Monday, June 11, 2018

Advancement Day


Warning: Political statements abound throughout, indicated by the presence of asterisks.

It is the very merry month of June, and we just celebrated advancements in the form of High School Graduation (times two). The twins, now 18 and having already voted in their first election, have completed High School, and their futures lie yawning ahead on the vast lawns and landscapes of time, as still do ours.

While I won’t, on this occasion, prognosticate on what lies ahead, I can reflect on what has happened to bring us to this springboard moment, perhaps offer a prophetic statement on where we are today.

Our babies, in addition to entering the political landscape of the world in the year before 9/11, were born at the digital crux, right before cell phones evolved into smart phones, just before the departure of analog ubiquity. Technology has been ever-present and ever demanding of their time, and ours, since the day our children were born.

Society cares less about children now than at any time in recorded history*. Let that sink in, for a moment.

I have always believed in public education. During the 1960s and 1970s, due to an explosion in population due to the post-war economic boom, there was such a demand for educated people, as well as a growing social ethos that dictated “bring everyone up,” that it was difficult to fill all the available teaching positions. Educating a generation of educators became extremely important. But the struggle to pay educators has not changed all that much from the one-room schoolhouse days, has it? Despite the fact that the public and industries of all types demand an educated populace, government (no matter what party is in power) shies away from providing for education, paying teachers a living wage, and maintaining school campuses. It is easier and more lucrative to sell guns and put people in jail.* Poorly educated people can be cajoled by charismatic demagogues into voting for anyone.*

But, still I believe in public education. I was educated in public schools. I turned out okay.

Private schools are well and good, but do they train our young people to question?

This is a genuine question, one that must also be asked of public education.* I am not actually bringing this up to suggest that public is better than private school. Do the students that come out of any school realize that there is a political or religious worldview and agenda predominating the information that has been taught?* Are students really given the opportunity and freedom to think for themselves, even if it goes against the grain of the institution?* 

Administrators at the public high school from which I graduated in the late 1970s turned off the microphone on this year’s valedictorian speech. They did that because the young woman dared to mention that one of the challenges students had to overcome was sexual assault on campus. As a graduate of that school, I am personally enraged that this occurred, and proud of the young woman’s courage to say what needed to be said, and that the incident made the news throughout the state, and was even reported in the Washington Post.**

Our institutions, public and private, do not own our knowledge, nor do they own our experience.* What they must own is their culpability in all the things that can and do go wrong, and how these wrongs are redressed.* We, and the young people we raise, are only as strong as our institutions. Right now, all our institutions are weak and hamstrung, too often self-serving, and as a result they fail too many families.* Institutions, public and private, that cannot redress wrongs or see where improvement is necessary, will bring us all down. Let that sink in, for a moment.

We are proud of what our children were able to accomplish from within a flawed and partisan system.* It was not easy for them or for their peers; they managed to do well despite a system that is rigged to highlight frequently questionable outcomes.* Ever-newer curricula provides a money machine that enriches someone who is not a student, rather than providing better tools for teaching, I have observed.* Technology, donated or purchased or otherwise forced into the schools, looms in every classroom, but often without proper IT backup, and as a challenge to families who cannot afford computers, creating a division.* Bullying is but one factor in the lives of our young students. Favoritism is but one other factor. Incompetent and/or biased teaching, yet another factor.* Entitled, bullying, helicopter-hovercraft parenting is another factor, oft paired with the demanding and argumentative, entitled student-child who “does not work well with others” to complete group projects.*

Health and wellbeing issues are said to be catered to at most schools, but if you look closely, all sorts of students fall between the cracks. How can I say this with assurance? It was reported to me by my own children. Some of their peers were sent to school without having had breakfast, with no lunch or lunch money. Some students had other issues at home. When we parents were made aware of a few situations with regard to our children’s friends and acquaintances, we went to the school on their behalf. Although we were told that the administration would solve the individual problem, we discovered later that they did not do so, and that nothing had changed for the student. Meanwhile, nothing could be done by the administration for the dozens of students who slept through their classes exhausted from all night videogame bingeing or from sheer boredom. 

