A time for peace

Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. -Matt 10:16

I get the sense that I didn’t learn the lesson “Fruitvale Station” intended. It’s a movie about the last day in the life of a black man named Oscar Grant. We learn he has a live-in girlfriend and a young daughter he loves (Do not even the tax collectors do the same?). He tries to reclaim a job he lost due to tardiness. He considers selling drugs, but thinks better of it. It put him in the clink in the past and he doesn’t want to go back.

That evening attends a birthday party for his mother. He’s a flawed but often decent man.

Then he takes the fateful trip to watch a fireworks show in the city. After an enjoyable time downtown, he ends up in a fight that he did not start at an Oakland BART station. The cops nab him before he can escape, and he is wrestled to the ground in Fruitvale Station. Angry and hostile, he resists arrest to some degree, although he is not violent. As an officer tries to subdue Grant’s hands to cuff him, Grant is mortally wounded.

It’s unclear why the officer shot him. Was there malice? Did he panic? Did the cop mean to tase Oscar Grant and mistakenly shoot him instead?

Let me pause here to say that I do not trust the police any more than I trust any other government agency, and for the same reasons. They can legally oppress you. Like everything else the government does, they are bureaucratic, expensive, and often corrupt. They lack the profit motive that leads them to serve their supposed customer. They waste everyone’s time and money enforcing non-offenses (e.g. handing out tickets for expired license plates). Fully privatized security would be much better.

That said, consider The Man’s vantage point at Fruitvale Station. They come upon strangers in a train station who are verbally abusive and making semi-aggressive gestures. The cops deal all day with drug addicts, domestic abusers, and criminals. They get a jaded view of things. They don’t know Oscar’s back story that humanizes him in our eyes. Adrenaline is rushing in a tense situation.

Stop the tape! A lesson present itself: you may not like that you are being detained, but this is not the time to fight the power. Afterward, with an attorney, through peaceful marches, or in the media… yes. In the heat of an amped up scene… no. You’re being rassled by a guy with superior firepower. If anything happens, the deck is stacked against you and in favor of the government bureaucrat. That’s the way it is.

Oscar Grant fought the law and the law won. Like the house in a casino, it usually does. There’s a time for war and a time for peace.

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