17 August 2014

There are no winners, reconsidered

My last post received a lot of reaction, mostly negative. Friends who I know and trust told me my comparison between Gaza and Ferguson was "ridiculous" and "tone deaf."

I don't regret making the comparison. I do regret that the comparison became the focus of the post. When readers rejected the comparison, my thesis fell flat. That's unfortunate, because I don't think anyone who read the post and rejected my comparison would actually disagree with my thesis. Here it is again, without any reference to Gaza or Ferguson:
People who use innocent civilians to shield violent behavior are cowards...They use the very presence of innocent civilians to blanket their lawlessness. [T]the response is likely to be indiscriminate enough to catch innocent people in the fray. When that happens, we all lose.
I scarcely believe that anyone would disagree with this (do you disagree? If so, please, let me know). Evaluate this statement without my comparison. Then tell me what you think.

I chose Gaza because the conflict is fresh in people's minds, but that obviously backfired. Expecting resistance about my comparison, I tried to allay those concerns:
I'm not suggesting that a violent protester in Ferguson is the same as a Hamas terrorist. As far as we know, the violence done by protesters in Ferguson has not killed anyone. The violence in Gaza is on another scale.
Obviously, that wasn't enough. I'll agree with you that my comparison was absurd. The conflict in Gaza is different by orders of a magnitude from the rioting in Ferguson. I'll go further--I understand if you think no comparison between the two is valid. But that's beside the point. Why I regret the comparison is because my post wasn't about Gaza or Ferguson. The title of my post, There are no winners, is directly in reference to innocent civilians. I intentionally used the word innocent eight times because innocent people are suffering the consequences. Police departments are responding to irregular tactics with force and militarization. Journalists are being arrested and tear-gassed in Ferguson. The police are training sniper rifles on unarmed civilians. The police fired tear-gas on people standing in their own yards.

These are just the immediate results in Ferguson, but we have seen other results from the over-militarization of police forces: a flash bang thrown into the crib of a two-year old boy; SWAT teams invading the wrong homes; Occupy protesters were pepper sprayed as they sat on the ground. Sleepy small towns are acquiring armored vehicles. The capabilities that the feds had at Ruby Ridge or Waco two decades ago are now in the hands of police departments all over the country. Check out Radley Balko's work at the Washington Post  or his book Rise of the Warrior Cop for more on this subject.

This problem won't go away. What's happening in Ferguson right now is happening in small bits and pieces in cities and towns all over the country. It's time we faced the issue head on instead of burying our heads in the sand.

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