Possibly, it is the same in every generation that many students just don’t give a damn about school or the importance of education. Student engagement must be inspired; this has always been true.* Not every teacher is inspiring, engaging or nice; that’s also always been the case. Perhaps also not every parent is inspiring, engaging or loving. We are all challengedas we are all challenging*; we parents need be strong enough to advise our rising youth in how to ford the streams of characters, charlatans and crackpots, rather than interject with a lifeboat or leave them to their own devices, uninformed. But we, as a society, must demand more from our institutions, and give more toward their upkeep and evolution.* We must be better equipped and enabled to offer help beyond our own family units*, if we are able to do so. We need to bridge gaps so that no one is lost in the cracks.

I can honestly say that my children sat and stood with the bullied, fed the hungry. I can say this with pride, but the flipside of pride is shame, and I feel both in equal measure. I have found that society lavishes on, even worships techno-materialism, while not lavishing our children with proper care and proper education, and in no way “brings everyone up” in terms of housing-, healthcare- and food-security.* A great deal of practical knowledge has been removed from education*; this puts many young people at a disadvantage right away. Intimate engagement with issues of environmental degradation is lacking, but I applaud those parents and students who do engage and who advocate and demand that their elders do better, and who mentor and are role models.* (The future depends upon you!) When the institution looks away from the problems, this teaches everyone to look away, to avert eyes, to avoid asking questions or engage civically. This is a way to describe corruption.*

We had a party for a few friends and neighbors, over this weekend. We told them, “It takes a village to raise a child; you’ve been our village.” This is by no means cliché.

There are so many people who have touched our lives and the lives of our children in positive, if not in memorable, ways. We wish we could thank you all! The twins baked cakes for their favorite high school teachers during finals week. Some of the wonderful teachers they’ve had over the years have retired from their elementary and middle schools, but we remember you. Technology will never replace humanness; it cannot teach what it is to be human and humane or empathetic.* Education is not at all about machines and is less about books (although books can be excellent tools) than it is about humans caring enough to pass on human knowledge and humanity by example and by speech and by writing.

Our children have been gone from being Pisces Fish to Otis Owls to Lincoln Lions to Alameda Hornets, and now they Advance to the Next Thing (which is hopefully not Twitter Twits*).

Our institutions are flawed, weak and hamstrung, but we and others have persevered, and we hope all others will persevere, better yet thrive. We need to uphold and improve our institutions for the coming generations; there is so much work to be done, in this regard. The world of appearances, where it is more important to preserve the outward face of the institution than it is to own the realities, redress wrongs and make corrections, needs to be shed.* Schools are political tools; they should not be.* We cannot afford to be swayed by lip service, jerry-rigged statistics and cherry-picked “facts.”* Our children are not gadgets, and we cannot treat them like statistics or like things.* We need to care about and ensure that all people are recognized as unique and valued individuals, and accordingly need to be treated individually in the ways that best address, best resonate, best communicate to their individual needs.* 

“It takes a village to raise a child.” If we cannot care about other people’s children as much as our own, how can it truly be said that we care for our own?* If we truly believe the world is a better place because our children exist, we must be willing to model, teach and uphold goodness, fairness, peace and wellbeing for them and for others, and indeed the whole world, and we must improve and empower all of our institutions to support this at the highest level.*

___
** https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/06/09/this-valedictorian-began-to-talk-about-sexual-misconduct-at-her-graduation-then-her-mic-was-cut/?utm_term=.523f34200f8d

Friday, May 11, 2018

Confluentia


  for Maura Sipilä  

Music tumbles over exuberant waves,
voiced over by circling kittiwakes and gulls,
tumbling joyfully into the sandy shores,
crashing, unquelled, across stony shingle
into the headlands of my heart.

