Thursday, June 11, 2020

Down With Slogans!

Make America Great Again! 
-- Donald Trump, 2016 campaign slogan and policy statement

I said a thing. 
It didn't go well. 
Or, on second thought, maybe it did. Days later, I'm still not sure one way or the other. 
It began, as it usually does these days, on Twitter:

Hang on. 

Just wait. Don't start screaming yet. 

If you let me explain, I'll probably give you even more reason to be mad and outraged. Won't that be nice? 

So, anyway, that's what I said. 
We don't want to defund the police.
We want to fund police training, de-escalation, community outreach, oversight, and especially police ACCOUNTABILITY.
What we want is to defund police brutality, abuse, racism, escalation, and militarization.
Fund protect and serve EVERYONE.

Outrageous, right? 

In my defense, Twitter is a lousy platform for political commentary. Tweets are limited to just under 300 characters, which doesn't allow for much in the way of detail or nuance. And sure, you can thread tweets, i.e. link them together into a longer message -- and I do that, a lot, and am in fact somewhat notorious for it -- but the truth of the matter is that not very many people read beyond the first tweet in the thread anyway.

And frankly, I thought this mostly a throwaway comment. 

I posted that at 8:35AM on a Monday morning. First tweet of the week, while I had my first cup of coffee and settled in to get a feel for what was happening in an America on fire, burning from both ends and right down the middle. 

But this was a Monday morning after two weeks of protests following the murder of yet another black man at the hands of police. 

This was Monday after a weekend of the president throwing gasoline on the fire from the safety of his bunker, under a fortress, behind a wall, surrounded by a brand new fence, guarded by an army. 

This was the day after police across the nation declared war on American citizens, a weekend of dogs, escalation, gas, tanks, and bullets -- some rubber, some not -- and yet more murders, more racism, more abuse by those who should be protecting Americans instead of killing them. 

I want to say this Monday was unusual, but, you know, it's starting to feel like it's not. 

Maybe that's where I went wrong -- if indeed I did. 

Rage has become the norm of American existence and this just seemed like more of the same.

Because it is

And that's the problem. 

See, on that Monday, my various social media timelines were full, tens of thousands deep, with people shouting "Defund the Police!"

Defund The Police?

That's the message we've settled on, I guess. The shouted slogan, the unifying narrative that has emerged in the wake of the protests, the riots, the rhetoric, the war on American citizens waged by those sworn to protect and serve and openly led and encouraged by those supposedly elected to support and defend the Constitution for all. 

Defund the police!

There were thousands of requests, demands, entreaties, for me to use my platform to push that message: Defund the Police! Come on, Jim! Join us! Use your voice to get others to join us! Defund the police! 

Sure, but ... defund the police? 


What does that mean? 

The day before I saw a handful of people shouting this. Now? Monday morning it was thousands. Tens of thousands. 

So, anyway, I...


What's that? 

Oh. I see. 

You're mad. It was way before Monday morning, you say. You've been shouting it for years. Well, you know, maybe it was being shouted long before Monday. But maybe we don't all have the same view, the same input, the same shared experience -- and we're going to come back to that. So, for me, it was Monday when I really noticed the slogan "Defund the Police," when I realized it had become some sort of national movement, when people began demanding that I join up. 

You? Your mileage may vary. 

As I way saying: You want me to join you? You want me to push the message? 

I might, but I'm going to need more than a slogan.

Defund the police? 

What does that mean? Get rid of the police? Abolish the police? Or just ... don't pay the police anymore? What are we talking about here? 

I looked at what my readers were saying, over half a cup of cooling coffee at 7AM. 

I looked at the thousands of comments and messages, and I  listened to what people were shouting in the street, and it seemed to me they were saying they didn't really want to get rid of the police. 

Instead, again it seemed to me, they wanted to reduce the things which lead to institutional bias (such as, you know, racism, for example), abuse of power (like kneeling on a man's throat until he dies, for example), unnecessary use and/or escalation of force (like tear gas and rubber bullets used on peaceful protesters outside the White House), militarization, lack of accountability, etc. 

That sounds good. 

I can certainly support that, and in fact, I have been shouting that very message myself for more than a decade right here. 

And, again it seemed to me, they wanted to reward, fund, and/or increase the things which lead to better policing. Such as: community outreach to help cops and citizens see each other as people and not enemies, i.e. make policing local, community based and less like an invading army; programs which move some of the burden for non-policing matters (such as mental health intervention) away from law enforcement; increased oversight of police departments by community, state, and federal entities; significantly increased accountability of police officers and departments, training (which can be everything from de-escalation to civil rights to sexual harassment), etc.

That also sounds good to me. At least as a starting point. 

Again, since it seems I might need to repeat myself on this, I've been preaching exactly that message for more than a decade now, right here on this blog, and on my various social media feeds -- and I haven't been exactly shy about it recently either. 

I think "defund" might not be the best choice of words here, but you go to into revolution with the slogans you have and so I boiled what I was seeing down into a single summary small enough to fit into a tweet. 

Monday morning and a throwaway tweet of agreement and, even now, this doesn't seem like a controversial statement to me. 

But it only seems that way.

As it turns out, that's not what everybody meant. 

See, some people really did mean "abolish" the police. 

A lot of people, as it turns out. 


There are thousands more. 

Three days later, it's still going on. 

You can take a look at my Twitter feed if you don't want to take my word for it. And tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of similar comments on Twitter outside of my feed, and on Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, etc. 

Fuck you, defund the police. 

Fuck you, abolish the police. 

Fuck you, eliminate the police. 

Fuck you, defund means defund. 

Well, okay. Fuck me. Whatever. Not exactly the first time Lefty social media has told me to go fuck myself. I try not to take it personally. But about the hundredth "fuck you" from people who I'm supposed to be sharing a side with, well, like the man said, it kinda feels personal. 

Maybe I had it wrong. 

It happens.

I was once -- allegedly -- trained to hold a full cup of coffee, while standing in a canoe, in the middle a hurricane, without spilling a drop. Something about attention to detail and focus, or so Navy Chiefs would have you believe. But, this? This makes a hurricane at sea in a canoe look pretty good. There are one hell of a lot of moving parts lately. Lot of people yelling. Lot of rage. Lot of hate filling my feeds. We're still in the midst of a pandemic, record numbers of new cases, record number of people dying -- and here in Florida, I'm right in the middle of it. Meanwhile, there's an economic crisis, a looming recession, a collapsing energy sector, a trade war, an election. Right now, half my social media is lit up with very angry people yelling about the Harry Potter lady...

So, maybe somewhere in that tempest, I missed something. 

Unlike Trump, I don't claim every word I speak to be perfection. Maybe I got it wrong. Maybe I needed to apologize. 

So I went to look.