Sunday, February 26, 2017

Superheroes, and You

Watched Civil War again last night, and got talking about our deep thoughts on the matter; yeah, we're a house full of nerds that way.

The themes of that film, Batman v. Superman and The Incredibles collided---
Fear by the public of the use of strength and authority, to defy and contain evil. Sound familiar?

I don't think it's coincidence that this theme keeps repeating itself, and that it is the the heroes who are doubted, second-guessed and criticized for fighting what needs to be fought, even when it's hard, when it's messy, when the outcome doesn't always seem clear.

And each film resolves the same way: the heroes are needed, but not loved.
Their consciences require action, to protect those who cannot defend themselves.
Their community, troubled by what they do not understand, is still better with them than without them---and that ultimately they are admired, and emulated, but never completely accepted.

Sound familiar? That's you. That's the ones you love.
Your Sunday comics came with a moral this week.
You're welcome.
*image by No Greater Love Art *

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thoughts on President's Day 2017

This past year has brought politics to an acidic boil , like little in recent memory. On the week we observe President's Day, and Lincoln's Birthday, I realized that it is memory that's the problem--because none of this is new.

A wise man wrote, thousands of years ago "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." And so it is.

When politics and society get confusing, frightening, disorienting, it's useful to look back, and see where we've been.
A short memory, and even shorter attention span, are peculiarly American faults.
History can help us with that.

President George Washington, our very first elected head of state, a man so revered some new U.S. citizens wanted to make him king, was also the only president to personally lead troops to forcibly put down a budding rebellion over paying taxes--
taxes on whiskey, no less.

President Lincoln, the righteous and upright defender of the union and of civil rights, also completely suspended habeas corpus, to effect the arrest of a state legislator who was interfering with the movement of Union troops.
That moved overstepped the authority of the president, and was ultimately overturned by the courts--but it got the job done at the time, and stands to remind us now of three things:
1. all members of executive offices will try whatever seems effective to get their jobs done,
2. that's why we have checks and balances and
3. given enough time, checks and balances work.

Then there's President Jefferson, the darling of libertarians and isolationists alike.

Except, for when he isn't.
Few of the 'small government' zealots remember, and fewer still like to be reminded that, perfect world wishful thinking aside, Jefferson was also the first president to build up the Navy AND deploy it abroad, Marines onboard and hungry to fight as ever......for the purposes of pounding into the dirt a foreign government that had been harassing and impeding our merchant ships.

To his everlasting credit, Jefferson first tried diplomacy, payoffs and coalition building. When they didn't work long term, even he packed it in, and resorted to force. Overseas. With our military. To protect business.

Teddy Roosevelt is (a little) more recent president, and one with long, close ties to modern policing. He's also the president who first saw the value in setting aside wild spaces for future generations, and impacted national parks and refuges like no other before or since.

More to point in (very) recent history, TR is the president who created the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
,recently the location of a weeks-long standoff, and now a subject of great controversy.

History is the long game.
We've gotten past all that stuff, above.
We'll get through this, too, and we'll still be One, From Many, when we do.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why 'War'?

'War' is a loaded word.
It carries baggage, history and emotion.
It evokes pictures and memories, from personal experience, or news articles,or art, or history.

A 'war on police' has been angrily, tearfully debated for at least two years now.

Writers who embrace the term choose it deliberately, and cite high profile conflicts, and line of duty death statistics to support it.
Video clips of activists carrying vulgar pickets, marching and calling out for the killing of cops, and quotes from political speeches defending them, filter through their articles and circulate on social media.

The writers who reject it cite their own statistics, full of rising survival rates over decades (without mention of influences like the invention of Kevlar), and anecdotes of police misconduct to support their position. Those writers vilify the term 'war' as hyperbolic and divisive:
How, they ask, can an officer who regards his community as the enemy--or even a potential enemy--truly act in their best interest?

Commentators and activists who reject the phrase 'war on police' most forcefully cite an 'us v. them' mindset, and the imagery of officers as soldiers, as opposed to 'peace officers' and 'public servants'. Words like 'oppressor' are offset against concepts of protectors of their communities, and fellow citizens.

Dozens of the officers who have been shot, stabbed, beaten or run over in the recent past--some who recovered, some who died, and some who will battle pain and disability for the rest of their years--were military veterans.
'War' is a literal thing to them.
An entire generation serves in uniform now, who do not remember a time before we were at war abroad.

I think they have chosen the term 'war' for what they face in the streets at home because it does separate them, and set them apart. I have heard from vets, now law enforcement officers, who've said they feel more anxious here, now, than they did overseas.
There, they knew who their enemy was. They knew what they could expect. They knew their families faced no threat from that enemy. They knew when their deployment was over, they would fly home, and leave that enemy behind.

Now wearing a badge, they re-deploy every night, try their best to switch gears every morning to come home, and often find the streets have followed them home, to threaten their families as well.

Many of the officers who fell to gunfire in 2016 were military veterans. They survived sandbox deployments to fall at the hands of fellow citizens in the streets.

If it's war, then those are enemies-- foreign, exotic, impossible to explain, separate.
If it's not war, then officers will have to admit to themselves and the ones they love that it's their neighbors who wish them gone, wish them harm, wish them dead.
I think it's more than they can manage, to accept that, to try to explain that to their children or their parents.

I don't like the phrase 'war on police'. Loaded language makes people stop reading, stop listening , unless they already agree with you, and that's part of the problem.
So, I don't use it much.
But I can understand those who do.