Wherefore, wherefore, ye winds?
To tantalize by stirring a symphony,
knowing that the world is broken,
as if such sonically blooming waves
could fill wounds that gape and cry.

Responses billow from overland:
trees hugged by children send time,
being a representation of timelessness;
gorgeously gazing flowers smile
while bees distribute pollen as favors.

Brooks burble, bubble and babble,
flowing thither from origin to origin,
touching, fresh to salt, in confluence,
merging and surging, joy-joining,
clinging only toward outward release.

Songbirds unwittingly serenade
every small creature that sleeps in shade
given by all that verdantly defines place,
and the bell rung to call forth evensong
reverberates with healing and grace.

© 2018 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sermon of the Minnemystik

Remember that you are love;
Love made the heavens and the earth,
everything in the air and under the sea, and you;
Therefore, nothing is absent of love.

This knowing, so difficult to sustain,
need not be forgotten by ye, Beloved,
If ye know that every fiber of being is love.

Love is the great Creator;
All manifestations are love-made;
as such, there can be no place or being
absent of love.

Therefore,
I invite you to love:
Love self, love family, love neighbors;
love each and love all
—be fully love, for love thou art.

Teach the language of love to your children,
speak in love, of love, from love, all the day long,
walk in love,
    rest wrapped in love,
         rise each day in love,
    carve love into the lintels,
weave love into the blankets.

See through the eyes of love;
weigh the consequences of love
and lift up your hearts as love’s tax, burden, and gift;
become ensnared in the complexities and challenges of love.

Draw from deep wells of love,
Harvest love from the fields,
Serve love from the dining table,
Drink deeply of love,
and share.
Love is the breath of life,
Love is the water of life,
Love is the sacred ground
under every footfall,
Love is the heart-knell
that gives birth to every music,
every prayer, and every gratitude
chanted into the night sky,
and at the break of day.

If all is love,
what is there to fear?
Run to meet your destiny,
Beloved, be love and be loved and loving;
Rush into the arms of Divine Love,
and know that you are always Home.

© 2018 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Clinamen (Swerve)

Straight lines bend,
like the supple willow branch;
even light can bend around a corner
and the voice in song
can, in the right conditions,
pierce the equanimity of the soul.

A passing thought might lead to an idea,
or it might land to resting point,
or even dissipate
into a cloud,
perhaps to reappear
—  though maybe not —
or reform in re-emergences
symbiotic with certain concurrent vibrations.

Being arises,
blossoming forth
from omnipresence
in unique expressions
based on exposure with
any surrounding elements;
attraction to certain resonances
or even repulsions,
conversions and distractions
divert every linear trajectory.

Continuity,
shaped by chance encounters
along the omnizon
with any resonant factor,
might follow a path
or diverge.

Differentiation
need not be disorienting;
every voice finds a place in the choir,
and while yet singular,
can by agreement
coalesce harmoniously
in a timely flow of momentarily
cascading resonances
punctuated by titillating,
even thought provoking, dissonance.

Each and every pathway leads,
whether blazed or followed,
divined or diverted,
elemental in its own way;
the traveler experiences
a full and varied range of
compliance or resistance,
from and with, betwixt and between,
toward eventual results that,
on one hand,
resolve to known
quantities, weights, measures
and tonalities,
though on the other,
fruitions that may never
accumulate or articulate in such a way
as to be seen, heard, felt or fully known
in the open-work of space and time. 

