The Problem With Force

It’s all too conflicted and passionate to discuss at this point because it risks causing more arguments we just don’t need when we’re struggling with virus and what not, but the problem with using force is it just doesn’t work in changing minds. It only incites a hatred that will be near impossible to repair later. Here is the start of a New York Times article about Portland’s problems:

PORTLAND, Ore. — The mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, was left coughing and wincing in the middle of his own city Wednesday night after federal officers deployed tear gas into a crowd of protesters that Mr. Wheeler had joined outside the federal courthouse.

The first thing to know about this is that Mayor Ted has his own problems with a lot of Portland people who want him to quit because his own police force has been, how to put it, assertive, in dealing with protesters, particularly protesters who have been labeled as part of a mob. They get gassed, thumped, shot with rubber bullets and much more locally. You don’t even need to bring in feds to create that track record. They already did it locally.

It did not work. The protests continue. People, right thinking people, remain upset at how the police departments in lots of cities, Portland among them, have treated Black people over time. So in a very healthy development, lots of white folks, middle class white folks and young people have moved into the streets to proclaim their support for better conditions.

Who can’t like that? Not much point in being American if you can’t use your voice to attack wrongdoing. And police abuse of black people is certainly wrongdoing. Note I said your voice. Not your rocks, your Molotov cocktails, your pieces of metal, your guns, whatever else you might use as a weapon against authority.

The problem with trying to confront the government in that way is that you can never have weapons as powerful as the ones it can unleash agains you, or protection so good you won’t get hurt. And no one should be eager to hurt, or get hurt, in this conflict.

The problem is that the conversation has not yet been shifted respectfully indoors, where some progress might be marked if smart people confronted one another as equals, not as occupiers versus rampaging mob. Portland is a smart place. They can do that, I am sure. And they don’t need federal help of any kind with it.

Those of us who are thoughtful know this intuitively because we may have witnessed force in the past and recognized its futility. “Because it’s the right thing to do,” never justifies the use of force. There are a lot of reasons why, but the big one is the hidden assumption behind sending troops in anywhere.

The government is ready to kill you if it has to.

That is the message.

Is that what we want? I don’t think so. I don’t want a government that is ready to kill me because I am concerned about the rights of black people who have been arrested. I don’t want a government that sends what amounts to its secret police in to solve local problems. I saw that when I lived in Russia. It didn’t work there either, and they weren’t shy about it.

President Trump and his lap dog Attorney General need to understand this. There is no sense in sending in our very own nascent interior ministry troopers to strong arm a situation. Is graffiti on the federal court house in Portland bad enough to require an execution in the street by federal authorities? Are you provoked enough by big crowds in the streets to shoot some of them? Some of those mothers who came out? Not at all. It all washes away later, so why become so incensed at it just now?

Of course, there is no “later” in President Trump’s future. There is only “right now,” which means he is trapped in the media images of conflict from all the way on the other side of the nation that don’t even reflect what’s happening right now. And his media idols aren’t helping by reenforcing his pathetic thoughts about it.

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