Tag Archives: i can’t breathe

Breathing…

breathing

It’s a bit of an unavoidable necessity.

So now as we watch the “Ferguson situation” turning out to be what looks like only the first phase of a much larger unfolding dynamic, I find myself increasingly unable to avoid reacting emotionally to what is taking place. If you can watch the video of Eric Garner being choked to death, and not feel disturbed on some deep, instinctual level, then maybe the “salute our heroes” propaganda really has done it’s it job in brainwashing you into complete subservience, or maybe you are really just a racist. Who knows. If it doesn’t disturb you, then I find that in itself to be disturbing…

I have been writing about issues of martial law for a few years now (off and on), and yet lately, I admit it has been a somewhat difficult and surreal experience to be in that place of feeling like “Man…. Now that I’m seeing it, I really do wish I had been wrong about all this…”

The whole matter of martial law and “crowd control” and military style policing is a rather complex one, and one that I personally got to get a small taste of back in 1999. When I was going to art school in Seattle, a little thing called the “World Trade Organization” came to town, and a bunch of people were apparently very unhappy with those business leaders and politicians who claimed they were only trying to assist the “global economy”, and the protestors were intent on storming the convention center and shutting the whole thing down. Being a young, naïve student at the time, what else was there to do but go to where all the action was and “check it out”…?

I stood in front of the line of armored soldiers policemen and took pictures.  I listened to the protesters chant and sing and watched them cement their arms together in a circle.  I saw the windows broken and cop cars spray painted with Anarchy symbols.  I stumbled into an intersection with a few dozen other people, blocking traffic, as we choked on the tear gas and tried to blink the foul substance out of our eyes…

All this was nothing, however, compared to what another student at the same art school would go through, a student and friend of mine who would later become my wife. 🙂 She walked out of her apartment one afternoon, about five days into all the protests, only to find herself being rounded up with a group of protesters who had been corralled down her street. She was forced to sit down on the pavement and have her hands zip-tied, and then spent 12 hours on a bus filled with people all sharing one bucket for a bathroom, before they finally decided where to take them all for processing. She spent 6 days in jail, for walking down the street, in her own neighborhood, but hey, there were Starbuck’s getting their windows smashed, so desperate times call for desperate measures…

The most telling anecdote from that particular “adventure” I’d say, was actually in noting how everyone I knew (who lived over in peaceful suburbia, far from the hubbub and chaos) refused to believe that the police would actually have arrested people without just cause. They’d say things like, “Well, she shouldn’t have been in that area at the time”. It’s almost funny to see how easily modern people can turn a blind eye to excessive force and find a way to rationalize martial law when their lattes are in jeopardy.

And it was martial law, it really was, at least for a few, brief days before the WTO conference was finally over. After my wife had been arrested, I was driving a couple of us around in the city, trying to figure out which jail she had been booked into, and a curfew had been put into effect by that point. The National Guard had been brought it, and as I drove down the streets of Seattle that night, it was one of the eeriest moments in my life. The streets were completely deserted, except for every other street corner where Humvee’s were parked, and 2 or 3 Guardsmen stood milling around, guns in hand. It was a foggy night, and in the orange haze of the streetlights, it felt like something straight out of some dark dystopian movie, but it was absolutely real.

Anyways, if I hadn’t gone through all of that years back, I don’t know if I would have quite the same perspective as I do now. It’s hard to explain in words what it feels like to actually be in the situation of being forced to submit, ordered to disperse, commanded to obey, simply because the other human is wearing a uniform, and you are not. Some people say this whole thing isn’t about race, and that’s true, to a degree, in that this militarized police presence is being effected on every one of us. But at the same time, if you aren’t white-skinned, then you are a lot more likely to have first hand knowledge of what I just described. Black people and minorities get targeted and harassed and arrested disproportionately than whites. It’s a fact. The rage and angst isn’t imagined. The video of Garner choking and dying as a mob of cops jump on him is truly sickening.

We live in a country where you can hardly go five minutes without hearing some commercial or propaganda piece egging us on to thank the “troops” for going overseas and “fightin’ for our freedom”. Yet somehow we look at the ever-increasing amount of “troops” being pointed directly at us, and don’t seem to think there’s reason for alarm!

Apparently “freedom” doesn’t necessarily include the Right to Breathe. You would think that it would…

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