© 2018 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

This is somewhat in memory of Dixon Adams ("Uncle Dodds"), that late, great book pusher, who would be tickled to know that I have found myself on a pathway through western classics, his specialty. A Lucretian/Epicurian martini of thought, blended with a whiff of Antonio Negri and Gilles Deleuze... 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Unfinished Journey

1968 was a bleak and terrible year, when I was just six years old. Here is a list of some of the things that happened:

·        March 16, 1968 would be one of the low points of the Vietnam War when between 374-504 unarmed civilians were killed at My Lai by United States troops. 2nd Lt. William Calley was charged with 22 of the deaths and sentenced to life imprisonment, but only served three-and-a-half years of house arrest.
·        President Lyndon B. Johnson announced on March 31 that he would not be run for president in the 1968 election. 
·         April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on the balcony of his Memphis motel room. Ironically, seven days later the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress. 
·        Two months and a day after the assassination of Dr. King, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated while celebrating winning the California primary during his 1968 presidential bid.  
·         The Yippies, led by Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, and other radical groups turned the streets of Chicago into a riot zone, battling Chicago police and U.S. Army and National Guard, while the Democratic convention was being held there.
·         Richard Nixon would go on to defeat Senator Humphrey in the general election.

***

Only one of those events is the focus of my commentary on this day, April 4th

Fifty years ago, today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The shot that was fired ended the life of Dr. King, but not his dream. To some extent, every step forward towards greater recognition and acceptance of the all the variables that define personhood owes Dr. King and all of his colleagues a huge debt of gratitude.

Although the Civil Rights Movement, in the hands of King and other principals, seemed to be drifting, due to disputes about strategy and the rise and disruption a militant black power movement, as other factors, such as the Vietnam War, and ongoing labor disputes all over the country, the signing Civil Rights Act was a seminal turning point for the entire nation.

But King sought more than this. The Civil Rights Act was only a beginning.  King had truly radical ideas, bordering on democratic socialism. He advocated for government-run national health, a national jobs program and guaranteed income for all Americans. That kind of economic vision would have been as much an uphill battle, to say the least, as the Vietnam War, in a time of recessions, government cut-back in public assistance services and a rising neo-liberal philosophy coming from the elite that advocated cutting taxes for the rich in order to help the poor.

But King saw that the only way to achieve any of these goals was for disparate groups to unite in coalition using non-violent demonstration toward growth and  inclusive outcomes, so that the greatest good, and equal opportunity could be achieved for all Americans. In his speeches to labor groups, he talked about servant-leadership. The American dream was about being truly egalitarian. Social Justices not for just one group, but for all groups.

The Civil Rights Act was but the first jewel in the crown. What King suggested, next, because of the overlapping issues, was joining Organized Labor and Civil Rights for People of color in coalition. After all, the March on Washington’s full title was “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” King and his colleagues knew that black workers and their lives were inextricably intertwine with the lives of white workers when it came to all issues of economic security and anti-discrimination. King’s rallying cry was, “All Labor Has Dignity.” But the stumbling block was that this was a battle not just about race, but also about class.

More than any other aspect of his radical thinking, this is what pulled the trigger on King, this day 50 years ago. King’s stance on Vietnam couldn’t have been enough to get him killed; but it was about Jim Crow and segregation, and specifically, poor white Southern labor was not going to stand for an educated and eloquent black man being the putative leader of a movement that combined race and class.

Here we are 50 years on, fighting the same battle, without King, without Ruether, without Abernathy and so many others who were critical to the movement in 1968.  We need to continue King’s journey without him. The future of our world depends on this, and this assertion is no mere hyperbole. Justice can only exist when there are no double standards, and when all people are treated with respect, dignity and equal access.

I may write on this topic more, as time goes by, but I’ll leave you with this excerpt from King's 1967 book, “Where Do We Go From Here; Chaos or Community:

“Why is equality so assiduously avoided? Why does white America delude itself, and how does it rationalize the evil it retains?

“The majority of white Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity. Overwhelmingly America is still struggling with irresolution and contradictions. It has been sincere and even ardent in welcoming some change. But too quickly apathy and disinterest rise to the surface when the next logical steps are to be taken. Laws are passed in a crisis mood after a Birmingham or a Selma, but no substantial fervor survives the formal signing of legislation. The recording of the law in itself is treated as the reality of the reform.

