Truth. No lie.

Today, it was announced that a Federal grand jury indicted all four of the former Minnesota police officers who were present at the murder of George Floyd. Derek Chauvin, of course, has already been convicted of the murder, since he took direct action to precipitate George Floyd’s death. The indictment charges all four of the officers with depriving George Floyd of his civil rights.

This is a pretty big deal. It remains a big deal that Chauvin has been convicted, despite his lawyers pledging to appeal and waging forays into finding anything possible to seek a new trial. Sentencing has not yet been pronounced, so that’s another bit of suspense in the saga of George Floyd.

The other three officers who accompanied Derek Chauvin in responding to the call that George Floyd had used a counterfeit bill to pay for goods at a convenience store are still awaiting trial on charges they failed to intervene in the excessive force restraint of the man, which led to his death. This is also a pretty big deal.

It has been exceedingly rare for law enforcement officers to face consequences such as these when a suspect dies in their custody. The nation has seen case after case of unarmed people of color killed by law enforcement personnel, or at least face death while in custody,. Up to the conviction of Derek Chauvin, all of these cases have resulted in no indictments against the officer(s), and no accountability of a system widely proven to be intentionally oppressive to marginalized communities.

Many people see the conviction of Derek Chauvin as a cause for hopefulness, that an out of control law enforcement system can be reformed, or at least held accountable. That hopefulness is tempered by a broad stroke of pragmatism, however, as community leaders note that accountability is not equivalent to justice; George Floyd cannot be made whole. His family cannot be made whole. He cannot be returned to life and the circumstances of his death cannot be erased. We all have to live with his death, and the aftermath. All of us.

The officer who killed Daunte Wright, at nearly the same time Derek Chauvin’s conviction was handed down, awaits trial. She has been charged with voluntary manslaughter, because she shot him during an arrest, claiming that she confused her handgun with her taser. She was arrested and her mug shots broadcast on mass media. This is very unusual for a police officer to be handled in this fashion, arrested very quickly, remanded until she could post bail, and now awaiting trial.

We don’t see this very often, but again, this does not return Daunte Wright to his life, to his family, or any of us to any degree of optimism or trust concerning law enforcement. We have to be firmly rooted in the reality of this scene, accepting the harsh fact that Daunte Wright will not rise from the dead, and the story of a handgun mistaken for a taser is what we have on the table.

While I agree these latest examples of what appears to be a newfound sense of accountability for law enforcement, I must realize just how new this trend is. We are only months from the overly militarized response, nationwide, to protests over George Floyd’s death. Juxtapose that with the absence of virtually ANY response, militaristic or not, to the U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6th. There was…nothing. Capitol Police officers were hung out to dry, outnumbered and out strategized by a dearth of proactive response from their leadership. I wont even speculate on whether that lack of response was intentional and essentially conspiratorial, or merely incompetent. In either case, the results were disastrous.

The long line of law enforcement officers who have not been subject to accountability for death of unarmed suspects is incomprehensible. It took everyone who is outraged over this quite a while to understand how the system was able to protects itself so effectively – qualified immunity. Most people had never heard of such a thing, but after grand jury after grand jury refused to indict when the evidence seemed irrefutable – Freddie Gray, Breona Taylor, Mike Brown, Jacob Blake – everyone had no choice but to comprehend the insidiousness of systemic oppression.

When people can’t figure out why these kinds of things keep happening, only a few leaders or activists understand that punishing the individuals directly responsible is only the battle., not the war. The war is at the level of policy, state and local laws, lack of federal policy, mindset. Who ever would have known that police departments were becoming increasingly militarized, acquiring surplus military equipment and training for responding to civil unrest. We certainly didn’t know, but somebody knew. There were policies, there were laws, there were Congressional resolutions. But we didn’t know.

