Sunday, June 19, 2022

A Surge in Anti-LGBT Violence

June being Pride Month, some homes on 31st Street in Baltimore displayed rainbow flags and other LGBT banners and signs. Wednesday night somebody came up and, apparently dousing the flags with gasoline, set four homes on fire, sending three people to the hospital, two in critical and one in serious condition. Two homes were completely destroyed.

A neighbor said, “We’ll double down and everybody’s gonna get Pride flags on their houses now just to show like we’re not gonna live in fear of it, but I mean, it definitely makes you a little scared. You know, you can’t just live like that.” Baltimore Sun: Three people injured in Baltimore fire; authorities investigating a burned Pride flag

But you know, you are going to "just live like that," because that's how things are now.

It was big news this week when more than thirty Patriot Front members were arrested in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The group was planning to join with other nazi groups to beat people and break up a Pride Festival there. These are the people who organized the Charlottesville Unite the Right event in 2017, and it appears they intended extreme violence this time. Luckily the attack was broken up by police, and reports on social media suggest that the festival was a great success, the biggest crowd they'd ever had, with music, bubble machines for the kids, dancing in the park.

Drag queen story hours have been a big hit at libraries across the country, which you just know has been driving the nutty ones crazy. Why should any American be allowed to dress in nontraditional clothing and yet act like a decent human being? Last Saturday the Proud Boys stormed a Drag Queen Story Hour in San Larenzo, California, disrupting the event. I am trying to imagine how you brag about something like that later: me 'n the guys went down and hollered a bunch of cusswords at kids listening to stories and some guys in dresses at the library. It just doesn't sound that macho, y'know what I mean?

Somebody suggested that it would have been smarter for them to host a Proud Boys story hour. Man, I bet parents would love to bring their kids to that.

The oldest gay bar in Detroit burned down Tuesday, and the Fire Department is calling it a total loss.

Nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ bills filed in 2022 so far, most of them targeting trans people

If we took two steps forward, this seems to be time for one step back, as hate comes out of hiding across the country. We will have to hold the line to keep from losing more ground.

We in Montgomery County were, ironically, among the first communities to be hit by this wave of anti-gay and anti-transgender bigotry. A small group of rightwing activists tried to defeat a sex-ed curriculum that mentioned sexual orientation and gender identity, and then they tried to force a referendum on trans civil rights. This county is deeply blue, I think we had one Republican school board member fifteen years ago. Yet a group of about ten core members and maybe as many as fifty part-time supporters -- in a county of one million people -- generated national news and almost succeeded at imposing their ignorant opinions on the rest of us.

I am not sure why these sexual-identity issues set them off. Well, I have my theories. Somehow the idea that a gay person would live their life without shame makes these nuts violently angry. I used to think it was a cheap shot to suggest that these haters have personal ambivalence about their own sexual feelings, but that is definitely part of it. So many of the worst ones have fallen out of the closet.

Conservatism is the defiance of hypocrisy. You express some principles and behave exactly the opposite of them, then shrug off the contradiction.

The fact is, the Trump presidency and rise of the America First nazi movement have put gay and trans people in actual physical danger. The crazy fascists are getting more and more violent, and there is no end in sight. Conservatives cannot understand the concept of minding your own business when someone is different from yourself. They have been packing the courts with conservative judges, packing the election boards with nutty cheaters, and even though there are not very many of them we still face a steep uphill battle just to maintain our American democracy and our freedom.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Notes After Uvalde

I have a few observations after the Uvalde mass killing of nineteen children and two teachers.

First a preface: law enforcement is a necessary function in a complex society. Cops are just people with a job, like anybody else, there is nothing unusually good or bad about them as individuals and I believe most take the job in hopes of making the world a better place. It is time to look critically at the characteristics of the role we have assigned them, the norms they have adopted, how these things serve the function of law enforcement, and how they don't.

Everybody knows this uncomfortable fact: the police in Uvalde this month, as well as at Parkland in 2018, and other violent incidents, were cowards. They stood around and let murderers kill helpless children at will and then lied, and continue to lie, about it. We expect the police to punch down at the weak -- it's a professional norm -- but when we really need them in a violent situation, their priority is their own safety.