This limited degree of concern is a reflection of an inner conflict which measures cautiously the impact of any change on the status quo. As the nation passes from opposing extremist behavior to the deeper and more pervasive elements of equality, white America reaffirms its bonds to the status quo. It had contemplated comfortably hugging the shoreline but now fears that the winds of change are blowing it out to sea.

“The practical cost of change for the nation up to this point has been cheap. The limited reforms have been obtained at bargain rates. There are no expenses, and no taxes are required, for Negroes to share lunch counters, libraries, parks, hotels and other facilities with whites. Even the psychological adjustment is far from formidable. Having exaggerated the emotional difficulties for decades, when demands for new conduct became inescapable, white Southerners may have trembled under the strain but they did not collapse.

“Even the more significant changes involved in voter registration required neither large monetary nor psychological sacrifice. Spectacular and turbulent events that dramatized the demand created an erroneous impression that a heavy burden was involved.

“The real cost lies ahead. The stiffening of white resistance is a recognition of that fact.”


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Watch and Pray: When the Police Action Comes to Your Neighborhood

I returned home from a very moving Good Friday service, organized my music for Easter, and turned in for the night.

Somewhere around two o’clock in the morning, I was awakened by the sound of yelling from the park kitty-corner from our corner house.

“Dang rowdy teens,” I thought, actually smiling to myself, and ventured to the window to take a peek out.

A glare of headlights was coming up my street, and there were police calling orders to a man who was standing in the shadow of an oak tree beloved by every kid in the neighborhood. The man seemed to be trying to melt into the bark of the tree and become invisible.

This was not a dream, folks; this was an unexpected drama. No more smile for me.

Officers called out to the man. “We’re police. We’re here to help. If you can hear us, please answer or put your hands up.”

The man did not respond, for whatever reason. I could not actually see him, as he was behind the tree, and there was an SUV partially blocking my view.

Suddenly, the words of the Taizé chant, which I had been singing only hours before, played through my mind:

Stay with me; remain here with me. Watch and pray. Watch and pray.

So, that’s what I did.

***

This is the kind of scene we have all too frequently read about in the news paper or in electronic media – mainly because the results have been horrific. True confession: I am a contract transcriptionist for a major police department in the area, but not for the town in which I live. Because I have transcribed descriptions of scenes just like this many, many times, I thought I would take you, the reader, through this experience with me…

Because, what happened in my real life witnessing, and often what happens in those IAD (Internal Affairs Department) cases that are OIS cases (Officer Involved Shootings), is really textbook, although the outcomes vary. The scenarios are taught in police academies throughout the nation, and are handled in a fairly standard way. These scenarios are drilled endlessly during police academy. And I do not know if this is standard to every police department, but the department for which I transcribe interviews has mandatory extra, bi-annual training in such things as Use of Force, Tactical Training, Robbery Apprehension, Crisis Intervention (for substance abuse, domestic violence, gang violence, etc.) shooting range recertification every six months, and I could go on. I can honestly say that officers are rigorously trained and the training is ongoing throughout the career.

So, in these early morning hours, I was seeing unfold, in three-dimensional reality, the kind of story I’ve been transcribing for years. 

And, at this time, I felt the need to Watch and Pray, to hold space for the best possible outcome.

***

It all begins with a call for service. In this case, someone called 911 and reported seeing a man with a gun near the park. I don't know who that person was, but I heard this fact from one of the officers on scene, the one who was trying to get the suspect to comply with verbal commands.

[Note: Verbal commands are the second level of the commonly understood Use of Force Hierarchy. The first level is Officer Demeanor (open stance, ready stance, defensive stance, calmness, agitation, etc.). The third level is Physical Control (escort holds, pain/pressure compliance, passive counter measures, active counter measures, etc.). The fourth level, Serious Physical Control, is mostly not allowed in our local jurisdictions (such as carotid control holds). The fifth level of control is use of Impact and Less Lethal Weapons (such as pepper spray, baton or even taser). The sixth level of control is, of course, Deadly Force.] 
  