Putting together the bigger picture is generally not something grass-roots activists have the resources to accomplish. Down at the grass roots level, there are volunteer-driven movements, cooperatives, some non-profit silos. At the level where policy is made and money is allocated to implement those, there are professional lobbyists, government agency executives, and private sector concerns. Follow the money. It always leads to the root of the issue.

And then, of course, there’s the racism and the classism and the concerted political efforts to keep people separated. The separation has now gone farther than separation on the basis of race, or class, or culture, or religion. Now it’s separation on the basis of acceptance of truth. What some accept as truth is no longer evidence of objective data, but affinity for who transmits the data. It is a test of faith, and I don’t mean theology.

Faith in “thought leaders” is becoming the way our society moves. We’re seeing many people who define themselves as “people of faith”, meaning members of an organized Christian denomination, exhibiting faith in human leaders. Faith in the human leader is seen as a necessary pass-through to contact with the divinity. That’s not entirely new – Catholics reach God by means of the priest, or the Pope. Protestants reach God by means of the minister, or the preacher. So, now people are finding it necessary to do God’s work by means of the politician, or t least the political process.

I contend this is mostly a cop-out (pun more than likely intended). It’s the intermingling of Church and State, which our nation was specifically warned against, from its founding. But, we jumped the broom, crossed the line, and made the deal with the Devil. Literally. We can no longer get our egos out of the game, and so we desperately manipulate the political and pubic policy systems to get what we want. And we blame it on God, who I think is none too pleased.

If I believe that abortion of a pregnancy is morally wrong, and goes against the will of God, I have every right to believe that. If I believe that so strongly that I am compelled to take action to convince everyone else that abortion is wrong, I suppose I have that right as well. What I do not have the right to do is bomb abortion clinics, murder doctors and health care workers I suspect are performing abortions for willing recipients, or harass people seeking counsel and/or service regarding abortion. But people do that, and justify themselves as doing the work of God. In my estimation, they are doing the work of their own egos, but that’s my opinion.

So, a bias is at play with issues like this. In the case of abortion, it’s religious preference. If I don’t believe that abortion is morally wrong in all circumstances, and believe that God provided human beings with freedom of will, is my view nullified because someone with the opposite view screams louder? Or kills me? Or blows up my house? This is what happened during the Civil Rights Era – people who refused to allow de-segregation to be implemented, despite it being the law of the land, bombed and murdered and caused harm to people with whom they disagreed. And for what? They still lost that battle, but they are still fighting the war.

Bias is at play with everything going on today, with the way policing is practiced in this country, with the way public education is implemented, with the way basic life resources can be accessed. Why is it that some schools have books and clean lunch rooms and enough space for students, while other schools have no books, rats and raw sewage in common areas, and not enough classroom space? Why is that?

Usually, those inequities track very neatly along the lines of marginalized communities. Marginalized by race, and by class. After de-segregation white families moved out of the inner cities, and into the suburbs, leaving the inner city schools to serve mostly black and brown populations, and mostly poor populations. Working parents were less able to contribute volunteer time or money to augment what the public allocation might be, while many of the suburban schools were new, and parents had the ability to pick up the slack of the public dole.

So, when people look at those obvious signs of inequity, we have to go below the level of the individuals who make up the student body. We have to get beyond the judgement of assigning inner city parents qualities of uncaring, irresponsible, wanting something for nothing. We have to get beyond the judgement of suburban parents as more involved, and caring about whether their children learn. Neither view is absolutely true.

To properly asses why there’s a huge gap in equity, we have to look at the public policy, the municipal zoning, the neighborhoods, the age of the school buildings, building code, book contracts, teacher salaries, bus routes, tax code and municipal bonds, and other things. We have to figure out how we got to the point of having raw sewage and rats in a school. Then we have to figure out what it’s going to take to fix that. We have to do that for every failing school, without exception, and we have to accept that one size of remedy will not fit all.

The one size fits all mentality is essentially lazy, and essentially an attempt to avoid litigation. It doesn’t work. It has never worked. every situation is different, unless you want to deal with robots or machines. But in public policy, we are dealing with people – the public. Treating people who are diverse as though they are the same is a disaster waiting to happen, and come to think of it, we’re no longer waiting. It’s happening now.

