God, cops, and, oh, God and cops

8 01 2009

He wouldn’t shake my hand. He said something about ‘respect,’ but it wasn’t clear if he were asking me to respect his wish not to shake my hand, or if he were demonstrating respect for me by not shaking my hand.

I smiled and said ‘Okay’, but, hmmmm, not so okay.

No hand shaking because he’s a man and I’m a woman. A dick, and I get a handshake. No dick, no shake.

So what’s the big deal? He showed me the apartment, didn’t he? He wasn’t unkind or unwilling to deal with me: he simply didn’t want our hands to touch. Different standards of personal boundaries, that’s all.

And on one level, that’s true. I like handshakes, but hugs, not so much. And I certainly don’t want someone feeling me up by way of introduction. Boundaries and preferences.

Perhaps had he not mumbled ‘respect.’ Again, it’s entirely possible that he was demonstrating his respect for me—but I don’t think so. When a man fears my hand, simply because it’s a female hand, I don’t respect that fear. No, I’m not going to force someone to shake my hand—duh, boundaries—but respect that fear of a female touch? Nope.

Oh, but this was about his religion, his relationship to God, and had nothing to do with me. Except that I was there, and I wasn’t feeling particularly respected.

So what do you do in these situations, where respect for the other seems to require a disrespect for oneself? Is there an equitable behavioral solution?

So we don’t shake hands. Perhaps that’s the best we can do.


How many people have been ‘justifiably’ killed by police—i.e., how many victims of disputed deaths (i.e., clearly those not immediately involved in criminal violence) have had their demands for justice unheard because the police were able to claim self-defense—before the advent of mobile technology?

What would have happened to the police officers on trial in the Sean Bell shooting in NYC had someone had video of the events that night? Would anyone have taken Michael Mineo (allegedly injured and sodomized by police in Brooklyn subway station) seriously had video not surfaced which corroborated at least part of his claim against the police? What about what happened to Christopher Long, the Critical Mass bicyclist in Union Square who was charged with assaulting an officer—only to have those charges withdrawn after video clearly showed the officer assaulting the bicyclist? What about all those Republican National Convention protesters freed after film footage effectively erased police justifications for those arrests?

And now, Oscar Grant, the young man shot to death by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police New Year’s day. Would there be a vigorous investigation absent the cell phone video of the shooting? And what of allegations that BART officials sought (unsuccessfully, as it turns out) to confiscate any images of the shooting? And police claims that Grant was not cuffed while he was shot—while witnesses dispute this? Perhaps it was an accident, perhaps the officer didn’t mean to shoot Grant. But what the hell was he doing drawing his weapon on an unarmed man on the ground? (And what does it mean for the supposed professionalism of police forces if they kill citizens accidentally?)

I’m not necessarily a fan of the deployment of recording technologies in the public realm. I like my privacy, and while appearing in public does, of course, mean just that—appearing—I think of myself as ‘passing through’: I get to come and go. Recording techs freeze that passage, making permanent what I have always assumed evanescent.

And closed-captioned television (CCTV) as deployed by police and security forces? Nuh-uh. Yes, it’s supposed to make us all safer, help the police catch the bad guys, serve as a deterrent, and hey, it just might. But who the hell is in charge of those nifty CCTV cameras? Who controls that footage? Who decides who has access to it, what is kept, and what is deleted? Is CCTV for the public’s protection—or the police’s?

Still. Video techs in the hands of individual citizens may aid in just the kind open subversion of the security state ideology that’s needed. And no, I don’t think the US is a police state (cf. the bit, below, on Shirin Ebadi and Iran) but the security state ideology, which demands that all other values bow before the shield, is corrosive of an open society. The notion that anything goes as long as one is made secure may—may—make us citizens safer from one another, but it sure as hell doesn’t make us any safer from those security forces.

And it sure as hell doesn’t have anything to do with justice.

Justice does need security, and citizens in an open society need a competent—repeat, competent—police force. Citizens with video techs can’t make the  police more competent, but they can at least expose incompetence—and worse.


Shirin Ebadi, kick-ass activist, is coming under even more pressure from the Iranian government.