***

“We’re police and we’re here to help. Someone called us and said there was a man with a gun. Please let us know you can hear and understand; put your hands up.”

Still, the man did not answer. Thinking that he might actually have a hearing problem, the officer hit the switch on the patrol car P.A. and repeated the command a second time, followed by a third time.

Then, I heard a male officer yell frantically, “Don’t put your hands to your waistband!!! We need to see your hands!!!! GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!!!!” I could not see what the officers were seeing, but that seemed to me like an escalation, rather than a de-escalation. Observation 1: I know men who are constantly adjusting their trousers, whether or not they are wearing a belt; this is a habitual and self-conscious action. Observation 2: An officer yelling such a statement might raise the adrenaline level not just of the subject, but of everyone in the area, and possibly falsely cue other officers who have drawn weapons to shoot.

Next, a patrol car silently rolled up on the cross street, and an officer, holding a revolver at low ready (this is with the muzzle pointed downward toward the ground), exited and was soon crawling through my neighbor’s bushes to see if he could get a bead on the subject. Two other officers with long rifles also came into view.

I still heard no word from the suspect, who seemed to be trying to melt into the bark of the oak tree he stood beside.

Eventually, officers from the direction the commands came from deployed riot shields and advanced toward the suspect. Words were exchanged at closer range, and finally, the man who did not appear to move with an aggressive demeanor [in IAD interviews, the subject/suspect’s demeanor is discussed, as well as that of the officers’] was either physically detained or complied with commands and seated himself at the curb. (This seated position is often referred to as a subject detention.)  I did not see whether the subject was handcuffed or not, at that time.

Next, one officer peeled off from the pack. That officer took the role of Primary Officer, conducted an investigation by asking questions of the detainee, such as name, date of birth, address, etc. Other officers advanced into the fenced park and, shining their flashlights all around, did a sweep of the entire area, to make sure there were no other subjects hiding in the park. They might also have made a cursory examination of the garbage cans and public restrooms. This is all standard procedure.

After an all clear is given on an area that has been sweeped in this manner, the officers come move back and form a tighter perimeter around the subject, while the subject is being questioned. The partner of the primary officer usually runs information about the subject through dispatch to see if there are any wants or warrants for the individual. If there are, that is the “Go Directly To Jail” card. The detainee is then cuffed and formally taken into custody, is now under arrest, and is taken to the nearest police station for formal booking. It will fall to the primary officer on scene to write an incident report, and the subject may be transported to a temporary holding cell or directly to county jail.

***

In the case I was witnessing live, the perimeter around this one man, who the beam of a street light revealed to be a man of color, was quite large, owing to the large number of officers (I counted nine, but there must have been more. One of my neighbors, who lives with a more direct line of sight on the area in question, counted eight patrol cars), and I was struck suddenly by the fact that all of these officers were white. It took this incident to make me aware that, although I live in a place that is highly diverse, where over twenty languages are represented in our public schools, our police department does not represent that diversity beyond the inclusion of a small percentage of women.

So, here is this non-white male subject, surrounded by a sea of white, armed to the teeth law enforcement personnel. I can only imagine the reason why he did not move or speak during the early part of this episode is because he thought his life might be over in the next few minutes, so why bother protesting or speaking or moving or not moving or, really, doing anything at all?

***

Now that there was a “secured perimeter” all officers present at the scene who were not the primary officers were just standing around. Their vehicles were all idling, sending up noxious fumes.

I had the sense that this was a weird sort of law enforcement version of “piling on.” I mean, how many police officers does it take to subdue and take into custody one unarmed man? The neighbor I contacted conveyed to me an opinion that surely all officers on the duty roster for this night must have rolled to this scene. Why were so many officers there?

Were they there to police one another? Or were they there to “get a piece of the action”?

