Baton Rouge/Dallas vigilantism is endemic to our culture
Yet another instance of “despicable” violence in the U.S. and yet another round of handwringing, but if we are honest, this can’t really be a surprise to anyone. We live in a violent nation, violent in every sense of the word. While preaching nonviolence to the masses, the U.S. government and its armed bodies of men and women solve almost all of its problems with violence. Yet when someone goes off violently it’s a shock to the system.
The former H. Rap Brown said that violence is as American as cherry pie. Although the mainstream press and others try to disparage Micah Zavier Johnson and now Gavin Long, they were the embodiment of the most American of values: violence and rugged individualism.
So why is it that the only time death is despicable or horrific is when someone kills a member of the country’s armed bodies of men? Why isn’t that term used when Walter Scott is shot in the back for all to see, or when Eric Garner is choked to death on film, or when unarmed Michael Brown is shot until he stops breathing, or lately Alton Sterling and Philando Castile? And in Fresno, California young White Dylan Noble was shot down like an animal for all to see, yet no one used the word “despicable.”
Is there a message in this? Are our public officials and talking heads trying to tell us that some lives are more valuable or important than others?
Violence is Americana. There is domestic violence, drug violence, gang violence, sexual violence, violence against Muslims, violence against the LGBQT community, and anti-Black violence has always been a staple of American life.
And there is police violence. It seems that a month doesn’t go by without a video of a gruesome killing or an abusive attack on an African American by police.
Then there is the violence that Black people experience when others incessantly seek to justify and excuse Black murder at the hands of law enforcement. The last thing many fellow citizens seem to want to do is empathize with Black pain.
When a Black person is killed by police, many always assume the victim did something to deserve it. “She didn’t answer in the right tone, he had the wrong look on his face, he was breathing,” they seem to say.
Even saying Black Lives Matter evokes a violent response from many White people who fear that Black people demanding that they be acknowledged and treated the way the Constitution has promised is somehow a put-down of them, since as they see it, everything, including history, is almost always about them and them alone.
Consequently, violence does have a traumatizing effect. The constant drip, the constant micro-aggressions, the absolute refusal to have fellow citizens view you and your kind as fellow humans wears at people. It tears at what holds us together and tempts and encourages desperate people to take desperate measures.
Speaking of desperate, in a desperate attempt to undermine the effort to end police violence, some poor, misguided souls (140,000) have signed a petition to have BLM designated as a terrorist group.
It’s a wonder more people haven’t just snapped. It’s likely a lesser people would have by now.
Curiously, the press has not considered the possibility that Long and Johnson may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Instead, the corporate press has tried mightily to demonize them and tie the shooters to Black Nationalist groups and Black Lives Matter. But the shooters themselves have said they are lone wolves.
Whatever folks may think of their strategies and tactics, BLM supporters have declared themselves to be nonviolent and have sought to solve the problem of police violence through organized peaceful protest. If blame has to be placed, place it on the U.S. military, which is the violent organization that trained both killers and taught them that the way to solve their problems was through the barrel of a gun.
Further blame can be placed on the U.S. government, which gave rise to their grievance by not protecting its citizens. In a grotesque kind of way, the vigilantes may have seen themselves as defending American citizens by killing members of an institution that claimed over one thousand lives last year.
But individualism won’t solve the problem of police violence; nor will it aid us in changing or replacing the system that supports police violence, which is a kind of domestic terrorism. In fact, nothing short of organizing all working class people to recognize our common enemy will solve the problem of police violence.
When looking for the reason two seemingly sane individuals resolutely decided to lose their lives while taking the lives of U.S. law enforcement, this system has only to look at itself. These shooters were creations of this political-economic-social system.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.