We have to accept the truth. That’s the first step. And the truth is…no one human leader deserves our adoration. They may deserve our respect, our support, but not adoration. They are not our friends; we’ve never met most of them personally. This is a business arrangement, and they work for us.

Politics is a dirty, nasty game. Nobody gets out without getting their hands, or other body parts, dirty. It’s about compromise, no matter how messy that gets. Most politicians would have to admit that it’s about power, and influence, which usually brings power, or at least the illusion thereof. That’s fine, except when they ignore the will of the people who elected them. That’s not fine. But, absolute power corrupts absolutely, or something like that.

The ego is a powerful thing. It isn’t concerned with anything but itself, because the illusion – or may delusion – is that without it, we will die. Politicians, CEOs, leaders of any kind…they have tremendous egos. Without some attempt to balance the ego, with humility and some attitude of service beyond ambition, one descends into narcissism and toxic sociopathy. We’ve seen what happens when that emerges, and it’s not pleasant nor productive.

I was just listening to the news about the third most powerful leader of the GOP losing her position. She is not being replaced because she lacked conviction, or ambition, or even loyalty to party. She is being ousted because she refused to back up the status quo of rejecting truth.

This is a layer of the political game that is more frightening than any other, one that demands abandoning facts, convictions, even morals and requires winning by literally any means necessary. Saving face, bloating one’s image for maximum approval and validation, refusing to act in one’s own integrity…that is the currency of this phase of the game. The delusion that power and money are the gain of this effort is almost comical – the money is merely colored bits of paper, the property color-coded cards with arbitrary values assigned merely to further game play. Some human made up the rules of the game, and as long as everyone understands the game is for entertainment value only, there’s no harm and no foul. But take this up to the level of real people, and real lives, and real consequences and we have a problem. A big problem. We have life as we know it in this country, and maybe others.

Despite many rounds of game play, we always come to the same conclusion. There is an end, there is only so much currency, there is only so much property, there are only so many game tokens. It has to end. It has to end because this is how the game is played. We made the rules. There are winners, and there are losers. Those are our rules,.

Unfortuntely, we find that no matter the rules, Truth prevails. It can be hidden, manipulated, dressed in a tuxedo that covers bloody evidence of a crime, but it will not be denied. Truth is immutable, it is Universal law, inherent in our existence. So our game always ends the same way, with the realization that truth will not be denied. Because this is really not a game.

Sooner or later, Truth will topple even the most carefully erected house of cards, no matter how many plastic houses and hotels have been placed there. Any edifice constructed of lies will fall. No matter what. Unfortunately, it may take some time, and there will be damage while it lasts. But the shoddy construction will fall. It will fall because this is about real people, not game tokens, and real people will always try to be free. Real people will always realize that you can’t be free if you’re locked inside someone else’s game.

So, whether it’s about buying surplus military equipment for your police force, or outlawing abortions, or buying guns for every corner of your life, or saving the environment, we all have our playgrounds. We all want our way about something. That’s fine. Everybody should be able to at least try getting what they want. As long as you understand that you aren’t the only player on the field, the only person on the playground.

So, I’m feeling a little weary. Feeling like I’m the last one left in a game of killer doge ball, and there are no outs on the other team. The ball is coming, and I’ve been dodging it for a while, so I’m a bit fatigued. I’m feeling a little bit disenchanted, like maybe it was just a fairy tale that I could possibly win and live happily ever after.

I want my spark back. My soul feels too heavy. I don’t want to be weighted down by Other People’s Problems (the OPP I spoke of previously). I am NOT down with OPP, no matter how good the beat is or the excitement. And you know me. I have to move. That’s what a movement is – people moving. I want to be part of people moving. To stop climbing the mountain is to die, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

This is what it feels like most days.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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