The primary officer continued to interview the subject. From where I was, I could not hear much. I think I heard the man say he had a knife among his belongings. I can not be sure of anything else I heard.

***

Finally, the interviewing of the subject was over. The police were probably unaware that there were at least a few witnesses monitoring this situation.

The conclusion arrived in the form of two fire trucks, both superfluous (one appeared to be a gigantic tractor-drawn arial ladder truck – why? What purpose would that serve in this situation?) and the last vehicle to appear on scene was a paramedic unit.

Evidently, the subject was considered a candidate for medical and or psychiatric observation and/or treatment. The subject was, therefore, released from police custody into the care of the paramedic unit. A paramedic in a white shirt looked, to me, embarrassed to be parting this sea of police presence with his colleagues.

In the jurisdiction for which I do transcription, when a subject is released from police custody, no incident report is made. Why is that? Because no arrest was made. I do not know if that procedure is the same in this jurisdiction where I live. There will be a record of the call for service, and that information is often made public in the local newspaper or on-line. This is done both in the name of transparency, but also as a public relations measure; “we’re working hard for you so you'll fund us.”

The subject was given a cursory evaluation by the paramedics, on scene, then strapped to a gurney. The gurney was loaded into the unit, which was the first vehicle to depart the scene.

Eventually, all the loud, noxious vehicles and their operators went away.

I returned to bed, physically and emotionally drained by this strange event.
***

I can appreciate that an abundance of caution and care was being taken, but I wonder at what I consider to be an over-abundance, and how easily abundance of caution could have become (and I hesitate to use the word, but it is so apt) overkill.

This experience was, to me, a macabre spectacle, bordering on theater of the absurd.

I am extremely grateful that the subject was driven away, alive, to receive, I hope, a new lease on life, rather than to a morgue. I pray that this person will receive the care and real help that can make the difference and light a path of future for this individual.

Questions I would ask of my local police chief and mayor:

·      Why were so many officers deployed to this scene?
·      Why were so many fire vehicles deployed to this non-fire, non-emergency?
·      What would the tipping point have been to change this possible felony stop from an organized, by the book procedure, into a chaotic shoot-out? There were too many law enforcement personnel present. When one officer screamed, “Don’t put go for your waistband,” that could have well have cued  a hail of bullets.
·      What is the point of deploying two fire trucks and a paramedic unit when the later is all that was necessary? This is a waste of resources and personnel that probably should have been patrolling elsewhere. Surely, there can be better dispatch and scene coordination.

Perhaps more questions will occur to me later.


***


On December 1, 2017, officers of the San Francisco Police Department were dispatched in pursuit of a carjacking suspect, allegedly driving a stolen California State Lottery van in the Bayview District. The suspect drove into dead end, exited the vehicle and appear to rush at the stopping primary pursuit vehicle. One of the officers in that car fired a single shot with his service revolver. The suspect was killed instantly.

I relate this story, which I remember reading about in the newspaper and is a matter of public record, because it is the story of a single officer firing a single bullet at a single suspect. Point number 1: It only takes one bullet to kill someone.  Point number 2: It took a great deal of self-control on the part of the officer to fire only a single shot; the trigger on the typical SIG Sauer service revolver is a DAK (double action) trigger system, based on weight of the pull on the trigger.

When police deploy their weapons in deadly force, they are trained to aim and shoot at only one location, the rectangle that represents your central body mass. If they shoot, it will not be at your foot, your leg, your arm or your shoulder. It will be at your body mass.

***

This thing happened in my neighborhood.  This thing could happen in your neighborhood.

If it does, what will you do?

I hope you will Watch and Pray for the best possible outcome.

I also hope you will question anything that looks wrong, and report anything that seems really out of whack to an appropriate agency, perhaps your local District Attorney’s office. 


