UC Davis: Those Cattle Cars Won't Fill Themselves, You Know
Police Taser an tiny elderly woman, police attack a tiny pregnant woman, police beat a tiny college woman in the face -- like "TSA mistreats person in airport," it hardly qualifies as news in America anymore. It's just life.
So I might never have seen that UC pepper-spray video, were it not for the intense cheesiness of my local TV news broadcast: last night, while watching Fox's Sunday primetime cartoon lineup, I kept seeing commercials for the ten o'clock news: "Coming up next: [legitimate local news story], [another legitimate local news story], and what does the height of your heels say about the state of your finances?"
For some reason, I found that juxtaposition extremely funny: "How tragic, a young woman died at a Yale tailgate party last night, now here's a puff piece giving us an excuse to run stock footage of women walking in very sexy high heels! But we'll pretend it's an important analytical piece about the economy."
So when cartoons ended I didn't change the channel, but stuck around to watch the news and the "news," and after the legitimate local news stories but before the high-heeled puff piece, my local Connecticut broadcasters showed a video snippet of a pepper-spraying police officer 3,000 miles away.
The truly horrifying thing about the UC Davis videos is that the police look so calm. So bored. In other cases of police malfeasance toward Occupy Wall Street and its regional branch protests -- shooting a nonviolent war veteran in the face, beating the snot out of a woman half his size ... well, there's no justification for what police did in any of these cases, but there might sometimes be an excuse -- maybe the cops (rightly or wrongly) felt threatened, on high alert, drunk on adrenaline, and it's not humanly possible for them to do their best and clearest thinking once their fight-or-flight responses have kicked in. The cops who escalated matters in Oakland, New York, DC, Richmond et al -- maybe they can claim they thought they were acting in self-defense.
Not the cops at UC Davis. What chilled me about the video was how nonchalant the cop was. How casually he pepper-sprayed the quiet bowed heads of the students sitting before him, methodically going down the row to ensure every student got a good solid faceful of orange chemical weaponry.
Yesterday afternoon I acted with the same remorseless boredom, while cleaning some spilled coffee grounds from off my kitchen counter: Well, they're in a more-or-less straight line along one edge of my cutting board, so I'll start at this end and sloooowly make my way down. Whoops! Missed a spot. Lemme double-back with the sponge ... that's better. Not one individual spot on this line shall escape my notice. I'm gonna get 'em all.
Not that my thoughts were anywhere near that explicit. Truth be told, when I cleaned the coffee grounds yesterday I didn't think or feel much at all: I wasn't angry, frightened, or feeling threatened; it's just that whenever coffee grounds, flour dust, syrup drippings or any other foodstuff hits my countertop, it becomes "dirt" the second that happens, and dirt must be swept away before it attracts vermin.
Normal people have that attitude toward kitchen spills. Sociopaths have it toward human beings. And those cops at UC Davis weren't spraying pain chemicals point-blank into student's faces because the cops were afraid or even angry; they were just doing their jobs. When you sweep up dirt you don't worry about the dirt's well-being. The cops weren't angry at the students anymore than I was angry at my spilled coffee grounds. But neither did the cops concern themselves with the students' well-being, anymore than I give a damn for the feelings of my coffee.
Of course, I can see the difference between ground coffee and live people, same way I can distinguish between peaceful demonstrations and dangerous threats. Why does the University of California give weapons and badges to people who can't tell the difference in either case?
Those who make peaceful protest impossible make violent protest inevitable. I wish I could believe my government -- anybody at any level of my government -- understood that.