When Police Kill, Why Don’t We Consider Them ‘Politically Motivated’?

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 16: Protestors carry a portrait of Philando Castile on June 16, 2017 in St Paul, Minnesota. Protests erupted in Minnesota after Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on all counts in the shooting death of Philando Castile. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

To engage in politics is a sinister act; to be politically correct is an immobilizing burden; to politic is the most basal form of cynical groveling. And we reserve these characterizations for thosepoliticians who are willing to endure our self-righteous scorn.

There is a bizarre, baseless belief that politics is an action we undertake solely when weve lost our national wits and devolved into tribal, selfish beings. But few weeks could better evidence the contrary than the past one. American politics are ubiquitous, and with frightening regularity, they function precisely as they are intended.

The alleged shooter, 66-year old James Hodgkinson, unleashed a hail of gunfire upon Scalise, Capitol Police Officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner, Lobbyist Matt Mika, and congressional staffer Zachary Barth. All were gathered at a practice for this years annual congressional charity baseball game. And it was in the wake of this carnage that Hodgkinsons profile began to take shape in the public square.

Excluding its use as some sort of mantra or wishful incantation, the notion that American politics exist largely in the absence of violence is untenable. Far too many have been taken at our national behest for this to be so. Elected officials state prosecutors, county sheriffs, governors, attorney generals, senators, presidents have ascended to office on the assurance that deviant populations, largely consistent of people of color, would be brought to heel. From Mississippi to Maine, South Florida to Phoenix, and the way to the White House, portrayals of Americas diverse, urban centers as lawless cesspools in need of forceful order have gained traction.

Police today serve under the authority of a president who promised an unfettered expansion of their powers. An officer today can reasonably operate under the assumption that the highest office in the land has lent them blind loyalty. And yet, when deaths and alleged misconduct occur, we are implored to believe they are thoughtless errors rather than a natural result of newfound power and privilege within the well-connected police lobby.

He will instead join an ever-growing list of Black bodies wrested from the earth by the state without any assignment of guilt on the perpetrator. The violence inflicted upon him was a reflection of the nations fear about a perceived, inherent criminality within Black people.

In a nation such as ours, where professed aversion to politics and its products is a pastime, we are not inclined to believe those we empower with dominion over human life act with the same malice, petulance, and biases we do. It is our preference to imagine it is we the mere mortals who busy ourselves with politics as our law enforcement officials float pristinely above, shielding us from danger.

If all IRS employees were suddenly granted indomitable power over American citizens, and granted far-reaching, extrajudicial authority, our allowance of that policy would stand as a political statement. It would be a declaration of how we wish to envision our future.

When, as weve witnessed, a raft of highly publicized police shootings involving black and brown people occur without consequence, that too is a declaration of our future aimsthat too is politicaland it suggests black and brown people are nonessential to the future of our nation.

For one, it is peddled, in part, by our kiddish self-imagination and esteem. We classify our public discourse among the renowned, regal sort. In Washington D.C. and capitals across the country, our governmental structures are a picturesque homage to a revered time. Greek columns, Latin etchings, and ornate sculptures mark our supposed appreciation for the core principles of democracy established in eons past.

If we are to truly condemn violence in our politics, we must scrutinize it in its every iteration, individual and state-sanctioned, and not solely when doing so affirms the majesty of our American dream.

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