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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.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States