- Terelle Jerricks
There is trouble brewing just down the street from the Magic Kingdom, “the happiest place on earth” there is trouble brewing at Anaheim City Hall.
The uproar over the police shootings of two Latinos under questionable circumstances. According to the authorities, there have been six officer-involved shootings in the past year, compared to four this past year. The city council voted to ask for a federal civil rights investigation, but outside the chambers, an angry and indignant crowd gathered, unable to enter the already crowded council room–the mood turned ugly. Anaheim police in riot gear pushed the protesters back and the protesters, in turn, grew defiant. Police swung batons and fired rubber bullets. The crowd threw rocks and bottles back. No one is sure how it started.
What happened next is rather curious, for in this land of instant TV coverage where it’s quite common to have simultaneous coverage of anything violent broadcast live, only one station, KCAL 9 covered the resulting melee. Not from on the ground, where they had two reporters stationed, but from the distant vantage point of their news-copter. ABC 7, the channel owned by Disney and all the other network channels only covered the aftermath of the conflict between police and citizens on the 11 O’Clock news, making this observer question whether a live-news blackout had occurred. After all, Anaheim, the capital city of the “happiest place on earth” has its image to uphold.
Aurora, Colorado–the site of the recent Batman movie massacre– conversely has coverage of every minute detail, from the very night of the murderous assault with people fleeing Cinema 9 bleeding to the drama filled arraignment of the orange haired “academically brilliant” but deranged assassin –James Holmes. As different as these two violent episodes are, they share curious similarities in our consciousness,as they relate to the American Dream. The police murders in the shadow of the Disneyland attraction, the Matterhorn and the massacre you could only imagine happening at a Marvel Comics film opening in Colorado both played out in the media like another form of reality TV, except this is reality breaking into fantasy-land.
The reality that is disrupting the fantasy is that the American Dream has been exposed for what it is not. Exposing that all the years and years of violence-laced movies and hundreds of TV cop shows with the police routinely abusing suspects’ civil rights, using ever more realistic blood and gore and entrancing the audiences with increasing believability that crime is on the rise and must be dealt with swiftly, if not unjustly, is the media’s reality. Is it not surprising that both some officers and some on the fringe of mental stability, or even most viewers, should confuse fiction for facts? Violent crime has been declining for many years (according to the most recent FBI report for 2010 overall violent crime -2.7% murders -4.2). It has been repeatedly reported that in the core business district of San Pedro the crime rate is down 24%, but not so in the movies!
However, officer-involved shootings are growing. As of a year ago news reports say LAPD stats showed an increase of 50 percent Use of Force incidents, a statistic mirrored nationwide. It also appears that of all “use of force” reports only 25 percent of the victims were actually armed according to the ACLU– a figure confirmed by police trainer Tom Aveni on Policeone.com.
However, I would not be so quick as to exclusively blame the Hollywood dream machine for all of this. My personal theory is that there is a significant number of police officers who have over the last ten years of war did a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan where they were retrained in reactive firing which shortens the time between recognizing a threat and pulling the trigger. This is a necessity in a firefight but is dangerous in police work with a civilian population. This plus growing recognition of Post Traumatic Stress on soldiers with the rise of domestic violence by service members may all contribute to a rising number of police officers with frayed nerves and quick trigger fingers.
This only explains the increase in police reactive shootings but doesn’t explain the Aurora rampage or the dozens of other idiots with too many guns and a score to settle. Most estimates range between 39% and 50% of U.S. households have at least one gun (that’s about 43-55 million households). The estimates for the number of privately owned guns range from 190 million to 300 million. Remove those that skew the stats for their own purposes and the best estimates are about 45% or 52 million of American households owning 260 million guns. By far the vast majority of these gun owners are law abiding, if you believe these numbers, but the availability of 52 million guns in homes does sound a bit like overkill.
Now consider that a few million people who own these guns have lost their homes, lost their jobs and lost their fantasy of still being in the dwindling American middle class; do you suppose some of them will take it out on a spouse, shoot a neighbor or the guy who fired them at the Post Office or cut them off in a freeway clogged road rage? Many more will self-medicate and become more delusional if not homeless as the Wall Street Bankers proclaim that the economy has recovered while the rest of America stagnates without living wages, or those few with pensions and decent wages, are accused of crippling municipal budgets.
Some will argue for more gun control, others for justice and the death penalty– neither will restore the life of the American Dream, which has slowly been murdered over the course of the last three decades and resides on life support in the local emergency room or the food pantry for the homeless shelter. There is recently good cause for the elimination of the death penalty, that I would argue for, however I believe that capital punishment should be preserved for those few institutions who rob the public with impunity, causing great social harm and financial distress that they should be summarily executed publicly and their leaders imprisoned.
This solution, of course, would be too much reality for most who have bought the media fantasy but lost the American Dream.