A nation crippled by fear: Why America’s reaction to Ferguson, Tamir Rice and ISIS are all connected

Marcy Wheeler, Salon

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2014 06:58 AM EST

White people in this country are afraid — and it’s the key to understanding race relations and our foreign policy.

What was so striking about Obama insisting that there’s never an excuse for violence was not just the contrast with his resumption of his predecessor’s violence in the Middle East, a resumption of policies that have resoundingly failed.

It’s that the president decried violence even as various parts of government rolled out what looked like a counterinsurgency strategy in Ferguson. The Saint Louis area and, in the following days, groups around the country rebelled – most people, peacefully – against the serial, banal violence of cops directed against African-American sons. In Ferguson especially, the fears sown in the weeks before the verdict provided the excuse to roll out state instruments of violence that may well have exacerbated the violence after the verdict – and certainly didn’t contain it. Sure, technically the government is supposed to have a monopoly on violence – which is why Darren Wilson got away with shooting an unarmed black teenager without being charged. But of late, the legitimacy of the state’s violence has become increasingly fragile. The state’s excuses for violence, both overseas and in localities across America, are increasingly dubious. The legitimacy of their excuses was further undermined last week when it became clear Cleveland cops shot a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, wielding a toy gun.

In his speech after the Darren Wilson news, Obama might better have spoken about fear, not violence.

Because fear incited by provocative videos posted online likely explains why Americans ignored the resurgence of violence in Iraq until a few Americans were killed (and ignore the frequent beheadings carried out by our allies the Saudis).  “As long as ISIS is beheading Americans there’s no way the president can stand up and say that Syria isn’t our problem,” Drew reported a source asserting.

And whatever else you think of Darren Wilson’s testimony – which conflicted in some ways with what he reportedly said immediately after the shooting – he used the language of fear and dehumanization to justify the killing. The big black teenager he shot, Mike Brown, was like “Hulk Hogan,” Wilson said. “It looks like a demon,” Wilson described Brown’s face. Brown “made like a grunting” before Wilson fired the fatal shots. “[T]he only other option I thought I had was my gun,” Wilson explained to the grand jury to explain why he started shooting Brown. As for 12-year-old Rice, he and his toy gun elicited a response from a caller for this reason: He was “scaring the s___ out of people.”

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