Earlier this week I had an emotional meltdown over Freddie Gray’s murder and the subsequent events in Baltimore. I wrote several tweets that were openly calling for the death of cops. I’m writing this blog post not to retract those comments, but to explain them.
The police mutilated Freddie Gray’s body in a way that I can’t even comprehend the physics of. I know the police can be animals, but that level of horrific brutality shocked me to the core. Not only were several cops were involved, but we know from cases like these that even cops not directly involved will lie and cover up for their co-workers and that prosecutors and attorneys general will avoid any punishment for the cops whatsoever. The Coup has a line: “Every cop is a corrupt one.” Absolutely true.
Every cop is a bad cop, because they all support this kind of brutality. “Police whistleblower” is an oxymoron – cops do not testify against other cops. Cops are, in a sense, not individuals. Becoming police means becoming a part of a mass that has no true understanding of justice or fairness – it is a depersonalized, sociopathic force to maintain the existing social order.
Thinking about how the Baltimore police mutilated Freddie Gray’s body ignited a murderous rage in me. I wanted to see cops killed. I wanted to kill cops myself. I still do. I want to watch a cop’s blood pour out into the gutter. I have seen fear in a cop’s eyes and it is a beautiful thing. But now I fantasize about watching the light fade from those eyes.
This very hateful and violent impulse is a scary thing to face in myself. But I see no value in denying it. It’s there, the mirror image of the sickness that the cops carry, that they give into. It has been one thing for me to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s words about how violence leads only to violence, and how hatred only leads to more hatred. It was one thing to become angry at the police and realize that that is a deliberate effect of state violence.
It is another thing entirely for me to personally plunge directly into the abyss, to not just intellectually think that someone should be killed, but to passionately desire their brutal death. I grapple with this twisted fact that the very evil I see in the world and fight against, rises up inside me and that my own strong drive for justice can become poisoned, taken over, transformed into the very thing I detest.
This has led me to go back to some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, particularly his Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. His six basic points about nonviolence are not easy. They can be very, very difficult. While I still wouldn’t rule out some kinds of violent action in order to get to a better world, my intense reaction this week reminded me to go back, again and again, to these fundamental points, in particular the fifth point. It is a struggle for me to avoid the “internal violence of spirit”, but its appearance has been a lesson for me.