The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check USA + Readers Responses
Ferguson is a city of around 21,000 citizens in St. Louis County, Missouri. For nearly two weeks now it has been the focal point of the nation, as the shooting death of an unarmed African-American man by a Caucasian police officer has sparked debate, protest, riots, armed guards, and, well…you know the routine.
But what it is to the rest of us is Fearguson; a place not on a map with real people or actual ideologies, logic or law. It is exists in the deepest recesses of the human psyche, and because this is a free society that works under the laws of a nation that still bears the scars of its original sins, it boils over with two of humanity’s most basest instincts; Fear and Anger.
It doesn’t get any more primal in the human condition than Fear and Anger. These are the biggies; empathy, sadness, love bounce around in there somewhere, but at our core, as mammals, we react immediately with Fear and Anger. It is the basis of all violence and war. Name one act of violence; whether personal or systemic, and it is derived from Fear and Anger. Sure, sometimes it is masked in wealth, borders, religion or ideology, and most times it is propped up by race, nationality, gender or economic standing, but mostly it is merely Fear and Anger.
The reason I delve into dangerous Freudian corners on this is there is no way to properly process why it appears that once a week a black man is shot dead by a cop, mostly white ones. Or why African-American communities erupt either with righteous anger or indefensible rage resulting in destruction of property, arson and looting. None of this can truly be explained, unless you get down to the raw truth of it; Fear and Anger.
I broached a similar framework during the 1992 L.A. riots over the brutal beating of Rodney King by white police officers. And as we are learning now in Ferguson, it does not happen in a vacuum. There is history there, as in L.A. It was long and festering – going back to the Watts riots in 1965 – this bitter tension between the police and black communities. No way to understand what the hell was truly going on if you watched that nightmare unfold from afar; back East or in the Midwest, without understanding that history; a history of Fear and Anger that had no other possible conclusion but to explode into violence.
The dirty little secret of the 1994 O.J. Simpson trial in the wake of ’65 and ’92 is that it had no chance of ever being about Simpson or the people he allegedly murdered, despite the preponderance of physical and circumstantial evidence against him. It was the history of Fear and Anger that fueled the “not-guilty” verdict. This eerie sense that it was entirely plausible that he could have been framed by a police force so damaged by its continued actions against citizens of color that it almost became a fait accompli.
Let’s forget race for a moment and concentrate on matters of the state – the system – law enforcement culture versus the ideal of citizenry. On a grander scale, I return once again to the 1960’s, where Fear and Anger had its most visible parade of loons and goons, primarily due to the widest generation gap in our nation’s history and a completely immoral, insane and inexcusable war in Viet Nam. The unrest on college campuses and the violence in the streets across the country in the escalated stages of the war, when it appeared to even the most jingoistic among us that this horror show was now merely a killing ground of youth and a massacre of civilians abroad which had reached its saturation level, especially for a federal government that felt as though it was being challenged by radicals possibly backed by communist interlopers.
Who can forget the images of the children, mostly white middle-class kids, being beaten into bloody pulps by crazed policemen in the streets of Chicago or frightened national guardsmen opening fire on students carrying books at Kent State? That single film of a shaggy-haired kid running for his life across a newly-shorn campus lawn brilliantly captures the point.
But that all feels like another age; a much scarier and untenable world of chaos, but it was nothing more than Fear and Anger; fear of being murdered for the United States saving face internationally and the ensuing anger of being its fodder and the resultant fear of a complete crack in the nation’s foundation and the unremitting force needed to quell it.
Months after 9/11 the entire country fell victim to Fear and Anger. It was an absolutist’s dream, and the first time since World War II where the nation rallied against a single enemy, even if it meant that enemy was among us; Muslim, Arab, etc. Sure as hell there was Fear and man was there ever Anger. It was not a proud time. It revealed, on the most basic level, the Fearguson edict; and although it did not blow up in spastic acts of anarchistic violence, it was a slow burn into some of the most heinous war crimes committed since Viet Nam.
Los Angeles. Chicago. Watts. Iraq. Ferguson.
What Fearguson is comes from the core of this country’s being; it deals with race, economics, bigotry, and distrust of authority – some of it earned, some of it calculated – as it also comes from a predisposition to judge, on both sides; a bunker mentality that reflects our most embarrassing faults; we’re human. Not monsters or mutants or alien beings; humans. ISIS in Iraq, Nazis in Germany, KKK in Alabama, Black Panthers in San Francisco, hippies, yippies, Birchers, TEA Party, 99-percenters, NRA, NOW, gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Muslim. Human.
It all comes from Fear and Anger. Doesn’t matter what triggers it; overzealous police or enraged citizenry. Look how the mayor acted this week, the governor, the voices on cable news, your friend’s opinion, this column.
