A Word In Edgewise: Incidents, Observations, and a Near-Cliché


Michael Brown, an unarmed eighteen-year-old, is shot down by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, his corpse left uncovered on the pavement four hours in the summer sun.

New Yorker Eric Garner, 43, is put in a chokehold by officers and held, pinned to the sidewalk despite his gasps of, “I can’t breathe,” until he dies.

Police claim Victor White, 22, committed suicide, shooting himself, seated in a patrol car, hands cuffed behind his back. The autopsy, however, shows that White, left-handed, was shot in the right side of his chest. From the front.

John Crawford, 22, was killed by police officers in an Ohio Walmart. He was leaning on a pellet gun from the store’s toy department, talking on his cell to his girlfriend, mother of his two children, who was also in the store and later reported, “He said he was at the video games playing videos and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were. And the next thing I know, he said, ‘It’s not real!’ and the police start shooting and they said ‘Get on the ground!’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him.”

Keith Vidal, a mentally disturbed, screwdriver-wielding teenager was shot after his parents called 911 for assistance. Vidal, a slight 100 pounds, had been subdued when a third officer arrived, allegedly said, “We haven’t got time for this,” shot and killed the boy. [I recently watched a video of a mentally disturbed, machete-wielding Londoner. He was surrounded by a half-dozen officers who distracted, tased and subdued the man, alive.]

These incidents, and many more too numerous to detail here, have been in the news recently and are to me indicative of police behavior that is increasing across the country: the undeniable violence against black males, and the snowballing militarization of police in general, as evidenced in the case of Vidal, a white youth who was killed as his family tried vainly to intervene.

It is impossible to maintain that race is no longer a problem here in the United States. CNNUS notes that the KKK, “from New York to Texas,” is leaving recruitment packages door to door with membership applications and candies. There may be only 5,000-8,000 members nationwide, but their hate and venom are still active, and not restricted to the Klan.

The oft-quoted words of pastor Martin Niemöller interned seven years in Sachenhausen and Dachau, warn:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

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