Ferguson and a Broken Criminal Justice System

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

~John F. Kennedy

Looking at video footage coming out of Ferguson, Missouri was like looking at a scene from the Gaza strip. Of course the journalists went right to reporting the burning buildings and the overturned cars and the looting. It would be hard not to, I imagine. Of course they reported on being tear gassed, harassed, pummeled with random objects, and some even looked down right afraid. Domestic journalists in a war zone on the home front.

As I watched the muted scenes on CNN, I also listened to the police scanner in Ferguson, Missouri. A police officer, identified only by his badge number, Trooper 987 went missing and didn’t respond as he tried to help firefighters put out the fire that eventually burned the Little Caesar’s to the ground. It took over an hour for him to be found, thankfully, unharmed. Someone got hurt in the Toys R Us and the EMTs refused to respond because they were afraid for their own safety. Firefighters abandoned buildings which would later turn to nothing but ash because there were shots being fired around them.

I sat awake until one in the morning watching the chaos, biting my nails, shaking my head and wondering how it was possible that this could be happening in our country.

It’s happening because our justice system is broken. And while I understand why so many people are enraged, the only thing I can find in myself is sadness. Sadness because I want to believe in the American myth that we are the greatest nation on earth and that things work in this country. Sadness because I feel like we’re falling off a cliff into darkness and it seems almost like I’m helpless. I felt sadness for Michael Brown’s family, who were so stricken with grief that they said some very inappropriate things. But how can you really talk about what is and is not appropriate for a family whose son has been shot dead by someone paid to protect him? I felt sadness for the business owners who lost everything they’d spent their lives building up. Mortgage payments, car loans, college educations for their children, poof, out like the fragile flicker of a candle. I felt sadness for their employees who would be out of a job in the morning. Meals for their family, rent payments, electricity, heat for the oncoming winter, gone. I even felt sadness for the looters, who were so filled with what they felt was the pain of injustice and likely so desperate, so poor, that the only way they could express their anger was to steal from their own community.

Everything, it seems, is broken.

And then, on the heels of Ferguson, comes another failure to indite. Another black man killed by a white police officer. Eric Garner, strangled to death on camera. I thought about the amount of rage it must take, to strangle someone to death. Normally, you hear of husbands killing adulterous wives by strangling, because it is a personal way to kill someone. Easier to shoot them dead than to literally choke the life out of someone, to hold them in your hands while you crush their trachea, while they struggle to get free. Just now, writing this, I took a deep breath and felt so grateful for the way my lungs work, for bringing me the oxygen my body needs to sustain itself. We take that for granted, every single second. And still, the thought of the rage. How could there not have been red, blinding rage, fueling the officer who strangled that man, a stranger, to death?

Where did the rage come from? And what, as a society, can we do to fix it?

I managed to find some hope in the protests that took place after the failure to indite in Eric Garner’s case. They were largely peaceful and deeply symbolic. They hearkened back to the 1960s protests led by the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They have so far embodied what I find tragically beautiful in this country. And they’re being led by my generation, the millennials, a generation that has been largely dismissed as lazy, entitled children who have no desire to aspire to anything at all.

Well guess what America – we are aspiring. We are aspiring to make this country what it should be, what we’ve been saying it is but isn’t – color blind. And that’s a damn good start.


(c) 2014 Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed News



What if Delaware Bombed New Jersey?

The pen is mightier than the sword

~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton

November 16, 2014

Palestine (the state consisting of both Gaza and the West Bank) is a country which is 6,020 square kilometers (about 2,324 square miles). It has a population of 3,761,646 people which means those 3,761,646 people live on approximately .0006 square miles of land per person (or about .38 acres). The country is slightly smaller than the state of Delaware which only has a population of 925,749. So about the only thing Palestine and Delaware have in common is that no one really wants to go to either one.

Within Palestine, there is the infamous Gaza strip, which is located in the southwest corner of Israel. The Gaza strip is completely and utterly isolated from the rest of Palestine, which is weird. But then again, Alaska and Hawaii are part of the United States. The Gaza strip is a measly 365 square kilometers (about 140.9 square miles) but has an overwhelming 1,416,539 person occupancy. This means that every person in the Gaza strip is living on approximately .00009 square miles of land (or about .05 acres). To put that into perspective, the Gaza strip is about the size of Mobile, Alabama which only has a population of 212,237 people.

