Tuesday, January 14, 2014

America's Culture of Confusion

Kelly Thomas' parents (photo LA Times)
Sometimes the violence in this country just leaves me flat-out confused. Take the gun situation for example.

Consider the sadly clock-like regularity of shooting massacres like Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook; and those are just a few.

Or the ongoing plague of gun violence terrorizing marginalized urban communities in places like Detroit, Wilmington, DE, Trenton, NJ or Chicago - where young men who've developed an unnatural obsession with gun culture are killing each other over petty slights, perceived insults or worse; or less.

Polls show a vast majority of Americans support some sensible handgun laws; reasonable things like mandatory Federal background checks, limits on purchases and restrictions on sales.

Yet the Congress we elected to write legislation that protect us seems more interested in campaign donations from the NRA and abstract theories of Constitutional freedoms than the ongoing death toll going on all around us.

So when a 71 year-old retired Tampa police captain named Curtis Reeves decides to go catch a movie in Florida with his wife, he takes a loaded .380 handgun with him. Does he use the handgun to take down some delusional nut-bag with an AR-15 who played too many violent video games?

No, the ex-captain shoots and kills a man who's using his cell phone, and wounds the victim's wife when she tries to instinctively shield her husband from the bullets with her hand. News reports suggest the victim turned around and struck Reeves before being shot so don't be surprised if the 'Stand You Ground' defense is eventually used; if it worked for George Zimmerman after murdering an innocent teenager, it'll work for a 71 year-old retired police officer.

The mainstream media finds six ways to Sunday to tell us all about how shocking it was.

But how come the media isn't shocked by the nations lax gun laws? What are these reporters doing standing in front of a theater in Florida doing live reports when they should be in DC on Capitol Hill asking Republicans why they oppose any kind of firearms legislation?

Why aren't they standing in front of NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre's driveway asking why the NRA lobbies against the kinds of laws moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters and children all want?

How come the mainstream press isn't asking why LaPierre makes $972,000 a year to oppose common sense laws that would make the country safer? At what point did it became OK in Florida to use a handgun on someone talking too loudly on the phone?

This leaves me confused.

Did you read Josh Marshall's TPM blog about Multnomah County Republican Party in Oregon who are auctioning off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in honor of the upcoming celebrations honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln? Don't they understand how sick and vulgar that sounds to most people to "honor" two seminal figures in American history who were both assassinated by gunmen by auctioning off a rifle used to kill people?

The weapon will be given away at the MCRP's Lincoln Day Dinner on February 14th; the featured speaker? Rafael Cruz, father of Ted Cruz (the apple sure didn't fall far from this tree).

That leaves me really confused.

And with one of the most well trained, well... well-equipped police forces anyway, in the nation you'd think members of the Fullerton, California police department could find a way to take an unarmed, mentally-ill homeless man like Kelly Thomas into custody after a 2011 confrontation at a transit parking lot.

But no, former Fullerton Police officers Jay Patrick Cicinelli and Manuel Ramos beat him to death.

Even though Ramos' attorney asserted the two officers were just "doing their job" and "had no malice in their hearts", a widely-seen surveillance video clearly shows Ramos putting his gloves on and shaking his fists in the face of Thomas before the two officers began beating him with their fists, clubs and using a Taser device on him.

A jury from Orange County found both men not guilty on all charges, sparking outrage and protests across the nation for this shocking case of excessive use of force.

While I understand people needing to comply with police commands; was it really necessary for these cops to beat Kelly Thomas to death for 30 minutes while he screams and begs for his life?

30 minutes.

Kelly was beaten so badly multiple bones in his face were broken, he choked on his own blood and the compression on his thorax by the officers prevented him from breathing; he was brought to the hospital in a coma and died five days later when his parents (pictured above) decided to take him off life support.

I won't post the photo of Thomas' face taken in the hospital; it's actually hard to tell it's a human face. But take a look at the photo if you don't believe me.

Because the Thomas beating was such an disturbing example of police brutality, I decided to post an news report/discussion that contains an edited version of the video beating that was caught on surveillance tape.

Hearing an unarmed innocent man scream and plead for his life during a violent police assault suggests we have become a confused culture - hard as it is to hear (the light in the video is poor so it's difficult to really see) I think everyone should see it once.

Just so there's no confusion about where we are as a nation.

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