carnegie defined as success; “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” History teaches us that those who want power through force fail; those who quest for freedom, equality and justice by non-violent means; win. I join my brethren today in misty eyed reverence, knowing the seeds of the sixties, lost underground for two generations to greed and hubris, have blossomed in a velvety green soul-power revolution.
The extinguishing of young lives in Vietnam fueled the gust of anger that ignited the fire at home; spreading from the end-the-war marches in our cities to college campuses everywhere. That same anger, being expressed likewise, from coast to coast, involving every ethnic and age group, a movement as diverse as the anti-war and civil rights demonstrations of the 1960’s; led by the millennial generation; stems from the same concern, there are lives in the balance. A new generation of Americas youth, being made complicit in thousands of extra-judicial killings and being vilified world-wide for it are enraged and engaged; they will triumph.
This new awareness is the Millennial generations civil rights struggle; its Vietnam; a cause more worthy than the vagaries of the OCCUPY moment; not a condemnation of the cops anymore than the war in Vietnam was a repudiation of the troops; nor is it a demonization of the CIA worker bees that tortured Arabs in the name of our safety and in the process caused us to lose our collective soul. To target police as villain, tasked to enter communities that have systematically been deprived of education, opportunity and income equality, creating the modern American ghetto, expected to be garbage men to clean up the mess caused by politicians and racist attitudes; makes them as much victims as those they slaughter. To blame the cops is to miss the larger villain; they are only the instrument. If my brain tells my arm to strike, and later I find this unjust; I do not cut off my arm. The cops and the troops and the CIA operatives followed flawed leadership. It’s the bosses now running for cover who deserve our wrath. It’s Cheney belongs in chains.
The millennial generation leading this revolution were taught not to keep score at their soccer games because they didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings; and everyone went home with a trophy; the same trophy. When they acted out their parents didn’t hit them; they were given a time out. They attended schools on the same buses that carried their rainbow nation classmates; gay, black, brown and yellow. They are egalitarian moralists to the core and believe in equality just like the constitution says and simply put they are not having it. The images witnessed of black children being shot for waving toy guns and black men being choked out, played in heavy rotation like some monstrous MTV video snuff film, for the most minor of infractions of the law, have shaken their tender sensibilities of what America stands for. The good news in this grotesque comedy of obscene errors is the fact that their aroused citizenship and sense of right will save us. They will insist, by force of numbers; that we re-discover our moral soul-center.
Searching for the villains to execute and banish diverts us and perpetuates the circle game we are caught up in. Conditioned to respond to language we have allowed to creep in to our lexicon keeps the whirligig spinning. We no longer speak about crime to fight; but criminals to capture. It’s no longer terror we wage war on; its terrorists. Thus, in this process, making some people evil and some good. If we continue down that road; surely we are lost.
We’ve seen this movie before. It was made all the easier to first demonize and them dehumanize the Vietcong by calling him Charlie; by labeling him a Gook. Today insurgents, a strange name for indigenous folks, are Hadjis, (actually a term of respect for Muslims who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca), all the easier to see them as sub-human; and thus easier to kill them without remorse.
Once conditioned to respond to these dog whistle phrases; dividing lines are drawn, separating us from them; sides are chosen. It’s no longer We; its Them vs Us. Once drawn the lines barricade behind their fears and see the “other” as enemy. The results of this vicious circle is what we are reaping today. So the arm that chokes the life from Eric Garner is as motivated and justified to act as the hand that violates the detainee and the finger that pulls the trigger that send the bullets that executed Mike Brown, Tamir Rice and untold multitudes of others.
It’s not the cop or the CIA agent who should bear the burden; it’s the top cops that send the orders down the line who are tasked with oversight of their troops. It’s the bosses to blame. But like Jabba the Hutt Cheney says, when asked about rectal feeding, a Orwellian anachronism for sexual humiliation, “ I don’t know anything about that” even while taking credit for instructing the troops to brutalize the enemy; even while crowing; “I’d do it again”. The only way not to know is to not want to know. But ignorance as a defense is no defense. It’s your job to know. It is the ancient Chinese proverb that applies here “a fish rots from the head down.”
“We got useful intelligence from detainees we used enhanced interrogation techniques on”, (a euphemism for torture) is the canard being issued by the CIA bosses and the apologists for the knuckle-draggers of the hard Right. Well, say the new vanguard of our cherished American liberties; “we just don’t care. If you have to torture to get information; if that’s all you’ve got; then find something else. We vanquished Hitler’s jaundiced National Socialist ethos without torturing anyone; the same can be done with the ugly ideology of Islams-fascist wing.”
Do your job in a way we don’t have to look over our shoulders and hang our heads in shame every time we leave the USA. Never torture again; period. We don’t care if the info you got while rectally feeding a prisoner was useful. The only honorable authority we have in this conflict is we are morally superior to ISIS in our tactics. Don’t make us the same as them.”
The public relations apparatus for the cops also uses a well-worn standard list of favorite hits. “He put his hand in his waist-band”; meant to suggest the person had a gun; even when the concern is, as was the case with Mike Brown and a long list of others, the summary execution of unarmed men. Cops also insist, even after pumping twelve shots into Mike Brown; “I feared for my life.” It’s time to ask at what point did you stop fearing for your life? Was it after the third shot, the sixth, the ninth?
Real power, one that kings have had the sole authority to exercise since time immemorial, is the power to pardon. We have extended that power down to those in uniform who we have also given the awesome power of deadly force. In the oft referred to “new training regime’ that is supposedly coming; someone please remind the cops, the troops and the CIA henchmen that real power is the power to pardon.
We will never purge bias from the hearts of men no matter how many racists we out; the struggle for civil rights has taught us that. What we can do is issue new demands for a change in tactics. Whether a man is equal in the authority figures eyes (cops, troops, CIA) or not matters not; all men are to be treated equally; thus are our values enshrined in law. The world, including our enemies, admire us for that, love us for that. They do not hate us for our freedoms; they hate us for our hypocrisy.
A few demands would offer easily rendered solutions; body cameras have proven to dramatically lessen citizen complaints of cops misuse of power. In Rialto, Calif., where an entire police force is wearing body-mounted cameras, the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%. Special prosecutors who are not in forced incestuous relationships with cops, must be tasked with prosecution when the unarmed are killed by cops. Police protocols must stress the legal and moral necessity to use the least amount of force possible, de-escalating confrontations, using, when an arrest is the only option left, the most non-violent means to arrest.
The streets in our communities are not a TV episode of COPS. Everyone does not need to be shouted down with vulgarities and vicious threats with loaded guns pointed at them; not everyone needs to be taken down like Pablo Escobar; we are not in Fallujah. In Ferguson a tendency towards confrontation and an over-armed police force did not bring order, but instead created the conditions under which the town descended into chaos. And one last thing fellas; let’s make it a rule that cops must stay off a person’s neck.
This recent rare occurrence of being ashamed and proud of the same thing; ashamed we allowed police powers and torture to run rapid and proud we owned up to them is eclipsed only by the pride felt witnessing a new generation of American youth leading an honest to god throwback style non-violent democracy revolution. The proper functioning of a democratic republic does not exclusively rely upon having a moral leadership. It also requires having a moral citizenry that regularly scrutinize the things done in its name.