Israel, on the other hand, is 20,770 square kilometers (about 8,019.34 square miles) which still isn’t huge by any means. It has a population of 6,426,679 people, which is less than double that of Palestine. Those people get to live on approximately .0012 square miles of land (or about .77 acres). Israel is slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey, which has a higher population (about 8.89 million). Unfortunately for New Jersey residents, they have less acreage than Israelis. Although they don’t have to deal with Delaware launching rockets into their beach homes, so New Jersey takes the win on that one, and not much else.

But what would it be like to live in a New Jersey where Delaware did launch rockets into beach homes for weeks or months at a time every few years? Or what would it be like to live in a massively overcrowded and underfunded Delaware where New Jersey was lobbing mortars into residents’ paltry little space? Personally, I think it would be pretty shitty, on both sides.

Now, add to the mix that New Jersey is way better funded than Delaware and has it all backed into a corner and poor little Mobile is all on its own, even more overcrowded and underfunded, cut off from the rest of its state. Really shitty.

These conditions are likely what caused so many more Palestinians to die in the latest round of conflicts between Gaza and Israel than did Israelis. Israelis have their massively effective (and hugely expensive) Iron Dome defense system and Palestinians living in Gaza have…hopes and prayers. You can also kind of see why the Palestinians living in Gaza are so hell-bent on hopes and prayers. When a rocket is coming at you, and God is pretty much all you have to hopefully save your home, your family, and your friends, you have to cling pretty damn hard to God. Like radical extremist hard, in some cases.

By the end of the summer this year, 1,915 people in Gaza had been killed by Israeli forces and 67 people had been killed in Israel. This count included hundreds of children on the Gaza side and only three total civilians on the Israeli side.

While the media debated about Israeli claims that  Hamas was using women and children as “human shields” and people tried to debate the casualties on both sides, while politicians played the blame game and US and Egyptian negotiators likely beat their heads against the desk trying to get an end to the violence, the death tolls can be attributed to simple math.

There are too many people in Gaza and there is too little space. Israel is way bigger than Gaza and way better funded. Israel has a missile defense system that keeps them safe and Gaza does not. Israelis have places to hide, Palestinians living in Gaza barely have space to move.

JEF300966 DRIVE BY BPO 5-5-11 2

Source: http://kyforeclosurewarehouse.com/index.php?id=5 This house (available for you to own in Kentucky!) has .05 acres of land. That does not include the sidewalk. It’s just the little one bedroom, one bath home and that little strip of green you see in front of the cement barrier. That’s how much room each Palestinian in Gaza has to live on. Just that. Actually, they probably get much less, because they still need space for markets and schools and hospitals and mosques, etc. etc.

It’s basically like shooting fish in a barrel. The Israelis can’t help but kill civilians. But that is not a justification for the violence. Or for the U.S. not only supporting it, but funding it. The United States of America gives Israel $8.5 million dollars in military aid EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. In addition, the US contributed $504 million to Israel’s missile defense system (the Iron Dome). We did not contribute anything toward keeping Palestinians safe. And that’s part of the reason that they’re dying. And it’s surely one of the many reasons they’re pissed and trying to run Israelis over with their cars and stabbing innocent people to death. Again, that is not justification for the violence on their part either.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole cannot be summed up into simple economics, unfortunately. There’s a vast array of problems, ethnic, religious, social, which span back since the creation of Israel. But one thing is glaringly obvious – killing each other isn’t working. It’s just not. For the life of me I cannot understand how people in power (both in Israel and Palestine) cannot see that. Here you have Hamas saying it “blesses the action” of radicalized Muslims running over Jews with their cars and saying what is happening is “pushing us to prepare for war.” Fantastic. Because killing civilians and preparing for war are totally things you should want for your fish in the barrel. Except they’re not fish. They’re innocent people. And many, many children.

It’s not much more cheerful on the Israeli side either. 16-year old Mohammed was abducted and burned alive by Israelis in what was deemed a “revenge attack.” This happened in July of 2014. The US as a whole might not have its shit together, but at least we stopped burning people alive by the 1700s.

The violence in Israel and Palestine is not going to stop through violence. Violence begets violence. It’s a pattern in history we have seen time and time again. It’s time for Israel and Palestine to stop killing one another, come to the table, and get a two-state solution that works for everyone. It’s time for us to stop funding either side until they come to the table, once and for all, for a permanent solution, not just a temporary cease-fire. And if the people in power now won’t do it, it’s time for the Israeli and Palestinian people to find someone who can. Their children’s lives are literally on the line. And God isn’t going to save them. A truce will though. A truce for God to smile down on. Because I doubt He likes seeing the blood of His children spilled in the holiest of lands. He made that land sacred. It’s time to stop sullying it with the blood of innocents.


(c) 2014, Jon Donnison for the BBC Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28651392