Thursday, July 30, 2015

Where is my outrage?

In the wake of the illegal murder of Cecil, the Zimbabwe lion who now has greater worldwide name recognition than Taylor Swift or anyone running for U.S. president, I have seen postings on social media wondering why the killing of an animal far, far away has caused more outrage than the murder of Sandra Bland, the latest (one of the latest is more accurate, since another incident happened last week in Cincinnati) unarmed African American person to be killed by police or in police custody. She was found dead on July 13 in a Texas jail cell she probably had no cause to be in after a routine traffic stop. There certainly was outrage from the American public about yet another police-related death, yet less than two weeks later, Cecil’s death was all anyone could talk about.

I have sympathy for those who are suggesting that racism or perhaps just apathy are to blame for the fact that Cecil is outpolling Sandra. After all, what is happening between police and black people in America these days is scary and indicative of a larger pattern of police brutality. According to a recent study by The Guardian newspaper:
  • U.S. police fatally shot more people in the first 24 days of 2015 than England and Wales police have in the last 24 years, combined.
  • In Australia, there were 94 fatal police shootings between 1992 and 2011. In the U.S., there were 97 fatal police shootings in March 2015.
  • Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people.
  • Some 140 black Americans have been killed by police this year.

Obviously this is abhorrent. And yet I would also suggest that the sheer volume of black lives not mattering to police is part of the problem. After awhile, news fatigue sets in. Who can remember the names of all the victims, aside from those most widely covered, such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Walter Scott? We as a public accept that there is a problem but we have become numbed to it. There is no more shock value; we perhaps even come to expect it. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if there aren’t one or two more black victims before this summer ends.

Furthermore, the media is always in search of a new story, especially a new shocking story (you can’t read an article about Cecil without being reminded that he was decapitated and skinned), and, of course, everyone likes a good animal story, right? I count myself among those who are outraged by Cecil’s murder. I also count myself among those who are outraged that our police are executing Americans in numbers one would only expect in some dystopian science fiction society – and particularly that African Americans still are targeted by and vulnerable to the white American power structures.

So where is my outrage? It’s in both places, and not for dissimilar reasons. There’s too much gun violence and too little respect for life. And it’s not just happening here, and so my outrage is not confined to these two matters. Just yesterday, an Ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed six people marching in a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem (which, incidentally – or ironically – means “city of peace”). As a Jew, I am outraged that the supposedly most pious of my religion could act in such a way that is so counter to the “Jewish values” that were drummed into me in Sunday School.

For that matter, I have long been outraged by the Israeli government, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrogantly continues to build settlements in disputed areas and throws obstacle upon obstacle on the road to peace. China with its endless human rights abuses has always outraged me. Closer to home, Donald Trump outrages me, as does just about every Republican office holder in the country, all of whom are hateful obstructionists, most of whom are horribly racist, and none of whom give a shit about women.

The IRS outrages me. I’m sure I get many more notices from them than does, say, Apple Computer, which pays next to nothing in taxes, despite earning quite a few more billion dollars per year than I do. Reality television outrages me. Last winter outraged me. Roger Goodell outrages me. In fact, I’m going to repeat that last one. Roger Fucking Goodell outrages me.

Now, none of the last few outrages are on the same level as poaching a protected animal or murdering unarmed black people, but for those who wonder where our outrage is, it’s everywhere. There’s so much to be pissed off about. We can’t be outraged about one thing; even if it’s a horrific thing, it’s one of many horrific things going on in our neighborhoods, our country, and our world. This very evening, my ex-wife, a social worker who works in the labor and delivery department of a local hospital, told me that a barefoot woman walked in, six centimeters dilated, ready to give birth, and she couldn’t tell people where she lived, how she got there, who the father was, and whether or not this was her first pregnancy. Eventually, she was able to give her name but still much is not known. She had scabies but gave birth to a healthy boy – a baby that is likely going straight into the system.

One could be outraged at this woman, but this woman is a victim of the system as well. Where were the mental health services she needed? The obstetric services? Has she been living on the street? Can you imagine a homeless pregnant woman fending for herself in the richest country on earth? If that doesn’t make you outraged, I don’t know what will.

So yes, I am outraged. I’m outraged at all of it. And frankly, the thing I’m probably most outraged about is that I don’t know what to do about it.