As evidenced by the events unfolding in Ferguson, MO over the past 10 days, there’s a lot wrong with America. Some of the problems are within the president’s authority to fix. Thomas Frank joined me in the last half-hour of today’s show to talk about the three he outlined in his latest piece at Salon, “How to Wreck the GOP in 3 Easy Steps.”
Of course, his suggestions would only wreck the GOP’s chances of taking over the Senate in November, and bolster the Democrats’, and make the country better for those of us struggling to get through each month.
This action by President Obama would also probably help to quell the unrest in Ferguson, MO and fend off similar future demonstrations of frustration and anger that will undoubtedly pop up around the nation. But as long as the needs of hurting citizens are ignored, the more we’ll see people taking to the streets.
Attorney General Eric Holder is headed to Ferguson today. This morning, his open letter to the citizens of that town appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Although he sounded some of the right notes, he also proved to be as tone-deaf as MO Gov. Jay Nixon with proclamations like this:
In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson.
There’s a reason the chant “No Justice, No Peace” has resonated so clearly with so many. He’s got it backwards..
I began the show today by reading that letter, then recounting my own horrible experience with law enforcement both recently and a few years ago when I was not only arrested for trying to ask my then-congressman a question at an event that was supposed to be a “town hall meeting,” then being sprayed with pepper foam while in the custody of the Broward County jail.
I told that story again because of an Op-Ed published in yesterday’s Washington Post, written by Sunil Dutta, identified as “a professor of homeland security at Colorado Tech University, has been an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 17 years.”
Aside from the sickening realizion that “homeland security” is a course of study at at least one American university, the content of Mr. Dutta’s editorial underscored the need to revisit the “authority” granted to those who wear badges and carry guns.
It begins benignly enough
A teenager is fatally shot by a police officer; the police are accused of being bloodthirsty, trigger-happy murderers; riots erupt. This, we are led to believe, is the way of things in America. It is also a terrible calumny (a false and slanderous statement.) ; cops are not murderers. No officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone, armed or unarmed. And while they’re unlikely to defend it quite as loudly during a time of national angst like this one, people who work in law enforcement know they are legally vested with the authority to detain suspects — an authority that must sometimes be enforced. Regardless of what happened with Mike Brown, in the overwhelming majority of cases it is not the cops, but the people they stop, who can prevent detentions from turning into tragedies.
But then descends into a state of power crazed madness
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
But if you believe (or know) that the cop stopping you is violating your rights or is acting like a bully, I guarantee that the situation will not become easier if you show your anger and resentment. Worse, initiating a physical confrontation is a sure recipe for getting hurt. Police are legally permitted to use deadly force when they assess a serious threat to their or someone else’s life. Save your anger for later, and channel it appropriately. Do what the officer tells you to and it will end safely for both of you. We have a justice system in which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated. Feel free to sue the police! Just don’t challenge a cop during a stop.
As I learned the hard way, innocent citizens who are brutalized by power drunk megalomaniacs often have no recourse. I didn’t.
Susie Madrak, managing editor of Crooks & Liars, joins me every Wednesday morning. Today, she sent along a video that every manly man should watch. It’s a great lesson to authority figures everywhere who might wield some modicum of power to show how to use it in a positive way.
And finally, a big “You Go Girl” to Mo’ne Davis, the first girl ever to pitch a shut out in the Little League World Series. She takes the mound again tonight.
I’ll be drinking lots of fluids and downing some chicken soup today in a quest to rid myself of this summer cold and will be back tomorrow with author Sasha Abramsky and Congressman Alan Grayson, Radio or Not!