Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Monday, April 27, 2015

‘Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves’

Riots have broken out in Baltimore, Maryland during the past few days after Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore resident, suffered a spinal injury while in police custody after his arrest on April 12 and died seven days later. Six city police officers have been suspended pending an investigation into Gray’s death.

Tonight the Baltimore Orioles baseball team cancelled their game at Camden Yards - likely out of concern that it would not be safe for fans to make it to the stadium.  The Orioles game last night had some tense moments when some of the protests were happening just outside of the ball yard. The riots appear to be spreading and the governor has apparently called out the National Guard.

I was born in Maryland and have been an Orioles fan my whole life.  I checked out one fan chat site tonight and there is quite a political discussion going back and forth.  Many white folks just want their baseball and are quite upset with the young black kids who are out in the streets raising sand.  I put up a comment thanking one guy for his good statement and have been getting trashed by several other fans who are responding to my words. 

While checking out these fan sites I discovered a statement by John Angelos who is the son of the owner of the Orioles.  It's quite a strong statement and I share it below.  He was responding to Baltimore sports-radio broadcaster Brett Hollander who took to Twitter to argue that demonstrations that negatively impact the daily lives of fellow citizens are counter-productive. Orioles COO John Angelos seized the opportunity to respond with a qualified and brilliant defense of those protesting.

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

 Many Americans can't handle the truth that John Angelos speaks above.  Instead of blaming their corporate masters for essentially abandoning the people in order to maximize profits - many (especially white) Americans want to blame the legions of Black, Hispanic, and poor white people who have been thrown onto the dust heap of history because they are now superfluous populations to the mega-corporations.  The rich don't give a damn about country anymore - they have gone global and are out to make money anyway they can.  If the country falls apart they don't care because they've moved on.  In fact the ruling elites are happy to see the people tear each other apart because it saves them the trouble of having to deal with the mess they have left behind.

The big problem in this country is that most people have no class consciousness.  They learned to glorify and imitate the rich and famous and they expect that everyone else should do the same.  But let's be real here - just how many spaces are actually available on the elites dance floor for the struggling masses who have been cast aside? How many jobs are really out there anymore?  How many poor and working class kids can afford to go to college?  How many Black kids have gone to jail on petty charges that white folks would never face?

There is an author in Maine by the name of Carolyn Chute who has a new book out called ‘Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves’.  She is a poor person and writes about this very same story from the perspective of a rural Mainer who has seen the nation abandon her people in the western Maine mountains.  The title of her book tells the whole story.  What is happening in Baltimore is no surprise and the elites know it.  If the ruling class gave a damn about the country the militarization of the police would not be happening and Black Lives Matter would not be a growing movement.  But they don't care - in fact the rich prefer a race war and the way things are going they just might get one - sadly so.

But if white folks think they can hide in their gated communities with their armed guards then they've got a big surprise coming.  You don't abandon a large percentage of the society, cut taxes on the upper crust, destroy public education, dismantle social progress and then expect that the poor will just sit back and accept this growing inequality, police brutality, and moral injustice.  Life just doesn't don't work that way.  Ask the Palestinian people - they know all about it.


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