Posts Tagged ‘Trayvon’

We’ve Become a Nation of Us vs. Them

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

By Bob Gaydos

Michael Jordan, as Oscar Grant, in the film, "Fruitvale Station.

Michael B. Jordan, as Oscar Grant, in the film, “Fruitvale Station.”

I saw the movie “Fruitvale Station” the other day. I wept at the end. Real tears, not just some glistening in the eyes. This, even though I knew what was going to happen because we’re told at the beginning of the movie.

This tells me a couple of things:

— The director did a terrific job of story-telling.

— I felt strongly about something going on in the movie.

As for the movie itself, I am apparently not alone in my opinion. The independent film by first-time director Ryan Coogler is receiving rave reviews and awards even though it has only been recently released. Still, I was surprised at my strong, personal reaction to the film.

I probably shouldn’t have been. The reason I saw the movie in the first place is that my oldest son, Max, recommended I go. He doesn’t do that a lot. I “should” see it, he texted me. Not the usual Hollywood movie, he said. Yes and yes.

But there was also a personal connection for Max and me with the movie. It is based on a true event — the arrest and fatal shooting of an unarmed young man by a transit police officer in Oakland on New Year’s Day, 2009. Max had been arrested by police in Oakland during the Occupy demonstrations in 2011. Police response to the Occupy demonstrators — unarmed save for cell phones and cameras — was also violent. Their civil disobedience was met with tear gas grenades, flash bang grenades, rubber bullets — fired at the demonstrators, not in the air. Civilians were hurt, thrown in jail, treated like criminals because someone decided they represented a threat. A threat just like the young black males apparently represented to the white police officers who hauled them off a BART train for fighting, ignoring the white males who started the fight.

In Oakland, the shooting victim, Oscar Grant, and his friends fit a profile — young, black males, argumentative and not meekly complying with police orders to lie down with their hands behind their backs. Trouble. The same with Occupy demonstrators. Trouble. Even though they were demonstrating against injustices in society that affect police as much as the rest of us.

There has been a disturbing trend in cities across the country in recent years to respond to peaceful civil disobedience, such as the Occupy movement, with military style tactics, as if the demonstrators were an invading army rather than neighbors, friends and family members of the police themselves. I don’t know where this profiling of Occupy demonstrators came from, but it seems unlikely to have happened simultaneously in so many places at the same time. Some federal agency had to have decreed the demonstrators fit a profile of trouble makers — potential domestic terrorists even — who had to be quashed, rather than Americans citizens exercising their constitutional rights to assemble and voice their opinions. What’s really disturbing to me is how everyone down the line from that profiling decision seemed to accept it rather than to judge the demonstrators on their own.

I am not anti-police. Far from it. I believe a well-trained, appropriately armed police force is essential to maintain order. I do not believe most local police forces need big, armored vehicles to handle peaceful demonstrations. I do believe much more training on dealing with people in emotionally charged situations, rather than with weapons, would be a major benefit to all police departments.

Mostly, I believe that when there is no threat of force from the subjects involved, police should be trained to resist the tendency to make it a situation of us versus them. We are you. You are us. Oscar Grant was someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s partner. He was a human being. He had done jail time for selling marijuana. He had been fired from his job. And he was apparently struggling to overcome the profiles that said this was his lot in life.

Yes, the profile said he had to project a certain arrogance in order to survive, but he was only out to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends and wound up shot dead by a white transit cop who said he mistook his gun for his Taser. The cop was convicted of unintentional manslaughter, served 11 months of a two-year sentence. In Oakland, with its long history of out-of-control police response. Grant’s death sparked demonstrations, including one every New Year’s Day at Fruitvale Station.

There are stories similar to Oscar Grant’s in cities across the country. The film was released during the Trayvon Martin trial in Florida. The day I saw the film, a federal judge in New York City ruled the police force’s program of stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional because of obvious racial profiling — a welcome wakeup call only if city officials hear it.

This being a movie, there are things that were added, or left out, that might affect someone’s opinion of it. I get that. For many there will be a strong message of injustice still to be rectified. Yet others may see it as a shameless effort to manipulate anti-police sentiment. I’ll keep it simple. In Oakland, in 2009, a cop shot an unarmed, handcuffed, 22-year-old black male to death. Shouldn’t have happened. In Oakland in 2011, cops fired tear gas, flash bang grenades and rubber bullets at, among others, my son Max, then 19. He was armed with only a camera. They handcuffed and arrested him. Max is not black. He’s alive and well. But if one cop can mistake his gun for his Taser, why can’t another one mistake real bullets for rubber?

I wept for Oscar and Max and because we have become a nation of us versus them. Go see the movie.


If This Offends Anyone, I ‘Apologize’

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Geraldo Rivera ... "apologizes"

By Bob Gaydos

The B.S. meter, already recalibrated to measure record-level intensity since the Republican primary season began, reached new highs this past week thanks in large part to a TV personality who has been spewing hot air for decades and some professional football folks who are the reigning champion gas bags of the NFL.

We’ll start with Geraldo Rivera, but don’t worry, we’ll get to the New York Jets.

One of the most insulting and depressing developments of our Spin Age Society is the ascension of the non-apology apology. You hear it all the time now, from politicians, performers, athletes, commentators. The basic outline goes like this: “If I hurt or offended anyone with my remarks about (fill in the blank), I apologize. That was not my intent.”

