Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

20 Years On, Terrorists Made in the USA

Friday, September 10th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

What TV showed on Sept. 11, 2001.

What TV showed on Sept. 11, 2001.

     Twenty years ago today, like millions of other Americans, I was preparing to go to work. The boys were off to school. It was a sky-blue September day. The news was on the TV, a practice of mine, in case there was something I needed to know about before I got to the paper.

   There was.

   The image on the TV screen froze me and shook the sleep out of my head. Oh, my God!

     What was I seeing? They replayed it.

     I quickly got myself together and headed off to work. But I stopped for a few moments in a nearby park to gather my thoughts and process what I had just witnessed  qThe radio news informed me that, in addition to the two planes flying into the Twin Towers in New York City, a plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and another had hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

     September 11.

     After about an hour of processing reports on what had happened, a meeting was held and it was decided that The Times Herald-Record would publish a special edition that afternoo, the first one, I believe, in the morning newspaper’s history.  My job was to write an editorial explaining what had happened. Or at least trying to explain it. About 500 words.“We need it in an hour.”

     I don’t have a copy of that editorial and I’m sure it was mostly emotion. I do remember writing, “America was at war.”  (Any colleagues who were in the newsroom on that day may feel free to corroborate or add any details you may remember in the comments section.)

       The world changed that day. America changed. We the people had been attacked. We were one nation, under the spell of the dynamic leadership of New York’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani. America’s mayor. We grieved together, healed together and called for retribution together, against whoever it was who had attacked us.

          So we started a war against, not the country where the terrorists responsible for the attacks came from (Saudi Arabia): but against a country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. We justified it by claiming Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that it could use against someone, maybe us. That was a lie our government told us. We found out later.

           Then we went after the actual attackers in the mountains of Afghanistan. We actually found and killed their leader, then decided to stay in Afghanistan for some 20 years, trying to save it from itself.

            In those ensuing 20 years, Giuliani went from “America’s Mayor” to embarrassingly ridiculous mouthpiece for every lie put forth by Donald Trump, including the lie that he lost his re-election bid to President Joe Biden because the election was rife with vote fraud.

             Also in the ensuing 20 years, the Republican Party steadily turned itself from a party that espoused defense of all Americans into a party of an aggrieved white minority whose leaders in Congress legislate only in the interests of wealthy donors who contribute to their campaigns..Inro a cult that believes and repeats Trump’s lies or, worse, repeats them for political gain or out of fear.

           Whatever galvanized us into one people 20 years ago (a common enemy I suppose) started disintegrating as soon as we started demonizing any group of people, different from us (Muslims) as the enemy. “Us” became more vague.”

            The World Trade Center was rebuilt, Trump exposed the fear and bigotry at the center of the Republivan Party and gave free rein to the fissures hiding within American society.

             The FBI now says the greatest threat to America is from domestic terrorism. Not Iraq. Or Afghanistan. The threat comes from the white supremacists groups who organized the assault in Washington and still threaten any who reject their cause.

       In 1870, cartoonist Walt Kelly coined a phrase in his Pogo comic strip: “We have mer the enemy and he is us.”

       Indeed.

       Not so long ago, on January 6 of this year, in fact, I once again stared transfixed at a scene on television. Am I really seeing this? Thousands of virtually all white Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president. Some were ready to hang Vice President Mike Pence to prevent him from fulfiling his duties. People died. Republicans refused to accept the election result and many even claimed there was no riot that sent them running for their lives.

          Today, the war to preserve American freedom and democracy is being fought right here at home. Fortunately, millions of Americans stand on the side of what”s right. Many still remember how we felt as a unified nation in the wake of the attacks 20 years ago.

           I’m not sure I”ll be here 20 years from now io mark the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, but whether I am or not, I pray the U.S. Capitol is still proudly standing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zest-of-orange.com. He was editorial page editor of The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., for 23 years.

 

     

Two Deaths Separated Only by Decades

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Eric Garner, moments before his death.

Eric Garner, moments before his death.

Jimmy Lee Bruce, meet Eric Garner. You’ve got a lot in common. You’re both black men from New York state. Both of you had an encounter with police officers over some comparatively minor matter. Neither of you had any weapon. You both gave the police a hard time and had what is described as a “choke hold” applied to you by an officer. You both died as a result of that use of official force.

Interestingly, those police officers had some things in common as well. They were all white. None of them was trained in the use of the choke hold, which was prohibited by their respective police forces. Also, none of them was indicted on any charges by a grand jury in connection with your deaths.

