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Wed Nov 26, 2014, 06:11 PM

Burnin' and Lootin'


“This morning I woke up in a curfew;
O God, I was a prisoner, too - yeah!
Could not recognize the faces standing over me;
They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality. Eh!

“How many rivers do we have to cross,
Before we can talk to the boss? Eh!
All that we got, it seems we have lost;
We must have really paid the cost.

“(That's why we gonna be)
Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
(Say we gonna burn and loot)
Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
(One more thing)
Burnin' all pollution tonight;
(Oh, yeah, yeah)
Burnin' all illusion tonight”
-- Bob Marley; Burnin’ and Lootin’


I stopped by an associate’s house this evening, to pick up a legal document pertaining to one of the handful of cases that I’m currently involved in. I hadn’t seen her husband since early summer, and I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with him before heading home. He is in his mid-twenties, a clinical social worker, and has been active in a couple of the conflicts that his wife and I work on. We stood out on their porch as he smoked a cigarette; looking up at the sky, he said that “the whole world seems to be crazy right now.”

It would certainly appear that way to anyone reading a newspaper or watching the news on television. And even more so, to anyone surfing the internet. The attention being paid to events in Ferguson alone show how unresolved conflicts that polite society attempts to cover over will always rise again. After the 2008 election of President Obama, there were such attempts -- in discussions of how a mature America had reached a “post-racial” age. Yet, however well-intended or sincere those discussions were, in reality they were but fancy words, that at most defined a thin film covering our culture.

Beneath that thin film, our society still has the ingredients of social pathology brewing: poverty, racism, sexism, and crime. Each one of these is large, indeed -- for example, crime includes everything from domestic abuse to police violence, white-collar crime to armed robbery. More, each one of these ingredients has overlap with others, creating synergism. And, as we witness in Ferguson, one event can spark an explosion.

The events in Ferguson in the past several months raise numerous questions that have to be answered, in order for the United States to move to the higher ground of social justice. And while “race” and “racism” are not the only ones, they are definitely central. Racism, much like sexism, can be uncomfortable to discuss in a meaningful way -- even here, on a liberal/progressive democratic web site.

Related issues include police brutality; a multi-tiered justice system; property being valued above human life; and options for grass roots activities, both positive and negative. These, too, can be difficult to discuss in a meaningful way, especially when emotions are raw.

I can only speak for myself, of course. I am opposed to “burning and looting” for a variety of reasons. The first has to do with ethics: I am opposed to the use of violence, with self-defense being the only exception. Yet, I certainly understand why people engage in these destructive behaviors.

Tactically, rioting does not accomplish much. It is not going to bring about positive change; in fact, it is likely to hinder, even prevent, potential positive change. Imagine if that same energy was harnessed by disciplined community leaders. A peaceful protest -- perhaps involving civil disobedience -- could have made a profound statement. More, an organized voter registration drive would provide the numbers needed for the community to elect officials with shared values. A new district attorney could still charge the cop with murder. It’s not unheard of for a prosecutor to present a case to a second grand jury. There’s not a statute of limitations, or double jeopardy involved here.

There are a lot of communities where the people are disorganized. Even more neighborhoods are. Although it is hard work, a couple of people -- or an individual, if need be -- can start the process of community organization: voter registration, public education, and active participation. It’s really odd how that is more difficult than, say, instigating violence in certain situations.

When I was young -- in my mid-thirties, as I recall -- a Clan Mother told me that the world, and many of the circles/cycles within it -- were entering a phase where they would begin to move very fast. And cause confusion, mistrust, and frustration. She told me to remember that as we went further in this era, that it would be important that some people -- those who are “awake” -- make the effort to move slower. Not avoid responsibility, nor withdraw. But use patience, and resist the momentum of the circles/cycles that were moving so fast that innocent life suffered.

I think we are there now.

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Arrow 13 replies Author Time Post
Reply Burnin' and Lootin' (Original post)
H2O Man Nov 2014 OP
mainstreetonce Nov 2014 #1
panader0 Nov 2014 #2
Name removed Nov 2014 #11
uppityperson Nov 2014 #12
Hekate Nov 2014 #3
justiceischeap Nov 2014 #4
Warpy Nov 2014 #5
TheKentuckian Nov 2014 #6
TBF Nov 2014 #8
TBF Nov 2014 #7
The Jungle 1 Nov 2014 #9
malthaussen Nov 2014 #10
greatlaurel Nov 2014 #13

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 06:39 PM

1. The dream

"There are a lot of communities where the people are disorganized. Even more neighborhoods are. Although it is hard work, a couple of people -- or an individual, if need be -- can start the process of community organization: voter registration, public education, and active participation. It’s really odd how that is more difficult than, say, instigating violence in certain situations. "


When Barack is finished being President he will take up Martin's dream and become the best community organizer ever.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 06:52 PM

2. I too am "opposed to the use of violence, with self defense being the only exception."

Peaceful, non-violent protest should be the first line of self defense. A leader needs to come forth and harness the energy we are seeing.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #2)


Response to Name removed (Reply #11)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 09:31 PM

12. You mean like running over protestors who are in your way?

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 06:58 PM

3. The Clan Mother was right, I think

Stay well.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 07:12 PM

4. I liken the looting and rioting to that of a child seeking attention. I will explain

Pretend you have a child (a generic child) that doesn't get much attention. This child goes up to mom or dad and tugs and says, "Mommy, Daddy, look what I did." They nod and give a non-committal "Uh huh." This child keeps up this behavior for a while and starts to notice, even though she may not have words for it, that her parents just aren't paying attention to her. Then, one day, she's tossing her doll about and knocks over a glass. Suddenly, Mommy is paying attention to the child. A few days later, the child does something else, spills some milk on the carpet. Daddy is suddenly paying attention to the child.

