George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers on May 25th 2020. Preliminary autopsy reports showed that George’s air supply was cut off at the neck by external ongoing pressure.
The videos of the event clearly shows police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George’s neck while George gasps that he can’t breathe. Derek seems to looking for approval from the 3 other police officers nearby.
The Wikipedia graph below shows the number of deaths probably caused by Police officers in the U.S. over the past 11 years https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_killings_by_law_enforcement_officers_in_the_United_States
|Pre-2009 (170)||Click here for the lists|
|2009 (72)||List not separated by month (click here for the full year)|
|2011 (172)||List not separated by month (click here for the full year)|
The U.S : a society founded on violence and where violence is repeatedly touted as the complete solution to both external (usually imagined ) and internal threats.
A showdown shoot ’em up on Main Street with the bad guy will restore all things to rights.
The U.S. , a country that, unlike most other countries, glorifies its constitutional guarantees of its citizens to carry guns as the right to “freedom”. A country where individual ‘freedoms’ (usually for the more wealthy and ‘productive”) are prioritised above the right of collective safety and wellbeing.
In addition , when we consider that of the “40% of the two million armed (U.S.) forces deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Twenty-five to forty percent of them develop PTSD, clinical depression, sleep disturbances, or suicidal thoughts” and 50% of those do not receive the help and support they need, we can understand that there is a vast pool of fucked-up and extreme violence socialised men in that society. War does not destroy the victim alone. As Muhammed Ali, the great black boxer said about being conscripted for the genocicdal war against Vietnam:one. “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” he said. “No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end.”
President Trump is undoubtedly one of the most incompetent, ignorant and bigoted of U.S. presidents, and his actions both during the ongoing pandemic, and his response to the sometimes violent demonstrations that have occurred in response to George Floyd’s murder, have been extraordinarily counter-productive and dangerous. However it is clear that his actions are applauded by a large proportion of the United States’ population. Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause, of America’s dysfunction.
America is a country where lying and cheating, cheap exploitation and unmitigated violence at all levels of society are projected as capitalism unfettered – an Ayn Rand society where anything goes, and to hell with anyone and anything else. Such a society (despite the country’s enormous wealth from its natural resources) is destined for disaster. Former President Obama was a master at saying all the right things, while continuing to lie, cheat, steal and murder on behalf of the “exceptional nation”.
It is a society and culture that has pursued the propaganda of selling “product” , no matter the cost to vulnerable workers or the environment, or the lies required to make that sale, with religious zealotry for over a hundred years. And as a consequence, where those who are not wealthy are not worthy. Adam Shatz ,in “America Explodes’ describes the phenomenon of systemic racism in America with great clarity.
The disjunct between those in power staying “all the right things” about prejudice poverty and violence, and the reality on the ground has in the past 20 years, grown to become an enormous sink-hole of hypocrisy. It is vital that all people recognise that actions and good conduct alone determine whether we are a force for good or evil in this world. Words are cheap.
And we have seen this commodification of “terror’ creep all across the globe in the last decade like a virus. Police officers around the world now dress in absurd black clothing or camouflage outfits armed with sub-machine guns. Such foolish role-playing dress-ups encourages police (often with minimal training in de-escalation and risk assessment) to behave like frightened ‘warriors’ in a war setting, where no such threat exist.
And again, while the U.S. leads the world in its violent persecution of coloured people (both deaths and incarcerations) it is by no means alone. Here in New Zealand (with a population of 5 million people) there are often 2 or 3 deaths a year by Police of usually rangatahi tane (young Maori men), along with a vastly disproportionate number of men in gaols ( with a global imprisonment ranking up there with the United States ) who are Maori.
A supreme irony then that one of the bigger earlier demonstrations for “Black Lives Matter’ outside of the U.S. , was in Auckland, New Zealand.
However the lead global agency for systematic violence, brutality and torture must surely go to Israeli ‘security ‘ forces operating day and night against largely defenseless Palestinians for the past 70 years (with unequivocal and unquestioning support by the United States and its Western allies for this brutality) . And not because Palestinians are a threat to the huge Israeli military juggernaut, but because they have land that Israeli settlers covet.
What is needed therefore, is not simply righteous indignation and protestations at police brutality, but a systematic global assessment of where the fault lines that lead to to violence and exploitation of the vulnerable members of all of our societies, occur. Once those systemic and sociological drivers of violence and exploitation are identified – (and named-and they are both complex and many)- have been identified, then a complete overhaul of global societal values and systems is required.
Footnote:The current simplistic motions in the United States to “defund the Police” will create ever more divisions in an already fractured society and the potential for vigilante groups on the “right” and “left’ to determine ‘justice for others.
An impartial government policing system ( one federal system) with regulations that underscore that no police-person is immune from prosecution for violence; that recognizes but does not excuse, the roles that colonialism, slavery, discrimination, poverty and historical injustice have played in creating communities which tend to be more dangerous, and addresses those needs; that ensures that every police officer is extensively trained in de-escalation, conflict management, and only uses force as a very last resort (which can be prosecutable) and that the endemic U.S. culture of violence and gun use is recognised and addressed.
And on the issue of of pulling down memorials (or books, songs or movies etc) to past victories of white supremacists, it is well to remember our past; to acknowledge the impact of our society’s past prejudices, evils and cruelties, as well as the joy, peace and equality we have created. If we are to be civilized. And, as Lea Ypi so eloquently notes, in her lessons from the pulling down of the symbols of the Albanian Communist Party in 1991, ‘If we scratch the surface, we may discover that since capitalism has historically relied on colonial structures to survive, it may be difficult to demand the end of one without demanding the end of the other’.
It may be useful to note that most of the statues and monuments about important people ( almost exclusively men) are of people who lives were dominated by the need for power, fame and/or money. These were damaged people often exposed to early trauma in their lives, and a determination to succeed at all and any cost.
To know where we have come from is to empower us. It is well to remember where other societies’ book burnings and erasure of history have led us in the past.