Breviloquence and I were talking about it last night. He still can’t get over the fear and mistrust we have of our police here. Where he’s from, the police generally have little to do, and mostly spend their time breaking up parties for underage drinking and occasionally stopping people for speeding. They’re annoying, sure… but they’re not scary.
As he was watching the events proceed on TV (where even the heaviest Fox spin couldn’t mask the fact that this was a PR disaster, at the very least), he finally exploded: “This isn’t what police do! This is what you do when you’re the police who’s really the military in a dictatorial state, not what you do when you’re the city/county police force here!”
I think I looked at him funny. I’m pretty sure I laughed. Between my discipline (see how I took it macro up there, with the fear and training and physical circumstance? Just watch me add in some game theory and probability to make it more interesting.) and my context (brown, female, and growing up here), I couldn’t help it. Even though we’ve had relatively little police harassment (and that’s a story for another time), and my family has worked pretty hard to keep us from an irrational fear of police… even though I try not to fall prey to irrational fear of the police… I’ve never experienced them as people who were fully “on my side.” Individual police officers are as varied as individuals in other contexts; some are nice, some are mean, some are apathetic, some are funny… but in groups, especially in times of confrontation, they are scary.
“This is the LAPD. What did you expect?”
I think he’s still having trouble processing that...
...oh, and by the way, she's right on about something else as well:
We live in a world that is increasingly polarized. Not just in the normal, heuristics and conflict theory ways, but a heightened and distorted “us against all” mentality. This pervasive fear of the namelessfaceless “other”… the scary person that melts back into the crowd, the quiet kid that could turn on you at any moment, the hardworking migrant worker who’s really a terrorist… when anybody outside of your little circle can turn out to be your worst nightmare, doesn’t a little preemptive force seem justified?
That’s what I saw in the conflict yesterday. In terms of scale, and cost, and even outrage… it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. But the mechanism at work seems subtly altered. Rather than outright racial tension, or “simple” hyperaggression, or even corruption… we have a return to zombies and boogeymen. Everyone’s potentially a threat. Every bump in the night could be the house settling or a monster out to get you...
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