survival

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Some thoughts on State sanctioned violence

Today has been a very hard day.

Since I awoke from yet another violent nightmare this morning, I've been overwhelmed by mental images and thoughts of violence, especially State-sanctioned violence.

Two days ago, the partner of a close friend was hit in the head by a high-velocity teargas canister fired into a group of non-violent protesters in the West Bank. He is still alive, but in critical condition and no one knows when or even if he will recover.

Seeing the photos of him on the ground, covered in blood, brought back a flood of memories.

Images of my friend Brad Will, gunned down in 2006 by government paramilitary thugs in Mexico, push themselves into the front of my mind. The sound of his voice when he was shot, recorded by the video camera he was holding at the time, echoes in my brain.

I also keep thinking about the hundreds, if not thousands, of nameless and faceless victims of similar violence.

I know that the attention that Tristan and Brad have gotten is because they are white American activists. Their skin privilege makes them stand out in a sea of darker skinned victims.

It is not fair, but if we can shine a light of attention on the larger issues; if we can get the mainstream public to pay attention because these victims look and talk like they do, it is necessary to do so.

If what happened to them can make the other victims less anonymous and ignored, maybe their sacrifices are not in vain.

I know that there are tens of thousands of people dying in Darfur, in the Middle East, in Oaxaca, and other small ignored corners around the globe.

Why should the lives of these few people be worth more?

The quick answer is that, of course, their lives are not worth more. However, the sad reality is that because of how our world is, it seems to take the mutilation or death of someone white and from the west to get people to put aside their complacency and think about what is going on; what is being done in our names and with our tax money.

Today is especially hard for me because it is the anniversary of one of the darkest moments of my life. 21 years ago this evening, I almost became one of those martyrs.

After calling the police to deal with the theft of my roommate's bicycle, due to the arrogance and hate of one police officer, I was badly beaten -- first in a public parking lot by 3 officers and then again in the witness-free zone of the strip-search room of Central Booking in downtown Buffalo. The only thing that saved my life that night, other than the fast action of my friends, was the color of my skin.