South Dakota Top Blogs

News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Can videos save America?

The video camera is the major factor in police reform during recent decades.  It came into prominent notice in the case of Rodney King.  On March 3, 1991, King, a black man, was driving on Interstate-210 in Los Angeles when police thought he was behaving in a drunken manner.  They gave chase, and he gave high-speed flight.  When they finally stopped him, they put him on the ground and did a drum-corps routine on him with their billy-clubs and stun guns. A guy named George Holliday captured the performance on film from his apartment house balcony and sent it to the local television news station KTLA.

King was charged with the felony of evading the police, but the charges were dropped and the police chief said the four police would be disciplined.  When King was released from custody, the press interviewed him as he sat in a wheelchair.  He had a broken right leg in a cast, a cut and swollen face, a bruised body, and burn marks on his chest from the stun gun.

The four policemen were charged and brought to trial in a state court.  The jury returned a verdict of not guilty, which caused Los Angeles to erupt in a riot that lasted six days.  Sixty-three people were killed, 2,383 were injured, more than 12,000 were arrested, and estimates of property damage were over $1 billion.  The National Guard, the U.S. Army, and Marine Corps were needed to help control the situation.  

However, two of the officers were convicted later in federal court for violating King's civil rights.  He also sued the City of Los Angeles and was awarded $3.8 million in damages.  

Hundreds of videos of misperforming police have circulated in recent years.  When in situations involving  the police,  savvy citizens turn on their iPhone recorders.  One of the most notable is the video 17-year-old Darnella Frazier took of George Floyd being choked to death by a policeman.  That young woman's video literally set the world on fire by recording 10 minutes of America's holocaust.  The constant shooting of unarmed, often guiltless, black people is the moral equivalent of putting Jews and other minorities into gas ovens because of the race of which they are a member.  Darnella's video captured one of America's atrocious failures as a democracy and showed it to the world.  

People of the United States prefer to deny the failures of their country, for the most part.  They have neither the intelligence nor the courage to confront them. and they call that deficit patriotism.  They think the protests of Black Lives Matter and the antifa groups are unAmerican.  We've got the point where some politicians cite Hitler as an inspiring figure.  America has become the kind of country that we once fought against.

The videos of the American police state form a record of a nation in serious intellectual and moral decline.  One may hope that when people watch those videos, they come to a realization of what we have become as a nation, that we have abandoned the premises on which our Constitution was written.

But people move to states like South Dakota to evade any attempts to confront the ways in which the nation is rebuking the ideas of liberty, equality, and justice for all. When they chant make America great again, they seem to be recalling the antebellum South.

And so, we look to those people camera recorders and mobile phones to take the pictures that might save us from ourselves.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The thing about Trump that is seldom mentioned

There is a fact about  Donald Trump that is seldom broached in accounts of his behavior.  But it is apparent in what he says and does.  Donald Trump is an incredibly stupid man.  He has the intelligence of a bucket of rocks, and he constantly puts it on display.

Lately, however, some news sources have compiled accounts of Trump's stupidity.  Salon put together a list of Trump's most stupid acts:

1)That time Trump suggested injecting household cleaners into people's lungs to cure them of the coronavirus.

2) That time he looked at a solar eclipse without eye protection — after everyone was repeatedly told not to look at the eclipse without eye protection. 

3) That time he couldn't admit he was wrong when he tweeted that Hurricane Dorian was going to hit Alabama, and so he drew on a weather map with a Sharpie to make it seem like he was right. 

4) That time he threw paper towels at people in Puerto Rico who had just endured Hurricane Maria.

5) That time he asked members of the National Security Council if they could nuke hurricanes rather than letting them hit the U.S. 

6) That time Trump was told to talk about Frederick Douglass at a Black History Month event, clearly had no idea who that was, and while trying to bullshit his way through the talk, implied that Douglass was still alive. 

7) That time he suggested that his much-desired border wall could just maybe be buttressed with alligator moats. 