We love to pick sides and weigh the consequences of other’s actions and find a safe place to land ideologically. We love our psychology and philosophy and our reason. But there is no getting away from what lurks way down there.
Fear and Anger.
© James Campion August 22nd 2014
READERS RESPONSES 29.09.2014
Looks like you have reached the end of the limb, James. (IN PRAISE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH (AGAIN) – Issue: 6/25/14) It’s as if you are clinging to the tip of that very last leaf waiting for the crack and inevitable fall. As you plummet, should I urinate on a church or rub the glistening blood of Bambi over my naked body as I ejaculate on an American flag?
That may well have been the vilest thing you have committed to paper and sent to press. If the Aquarian Weekly publishes the likes of it, then I feel you have achieved a level of untouchable that is not only rarely enjoyed by commentators and editorialists, but never enjoyed by anyone. And I mean never. There is stuff in this column that defies any moral center and is so rife with unbridled vitriol there is no possible way it could be 1) not comedy or 2) says some awful things about your living soul.
I shall pray for you, my friend. And then read you next week.
Damn, I wish I was with you at that Yankee game. I would have chimed in!
If your point in going on and on about freedom of speech by abusing every possible tenet of it, then way to go. The only thing is I cannot believe that you have not insulted everyone at least once here. I’m not sure where to decipher, “Quick aside: According to the New Testament, mostly the Gospel of John, God aborted his son in the 99th trimester. Just saying”. Is there no decency left in you?
You are funny, man. Sick, but damn funny. I’m not sure what the hell I just read, mainly because my eyes are bloodshot from laughing so friggin’ hard during half of it.
There is a madman lurking in these sentences, a real damaged person. And I’m not quite sure yet if you’re not the bravest person I read or listen to. You go – quickly – to the darkest recesses of yourself for these columns. I was not ever going to write you, never going to take you to task for going “too far”, whatever “too far” is for Reality Check, but deep down you must have known this one was going to ruffle a few feathers. And yet the damn thing kept getting more and more crazy.
I wonder if I should have even taken the time to write you this time around, because my guess is you are beyond redemption or taking a scolding to heart. I’m not saying this is not a great read, Reality Check is a great read every week. And I know people probably tell you that your flippant mockery of everything borders on the absurd, but I had to write you after this massacre and it was a massacre, in every way, to all things decent and good about this country or people.
A new low for you, but…again…funny.
Not bad, my friend. (CONTEMPLATING GAZA – Issue: 8/6/14) I pretty much agree with this. I am a Catholic, but do not embroil myself in "the troubles" over in Northern Ireland or in Iraq (or anywhere else that Islam is killing Christians). The reason I do not is because there is no end to it. People are going to hate, it is wired in their DNA and then refined through family traditions and education. Once you throw the gloves on the ice and start swinging, there is no end. It becomes a back of forth of retribution that goes for generations. No thanks.
I truly believe the best way to handle this is to not arm or fund either side. Yes, I know Israel is our ally in the region (even though they commit espionage against us at record levels) but we have to let these guys swing at each other ‘til 1. they get too tired to swing and just head to the penalty box or 2. they realize killing each other is having no effect in attaining a final outcome either way. One of those 2 scenarios is the only way to achieve even a remote peace and it is key they figure that on their own. Any outside assistance only delays this outcome.
Great column this week.
James, you’d make a great Buddhist. Your comment to that CNN reporter was spot on. One thing to add: if neither side is willing to set aside their personal beliefs, traditions and differences, perhaps they could simply agree to disagree and decide mutually to tolerate the other based on the fact that they are all HUMAN BEINGS and learn to live together, just as we do here in America...
Elizabeth Vengen Esq.
“Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.”
You said the truth beautifully.
I think often of that little Palestinian boy, named Fati, who tried to peddle batteries or film of gum to us outside one of the gates of the old city. I felt so bad for him, I remember going back and giving him $, and telling him not to tell his father, but to keep it for himself. He must have been 7 or 8 in 1996, so he would be about 25 now. I wonder what life brought him?
Awesome answer to that CNN reporter, man - brutal honesty to the core and as true today as it was then. Even though we were disciples of The Church of Brutal Honesty before the Hunter influence, he'd be proud of that answer!
That's about right ... but it might not be quite as far off as it seems.
Here here, maestro.
Do yourself no favors and “like” this idiot at www.facebook.com/jc.author
The Seeds of Reality Check
James Campion on Nixon
This was my introduction to American politics; murder and crime.
“No, I don’t think peace is possible there, not even a tenuous one that appears to be the norm for most of this planet.”