Thom Stark Replies on Slavery and Social Justice in America   2 comments

Thom Stark

Thom Stark and I are continuing our debate. Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a fun and safe New Year’s Eve. Thom’s post today is in response to my post from two weeks ago, on what I perceive to be the root cause of police brutality in the United States. I think it’s the size and power of government and the lack of respect for individual liberty. Now for Thom’s take. Lela

 

Obviously we both agree that Slavery Is Bad. We agree, too, that the American Civil War had more than one cause, and that the question of states rights vs central government authority was one of the most important of them. I’ll even cheerfully grant that the Reconstruction was a time of barely-mitigated Northern vengeance on the South. We begin to part company after that, though.

First of all, I think it’s been firmly established that Federal authority trumps states rights pretty much across the board. Our Civil War settled that question. Nor do I think the precedent is a bad one, either in retrospect or in the perspective of the current era. Instead, I see states rights as steadily – and rightly – diminishing as our society evolves into a single, increasingly-homogenous culture, where regionalism is rapidly becoming a moot argument. I’m certain it looks different to you, because you live in Alaska, where a highly-individiualist, frontier mentality is the norm, rather than the exception, but in most of the lower 48, and throughout the Western world, one place is increasingly becoming interchangeable with the next. The ubiquity of chain stores and big brands, combined with the smothering cultural blankets of television – which gives us an unofficial received pronunciation that’s swiftly eliminating regional dialects – and social media (which strongly encourages herd think) is combining to create an environment where, on a day-to-day, experiential level, one town is completely indistinguishable from the next. Soon, the only legitimate regional sphere of influence will be that of the local professional sports team. The argument for right of place therefore becomes increasingly hard to make – and increasingly academic, in any case.

Which takes us to the individual, and the question of his or her rights vs those of the society in which he or she lives.

Society is always going to win this one, simply because there’s more of Them than there are of Us, when Us is defined as a single individual. You can complain about the unfairness of it all, wave your fists, and beseech the heavens as suits your fancy, but, in the end you’re outnumbered and outgunned, so They get to make the rules.

To me, an elected official has an ethical obligation to try to protect Us from Them – whoever We and They might currently define ourselves as being – but only insofar as doing so doesn’t create a still greater harm to one, the other, some third party altogether, or society as a whole in the process. Unfortunately, most of our elected officials are focused, instead, on getting re-elected and on gaming the system on behalf of their campaign contributors, but that’s a product of the perverse incentives the organized bribery we laughingly call a campaign finance system creates. If our Supreme Court hadn’t spent the past few decaces trying to give the vote to corporations, things might well be different. But it has, and they’re not.

As for Eric Garner, I think your assertion that the power of taxation was the root cause of his death is … well … “reductionist” is putting it mildly. Garner was killed by white cops in a white borough of New York City because he was a black man whom the area’s white shopkeepers viewed as a nuisance. Untaxed cigarettes are beside the point. Garner was a small-time hustler. Had selling loosies not been profitable, he’d have found something else to peddle. And the cops would have hasseled him over that, instead. The only real issue worth focusing on in his demise is the ubiquitous American police culture of cowboy justice, depraved indifference to human suffering, systematic lack of accountability, and the “thin blue line” mentality. (I say it’s the only real issue, because no one is going to be charged in Garner’s murder, video or no video, so the question of whether justice will ever be done has already been answered – and the answer is “No.”)

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedI’ve become acquainted with quite a few cops over the years. Some of them are fabulous officers who view themselves as public servants, take seriously their duty to protect and serve, and make it a point to treat everyone they encounter with courtesy and respect. Others are thugs with guns, who use their badges as an excuse to bully those they regard as their social inferiors. The system – and I’m talking here about the real-world, non-theoretical way things actually work – is supposed to protect the first type from the consequences of single, tragic mistakes. Unfortunately, it ends up protecting both types from any consequences of their actions whatsoever, regardless of how flagrantly they may misbehave.

Here in the USA, that’s considered normal, natural, and entirely appropriate.

I think it’s none of those things, and it needs to stop.

2 responses to “Thom Stark Replies on Slavery and Social Justice in America

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  1. Pingback: Lela on Group Politics and the Evil of Special Interests | aurorawatcherak

  2. Pingback: Lela on States Rights | aurorawatcherak

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