Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Black people have always had a tough time making the rest of us understand the extent of police harassment across the racial divide. White America was freaked out by black America's reaction to the OJ verdict only because they lacked awareness of the situation for black people - particularly in Los Angeles. As I once wrote:
I was one of the few white people at the time who knew how police treated black people in Los Angeles (I toured there in 1989 with an all-black band, and was surprised to see my normally nonchalant bandmates waiting anxiously for lights to change before entering crosswalks. It was explained to me. I gulped. Hard.).
Now the problem is more broadly recognized...while black people, understandably, wonder why the hell it took us so long. But, at the same time, some black activists overreach. Every white policeman who shoots a black person is instantly assumed to be a homicidal racist monster. Policemen (who walk into hideous danger) are thought to deserve no slack whatsoever. We go too far. We always go too far (will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?).

Now tons of public figures are under fire for sexual harassment. And woman, who've been putting up with this for years, wonder why the hell it took us so long. But, as always, there will be overreach. For example, even consent is no longer sufficient (congratulations, Ms. Dworkin!). And we've seen mass infection with a disturbing viral notion: anyone so much as tiptoeing into the hot societal outrage cauldron du jour must lose their job - their ability to make a living for themselves and their family - and be shunned forever by polite society and prohibited from plying their trade or contributing in any way. Total personal and economic annihilation, without trial. Crawl up and die.

Extra-judicial annihilation feels right to us, it fills us with righteous satisfaction. But only when applied to the trendiest rages. Arsonist? Counterfeiter? Terrorist? Let judicial process handle it! But re: the grievance du jour, let's go ahead and toss them in the furnace and walk away. Literally no severity of outcome is too severe.

It's dangerous to advocate restraint amid an angry mob, which inevitably equates restraint with sympathy for the Person Who Did the Unforgivable Thing. Swept up in mass outrage, people can lose their morals, their humanity, with unsettlingly ease as they righteously expunge bad-doers. Hey, we're weeding out evil; isn't that a worthy result? No. Restraint is always appropriate, even when we're talking about A GODDAMN MONSTER WHO SHOULD HAVE SHOWN HIS ***OWN*** RESTRAINT BEFORE HE...(etc., etc.)" 

Those hollering that sort of thing most loudly now are the very same folks who (correctly!) object to the use of torture, Guantanamo, and other exceptional measures for certain classes of criminals - and whose stance, in turn, gets equated with sympathy for the bad guys and provokes a bellicose insistence that THE GODDAMN MONSTERS SHOULD HAVE SHOWN THEIR OWN RESTRAINT BEFORE THEY...(etc., etc.)"

Let's stop considering restraint to be optional. Let's at least question our thirst for the total annihilation of those who appear to be beyond-the-pale (per current outrage boundaries in either idealogical camp), shall we?

Why are sentences ridiculously high for drug offenders? Because drugs provoke periodic mob outrages, and nobody ever wants to be seen as advocating for moderation in that ugly realm. So it's an upward locking ratchet. The same gloves-off approach is also how we get to Louis CK being unwelcome to ever again delight us with his creation because of his ugly activity, having shown some people his junk with their consent (not to say, of course, that this was acceptable behavior, or that I'd ever be caught sympathizing with a GODDAMN MONSTER WHO SHOULD HAVE SHOWN HIS ***OWN*** RESTRAINT BEFORE HE...etc., etc.)

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