Cowards Among Us

It strikes me as odd. In almost every culture, and even among other species, the adults consider it their moral duty – at least their biological instinct – to protect the young and the helpless from bullies and predators. This imperative is generally endemic to males, but females will also stand and defend. Women are brave, don’t get me wrong.

I was raised to respect men who speak out against tyrants and stand up to thugs. And since I have yet to personally see or hear a woman side with the police in Berkeley and Davis and against the students, my message is mostly for my fellow men who take that position.

It strikes me as odd that some men not only won’t defend the weaker group – weaker by virtue of being unarmed – but these men will let themselves be seen in public doing the opposite.

I find it strange to see grown men in the places where we now conduct our public dialog, openly supporting armed violence against legal protest, right here in the United States. And indisputably showing themselves as unmanly in the process.

It’s not enough to say I have no respect for anyone who cheers on the bullies and the thugs in our society. There is a wide yellow stripe of stammering, semi-literate, arrogant aggression running down the indolent backside of America, and this writer intends to call it out and name it: cowardice.

I would never walk by if an armed attacker was assaulting a person seated on the ground, and at the attacker’s mercy. And it doesn’t matter one bit that the attacker is wearing a uniform. That just makes it worse; to assault citizens under color of authority is indefensible. In a sense, it’s worse than an attack by an outright criminal, because the criminal does not have a sworn duty to protect his victims. Any man who stands by and does not help, won’t at least speak out against violence inflicted by “peace officers,” is a coward.

It’s easy to side with the tyrants of the world. It takes courage to side with heroes. It looks like the tyrants have the advantage, and morally weak people want to be on the side that’s going to take the fewest blows. Others have the character to sit down with those who are right and get hurt, tasered, pepper sprayed. They don’t slink away and hide behind the weakness of weapons.

We will not strike a blow — but we will receive them. And through our pain we will make them see their injustice and it will hurt, as all fighting hurts! . . . But we cannot lose. We cannot. Because they may torture my body, may break my bones, even kill me . . . They will then have my dead body — not my obedience.
—Ghandi, the film.

In a letter to the chancellor of UC Davis, Peter J. Richerson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, wrote:

The objective of a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience is to demonstrate to the citizenry at large that the authorities are an illegitimate elite that maintains power ultimately by force.” []

This is why, in the tradition of peaceful protest, the students at Davis sat down and locked arms. It made them completely helpless, not a threat to anyone at all. And it showed their attackers for the cowardly, low-life punks and bullies that they are.

It is why a great cry of outrage has risen across the United States and around the world in the past two days. Because we should not sit idly by while bullies attack people who cannot or will not defend themselves.

I am so impressed with the students at Davis and at Berkeley, for sitting down for what they believe, for remaining peaceful, for speaking the truth quietly and sometimes silently. They are strong despite the appearance of weakness, and they are good. I hope their parents – who are certainly busy filing lawsuits – realize this.

I am proud of the faculty, the poets and pacifists who have joined with them and been knocked down too. They all do America proud.

“The hearts of Martin Luther King and Gandhi must be beating in their graves; textbook nonviolent tactics,” said Dr. Richerson.

What I think of the police is self evident, redundant and digressive. But I am deeply ashamed of the small number of small people who have spoken out against the students, in support of the police.

If you support the acts of a bully, you are a bully.

This hateful – no, indifferent – stupidity disgusts me. But I think the students who were hurt would rather I didn’t say so. They would likely defend those who call them punks and say in some way that the victims of this brutality got what they deserved. The students would defend the free speech rights of those whose craven, twisted rhetoric I find so deplorable.

So finally, we who are awake must stand together against the violent, and against those who say their acts are acceptable because they could have been worse.

kent 1

Yes, it can get worse.


It might get worse. It has been worse.


So it must be stopped before it bloody well does get worse.

kent 2

If you think the cops were in the right, in spite of our laws and what I’ve called morality, then say so here. Say what you have to say, all of you, and let us see you for what you are. You have the right.

“Because no battle is ever won, he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.”

— Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury


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