Posts from May 2009

Hello Wichita

Ani DiFranco wrote this song in 1999 for Dr. Barnett Slepian of Buffalo, New York, and for Robert Sanderson and the women of the New Woman All Women Health Care Center in Birmingham, Alabama. I can’t get through the song without crying. Even on a normal day.

hold me down
i am floating away
into the overcast skies
over my hometown
on election day

what is it about birmingham?
what is it about buffalo?
that the hate-filled wanna build bunkers
in your beautiful red earth
they wanna build them
in our shiny white snow

now i’ve drawn closed the curtain
in this little booth where the truth has no place
to stand and i am feeling oh so powerless
in this stupid booth with this useless
little lever in my hand
and outside, my city is bracing
for the next killing thing
standing by the bridge and praying
for the next doctor
martin
luther
king

it was just one shot
through the kitchen window
it was just one or two miles from here
if you fly like a crow
a bullet came to visit a doctor
in his one safe place
a bullet insuring the right to life
whizzed past his kid and his wife
and knocked his glasses
right off of his face

and the blood poured off the pulpit
the blood poured down the picket line
yeah, the hatred was immediate
and the vengeance was divine
so they went and stuffed god
down the barrel of a gun
and after him
they stuffed his only son

hello birmingham
it’s buffalo
i heard you had some trouble
down there again
and i’m just calling to let to know
that somebody understands

i was once escorted
through the doors of a clinic
by a man in a bullet proof vest
and no bombs went off that day
so i am still here to say
birmingham
i’m wishing you all of my best
oh birmingham
i’m wishing you all of my best
birmingham
i’m wishing you all of my best
on this election day

— Ani DiFranco, Hello Birmingham (1999), To The Teeth

See also:

Bleeding Kansas

I just received news that Dr. George Tiller was shot to death today in the lobby of his longtime church in Wichita, Kansas. Tiller had been singled out for special attention from both the political and the direct-action wings of the anti-abortion movement for years because he continued to perform second- and third-trimester abortions for women whose life or health would be endangered by continuing the pregnancy. Tiller was the only doctor in Kansas, and one of only a handful in the entire U.S., who would perform third-trimester abortions under any conditions. The police have detained a suspect but nothing has yet been announced officially about who committed the murder or why.

Unlike most of the bellowing blowhard sheepdogs of the world, who can’t get enough of trumpeting how they put their lives on the line, Dr. Tiller actually did so in the interest of serving the well-being and the free choices of willing patients who asked for his help in a time of crisis. He put his life on the line to provide women with life-saving safe abortions, in despite of the outrage of the entitled majority, and in the face of physical threats, day after day, showing not just boldness, but real courage, and honor.

We are, and have for a long time, been in a much more precarious position than we sometimes realize; we have spent too many years defending an ever-shrinking number of clinics and doctors against the repeated harassment, blockades, vandalism and guerrilla violence of the antis. We owe it to Dr. Tiller to remember him — to remember him and to remember Dr. Gunn, Dr. Patterson, Dr. Britton, James Barrett, Shannon Lowney, Lee Ann Nichols, Robert Sanderson, and Dr. Slepian — to remember our dead. But more than that, we need to work in honor of their memories, and to make sure that there are no more of whom we have nothing left but names.

R.I.P., Dr. George Tiller (August 8, 1941 – May 31, 2009).

I’ll post more when I find out more.

Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #53

It’s Sunday Sunday Sunday. Let’s get Shameless Shameless Shameless.

What have you been up to this week? Write anything? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments. Or fire away about anything else you might want to talk about.

How cops see themselves (#2). National Police Memorial Week and El Monte, California.

Continuing in the vein of GT 2009-05-07: Occupying forces, GT 2009-03-28: It doesn’t take much imagination, and GT 2008-09-25: How cops see themselves, see also this all-too-earnest article by Robert O’Brien, in POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-13): National Police Memorial Week: Never Forget, written in honor of Washington, D.C.’s annual drunken police riot, in which we are informed, along the way, that Law enforcement deaths could easily weaken our profession’s resolve [sic] to protect and serve. However, the exact opposite is true. Instead of weakening us, our thin blue line strengthens into a solid steel band of brothers. We may bend, but we will never break.

I’m not sure how many solid steel bands of brothers bend without breaking. However, the important upshot of this purple-blue prose is this:

As Lt. Dave Grossman says, you are society’s sheepdogs, and you willingly and selflessly protect your flock—with your lives if necessary.

— Robert O’Brien, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-13): National Police Memorial Week: Never Forget

Cops believe that they are like big dogs corralling a flock of sheep (for their protection). Guess who’s the sheep?

And then what follows:

You are our nation’s domestic warriors and heroes. And I thank you for your continuing dedication and service.

— Robert O’Brien, in POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-13): National Police Memorial Week: Never Forget

Meanwhile, in Kicking Up a Stink Over California Incident (the incident was a cop kicking a prone man in the head after he had already surrendered, and then high-fiving his buddy-cop after; hence the cutesy title), Dean Scoville is outraged by the outrage, and openly longs for the good old days of you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride:

There is one thing the cop is unquestionably guilty of: Working in the wrong era.

There was a time when post pursuit ass-kickings were obligatory. Cops knew it, suspects knew it, and there are enough old timers on both sides of the fence that will verify the assertion when I say that what this officer did was NOTHING compared to what would have happened in another place and time. This might account for why back in the day punks thought twice before running. Nowadays, they’ll flip off a cop and run for the hell of it with little fear of reprisal (unless, perhaps, it’s El Monte PD doin’ the pursuin’).

— Dean Scoville, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-15): Kicking Up a Stink Over California Incident

Scoville is disgusted by simplistic arguments that all life—however vile, wicked, or inconsequential it might actually be—is valuable. He believes that it’s impractical for them to be expected not to inflict extrajudicial punitive rage-beat-downs on Suspect Individuals:

… I am forced to ask if we’re being practical.

Perhaps matters of practicality shouldn’t even be considered in a profession that embraces terms like war on drugs, war on organized crime, and war on gangs, but is not allowed the means to fight them as such. These are our domestic Vietnams. They are wars we could win, if only we could really fight them.

— Dean Scoville, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-15): Kicking Up a Stink Over California Incident

Cops believe that they are domestic warriors, a class separate from mere civilians like you and your neighbors. They are fighting a battle in your hometown’s streets, as part of an ongoing occupation of hostile territory. They believe that they are in the midst of several Wars, wars which are like the United States government’s occupation and counter-insurgency campaign against South Vietnam, and that they need to be freed from restraints on the tactics that they can use in order to really fight like a military force engaged in total war. (Complete, no doubt, with the usual free-fire zones and strategic hamlets.)

Who gives a damn about Posse Comitatus, or about whether or not the Army patrols American cities, when the local police forces already patrolling them are already indistinguishable from an the Army in self-conception, attitude, tactics, arsenal, personnel, and just about everything else except the cut of the uniform?

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Communications: