A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE PUBLISHED A LEAD OPINION ARTICLE EKURD DAILY [TURKEY IRAQ SYRIA] JULY 19, 2016; ALSO PUBLISHED BY PECAT, JULY 20, 2016 AND BRITIC, JULY 21, 20016
When confronted by demands for change elected politicians speak in platitudes invoking the rule of law, the will of the people, majority rule and in the United States, the Bill of Rights. That said, America’s two defining late 20th Century landmarks of change – desegregation and the end of the Vietnam War – were brought about not by peaceful means alone but by violent criminal acts of near rebellion that galvanized the nation.
In a democracy conventional wisdom has it that reform comes from the ballot box. Change by less traditional means - riot, insurrection, coup, revolution, revolt, assassination - is frowned upon and outlawed. Yet what does one do when change is denied, stymied or aborted? When forces have subverted the electoral process? When the electoral process has been hijacked? When the people, the electorate is ignored?
America has been fortunate to avoid confrontation in its quest for change. The relatively recent abortion debates have been sparked by occasional flashpoints of violence as has been the search for sexual identity equality. The debate for change on those issues has been between a small but influential religious minority and small number of women’s rights activists and an equally small but vocal LGBT population. The dispute never affected the great majority who remained on the sidelines violence free.
Yet core issues remain unresolved. Incarceration has been substituted for segregation. Millions of blacks and Latinos have been processed through or are mired in the criminal justice system. A criminal record is as much a bar to integration as were the Jim Crow laws. A militarized police has been given license to keep the poor in check by violent means even murder if necessary.
Eric Garner on Staten Island, Tamir Rice and Von Dorrit Myers in Cleveland, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Lacquan McDonald in Chicago, Walter Scott in North Charleston, Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge are names and incidents that are immediately recognizable. The Guardian reports 1,134 killings by police in 2015, 696 in the first 6 months of 2016 with many being unarmed young black and Latino men.
The result has been a declared open season on cops. The murder of Dallas and Baton Rouge policemen is the beginning of a backlash, of revenge. I am old enough to remember the Black Liberation Army, the Black Panthers and the Symbionese Liberation Army. To underestimate the potential for retaliation would be foolhardy.