That is pure bull and anyone who hears it knows it. Yet we let people get away with it all the time. What the “apologist” is really saying is: “If I hurt or offended anyone with my remarks, too bad, live with it. I am issuing this apology only because my advisers tell me it will soften the overwhelmingly negative reaction to my (a. hateful; b. bigoted; c. insensitive; d. ignorant; e. provocative; f. untrue; g. self-serving …) statements. I am not sorry for what I said, only for the reaction to it. I hope this puts an end to all this nonsense so I can continue to go about doing what I always do.”

Rivera weighed in on the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by blaming the black teenager at least partially for his own death because he wore a hoodie. “I’ll bet you money, if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way,” Rivera said on his Fox News TV show.

When his own son told him he was ashamed of what Dad had said, Rivera “apologized.” On Twitter: “Heard petition demands my apology to Trayvon’s parents. Save effort: I deeply apologize for any hurt I caused-that is not my goal or intent.” He later sent an e-mail to the Politico web site: “I apologize to anyone offended by what one prominent black conservative called my ‘very practical and potentially life-saving campaign urging black and Hispanic parents not to let their children go around wearing hoodies.’ ”

He added that he had been told his remarks “obscured the main point that someone shot and killed an unarmed teenager,” and explained that his comments were part of his “crusade to warn minority families of the danger to their young sons inherent in ‘gangsta’ style clothing; like hoodies.”

A day later, after a torrent of negative Tweets to his Tweet and more grief from his family, Rivera added : “[M]y own family and friends believe [that] I have obscured or diverted attention from the principal fact, which is that an unarmed 17-year-old was shot dead by a man who was never seriously investigated by local police. And if that is true, I apologize.”

If that is true? Apparently his news sense disappeared along with his common sense when he joined Fox.

Note that at no time does Rivera ever simply say, “I’m sorry. What I said was terribly insensitive.” Nor does he ever seem to recognize the racism at the center of his “crusade.’’ Talk about forgetting your roots. He should go back to calling himself Gerry Rivers.

* * *

OK, before we get to the Jets, the more egregious football B.S. (because it involved potential physical harm to people) issued forth from one of the few head coaches in the NFL who can go toe-to-toe with Rex Ryan in smugness — Sean Payton, head coach of the ironically named New Orleans Saints. Payton was recently suspended for a year, without pay, for allowing a bounty system to exist, wherein defensive players on his team could win cash bonuses up to $1,500 for knocking a star player from the opposing team out of the game.

A lot of macho type talking heads and fans, whose careers and health were not on the line, said this was no big deal, that it went on all the time in the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell thought otherwise. He saw a sharp rise in concussions and a string of lawsuits from ex-players charging that the league was not concerned with the safety if its players. And here the Saints were targeting some of the league’s best players for injury. Talk about self-destructive.

Well, Payton and the Saints lied to Goodell about the bounties and when he caught them, he leveled the boom. Payton is the first head coach to be suspended for a year. When his punishment was announced, he said: “As the head coach, anything that happens within the framework of your team and your program you’re responsible for. And that’s a lesson I’ve learned.” … It’s easy to get carried away in regards to a certain side of the ball, or more involved offensively or defensively, and that’s something I regret.”

Huh? He regrets paying too much attention to the offense over the defense? Not that he might have ended the career of MVP Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay if one of the Saints defensive linemen (or two) hit him just right?

Payton never admitted lying to Goodell, but did say, “You’re disappointed, you’re disappointed in yourself that it got to this point.”

You’re disappointed? For what, that you got caught? How about, “I’m disappointed in myself and I’m sorry for my actions”?

* * *

OK, now the Jets. Really, compared to the first two, this is the least important offense in the scheme of things, but it is a so typically, insultingly Jet-like offense it can’t be ignored.

If you just got back from Mars, let me tell you that the Jets hired Tim Tebow, rock star, Christian athlete icon, to be their “backup” quarterback to Mark Sanchez, their three-year starter. In a week in which the pope was visiting Mexico and Cuba, Tebow (who seems to be pathologically “excited” to be a Jet) far eclipsed the pontiff in media coverage in the U.S.

The irritating thing with the Jets — and that includes their owner, Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan — is that they always say stuff that all their fans know is bull. For example, that getting Tebow was a “football decision” not a business-driven PR stunt to combat the coverage of their co-tenant New York Giants who just won their second Super Bowl title in four years.

Or that Sanchez, who wasn’t told about Tebow until he was signed, is fine with finding out he will be sharing game duties with a “backup quarterback“ who has guaranteed snaps in every game. Or that Tebow, who always talks of himself as a starting quarterback, is even considered to be a good quarterback by NFL standards. Or that the Jets actually have “a vision” on how to play offense with two quarterbacks (but with only a guaranteed scheme for Tebow) when Ryan is a defensive specialist who didn’t even know that his star wide receiver took himself out of the team’s most important game last year — against the Giants.

The sports commentators politely called all this B.S. from the Jets “disingenuous.” But heck, I doubt Ryan can even spell it, much less be it. I prefer the more accurate: “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” That can be their next HBO special.

And by the way, don’t expect Johnson, Ryan or Tannenbaum to say, “I’m sorry” to fans when this Spin Age tactic implodes. Of course, Johnson, as owner, will “regret” having to let Ryan and Tannenbaum go. They, of course, will say, “You’re disappointed when things don’t work out.”

Gentlemen, you have no idea.