The only thing separating the two of you is time. A little more than twenty-seven years. …

Jimmy Lee Bruce died in the back of a patrol car near Middletown, N.Y., on Dec. 13, 1986. He was 20 years old. He and a group of friends from Ellenville, N.Y., had gone to a movie theater in a mall outside Middletown. The group became rowdy. There was drinking involved. Off-duty Middletown police officers acting as security guards, escorted the group out of the theater, where a scuffle ensued. An officer applied the choke hold to Bruce and tossed him in the back of a police car, which had brought two on-duty Town of Wallkill police officers to the scene.

The police then drove around for 7 ½ minutes looking for Bruce’s friends. When they returned to the theater, a state trooper, who had also arrived on the scene, shined a flashlight in the back of the patrol car and noticed the young man was not responding to the light. Police rushed him to a nearby hospital, but attempts to revive him failed.

Two months after the incident, an Orange County grand jury began considering whether any of the officers did anything criminally wrong in connection with Bruce’s death. It determined that none of the officers did anything criminally wrong because none of them had received any training in the proper application of what they, more benignly, referred to as the “sleeper hold,” nor in what could result from improper use of the dangerous hold. It was an accident.

Which brings us to Eric Garner, at 43, somewhat older than Bruce and someone known to police in his Staten Island neighborhood as a familiar problem — mostly for selling loose cigarettes on the street and getting mouthy with police who tell him to stop. On July 17 of this year, Garner, the father of six, got mouthy and maybe more with a police officer who told him to stop selling the cigarettes. The officer applied the choke hold. Garner went down. A witness taped the incident on a cell phone and caught Garner, an asthmatic, exclaiming, “I can’t breathe!” A coroner ruled the death a homicide.

A Richmond County grand jury this month determined — despite the video — that there was no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the police officer. This ruling, coming on the heels of a similar case in Ferguson, Mo., and in the wake of a number of deaths of young black males at the hands of white police, has spurred large, public demonstrations across the country and, in fact, around the world. Justice! is the cry.

But what is justice?

For sure, it means eliminating any doubt of conflict of interest in the future by having special prosecutors, not local district attorneys, handle cases involving deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of local police officers. This would protect police, prosecutors and the public.

But that’s not nearly enough.

Shortly after Garner’s death, William Bratton, New York City police commissioner, told the New York City Council that he was calling for a “fundamental shift in the culture of the department” in the wake of the chokehold killing of Garner. That “shift” will include three days of annual training for every police officer who works patrol on:

  • How to talk to the public
  • How to de-escalate tense situations
  • How to use force.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Nearly three decades ago, I wrote an editorial for The Times Herald-Record in Middletown about the grand jury ruling on Jimmy Lee Bruce’s death: “Your son’s death resulted because the police didn’t know what they were doing, not because they intended to kill your son. Case closed. The system worked. Do you buy that …?”

Yet today, the head of the largest police force in the country tells us that men and women going through New York City’s Police Academy are not trained on how to talk to the public. Not taught how to de-escalate tense situations. Aren’t instructed on how to properly use force.

How then are they supposed to do their job? Police work can be  dangerous. Many officers handle it daily with sensitivity and professionalism. But justice, it would seem to me, would begin with preparing all officers to deal with what they are likely to encounter on the streets, not simply giving them firearms training. And certainly not arming them with military-grade weaponry that creates an us-versus-them situation. This can lead some police officers to forget that they, indeed, are also us.

To protect and serve is the mission of police. That must begin with a certain mindset. It astounds me that Bratton still has his job after his admission before the City Council. Not only did he say his officers aren’t trained to deal with tense situations and how to properly use force, he actually asked for 1,000 more officers and $25 million for instructors and overtime to cover posts while patrol officers are receiving three days of annual training. If it were up to me, I’d provide the department with the money and the positions and get rid of the commissioner, who all of a sudden realizes he needs to change the “culture” of his department.

The pressures of policing in Ferguson, New York City and Middletown are different, but the answers are the same. Justice for all must begin with an emphasis on diversity in police recruiting, so that minority populations can feel they at least have a voice in their own protection. The diversity of the crowds demonstrating in response to the Garner case give credence to that. Justice also means providing the training Bratton acknowledges his officers need today — the training the officers in Middletown needed on Dec. 13, 1986.

The outrage expressed by demonstrators over the grand jury decision in the Garner case is magnified for me by having known the story of Jimmy Lee Bruce. Have we learned nothing in all that time? Should Jimmy Lee Bruce have reacted differently when confronted by police? Hindsight would suggest yes. The same goes for Eric Garner. But being rowdy in a movie theater, selling loose cigarettes and being confrontational with police are not capital crimes.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

There’s No Quick Fix, Mr. Weiner

Thursday, July 25th, 2013
Anthony Weiner ... still sexting

Anthony Weiner … still sexting

By Bob Gaydos

Anthony Weiner, please go away.

