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You can’t make everyone happy

At one point in the Democratic Party debate Saturday night, Sanders and Clinton were asked if corporations would be happy if they were elected. Sanders bluntly answered “no,” but Clinton said her goal was to make everyone happy.

Clinton’s desire to please everyone is like countering BLACK LIVES MATTER with ALL LIVES MATTER. With replacing WE’RE THE 99% with WE’RE FOR THE 100%.

At first these responses may sound reasonable. Of course the President should work on behalf of everyone. Of course all people’s lives are important. However, they fail to recognize the divisions in our society along race and class lines, and that our laws, police, courts, educational system, tax code, zoning regulations and so much more are designed to keep it that way. At best these broadening statements are meaningless platitudes that miss the point. At worst they are evidence of racism, class bias and acceptance of corporate criminality.

Those who respond ALL LIVES MATTER either don’t get, or refuse to accept, what the slogan really means: black lives should matter as much as white lives. BLACK LIVES MATTER attacks the systematic devaluation of African-American lives; the ALL LIVES MATTER position refuses to admit that the United States is racist. It refuses to acknowledge how our society forces African-Americans into ghettos, denies them meaningful education and employment, and imprisons an alarmingly high percentage. ALL LIVES MATTER doesn’t view the police as an occupying militarized force that shoots and kills hundreds of African-Americans every year. The WE’RE FOR THE 100% position argues that singling out the 1% is divisive and destructive. This position ignores the fact that our economic/political system is owned by and run by the 1%, and those who serve them, for their exclusive benefit. This position ignores how the rich and powerful have rigged our system.

Sanders doesn’t go far enough, but his response indicates that he understands that giant corporations are at the core of our problems, fattening their own wallets while sucking the rest of us dry and destroying the environment. Clinton, on the other hand, is a corporate democrat. She will never accept that it is necessary to attack corporate power in order to drag a hundred million Americans out of debt and poverty, as well as prevent globe-spanning climate-related catastrophes.

Clinton ignores the corporate rot in our system, dismissing the need for basic change. Whatever she says about change or improvement, at the heart of her program is an acceptance of the status quo. If, like me, you find the status quo unacceptable, you will reject candidates who and the slogans that espouse it.  Read More 
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All Lives Matter: Against Double Standards

On December 22nd my friend Victor Wallis published an Op-Ed piece in Open Media Boston, an online news service, I liked so much that I decided, with his permission, to republish it as a guest blog.

All Lives Matter: Against Double Standards
22 December 2014

by Victor Wallis

People speaking for the victims of police violence have unreservedly condemned the recent killing of the two New York City police officers.

People speaking for the police never condemned the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

A double standard is obviously at work here. Those who protest the actions of killer-cops get at best mixed reactions from public officials. By contrast, the police at all levels express automatic solidarity with one another, no questions asked.  They are upheld in this by the judicial system, which turns the usual indictment-process upside down when the defendants are police officers.

These institutional traits imply that violence exercised by the police is somehow more acceptable than violence directed against the police.

And now, as he comes under intense criticism from police organizations, New York Mayor De Blasio says that an attack on police officers is an attack on all citizens.
Why was it inconceivable for him to say something similar when Eric Garner was deliberately suffocated before all our eyes? or when the grand jury refused to indict officer Pantaleo?

Why should everyone be expected to identify more with fallen police officers than with their victims? This is where we confront the structural underpinnings of police violence.
Statements about the personal pain of survivors apply regardless of who is killed. Why should the suffering caused by racist cops be less universally felt than the suffering caused by a troubled individual who goes on a personal vendetta that ends up targeting random police officers?

The point is that all lives matter. The reason for the slogan “Black Lives Matter” is that this general principle is far from being universally honored. We know this because of the many expressions of support that were received by Darren Wilson after he killed Michael Brown.
When De Blasio says that we should call off protests in order to respect the slain police officers, we may well ask why public officials (at every level) did not call for a similar show of respect on the part of police toward those who marched in protest after cops killed defenseless black men.

Fortunately, many people are becoming aware of the grotesque power-imbalance reflected in these morally inconsistent responses. If the movement is to grow, however, we must build on this understanding.

Victor Wallis teaches at the Berklee College of Music and is the managing editor of Socialism and Democracy (http://sdonline.org), which in November 2014 published a special issue "The Roots of Mass Incarceration in the US: Locking up Black Dissidents and Punishing the Poor," co-edited by Mumia Abu-Jamal and Johanna Fernández. Read More 
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