Justine Damond, John McCain, and American Values

By: Lessa Leigh

Police shot and killed a woman in Minneapolis this past Saturday night. Sadly, this event would not normally register on the national news cycle, except for the fact that the victim was a pretty, white woman, who had called the police for help because she suspected someone was being raped in the alleyway behind her home. The pearl clutching for white women when they are victims of crime is always intense. The common refrain is “She could have been my daughter” or some other sentimental expression of shock. The general public doesn’t afford black and brown women the same narrative because there’s always the sneaking suspicion, whether or not it’s left unsaid, that the victim somehow deserved it in those cases.

To further complicate matters, the #BlueLivesMatter crowd has been remarkably silent in defense of the officer. It’s unclear as of yet why he shot Ms. Damond. Speculation has been that a loud noise in the alley concurrent with her running up to the police car startled or frightened him. The “I feared for my life” get-out-of-jail free card could still apply, but because the officer is a Somali-born Muslim, the lack of support from the usual suspects is deafening. Perhaps it’s true that police officers’ lives only matter if they’re white, or not an immigrant, or not a Muslim immigrant. It’s tough to know because no one seems to be rushing to his defense.

Contrasting this horrific case with one that happened on July 19, 2015 here in Cincinnati when Ray Tensing a University of Cincinnati police officer shot and killed Sam DuBose in an unnecessary traffic stop, we have the white police officer wearing the Confederate Flag t-shirt under his uniform shooting a black man within two minutes of stopping him for reasons that are dubious at best. We have had two trials of Mr. Tensing in Hamilton County, and both ended in a mistrial. The county prosecutor has decided not to try Mr. Tensing for a third time. Meanwhile, a “Support Ray Tensing” page is on Facebook for a rally and prayer vigil on Monday, July 24th. The event organizer claims that we should be “Tensing Proud” as we “pray for peace” to “change America.”

I’m not joking. She wants us to be proud of a killer cop while we pray for peace after explicitly protesting in as peaceful fashion as possible for the past two years because we need to change America. It might be the last part that causes my eyebrows to pop the hardest because bitch, please. This is America. Civilians are killed by the police in this country daily, and we cheer the police for “keeping us safe.” If she wanted to change anything, she would have spent the past two years with the people standing in support for Mr. DuBose and his family.

At least the dead don’t have to worry about access to affordable health care in this country. It’s a morbid joke that speaks the truth, as the U.S. Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, attempts over and over again to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a used gum wrapper, some twine, and a paperclip. The resistance from ordinary Americans has been strong, but with a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate and Mr. Trump as President, it may not matter what we say, what we think, how we vote, or how we protest. It’s like being trapped in a glass cube with your tormentor holding a sledgehammer on the outside.

Efforts to repeal the ACA have ground to a temporary halt because Senator John McCain from AZ underwent surgery for a blood clot in his brain. While in surgery, the doctors discovered that Senator McCain is suffering from a rare brain tumor known as a glioblastoma that is usually fatal within five years of discovery. When this news was announced, everyone rushed to offer words of support and encouragement. Well-wishers flooded the media and concern for the Senator’s health was expressed on both sides of the aisle.

I would never wish cancer on anyone. It’s an insidious, vicious, rotten disease.  However, I find it absurd that the oppressed must feel great sympathy or compassion for their oppressors. Mr. McCain doesn’t believe that healthcare is a human right. He is in a position of power to take away healthcare from tens of millions (and possibly more, if employer subsidized insurance gets more expensive or tricky to acquire) of Americans: children, the elderly, the disabled, the poor, those with pre-existing conditions. Yet, he currently lies in a hospital bed getting the best healthcare money can buy on our tax-payer dime. You’ll forgive me if I think that the hypocrisy stinks, and the performative gestures of concern don’t ring true.

Many people excoriated me for this position, calling me “heartless”, “unkind”, “selfish”, and “stupid.” They might change their minds if they knew that Senator McCain denied health insurance to a much younger man suffering from the same malignant tumor. In fact, he suggested that the man move away from Arizona into Canada in order to get the healthcare he couldn’t afford. The man died. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.

News today leaked that President Trump was asking his advisors and lawyers if he could pardon people for wrongdoing, including himself. Apparently the Mueller investigation is getting too close to the heat for his comfort. My question is that if he does pardon everyone, including himself, what makes him leave the Presidency? What do we do when Congress just shrugs in response to all of this?

Our “American values” are on full display this week. The caste system set up by the patriarchy continues to reign supreme. White people are more valuable. Rich people are more valuable. The police are more valuable. American war heroes, who are wealthy white male politicians with considerable power, are more valuable. Authoritarian ideals, such as civil asset forfeiture without proof of a crime, grow stronger.

All this happens as Americans go hungry, live without a home, drink contaminated water, are brutalized by the police, are robbed by their government, and are denied the right to healthcare. We are well on our way to “making America great again.” Good job, guys.


(Photo from http://www.adventuresintosovereignty.org)

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