Sunday, August 14, 2016

Social injustice and a nation's bad karma on a Sunday afternoon

Sometimes, not very often, the weird complexities of social injustice, as well as the contradictory reactions of people caught in this complex web of peace and violence, come right to your doorstep. And the moment of synchronicity is amazing enough to make you feel like the event must mean something profound. Such was the case today on a sleepy Sunday afternoon in Flagstaff, Arizona.

I had spent the day reading "The Apache Wars," by Paul Andrew Hutton, and had been moved by waves of emotions, usually disgust, sometimes tears, by the way Native Americans had been treated in the Southwest. At one point, after reading about the death of Cochise and the forced removal of the Chiricahua people to the San Carlos reservation due to the abrogation of a long-standing peace treaty, I decided to take a break and go for a smoke outside my apartment.

While I sitting on my chair, I looked at the stones in my backyard area, and wondered about how much blood had been spilled on them, or at least near them, in the 19th century. Then, thinking about the previous night's riots in Milwaukee, pondered on the lingering effects, all of the bad karma, born out the tragedies of "civilizing" America.

This story is true. You just can't make this stuff up.

Just then, I heard a kind of yelp. Then I noticed how across the street, some college students were sitting on the fence, taking pictures with their cellphones, looking at something that I couldn't see. Then I heard drums. Then I saw police cars coming from all directions, coming from the different adjacent streets to the main road. At first, it looked like a funeral procession was near.

Moving to the west down the street, escorted in front by several Flagstaff police officers, was a small line of demonstrators, the first of which were holding a banner that stated, "Blue Lives Murder." My first thought was how strange. How completely bizarre. The police were leading a parade of people opposed to them. I wondered how they must have felt.

More protesters followed, carrying signs with pictures of people, mostly blacks, who had been killed by the police across the country.

By this time, there were police cars everywhere, blocking the traffic, followed by a police cruiser with god knows how much electronic equipment. As far as I could tell, there were more police on this detail than actual demonstrators.

Once this procession passed, they went around the corner, drums beating, the police in escort. All of it peaceful enough, but laced with unfathomable irony.

It was definitely a combined Native American, Black Lives Matter protest. A railing against the injustices of our day. But I don't know exactly if what I heard next is right. As I said, I had been reading a lot about the attempted genocide of the Apaches. So, you can take this last reporting as purely subjective: As the chants and drums were going on unseen between myself and some houses, as they headed toward downtown Flagstaff, I swore I could hear repeated shouts, "Cochise! Cochise! Cochise!"

It could have also been "No peace! No peace! No peace!" But then, what difference does it make?

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