Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why is it "death" when cops kill black men, but "murder" when a black man kills two cops?

I checked. Barack Obama repeatedly referred to the "death" of Michael Brown and of Eric Garner, with all the politically required sorrowful noises. Yet when it was non-black policemen who were killed, he used the m-word.

"I unconditionally condemn today's murder of two police officers in New York City," said Obama when two New York City policemen were killed, as unjustly and unjustifiably as Brown and Garner.

I am not aiming to excuse any killing. Nor do I intend to encourage killing. But a sense of even-handedness, of fairness, has to be raised here.

Not even President Obama seems to have the courage to speak up. Suddenly everyone is tripping over each other to say how bad this is and what a crime it is -- no ifs ands or buts.

No talk of sorrow, no compassion for the man who killed the policemen, even though his actions might have justified an insanity plea had he lived. In the eyes of the media and the president, the man was wrong.

Where was this moral certitude when cops were the killers? The cops were given all sorts of leeway, even to the point of walking scot free from any criminal charge.

Yet it was murder, too, in the cases of Brown and Garner.

The dictionary tells us to murder is "to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously." The multiple bullets fired at Brown and the strangulation of Garner qualify as inhumane and barbarous.

Those acts should have been condemned "unconditionally" (I would say unequivocally), by the same president who now rends his garments. And by all the sound-bite seekers who are now lining up to express outrage.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Santa Claus shows us the fine line between truth and lies

Today's news included a Christmas item about a letter in the JFK Library in which the president wrote to a child assuring her that Soviet nuclear testing at the North Pole would not affect Santa, with whom the man in the White House claimed to have spoken on the telephone the day before.

Forgive me if I stop to point out at just how many levels this letter exemplifies the myriad of ways in which children of the 1950s and 60s, of whom I was one, were lied to blatantly, nonchalantly and unnecessarily. Some of these lies continue today, at some level, to children of the new millenium.

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," looked upon today as a heartwarming story, is the quintessence of the American mythmaking. The 1897 New York Sun editorial, in which Francis Pharcellus Church replied to a letter by Virginia O'Hanlon, was an antecedent of the John F. Kennedy letter.

Let me begin by pointing out the crass commercial motive behind the Sun editorial's profession of a broad nonconfessional "faith." It was no accident that Church prominently cited the bias of O'Hanlon's father, another lie: "If you see it in The Sun, it's so."

Church was selling his newspaper and, along with it, the singular and fundamental philosophical flaw in American society's thinking: the notion that facts are truths to be believed, especially if an authoritative source says so.

Facts are not truth. They are only realities observable within certain contextual circumstances. Almost everything we "know" about physics ceases to be certain, for example, at the quantum level. Facts are only tenable claims, not truth.

Church did O'Hanlon no favor, really. Look up her life and you learn that within little more than a decade she ended up in a short-lived marriage in which the man deserted her before her daughter was born.

Skepticism is warranted. We should not base anything on fact alone; or if we do, we must remind ourselves that the facts are dependent on how perception occurs. Even myth, which is not factual but not necessarily untrue, must be handled with care lest it become an actual falsehood rather than an intuitive inkling of truth.

This is where the gratuitous and arrogant twist of Kennedy's mendacity gets me. He did not have to tell the girl that he had spoken to Santa. It was true enough that Soviet testing of nuclear weapons would not hurt Santa Claus.

In a broader arena, there is little doubt that during the Cold War era the Soviet regime was harsh and repressive. But was it necessary to tell children Superman fought "for truth, justice and the American Way," when that Way featured blatant injustices such as racism and patent falsehoods such as fairly rewarded hard work?

As a child I once wrote a letter to the pope asking that the assassinated Kennedy be canonized. Today, the Irish name summons the indelible image of a young president bidding an infatuated young woman to perform oral sex on an aide in the White House pool. So much for Camelot; King Arthur was a frat boy.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

So now it's legal for white cops to kill black males by shooting or chokehold?

Let me get this straight: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been rescinded for black males in the United States, at least when it's a white cop abridging the right? I didn't get the memo.

Must be filed somewhere near that as yet nonexistent presidential executive order freeing the subminimum-wage immigrant slaves. Or the national health program. Or the prosecution of Wall Street gamblers who sank the economy.

Oh wait, none of those things exist, either. Welcome to "post-racial" America.