Respect Is Hard-Earned, But Fear Is Cheap

The longer version (boldface mine):

And so, yesterday, following a New York grand jury’s failure to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking 43-year-old Eric Garner to death in July, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement. “[W]hile there will be people who disagree with today’s grand jury decision,” it read, “it is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law.”

He did not explain why.

As we’ve watched two killer cops, half a country apart, skip even the process by which they might be held to account for the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, politicians and editorial boards have taken care to make similar pleas. You must respect the process. You must respect the system. You must not break the law in response to the law’s failure.

The “legal process” that Governor Cuomo is wheedling his citizens to respect is the one that last Monday declined to indict Wilson for shooting an unarmed 18-year-old as many as eight times, killing him. A legal system that yesterday failed to make Pantaleo answer for putting a man accused of selling cigarettes illegally into a banned and ultimately fatal chokehold, even when the man’s last words were caught on videotape. A legal system in which prosecutors are given so much power that grand juries could be persuaded, as judge Sol Wachtler famously put it, to “indict a ham sandwich“—and yet where thousands of cops on duty kill suspects every decade and are almost never charged.

The “rule of law” that Cuomo wants us to hold in high esteem is the very same one that has given the NYPD a wide berth to harass, intimidate, and abuse young men of color, a “rule of law” governed by a rapidly militarizing police force training trigger-happy violent cops. A rule of law at the base of a system of violence and hate so out of control that even the mayor of New York City needs to warn his son of it.

How can you ask people to respect the law when the law does not respect them? How can you remind them of the importance of the process when Missouri and New York are reminding us the process is hopelessly broken?

There is a troubling trend in American thought that holds we should “respect” cops as we might “respect” venomous snakes: by staying away from them, by avoiding eye contact, by not making threatening gestures. “It is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law” because otherwise we will be beaten and sodomized with nightsticks and shot to death on our doorsteps. “It is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law” because the state has a monopoly on violence that it has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to use, especially against poor minorities.

That’s not respect. That’s terror and fear.

Back at the link, if you want to make your blood boil, read some of the Facebook screenshots.

With those types of attitudes, I can’t fathom how so many white people think they are more, not less, safe when citizen can be killed with impunity. It only happens to other people. Until it happens to you.

This entry was posted in Civil Liberties. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Respect Is Hard-Earned, But Fear Is Cheap

  1. mtomasson says:

    I love your passion, and agree with you mostly..I do have a conservative streak though, and when you talk about attacking our institutions, part of me thinks, “things could still get worse.” Before I endorse giving up on law or laws, in order to keep the moral high ground, I’ll do more to get out the vote. Liberals are consumed with rage now, but could not be bothered to vote in the midterms. Outrage at our laws seems to me paired with apathy at the voting booth. I can endorse your view only if we bring it also to the voting booth. “What’s the point, both sides are the same,” is something I hear a lot among people I otherwise agree with philosophically. Bullshit. This is the point of voting right here. If we don’t like the fact that the law says cops can kill a person with the thinnest of excuses, then we need to support and elect people who will change those laws.

  2. onkelbob says:

    How can you ask people to respect the law when the law does not respect them?

    It’s not so much that the LEO’s do not respect the populace as it is the LEO’s don’t respect the law (The one they are sworn to uphold). And it starts from the top – Andrew Cuomo is notorious for his do as I say, not as I do. Unfortunately it just continues from there, at every level of government, the executive branch pays only a passing interest in obeying laws, and focuses on using those laws to control the populace.

Comments are closed.