Posts Tagged With: Police

Black and Blue

I sometimes feel like the tragedy never ends in these times.  I’ve been reading salacious romance novels all weekend for a little bit of escape.  That being said, I think there’s a time to process things, and then a time to act.  It’s time to act.

This is a warning that I’m about to get political on you.  Stop reading now if you don’t want any of my liberal political opinions.

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I’m getting to the point where I’m hating to do these things.  But I also feel like the blog is a place with an audience, and we should all be doing something if we can.  I’ve been sad all weekend about the latest African American deaths and the Dallas police shooting.  It feels like the world has been upended.

As always, history gives me a little bit of hope.  A friend of mine asked if this year was the worst we had ever seen.  While it’s the worst one I’ve experienced, your parents and mine were all around for 1963.  That’s when JFK was shot, riots sprang up all over the south about desegregating schools, Birmingham churches were bombed, and the Birmingham riots happened.  That’s the one you always see footage of when you’re looking at civil rights films: police called out the dogs on a peaceful protest (literally) and sprayed people with high power hoses, crushing them to death in a panicked crowd.

I don’t bring it up to pass the buck.  It’s just that sometimes I feel like there’s so much to do that it’s impossible to accomplish anything.  It feels hopeless that our current situation will ever get better, that race will ever be anything but deadly in this country.  It’s a bit helpful to know that, as bad as things are, it’s not rock bottom.  We’re making progress.  We can continue to make more.

The Dallas police were doing the right thing at that protest.  No one was wearing even a Kevlar vest, and they were walking with the protesting crowd, not positioning themselves as against it.  That, my friends, is a whole lot of progress.  It’s just sad that it had to end the way it did.

We only make progress by acting.  And, like it or not, we only make progress when the majority is convinced that things aren’t okay and need to be changed.  If you’re white, that puts the onus on you to stand with the black community.  Not to speak or advise, but to point a finger and say “this is important, listen to this.”

Blue Lives Matter?  Yes they do.  My post on what you can do to further gun control laws is here.  If mentally unstable people didn’t have easy access to weaponry, they couldn’t open-fire on crowds and target police.

Black Lives Matter?  Yes they really, really do.

First, you can read the BLM movement’s list of demands.  How best to help once you know what is needed?  Google your city council and your mayor.  Their names and email addresses should be easily accessible.  Write them that you want civilian oversight of police proceedings, and body cameras for everyone (if you don’t already have it – you should be able to check that on the web, too).

And I just want to point out one small thing in this whole debate that you can think about.  While I think we all support police and the courageous work they’re doing in our communities (for the most part), a blue uniform is something someone can take off.  A police officer can quit their job and/or dissolve back into regular society if they want to.  A black person cannot ever stop being black.

Alright, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Have a happier week, please.

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Venice Beach

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Brian’s sister is here from Virginia this week.  Julie is such a combination of boho hippie, crafty housewife, and real estate agent that it is hard to pinpoint her.  But it is easy to love her.  Everyone does.  She makes friends in a sentence.  She looks oddly like Brian, if he were somehow small and pretty.  She has a boisterous laugh.

The hippie portion of Julie used to live in Venice Beach, California, near the boardwalk.  She had a dog of chow red and black tongue whose short hair and square head suggested nothing of chow otherwise.  His name was Bear, and they would go to the beach drum circle together, or to the free feast at the Hare Krishna temple, or just wander the boardwalk.

We attempted to do the same last night, all three of us.  Bear passed away only a few months ago, but we thought of him and his red well-behaved ways.  None of us has been paying attention to the news over the weekend.  We hadn’t heard about the deaths Saturday night.  We arrived at the Hare Krishna temple, but there were no tables set out.  “We’re doing a huge thing on the beach.  There’s no feast here tonight,” the monk in peach robes said when Brian asked him.  So we drove to the beach and parked.

They were disassembling the feast.  Brilliant tents of primary colors made a warren of temporary streets, but most had nothing beneath them any longer except people stacking folding chairs or moving boxes around.  Two booths were handing out flimsy paper plates of whatever was left in their chafing dishes.  Above the canopy, people flew past on a zip line.  The acrid smell of marijuana floated past us from the skate park.

We ate cold and delicious food on a sandy patch of grass.  The fries were sweet, the pasta salad sharp with vinegar, but my favorite was the curry-breaded cauliflower.  Police cars were everywhere.  We watched the black and white SUV’s roll past on the sand.  The sun set behind the hills making black silhouettes of the palm trees.  We could see the drum circle in the distance, listened to the beat wafting on the air.

And then there were sirens.

The police broke up the drum circle.

“I wonder what’s happening,” I said.

“We should go over and find out,” said Julie.

“I don’t know,” said Brian.

“Are you out?” said Julie.  “Yeah, it’s probably better if we don’t go over there.”

“I’m in if you’re in,” I said.  “I’m kinda dying to know what’s happening.”

“Well, let’s get closer anyway,” she said.

There was nothing to see.  By the time we walked a few yards, the circle was gone, disbursed.

“No! I have to know!” I said.

We passed a man holding a drum over his shoulder, gesticulating to a lady near one of the stores.

“Shh!” said Julie.  “See if he says anything.” We laughed, but we all got quiet.  Nothing.

We passed t-shirt stores selling offensive graphics.  I stopped to take a picture of the Venice Beach Freak Show sign.  In a row of apartment buildings, someone had turned their living room into a palmistry boutique.  On the sidewalk, someone had painted a creepy clown face.  Harry Perry rode past on his rollerblades strumming his electric guitar, dreads streaming in the wind beneath his turban.  A man walked past with a dog of chow red.

“Must pat the redness!” said Julie.  So we stopped.

“Too bad about the drum circle, huh?” said the man.

“Yeah, what happened?” I said.  “Why did they break it up?”

“Oh, pot,” he said.  “They’re all over here now because of last night, you know?”

“Last night?” said Brian.

“Yeah, the deaths.  It was on the news, some guy jumped the barrier and killed a bunch of people by driving on the boardwalk.  There’s a vigil down by Rose, and a bunch of news vans.  You know where Rose is?”

“I know where Rose is,” said Julie.

The vigil was small, a five foot square piled with stacks of flowers, votive candles illuminating every spare inch.  Three or four people had lawn chairs out and were tending to the little flames.  Passers-by stopped with bowed heads.  We walked past.  The crowd had grown when we turned around to walk back to our car.  A reporter stood in front of the pile now, microphone in hand.  I thought about what this man would probably be like, intoxicated and confused.  Maybe hopped up on pot like those at the circle.  I felt bad for him, and regretted the choices he made.

NPR had the story on the radio this morning.  It was nothing like I had thought.  This man, although undeniably mentally ill, was not intoxicated with anything.  He drove around the barriers and aimed for pedestrians.  If it hadn’t been for the loud scraping sound of a bicycle his car was dragging in its wake, more people would have died two nights ago.  The man is in custody.  They’re just releasing the names of some of his victims.

According to my professor Tom Zoellner, good Non Fiction is supposed to make a point about something.  I have no points to offer, uness it is this:  Blame the crazy atmosphere that is Venice, blame the lack of barriers on some streets, blame whatever you wish.  “This incident would have been difficult to stop because the individual was determined to harm people,” said the cop on NPR this morning.   It was no one’s fault but the perpetrator.

I can also offer sadness.

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