What Would Have MLK Thought of the Case of Eric Garner and Mike Brown?

choke23n-8-web

The year 2014 has been an eventful one when it has come to racial tensions. Over the summer two events occurred which have totally changed the racial landscape of America in the present. In July, an African American man, Eric Garner was outside a beauty salon, selling illegal cigarettes, trying to make a little extra money. The ensuing confrontation is video taped with Garner and the police. Garner can be seen as saying “leave me alone” and “it ends today” (referring to the constant badgering he would receive from the police.) What happens next we can see the policemen start to take him down, with what seems like unnecessary force. Towards the end of the video you can hear Garner, saying repeatedly in a muffled voice “I can’t breathe.” The following court case would yield a not guilty verdict on the part of the policeman who choked Garner out. (fast foward to 1:04 to see the actual video). 

A case which also had a huge ripple effect on the african american community occurred a month later with a young man named Michael Brown. Brown was seen on surveillance video, stealing from a connivence store right before his confrontation with policeman Darren Wilson. The account which Wilson provides is the confrontation had gotten physical, with Brown starting to attack him. Brown would go on to reach for Wilson’s weapon, where at this point he proceeded to shoot Brown a total of 6-7 times hitting him, with the last shot more than likely being the fatal one. brown-and-wilson

The ensuing court case would yield results much similar to the Garner case, with officer Wilson getting let off with a not guilty verdict.

With both instances, the person responsible for killing the victim were found to be not guilty. Though both were committing crimes, was this use of force necessary? Whatever the case, what happened angered many, many people causing ensuing protests. In Ferguson, Missouri, where the incident took place, there was peaceful protests right after the indictment. But these protest escalated very quickly into what would be riots, violence and looting. In New York the story was much different. Though the case with the police officer who choked out Garner got a similar indictment as Wilson, the protests which have been on going in New York City have been relatively peaceful. So we must ask ourselves- What would Martin Luther King think about these two cases?sc4630-1bwm

In MLK’s “A Letter From Birmingham Jail”, King address the “direct action” through the use of peaceful protests to change an injustice. I believe if MLK were still alive today he would look at both cases, and would totally disagree with whats going on in Ferguson. This is the exact opposite way to bring about change. They are perpetuating violence with more violence. This is probably the most ineffective way to change a problem. On the other hand though, I believe he stand behind the peaceful protests occurring in New York City. The situation which they are creating in New York through peaceful protests is indeed causing tension. The type of tension which MLK describes would bring about negotiation and change.

So do I stand behind whats going on in Ferguson and the reaction of the community? No. But on the other hand, a much more appropriate response is happening right now in New York. And through the reading “A Letter From the Birmingham County Jail” I would have to say that MLK would agree with me on this one.

Advertisements

Are Athletes Becoming More or Less Vocal?

The “St. Louis Five” who showed support for Michael Brown before their game this past weekend

For today’s PolSci 101 Lecture, we had to read an article titled “Where Are the Jocks for Justice?” by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier.  According to the article, the general trend for athletes today is to not speak out about political issues that they feel passionate about because it is not good for publicity or marketing.  Our reading quiz last night asked “Can you think of any recent examples (not ones mentioned by the article) that would be an exception to the general trend discussed?”  The first example that came to mind was this past weekend when the St. Louis Rams players came out of the team’s tunnel when they were being announced with their hands raised in support of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” campaign for the shooting death of Michael Brown.  Beyond that, I couldn’t think of many examples off the top of my head, so I began doing some research on current athletes speaking out for what they believe in. Continue reading

Why The United States Must Fight ISIS: Fear, Honor, and Interest

On July 12, 2007, in the midst of cries from politicians to remove troops from Iraq, President George W. Bush issued a warning of the daunting terror threat to come in the future if he decided to take boots off the ground. 

