Kill one person, it's called murder.
Kill 100,000, it's called foreign policy.
""""""""- A popular bumper sticker
Everybody seems angry and frustrated these days. What's important is what people do with that anger and frustration. It's also important to understand the roots of all this anger.
A black preacher who was part of the peaceful Black Lives Matter street protest in Dallas the night when five cops were killed told an MSNBC reporter after the killings he was still angry over the killings by police of black men in the last three days and in previous months. He carried a baseball bat over his shoulder. Likewise, in a separate but related realm, Iraqi exile Sami Ramadani confessed on Amy Goodman's news program that being asked to comment on the recent Chilcot Report detailing the culpability of the British government for the Iraq War was difficult for him because of the incredible anger the subject incited in him.
These two men are not a problem. They were able to channel their anger into constructive paths, one a preacher/protester, the other a writer/commentator. I share the anger expressed by these men, as I share their devotion to peaceful modes of expression.
The problem we face in this nation comes from another quarter: It comes from those who, for one reason or another, feel compelled to address their frustrations, fears and sense of insulted self-image by using violence. This category involves people of all classes and levels of status. I would put former President George W. Bush and others like him in this category of resorting rashly to senseless violence. The category would also include Jeronimo Yanez, the cop who shot Philando Castile in St. Paul, and Micah Johnson, the military veteran who murdered five cops in Dallas.
I think I hear someone crying "foul!" Let me explain. First, I include the former president in such a category to make a larger point about the state of America circa 2016. I'm a realist, so I don't expect Mr. Bush will be arrested anytime soon. The point is to actually think about what it means to kill people and to mourn for loved ones. The killings in Dallas were heart-wrenching; on the media, there were endless references to the mourning families of the killed officers. Again, heart-breaking and infuriating to ponder. But what angers me most is the mourning relatives of undeserving African Americans killed by cops and the hundreds of thousands of relatives of the dead in Iraq whose on-going grief should be on the conscience of George W. Bush and "killers" like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell. The dead in Iraq never seem to get much attention, and the crimes of the ruling class seem to just slip away into some obscure memory hole. The Iraq War opened up a Pandora's Box and let out a host of horrors. ISIS is one of these horrors. Another is a deepening distrust of government. Official forgetting is epidemic.
On MSNBC, Fox and CNN, I listened to one self-righteous TV talking head after another wring their hands in disbelief over Micah Johnson's shooting of Dallas cops. I think it was a woman on Fox who said: "I can't understand why someone would do a thing like this." Is this woman mentally deficient? I don't think so. Instead, she's assuming a style of public media thinking that has become part of the problem, something we need to grow out of and move beyond. I have no trouble understanding the anger that motivated Micah Johnson, as I can understand how his military weapons training boomeranged in his head into a misguided terrorist act. It's called empathy. Which is not the same thing as sympathy; to empathize means to put yourself in someone else's shoes -- even into their head. It's an effort to understand, not excuse -- versus the usual demonization process and intensifying cycle of violence. There's a tradition of black veterans as justice-seeking vigilantes. John Singleton's film Rosewood is about a massacre of blacks in 1923 in Rosewood, Florida, and a WWI black vet played by the imposing Ving Rhames leads an effort to fight back. There's a couple blacksploitation films from the 70s with the same theme utilizing black Vietnam vets as heroes fighting "the man" back home.