The Gun Culture: Part V “It’s an Arms Race”

Last Saturday I was reminded by the local paper of the two-year memorial of Jeanetta Riley’s death at the Sanpdoint hospital. I decided to go pay my respects, and possibly share or learn some new perspectives after reading this in the local paper:

What was she accused of? What were her crimes?
To lie crumpled in blood, shot at five times.
I heard she was drunk and had a little knife.
This little woman was threatening her own life.
Our tax-paid bullies had a smashing defeat
against a pregnant woman in the street.
“Oh shit!” yelled one murderer, when Jeannetta died.
Shocked that he killed, unable to hide.
[Excerpt from Jodi Rawson’s letter to the Sandpoint Reader editor]

There were five people, including myself, but then a flustered Mennonite family walked by and was curious enough to listen to the story. At the time of Jeannetta’s death (9:18 pm) the father of this family spoke a prayer with us while we held hands. This meeting was a nice thing to do, but the real challenge is in our daily lives. People are constantly denied their right to protest and face imprisonment or violence for speaking up against police brutality. I strongly condemn the Dallas police shooting of last week, but we will need to keep expressing our deep dissatisfaction.

Just this week another afwul video came out of a nonsensical murder by cop. These visually shocking accounts of deadly violence are published almost daily and I watch them to be informed and out of denial to hide from this ugly truth. I feel it’s a minor way to take responsibility for these crimes against humanity but mostly I want to see what these situations really look like. How does this happen, what do people say, how do they react?

Lately I’ve begun to see a pattern of cops’ reactions after they take someone’s life. They appear flustered, surprised, like a stressed animal, yelling “Oh shit!” and “Fuck!” as if they never saw this coming. It honestly sounds like a response you’d give after accidentally stepping on someone’s glasses. “Ah crap, sorry! I really didn’t see that coming.” Except, you just shot several bullets into another human being and now they’re dead. How do you accidentally kill someone? Stress makes a person black out and move into survival mode. If an officer is untrained or unprepared for a situation, they will go into that mindset and reach for their firearm. When they awaken from this survival-haze, they are staring at a dying man and realize what just happened.

It’s unacceptable to send ‘keepers of the peace’ into the street with mediocre stress training and a semi-automatic firearm. What is wrong with pepper spray, people? Growing up in the Netherlands and seeing a cop, I would feel good and safe. As kids we believed that police were obligated by law to wave back if you waved at them. This was the relationship we had to these officers. Since I’ve been in the US (that’s 2 years now) I’ve felt increasingly unsafe around police and that makes me sad.

Other people also feel unsafe around police and believe it’s their right to protect themselves from injustice and threats. When they perceive the US police force as a threat, civilians will arm themselves more with the likes of AR-15s and HK-91s. To deal with the increase of assault rifles among civilians, police have also been upgrading their weapons arsenal since the late 1990’s. The infamous 1997 North Hollywood shootout played a major part in this. There has basically been an arms race between the people and police of the United States. It’s like a genuine Cold War within a country — one group having the numbers, and the other government backup (and their weapons paid for by the other group).

Peaceful folks — both gun owners and non-gun owners — are observing this warily with fear of escalation. They are upset with their government and fellow Americans. Never before have I observed such a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction in a country’s people. Never has anyone told me “I feel ashamed of my country”, except for the United States citizen.

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Categories: North America, PhilosophyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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