According to the LA Times, young thugs from the Basiji Militia, which has connections to the Revolutionary Guard, attacked Ebadi’s home and shouted ‘Death to the pen-pushing mercenary.’

(An aside: Death to the pen-pushing mercenary? Really? That’s the best they could do?)

Police were called, did nothing.

Ah, the security state. . . .


Hamas is full of shit, and shits. They’re totalitarian gangsters, providing much-needed basic services to the Palestinians of Gaza in return for using ‘their people’ as shields in their war against Israel.

Hamas leaders may call themselves freedom fighters or the resistance or martyrs for God, but what do they have to offer those they seek to liberate but a more correct (i.e., non-Jewish, non-Israeli) violence, a more correct oppression? They’re mobsters, performing the same ‘services’ for Gazans that Italian, Irish, Russian, Chinese, etc., organized crime syndicates have done for their immigrant communities.

Remember the scene which opens the first Godfather? ‘I believe in America’, the man tells Don Corleone, before he goes on to beg for help in seeking vengeance for his daughter’s rape. The police can do nothing; could the Don help? The man is berated: why didn’t you come to us first? But the Don will help, in exchange for a favor. . . .

The analogy is inexact, but it works well enough: in the absence of trust in the legal authorities, one will turn to whatever enforcers are available. And in the absence of any countervailing authority, those enforcers are as likely to subjugate as protect—will subjugate in the course of protecting—their communities. It’s an illicit version of the security ideology, mirroring claims of the necessity of violence and the suppression of dissent.

So Hamas is a Palestinian mob. Hell, it’s worse than a regular mob, not least because it directly endangers Palestinian civilians by firing rockets and weapons from within civilian areas. Hamas knows Israel will retaliate, will shell and bomb and shoot into neighborhoods and schools and homes and kill Palestinian civilians—deaths which can then be blamed on Israel. But Hamas, too, is at fault.

Note that I say ‘too.’ The Israeli government knows exactly what Hamas is doing, and they point repeatedly to evidence of Hamas’s tactics. But this hardly absolves Israel of responsibility for civilian deaths. To state that ‘Hamas fires rockets at civilians on purpose, and we do so only incidentally’ doesn’t quite wash in the face of hundreds of Palestinian dead and thousands wounded. How many times can you say ‘Oops, sorry’? Or ‘Sorry, but. . .’? No, Palestinian civilians matter as little to the Israelis as they do to Hamas.

I have read (and heard on the radio) a number of comments by Gazans blaming Hamas for the destruction, but that hardly means they love Israel. They are a hostage population, used and abandoned.

So what the hell to do? Even if Israel manages to weaken or even destroy Hamas, then what? What happens to the people of Gaza? To the blockade of the territory and immobilization of the people? What about the Occupied Territories and Jerusalem? There are still the competing claims to the land, competing claims for justice, for security. There is still the intransigence and hostility of most of Israel’s neighboring states.

What a fucking mess. So the Israeli Defense Force wins by pounding Hamas and Hamas wins if it survives the pounding and everyone else loses. Death all around.

. . . . ‘Yes, but whose deaths matter more?’


A re-thought on God, hands, and respect: Opponents of same-sex marriage complain that advocates are trying to force respect for these marriages, and running over any concerns over the sacred nature of matrimony and the moral and social disorder indicated by open same-sex relationships.

I guess I get their distress. To respect same-sex relationships is to disrespect their own beliefs, and themselves. Why should respect only run one way?

Again, in cases where respect for A requires disrespect for B, tolerance may the best one can hope for. I don’t respect your beliefs, and you don’t respect mine, but we’ll recognize that each gets to retain her beliefs.

The difficulty with marriage, of course, is that it involves the law—another discussion. And I don’t want any laws on the proferring or withholding of hands.



7 responses

8 01 2009
Iran takes advantage of Gaza crisis « Peace and Freedom Global Future

[…] https://absurdbeats.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/ god-cops-and-oh-god-and-cops/ Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Iran Behind Hamas, Hezbollah, Key Israelis, Others […]

8 01 2009

From everything I’ve read, the officer who shot Oscar Grant originally had a taser in his hand; later footage showed his gun in his hand. I think what that incident boiled down to was bad training. I bet he thought he had the taser and not his gun in his hand when he shot Oscar. Disgusting.

