A Culture of Thuggery

kingWe’ve all seen the videos of police beating and shooting our citizens, most often a young black man who failed to show sufficient deference, or talked back, or had a pen in his hand.

In the international news, we are now inured to stories of US drone strikes, with the inevitable “collateral damage”, in countries that most of our population could not locate on a map.

If you dug deeper, you would find that US foreign policy often supports repressive regimes.

If you dug deeper, you would find that the “War on Drugs” provided the perfect ploy for jacking up a private prison industry.

And at the root of it all, you would find weapons manufacturers and right-wing gun nuts pontificating about individual rights and manhood, and don’t tread on me.

So, if you are wondering where does this lead, I have a reading assignment, Janet Reitman’s stunning expose of the culture of Parris Island, the Marine boot camp, in last Sunday’s New York Times, “The Making – and Breaking- of Marines  How the Death of a Muslim Recruit During Boot Camp Revealed a Culture of Brutality.”   Read how the Marines literally beat a young Muslim recruit to death.  I don’t think I’ve read anything as shocking or depressing in years.  I’m not going to excerpt from it.  You need to read it yourself.

But then ask yourself just who we are.  My dad, an officer in the Army signal corp, was in numerous battle zones in the Pacific in World War II.  As a career nuclear engineer, he designed nuclear submarines that were critical to America’s first line of defense.

I’ve had good friends who are police officers; their service is critical to protecting public safety.  I’m not anti-military or anti-police – they are crucial in protecting a civilized society in a less than benign world.

But their worth depends on understanding what we are protecting – the basic human rights to speak, to work, to associate as we please.  The core of civilization is its humanity and the arts, the literature, the science that it can produce.  Those values are not represented by our current administration, or the militarized police forces that are now the rage, or the wide-spread availability of assault rifles, or beating and abusing a young recruit, or American’s self-assumed role as world policeman, acting in foreign lands and cultures of which it is profoundly ignorant.

Please.  I’m asking for a little light on this.  Haven’t we seen enough?


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