Putting aside your opinion of President Bush and his policies, his assessment was very accurate. After President Obama withdrew American troops from Iraq, despite the advice of our military commanders to keep them stationed there, terrorist organizations were allowed to regain a stronghold in Iraq and begin recruiting terrorists from other regions, such as Syria. With the absence of the United States in Iraq, ISIS has become a major terror threat worldwide. They have proven they aren’t the “JV team” that President Obama once referred to them as. ISIS has beheaded two American journalists and a French hostage, has been linked to a plot to behead people in the streets of Australia, and has killed many women and children in Iraq. The current news surrounding ISIS has reminded me of the 3 reasons why we fight according to Thucydides: fear, honor, and interest. All of these reasons can be applied to why the United States is going to war with ISIS. Continue reading

Enlightenment

university_of_michigan_by_bagera3005-d4kqxbrWhen I first came to the University of Michigan, I was only focused on getting good grades so that I could get a good job.  All the work I had done in high school and was doing in college was towards my life in the future. Every time I wanted to take a break or procrastinate on an assignment I told myself that it would all pay off in time.  My thinking has changed somewhat, I still truly believe that my hard work will pay off in time but I am more focused now on actually learning for the sake of understanding the world around me.

The best way I can prove this shift in my attitude towards education is through the progression of my blog posts.  My first blog post, A Mathematical Proof of Menand’s Theory 1 (please not that this hyperlink is to a list of my blog posts with my most recent on top), is solely about getting a job after college.  I thought that simply receiving an education in anything, as long as it taught me the skills necessary for the job I wanted, was acceptable.

As the readings in my Political Science 101 class began to become older and authored by more famous philosophers, they also became more cynical.  My second blog post followed my reading of Huizinga’s definition of play and Bartlett Giamatti’s Take Time for Paradise.  Huizinga, a 20th century philosopher, defined play as a disinterested world in which we enter where there are no consequences or worries. Giamatti wrote that people love to watch sports because essentially they are attempting to live through the players.  By watching their grace and coordination we feel the positives such as the thrill of the win or a great play without having to feel the negatives like injuries or financial dependence.  I saw spectators at sporting events becoming enthralled and aggressive in the stands.  I witnessed fans attempting to live through the players and although I understood why the spectators would want to experience the game through the athletes, and even though I participated in it, I was still partly disgusted by the behavior I was seeing.

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau

This was the beginning of the downward spiral of my view of our society. My opinion of humanity was further soiled after reading Hobbes’ Leviathan, a book in which Hobbes defines social contracts and how humans interact with one another. Hobbes believes that our state of nature and war are synonymous and a main theme throughout the book is how humans are intrinsically fearful and selfish. Rousseau and Locke are two other philosophers who studied and theorized about social contracts.

Burke

Burke

  • Rousseau made points of how originally we were self-sufficient individuals but over time we became more civilized and began to live together and once this occurred we had social contracts in place to suppress our selfish desires for the good of society.
  • Locke delves more into whether we live in a state of nature versus a state of war. He argues that when we are free to pursue our own wishes and act as our own judge then war will always erupt. Only if we have a moderator or some force in place will peace be attained.
  • Burke was probably the most pessimistic of them all. Burke is a classic conservative meaning that he believe that there should be slow change in government and society. He explained how whatever class or profession people are born into is the place that they will die and trying to change is a fruitless effort.  He even went so far as to call the general population a “swinish multitude”.

After reading and analyzing these works how can one not be depressed about the future of humanity?  Apparently we are a group of dirty swine who will stab each other in the back whenever it will benefit us. We can’t trust each other, we have no control over our futures and the only times in which we were actually happy was far in the past in states of nature that will never be attainable.

But as I wrote earlier my thinking about college has changed. Before I was only concerned about money, which still has its perks: security, success, status, and pride. But I have decided that I want an education that will help me to understand the world rather than one that will only make me financially wealthy. So after contemplating the repugnant nature of humanity I thought, “What is the purpose of all these works? Is it all just to make us feel bad about ourselves? Do the authors think that they are above the rest of us and that they do not fit into their own descriptions of society?”