If you or I were sitting at home watching TV and we heard someone murdering children outside, we would do something. It's not our job, it's our obligation as human beings. In Uvalde, more than a dozen policemen stood outside the door for an hour and listened to the slaughter of children without intervening.

Almost everything the police in Uvalde have said about the mass murder has been a lie.

I know it's politically correct to call them heroes and swoon over the risks they take, but the number of police that are killed on the job is dwarfed by the number of people they kill. Police departments often do not cooperate in keeping records of their own acts of homicide, so we don't really know the number of their victims. For instance, the twenty-one innocent victims of police inaction in Uvalde will certainly not be counted as killed by police. In 2021, 84 officers in the US died from felonious assaults, that is, somebody killed them; BLS says there are currently 665,380 Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers in the US. Records show 1,100 people were determined to have been killed by police in that same year.

The police shamelessly jack up their "killed in the line of duty" statistics with COVID deaths, which outnumber being actually killed on duty by a great margin. The pro-police National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum database says 458 officers died in the line of duty in 2021. Reading further, we see that 381 of those were COVID deaths; they refuse to take the free, effective, universally available medicine and they get sick and die. That does not make them heroes. Approximately one one-hundredth of one percent of police officers were killed by someone in 2021.

When police use their personal judgment to stop and question "suspicious-looking" people, the result is harassment of minorities and subsequent unequal enforcement of the law. Even in deep-blue Montgomery County, the police stop Black drivers at twice the expected rate, given their frequency in the population. And trust me, it is worse in other places.

Police are paid to enforce the law, they do not prevent crime.

Law enforcement is an important role in a civil society, and we count on them as professionals to carry out their duties.

It turns out the police do not legally have to protect citizens unless they want to. The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the police have no special duty to protect anyone. See also Washington Post: U.S. judge says law enforcement officers had no legal duty to protect Parkland students during mass shooting.

Arming the police with military equipment does not make anyone safer.

"Police-involved shooting" is a passive way to a describe an event as if it just happened on its own, with no one responsible. "A policeman was standing there and his gun went off and the bullet hit someone." When you see that wording in the news, you know the media are covering for police violence. "A police officer shot someone" is accurate and assigns agency where it belongs.

Police defenders blame "a few bad apples" without quoting the rest of that saying.

  1. It is not an especially dangerous job
  2. A police state is the definitive dystopia
  3. They aren't "heroes" for doing what they are paid to do

A police department's version of "what happened" is self-serving and often not true. Cell-phone video has proven this many times. (Read the police report on George Floyd's death as a reminder.) The initial report in Uvalde was pure fiction. Because we as a culture accept the "myth of the hero" their reports are almost never questioned.

The fatuous relaying of police interpretations of important events by journalists allows officers to operate without scrutiny. American public life would be very different if journalists interviewed witnesses as well as quoting police statements.

A good guy with a gun is more dangerous, and no more effective, than a good guy without one.

Crime is decreasing, except for gun crime.

Mental illness is rarely involved in mass shootings, and is not the reason that the US has many many times more mass shootings -- we have more than two a day, on average -- than any other place on the planet. There were at least twelve mass shootings in the US over the recent Memorial Day weekend.

Most mass murderers are rightwing extremists.

Making teachers carry guns at school is too stupid to even argue about. It is not a serious suggestion and we don't need to waste time on it.

Violent nuts do not kill because of critical race theory.

They also do not kill people because they did not have two parents.

More Christianity in school will not reduce mass killings.

More "security" and surveillance does not prevent mass shootings.

The idea of limiting school access to one door is, again, too stupid to argue about.

After nearly every mass shooting, rightwing social media circulate a story that the murderer was transgender, often with photographs of some random person. This is never true.

Every sensible person knows that the gun situation in America is insanity.

Even Republicans and NRA members know we need to regulate access to deadly military weapons.

There is no such thing as a "lone wolf" mass murderer. This is a concept made up by the gun lobby. Every one of them got the idea somewhere. Their manifestos and social-media postings are all the same: rightwing hate, misogyny, antisemitism, racism, conspiracy theories.

Thoughts and prayers do not mean anything. We need rational policies on guns.

Fairness, kindness, and decency did not used to be partisan political issues, and should not be. Daily mass murders of totally innocent citizens is not acceptable. We should be in agreement on these things.