My husband was a cop for 23 years. I’m sure he had to draw his weapon (I don’t ask, he doesn’t tell) but I doubt it was ever by accident. I think there’s a completely different standard of training now than there used to be and it’s nowhere near adequate. Even though he’s retired he still interacts with cops on a regular basis and it’s blows his mind how unprepared, and in some cases, lazy they can be. I don’t care if you’re on a city police force, a transit authority force or if you’re a security guard, if you are licensed to carry a weapon, you should have more than a few months training. And the training has to be better. Recruits get the law hammered into their heads and they get weapons training. They really aren’t taught how to assess situations, how to deal calmly, think rationally. Then they throw these kids into the streets, cross their fingers and hope for the best.

I’m not sure what my point is here except the whole thing frightens me sometimes. I don’t necessarily feel safer if I see a cop because I’m not sure they’re prepared to protect me. I hope that knowing everything can be–and probably is being—recorded makes cops think twice. Or even once.

8 01 2009

Hi Mo! Glad to see you’ve returned from the dead!

I tend to think that this was a case of mind-blowing error rather than malice—which, unfortunately, doesn’t bring back Oscar Grant. And given that it may have been a mistake, I also feel bad for the guy who shot him. He’s going to have to live with this mistake for the rest of his life.

Sympathy aside, I’m with you: I’d like to believe that most cops are decent and well-trained, but sheesh, how can one tell?

Perhaps the unions could step up here, and in their next contract ask for better training. Doubtful, I know, esp. in NYC, but I think a lot of us citizens who both need and are wary of the police would support this. And the politicians would be hard-pressed to oppose more comprehensive training.

Sigh. It’ll never happen. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

12 01 2009

And of course, where does the money come from, for more training? Yes, it’s important, but so are a hundred other things. What about those fire stations they want to close, for example, because they have the least activity of any fire station in the city? How’d you like to live down the street from one of those?

I do believe that most people are decent and are trying to do the right thing. If I didn’t, I sure wouldn’t live in the city. But man, sometimes people blow it, bigtime. I’m thinking more of those cops who (allegedly) sodomized that guy in Brooklyn. That wasn’t some panicked mistake.

12 01 2009

I wish these were separate posts; I also want to respond to the first part. I think the word “boundaries” is key here. Just because someone else doesn’t respect you, doesn’t mean you’re not respecting yourself by “letting” them treat you disrespectfully. In my opinion that’s the wrong way to think about it. Let’s assume, worst case scenario, he won’t shake your hand because he thinks you’re unclean. Does that mean you are unclean? No. Can you choose to believe that it does make you unclean? Sure, though you don’t strike me as that kind of person. In the immortal words of Henry Rollins (I quote this all the time), just because someone wants to hand you a big pile of horseshit, that doesn’t mean you have to take it.

Boundaries. Let him think whatever he thinks; you can’t even be sure what his motivation was. Nothing to do with you. Just have the manners, as you in fact did, to allow him to make an idiot of himself, without making an issue of it. 😛 It’s the least we can do for each other.

13 01 2009

Whoops, I hadn’t realized you posted.

Re: the sodomy case. Yeah. Ain’t nothin’ mistaken about that. Nor about the roundups at the RNC or the cop who bulldozed the Critical Mass bicyclist. Some cops suck, some screw up. I don’t feel bad for the cop who was suspended for what he did to the biker, but the transit cop? If it was an accident, that’s a hell of thing to have to live with.

Of course, Oscar Grant can’t live with it. At some point, it doesn’t matter if a cop sucks or screws up: The man is dead.

As for boundaries, I get what you’re saying. Like I said, I think what set me off was his mumbling of something about ‘respect.’ Had he apologized or even simply explained that his religious beliefs didn’t allow him to shake my hand, I would have accepted it without much further thought. What I don’t accept is having to set aside my self-respect in order to respect him.

Eh. I didn’t like that apartment anyway.

13 01 2009

Hypocrisy bugs me, too.

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