What is required is not name-calling and tough talk, but intelligent discourse
chief of Ferguson, Missouri, categorized citizens who took to the streets to
protest the shooting death of an unarmed teenager by one of his officers as
animals. The Speaker of the House and third in succession to the Oval Office called the Islamic insurgents fighting in Syria and Iraq barbarians, and the newly appointed Director of the FBI referred to Americans fighting alongside those insurgents as rats.
Such characterizations by those who speak under the color of the powers that be raise two rather important concerns. In reality, when an office holder sworn to uphold the constitution of their respective states and the Constitution of the United States of America comment, they are speaking for and on behalf of --We the People of the United States.
Second, and this goes to the heart of the matter, these de-humanizing terms represent largely the depth to which each of these individuals is capable of addressing some of the most pressing issues of our time -- race relations in America, the wars raging around the globe and America’s involvement in them and the violent spread of Islamic militancy. Problems which exist in addition to the perennial ones associated with global poverty and disease.
Ebola reminds all of us that extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. I watched with interest the governor of Texas announce the creation of a task force to combat the Ebola threat, and I could but wonder what happened to the group he assembled to respond to the H1N1 flu virus.
The police shooting in Ferguson and other recent events remind us of the sterling way we are able to discuss race relations in this country, a sad commentary to be sure.
If, the parents of the slain Missouri teenager have competent legal representation, one of the most engrossing segments of the upcoming investigation will include expert testimony concerning the psychology involved when a trained police officer fires a gun at point blank range and shoots an unarmed citizen six times, including two headshots, in a matter of a few seconds. And therefore the chief’s characterization of American citizens as animals becomes all the more important and illustrates the culture that permeates that police department in relation to the community that that young man was a part of -- a community where the criminal justice system is riddled with Klan members and the Aryan Brotherhood deal drugs with impunity.
Most importantly, press reports, statements my members of the force and of the public aside that young man was innocent until such time that in a court of law it would have been proved otherwise. It is the duty of all members of our legal system to remember that innocent until proven guilty in a court of law is the law of the land that they are by oath sworn to uphold.
Presently, as we witness the increased militarization of police departments fewer of them still display the --to protect and to serve-- decal on official vehicles. This is not without consequence as it represents a dangerous turn in an America where too many communities remain stubbornly more racially divided than diverse.
It should not be forgotten that the essential promise of American life is equality under law and those who people our judiciary and law enforcement apparatus did not train in nor do they dispense justice, but law. And, that is as it ought to be.
In an all too characteristic outburst the Speaker of the House exclaimed that since January (2014) Congress had been trying to get the President to explain his strategy for stopping the advance of the al Dawla al Islamiya al Iraq al Sham insurgency in Syria and Iraq. A linguistically challenging name perhaps, but we all learned to say al Qaeda.
Islamic militancy did not begin with the advent of the Obama Administration. The US foreign policy of Transitional Diplomacy(State Department/NSC/CIA meddling), was meant to advance democratic reform and support basic human rights throughout the greater Middle East. However, with one notable exception that policy has served only to foment regime change across the Greater Middle East and the resulting political vacuum has been filled by militants — an outcome which the term blowback describes precisely.
In Syria specifically, in spite of significant CIA involvement the Assad regime’s hold on state power was sealed actually, when with his plausibly deniable tacit approval Assad permitted --We the People-- to assassinate the Iranian born planner of the Beirut Barracks bombing and other high profile murderous attacks by blowing him up in his car in the center of Damascus in broad daylight.
It is rather unsettling to watch the Speaker’s ongoing hullabaloo concerning the Benghazi debacle when it was his budgeting cutting assault on the Obama Administration that cut nearly 20% from the security budget of US Consulates in some North African and Middle East states. The Speaker drew upon a distinction between security discretionary funding which applies to the so-called frontline states as opposed to non-security discretionary funding for states that do not present a direct threat to our national security. And Libya, although more Libyans went to Iraq with the express purpose of killing Americans than from any other Arab state, was not in his opinion a frontline state that required increased security for our diplomatic missions.
The newly appointed head of the FBI called Americans, the sons and daughters of other Americans, who have involved themselves with the insurgency in Syria and Iraq rats, and yet, there was no outcry that he is a thug. That term appears to be reserved for overexcited ball players of color interviewed in the heat of playfield battle.
The new FBI director has the authority to be proactive in coordination with our defense forces to pursue threats to Americans as well as our national security interests outside the United States. A few months ago, however, our military leaders were stating with confidence that a restructuring of our services was in order, because we would never be called upon to fight another ground battle war again. The wisdom exhibited by of our counter terrorism leadership is simply outstanding.
What is required from our executive, judicial and legislative leadership at the federal, state and local level is not name-calling, slogans and tough talk, but an intelligent discourse that lays out the possible rational alternatives that will safeguard America and liberty.
Ultimately, it is the folly of madness to abandon the time-honored notion that those who shoulder important social responsibilities should demonstrate virtue and with uplifted minds make contributions to the advancement of society.
A sobering thought as Americans go to the polls this November to elect those who will steer the ship of state through tepid waters and upon troubled seas.