The African-American community has been tugging at our shirts for some time now, trying to get our attention, trying to tell us peacefully, that something just isn't right. That the young men in their community are being hunted for lack of a better word. We've watched mothers grieve on TV or in the paper and some of us say, "Oh that's too bad, we should do something about that." And those people are gung ho for a while until the next shiny object comes along. Then we watch another parent grieve publicly over their justifiably murdered child and some of us say, "Oh, that's too bad, we should do something about that."

Of course, there are the expected responses from the uncaring--surely this black child deserved to be killed because all black kids, particularly males, are thugs. They got what was coming to them even if they were doing nothing but walking through a store, holding a toy gun while talking on the phone.

Finally, one black human too many is killed and the community just can't take it anymore. So, what can they do to get our attention, to get everyone's attention? They've tried peaceful conversations, they've tried placing grieving mothers on television in an attempt to humanize the skittle carrying child but it just doesn't seem to hold our attention for very long. Well, I'd venture to say they have our attention now and we can't condemn them for their actions really, because they've been trying to get our attention on this matter for a long time and we've basically been nodding our heads and saying, "Uh huh."

I too don't think fighting destruction with destruction is the answer but I can see why it's being done and I understand the sentiment behind it. If their community doesn't give a damn about them, why should they give a damn about their community?

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 07:13 PM

5. I'm actually grateful to be getting up in years

because we are forced to move slower as we age and the lack of social outlets of old women, especially, mean a lot of down time for putting it all together in terms of what we have learned.

The Clan Mother was correct but she might have been describing her age rather than the world's age.

Still, whether the circle of the Fourth World is closing and the stepping stones to the Fifth are beginning to appear (rising sea levels being seen by the Hopi, among others) or whether people are starting to awaken from their rapidly shrinking consumerist dream and readying themselves for one form of revolution or another remains to be seen.

It will likely not be seen by me and I'm grateful for this, too.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 07:19 PM

6. My biggest issue is venue, take the torches and pitchforks to the gated communities

and cop friendly burbs and put their skin in the game.

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Response to TheKentuckian (Reply #6)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 07:23 PM

8. I have said it in other threads -

and know where you're coming from. I can't believe the thought hasn't occurred to them. But what will happen if they set downtown St. Louis on fire? Large banks, law firms, companies, hotels? That's why the National Guard and Homeland Security are in the area. They will be crushed like bugs. And they know that.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 07:21 PM

7. As a pacifist I hear you -

but I also think about the reality of a world so unequal and a game (economic system) that is so rigged that we have little choice. The rage and despair has to go somewhere. Perhaps a leader will rise up and it will be channeled somehow, but it seems that whenever we get one who is willing to seriously challenge the status quo they are assassinated. Brother Martin was not killed until he started talking about class. Both JKF and Robert were killed because they weren't playing ball the way the status quo wanted them to (and they were a big threat because they had enough money of their own to tell the Bushes of the world to f** * off). POTUS acted like he might challenge, but then he backed off (at least for the time being).

It is really demoralizing to hear folks talk about destruction of property being equal or more important than the killing of a human being.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 07:46 PM

9. say it again

We turned our backs when a bunch of crooks destroyed the world economy. Not one of the bankers or wall street crooks went to jail. Doesn't that count as lawlessness? The destruction they created is real. They didn't just steal a handful of cigars. When are we gonna shoot some of them
So what should the Black community do? They have waited hundreds of years for equality and fair treatment. What is the solution? What should they do? Peaceful coexistence is not working. I guess they should just wait some more.
Our country invaded Iraq. Destroyed property and killed hundreds of thousands. People were tortured. We had no good reason for this invasion. Shouldn't we have just practiced peaceful intervention???? Bush should have just sat down and talked. RIGHT?
Why is violence OK when our government does it?
There is a lot of lip smacking about the violence and very little talk about why there is so much anger. You have to make people pretty mad to get where we are in Ferguson.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 08:15 PM

10. Mother was right for the elders, but youth must be served, too.

Reminds me of Cat Stevens's song "Father and Son." The line "From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen" could serve as a cry from the hearts of the disenfranchised. Anyone who is not a white male (or fellow traveller) in this country is quickly ordered to sit down and shut up as soon as they raise their heads. As pointed out upthread, violence is no answer, but it sure gets attention. The wrong kind of attention, though.

I'm pretty convinced at this point that the US is just going to have to wait until demographics takes its toll and a generation of bigoted white males dies off to make room for the rising generation. But then I look at a few representatives of that rising generation, and I'm not so sure that we will just see more of the same (or they will; I'll be dead by then). Some adjustments will have to be made, and it may get pretty ugly for those who heretofore held all the cards.

Of one thing I am also pretty certain: whatever adjustments are made in the future, the Indians will still get the shaft. They just don't have the numbers to get heard.

-- Mal

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 26, 2014, 10:16 PM

13. Kicked and Recommended

Thank you.

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