I believe that the reason we have these works today is to separate us.  There are those who will take Hobbes or Burke and become depressed at what they read.  And then there are those who become inspired to prove their definitions and theories about human nature wrong. In my third blog, Defying Hobbes Rules, I write about such people, mainly they are soldiers and daredevils. If I can take my education and what I’ve learned in Polisci 101 and use it to emulate the characteristics that these people possess- bravery, confidence, benevolence- then it doesn’t matter what job I have because I will be living a truly fulfilled life which is greater than any sum of money.

Witnessing Play

Michigan Hockey (via wikimedia)

“Ahh!” screamed the player as he fell to the ice in pain.  I gritted my teeth and watched in morbid curiosity, a player for the opposing team had just been hit in the neck by a slap shot. I sat in the spectator section at the Michigan versus Wilfred Laurie hockey game and to my astonishment the player quickly recovered and continued to play. Only a moment before he laid on the ice gripping his neck.  The student section continued to scream and cheer on as if nothing had happened.  I was also surprised at the chants I was hearing, most were fun, some were a little strange and then a couple were quite vulgar. Never had I seen a group of people yelling and screaming in such a manner, football is one thing but hockey was on a different level.

I had a similar feeling while I was at the Michigan versus Maryland girls’ field hockey game.  I was surrounded by parents of opposing players and they too were getting very caught up in the game.  They were screaming at the referees and players as loud as they could.  At times I almost felt embarrassed for these parents.  But I realized that this is exactly what A Bartlett Giamatti was writing about in his book Take Time for Paradise.  These parents and students were living through these players.

via wikimedia

The students at the hockey game and the parents in the stands cannot compete on the level of those in the game so they instead chose to play vicariously through the players.  And to them that’s what they were watching- play.  But it was most certainly not play for those in the game, as they were competing not playing.  In Johan Huizinga’s 1938 book Homo Ludens, he defines what play truly is.  One part of his definition is that play is contained, it does not spill over into the real world and does not have any consequences. For those competing this is most udoubtedly not the case.  If that hockey player doesn’t get up after getting hit in the neck and is then unable to play, he is cut from the team and he loses his scholarship and can no longer afford an education. If those on the ice or field do not play well or make too many mistakes then they are benched, they can be cut by the team and they too may lose their ability to afford an education.  There is no situation in which something as serious as what I have just mentioned can occur for those in the stands.

In my political science 101 class we talked about things that we consider play that do not fit into Huizinga’s definition.  One student came up with the games that the Ancient Aztecs played in which the losing side would be sacrificed to the gods.  Similar to the ice and field hockey game, the presence of such a consequence transforms what was once play into competition.

These players have extra stress put on them to play well.  The fans do not have such stress so, as Giamatti writes, these people are living in utopia, or a world without work, stress, or any other worries. They don’t have to worry about their scholarship or the physical labor of playing the sport and can thus become completely enthralled with the play aspect of the competition. The spectators are in a state of perfect bliss and enjoyment. So when that puck hit the player’s neck, there were an infinite amount of terrible things that could have resulted from it, but we fans just kept on cheering.

Athletes Can Speak Out

Possibly the most controversial issue in the U.S. right now, the shooting of Michael Brown has had citizens and the people of Ferguson, Missouri in uproar the past couple months.  As many people know, Michael Brown raised his arms as a gesture meaning “don’t shoot,” but police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Mr. Brown, thinking that his life was threatened in some way, despite the fact that Mr. Brown was unarmed.  Since then, riots and protests have taken place in Ferguson, as well as cities and towns all over the country.  Some believe that Officer Wilson shot as a result of racism, while others believe it truly was because he felt threatened.  Regardless, Officer Wilson was not indicted, which led to violent protests and the National Guard coming to Ferguson to control the riots (Davey and Bosman).  Because of the shooting in Ferguson, the unresolved issue of racism has been the topic of debate throughout the nation.  People all over the country are speaking out about this issue and how they feel, including professional athletes. Continue reading