8) That time he asked Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?”

9) That time Trump "liked" a tweet praising Rihanna. 

10) When he called the Second Epistle to the Corinthians "Two Corinthians."

This leaves us to ponder about the intelligence level of the nation that elected him to be its president.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Profile of a shooter: abject nihilism

The school shooting in Texas came at a time when a man I correspond with had raised a question about whether our society is creating an entire class of alienated people who get desperate for some sense of equity within that society.  We were discussing the motives of mass shooters and had noted that some seem motivated by racial hatred, like the one in Buffalo, N.Y.,  and some by a sense of retaliation for being excluded from the category of those whose lives matter.  

We were recalling a mutual friend who was a high school guidance counselor who had received recognition for his successes in helping troubled young people find their ways to more untroubled lives.  Our mutual friend is no longer with us, but the principles of respect and fairness he lived by stay with anyone who knew him and the school he worked in.  He said that a functioning high school did not allow social hostilities to develop  on campus, and he was adept at helping students find constructive pathways to the recognition they sought. Violence on campuses reflects social problems in the community.  The hard task for educators is to make schools a refuge from those community hostilities, providing students with a vision of a beneficial way of life.  American public education was notable for its successes in that regard--until politics intruded into it.  The counselor said that many students believe the world is out to oppress and defeat them, because that is the face it shows them.

Salvador Rolando Ramos

He made the point that while counselors advise students on academic matters and their plans for the future, the aspect of their work that was most demanding was dealing with troubled adolescents.  What troubled young people in school the most was the problems they brought with them from their families and the outside community--racism, gender attitudes, religious bigotry, and social and political prejudices.  The counselor developed policies and programs in coordination with school administrators and teachers to insure that those attitudes were excluded from the way the school operated.

When schools launched anti-bullying campaigns, he upset many education officials when, in a speech he made at a teachers' convention, he said that any educator who glibly talked about bullying didn't know what they were talking about.  He said it was a misleading term because people think it is a matter of students physically intimidating the weaker kids.  That is not the problem.  The problem is students bringing prejudices, hatreds, and bigotries from the outside into the school setting.  Students bring to school personal histories and experiences  and the attitudes they absorb from families and the social milieu in which they live.  The term "bullying" is used to cover hate-motivated acts of prejudice and discrimination practiced in the community. The  counselor said he objected to the term because it was used to cover up more insidious motives for student misbehavior, such as racial, religious, and gender hatred.  

When the counselor retired, he was often hired as a consultant to school districts who were reorganizing to address issues they were facing.  This was shortly after the Columbine massacre, and he was asked to explain the reasons that a couple of young men could hatch such a plot.  He said he couldn't; reasoning was not part of it.  He said you have to begin with the fact that the majority of adolescents "can't think beyond lunch."  To say that is not a disparagement of teen-agers, but an acknowledgment of the stages of human development.  Kids are making the transition from dependency to independence and need to understand that education is provided to save them from living by trial-and-error, which few of them would survive.

As for the Columbine shooters, much conjecture has been made about what motivated them, but the counselor said there was one irrefutable fact that is known:  they had reached a state of abject nihilism.  It is true of many of the mass shooters.  They plot the mass killings and then kill themselves.  The big question is how and why they reached that state.  The answer will be complex.

It was reported of the Uvalde shooter:  "The gunman in Tuesday’s elementary school massacre was a lonely 18-year-old who was bullied over a childhood speech impediment, suffered from a fraught home life and lashed out violently against peers and strangers recently and over the years, friends and relatives said."  But the most troubling question is why he chose to kill elementary school children.  

And, of course, there is the matter of easy access to weapons of war.

Mass shootings have become a routine part of American life.  But there are also many who claim that the contention that America leads the world in mass shootings is a myth.  The nation is unable to deal with mass shootings, so they keep happening and keep increasing.

Abject nihilism defines us.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States