DO NOT insert yourself into a danger zone, and DO NOT EVER interfere in a police action. I realized later that being an observer was taking somewhat of a risk; a barrage of gunfire could easily have sent bullets into nearby homes. If you can observe safely, and feel okay doing so, fine. Otherwise RETREAT to as SAFE A POSITION AS YOU CAN.

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1. 23 Police Officers Fire 377 Bullets at Two Men With Zero Guns
http://blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=1462246167395686511#allposts

2. Why Do Police Shoot So Many Times?
http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2016/03/police_shootings_nopd_jpso_eri.html

Friday, March 30, 2018

Final Walk - A Good Friday Meditation

After the dust and palm frond waves,
no steps seem more daunting,
even though each one forward paves,
despite bullies and faithless taunting,
a way, of being and living, that saves.

Servant leadership nixes vaunting
whose lie of pride and wealth behaves
so conspicuously mean and flaunting
— but all who would deny, poor knaves,
might ultimately be left empty and wanting
once redeeming love frees all of us slaves.


Good Friday is a day intended introspection rather than guilt. A newspaper headline about this day might read, “Man Acting Suspiciously Executed in Name of Empire,” and that brings it forward a few thousand years, doesn’t it?

I mean, why kill someone like the man from Nazareth? Why not sentence him to jail? After all, he did advise people that they should give Caesar what was due.

Well, it is all about the meta-message, and that was in part about upending the social strata. But that wasn’t the whole story.

Jesus tried to communicate to people that nothing about their lives was inevitable, unless they allowed it to be so. Oppression at the hands of functionaries of the Empire was the least of the difficulty. Tribalism and taboos; orthodoxy and the inevitable hypocrisy that accompanies that way of being and thinking; the creation and maintenance of ghettos—and by that I don’t just mean the ghettos that are imposed to shut people in (those are very real and devastating), but the ones we willingly create to shut people out. Jesus was trying to let us know that the fastest way to redress societal ills is not to blame, condemn, and fight, but to mitigate, ameliorate and serve.

Said another way, whenever we complain, act out or wait for someone else to solve a problem, we’re not writing ourselves into the solution; further, we are diminishing ourselves. This is not at all to say that organization and protest can be minimized to “complaint” or “acting out.” Jesus and his followers were construed to be rabble-rousers, but when they went into communities, their intent was to serve, and serve they did.

Some tried to say that what Jesus and his followers were doing was illegal, and if there was indeed a real trial, Jesus would have been convicted based on court legalities. In truth, what Jesus suggested is that to do the right thing, we are sometimes forced to act outside human law, especially where it is constructed to ensnare and weaken people in ways that serve no positive societal purpose (a real example: A court demanded a million dollars in bail for the release of a transient accused of arson. What purpose did that serve? There was no one to come forward for the man; the bail might even have been as low as $10K, and this man would have been stuck in jail.) or that are divisive toward the community.

When I reflect on the gospel message, I see that Jesus is saying we cannot use “the system” as an excuse. If “the system” needs fixing, we have to do it ourselves, even if our DIY is a “work around.” The can is kicked forward because the task of dismantling and reassembling the Tower of Babel is too daunting. So, what happens in the meanwhile? Nothing? Status quo? Complacency? All we like sheep, awaiting a new shepherd?

No. The message is clear and irrefutable: There is no easy way out of the thicket of wrongs and the legalese of inequity, but love finds the way. Love can only find the way if we have compassion and if we truly care about and are empowered toward just outcomes. This is such an outcome driven world, and yet so few people invest in the good outcome unless “good outcome” means wealth and status.

Jesus took the final walk trying to awaken us to a desire for the “right outcome.” If we want “right outcomes,” we need to invest self into the equation. Denials and excuses don’t cut it in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is here, inside each of us, and all around us in this life we are living, right now. The charge to “love thy neighbor” is a call to be and do the controversial (loudly or even secretly, if necessary), to buck the system, to do the right thing, the just thing, the very best thing.

Don’t let the dream die. Go in peace, my friends, to love and to serve.


© 2018 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen