Well, I didn’t say the word but I remember feeling shaken, bullied.
I grew up in Maryland, right outside D.C. and I would often go back and ask about my high school classmates. A surprising number of them became cops in Prince Georges County, a county north of D.C., well populated by working class/middle class African-Americans. And the ones that became cops were often the ones marginalized in High School: not quite good enough to play varsity sports, not quite smart enough or rich enough to go to college, and not quite accomplished enough to attract girls.
But they were well qualified to become cops in Prince Georges County, including my two teammates who administered my loyalty test.
As the years passed, I began to read newspaper accounts of strife, racial tension, between the citizens of Prince Georges County and the police–reports about brutality, violent confrontations and ‘driving while black.’ Not really a spoiler alert as I grew up with these guys and I knew that putting on that uniform had not purged them of their racial animus. I also knew that putting on the uniform empowered them, validated their racial indoctrination, their racial implants, and perhaps provided them, for the first time in their life, a winning identity.
I also remember these guys as kids. They were kind, loyal, funny, full of heart, and devoid of prejudice. By the time they were 14, those qualities seemed to have vanished, or were crushed, infected with hateful racial propaganda, the DNA that was passed down to Maryland boys back in the day. Remember, George Wallace (“segregation today…segregation tomorrow…segregation forever”) received close to 200,000 votes in his Presidential bid in Maryland back in 1968.
One of the joys in life is realizing connections, recognizing the commonality between yourself and the citizens of the world. It makes your life richer, deeper, your soul nourished by the rainbow, the richness of other cultures. There is so much that connects us but back in the day, Maryland boys were forced fed racial stereotypes, scapegoats for all that ailed them. And the ones that became cops, their behavior programed by their childhood indoctrination, came to view people of color as objects, and when you objectify someone, it becomes easy to exact cruelty upon them.
Now I have great respect for cops. They are similar to other professions—some good, some bad, but mostly good. Today, because of all the budget cuts to social services, we have dumped on the police the tasks of social worker, councilor, mental health worker, in addition to their primary job of keeping the peace. And like teachers, they are grossly underpaid.
In the 30’s, when the Nazi SS rolled into Polish towns with orders to exterminate Jews, they lacked the personnel to execute their mission. To make up for their personnel deficiencies, they recruited townspeople to participate in their local holocaust. So, your local baker, mail carrier, civil servant, and carpenter spent the day executing Jewish men, women and children (yes, children) and afterwards enjoyed a nice family dinner at night. They were willing executioners, having been infected by a steady diet of propaganda, including decades long rants from pulpits, about how Jews were animals, less than human, and were the principle reason for Germany’s defeat in World War I. (Source for this data is: Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen.) The pump had been primed.
Hitler didn’t create anti-Semitism; he exploited the cancer that had been tilled and laid fallow for decades.
We have a great capacity for evil when our soul is infected by the cancer of propaganda, infected with the disease of scapegoating. When this disease courses though our veins, shaping our behavior, burying our inherent goodness, we become capable of astounding acts of cruelty.
During the 1900s, in many southern towns, the hanging of an African-American in the town square served as a social event for the community, much like a spring dance, or when the circus came to town. Actually, it was more of a social event for the white community, kids frolicking in the town square while a human being swung from a tree. The town’s leaders, often the leading elders of the church, spearheaded this entertainment ritual. And like the citizens in those Polish towns, they viewed their victims as objects, not quite human, soulless, a threat to the social order, fortified by their interpretation of scripture. They felt they were doing God’s work, much like the German citizens who would attend church the following day after engaging in genocide, comforted by their certainty they were executing God’s will.
And these acts of violence were condoned, granted absolution by the silence of both German citizens and the white citizens in those southern towns.
Back to my Maryland story and the Prince Georges’ cops: there are two tragedies in play here: a community laid seize with physical violence, intimidation, and suppression perpetuated against people of color by the police. But there is another victim: people like my buddies who were forced fed, indoctrinated with hateful racial stereotypes and scapegoats during their formative years, much like ordinary Germans were forced fed propaganda against the Jews, and much like Southerners who were injected at birth with the DNA of racial prejudice. And to the degree the teachings stuck, is the degree their humanity became contaminated, compromised, decayed-removing themselves from the community of man and woman with all its inherent riches.
The perpetuators of violence don’t walk away free and clear; each act of cruelty performed recoils against their soul. There is a price to be paid because it is a crime against one’s innate goodness, often manifested with alcoholism and other additions.
Here we are 30 years later and candidate Trump is running for President. Instead of appealing to the inherent goodness of our citizens, instead of appealing to the high ideals as set forth in our Bill of Rights and Constitution, instead of appealing to America’s strength as embodied by its diversity; instead of appealing to the glory of the American dream and all it represents, he instead appealed to America’s vast reservoir of prejudice, hate and intolerance. He chose to take the cowardly path by pandering to America’s deepest fears and prejudices. And like Hitler, and like the southern Christian elders, he offered up a scapegoat: the red meat of Muslims. He pummeled the American people with the concept that we live in a dangerous environment, that the fear and terror that blankets the land has one source–Muslims. Muslims are serving the same purpose that Jews served for Hitler, that African-Americans served for the Southern Christian elders.
Trump recently called the press the “enemy of the people”. I wonder what politician coined that term….
Oh yeah, it was Joseph Stalin. You know, the guy responsible for the deaths of 20 million Russians. (Some historians have pushed the figure to 80 million.)
Our President doesn’t quote Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, Martin Luther King or Abe Lincoln. No, his go to guy is Joseph Stalin, the man responsible for the Russian Holocaust.
Trump is systematically infecting America with his white supremacy agenda, the Republican Representatives and Senators complicit in their silence. What was said behind closed doors is now becoming public policy throughout the land. White Supremacists now run our country and they have an agenda, and people of color are in their scopes.
Trump is a bully.
American can no longer afford to be silent. This insecure bully has the nuclear codes.
Nobody should ever say the words: ‘I didn’t vote; they are all bad.’
Well, they’re not. And our silence, our apathy, has elected a guy who thinks a maniacal dictator had the right idea about the press.
And for my basketball buddies and the rest of Trump’s base, we must work to restore their innate humanity, their innate goodness. They fell for the wrong boogie man. We must work to combat intolerance because it sabotages the promise of America.
This is a real test for our Democracy and our Institutions. The administration’s white supremacy agenda is no longer hidden. They hold the power and code words to communicate their message of intolerance is no longer required. Their racism is overt, they feel empowered, which in turn empowers the white supremacists, Neo-Nazi and other hate groups.
This race thing has a choke hold on America. We either confront it or the virus injected by our President will become the law of the land.
“Now that this man has filled up the measure of his
years, now that the leaf has fallen to the ground as all leaves
must fall, let us guard his memory as a precious inheritance,
let us teach our children the story of his life, let us try to
imitate his virtues, and endeavor as he did to leave the world
freer, nobler, and better than we found it. ”
This is from SPEECH ON THE DEATH OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON
I realize this is not really a comment but your story reminds me of this man and the great struggle which continues today.