Take your smart phone or your laptop and sex text to your heart’s desire, if that’s what you want. We don’t need to hear or see any more of you than we have already experienced and New York City definitely does not need you as its next mayor. While you’re at it, maybe get a little help for that sexting thing.

On the off chance, dear reader, that you haven’t heard about Weiner’s latest escapade — maybe you don’t live in the New York City area or watch late night TV talk shows that thrive on ridiculing the ridiculous — the guy who quit Congress because he was caught sending pictures of his penis to a woman who was not his wife has done it again. This, after saying he was sorry. Wouldn’t do it again. Would not put his family through the humiliation and embarrassment again. Would get it under control.

That “control” thing doesn’t seem to be working. In fact, the whole sexual texting with other women went on right after he resigned from Congress and said he was going to “take care of it.” He was lying through his apology.

There is so much wrong with this scenario, it’s hard to know where start, but saying he should drop out of the race for mayor of New York is a good one. That he entered the Democratic primary for mayor just two years after quitting Congress (he said he had dealt with the problem) suggests an arrogance and denial, which is reinforced by the fact that he kept up the behavior even as he was “apologizing” for it. And that behavior bespeaks a kind of recklessness that most people would not find appealing in a mayor.

As long as I’m attaching adjectives to Weiner’s behavior, let me add more: juvenile, irresponsible, untrustworthy, deceptive, self-indulgent, uncaring, exhibitionist, delusional, selfish, egotistical, evasive, compulsive and misogynistic.

And yet, even as he was saying I’m really, really sorry this time, honest, believe me, there were some supposedly enlightened, “progressive,” liberal-leaning web sites (Salon, AlterNet, The Progress Party) who were defending Weiner, saying it was “just sex,” a private matter between the serial sexter and his wife, no reason he shouldn’t stay in the mayoral race. Besides, he supports gay marriage, one site pointed out.

Nonsense. First of all, any Democrat in New York City who runs for office supports gay marriage. It’s irrelevant in this case. Secondly, when sexual infidelity is involved, it’s never “just sex.” It’s also lying and cheating and sneaking and a profound breach of a fundamental trust between two people. Personally, I don’t like those character traits in people in public office.

Weiner’s defenders would have you believe he was just a “bad husband,” but not necessarily a bad candidate. Really? In a year in which progressive web sites are trumpeting women’s issues and the need for women to claim sovereignty over their bodies and their lives, they are also being told that all the things that would make them reject a man as a potential life partner shouldn’t matter if he is running for public office?

Weiner’s callous, prideful, even boasting approach to women who are not his wife should not count against him, it is suggested, because he is, after all, a smart, liberal Democrat. His utter disregard for women as anything but sex objects and his continued betrayal of his wife should not matter, one assumes, because we agree with him on some political issues. As if his attitudes — and the lying, don’t forget the lying — would not carry over to his conduct in office. And as if these same defenders wouldn’t be setting his hair on fire if he were a conservative Republican.

A schmuck is a schmuck, people. The fact that Weiner continued the behavior even as he was apologizing for it bespeaks either a total disregard for the rules of decent behavior, a lack of awareness of them or a feeling that they don’t apply to him. None inspires confidence.

Weiner’s wife came forward to defend him and say they are working things out (again). Whatever reasons she has for this (and I‘m hard-pressed to find a good one) does not change the equation.

As for Weiner, some might wonder, if he’s so smart, why does he keep doing dumb things? Others might say that intelligence has nothing to do with Weiner’s behavior, just as it has nothing to do with compulsive, repetitive, self-destructive behavior exhibited by many other people. Let’s review the adjectives I used to describe Weiner: juvenile, arrogant, reckless, irresponsible, untrustworthy, deceptive, self-indulgent, uncaring, exhibitionist, delusional, selfish, egotistical, evasive, compulsive and misogynistic.

There are rooms full of people around the country attending 12-step programs to help them deal with one type of harmful behavior or another which they cannot control. Maybe Weiner should take a break from the Internet, forget about running for mayor and take a step in another direction. Work things out in private with his wife and himself. And don’t bother saying “I’m sorry,” until he can prove it by his actions.

And for those web site managers who think Weiner’s serial sexting is none of our business, when he keeps his privates private, he can think about running for public office.

bob@@zestoforange.com