With a big shout-out to Joni: Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone…
Democracy extends far beyond the ballot box – it includes the active participation of labor and racial justice movements in civil society. People tend to think that voting and electioneering are the sum total of democracy. It makes sense in a way; media influences public opinion, and the eyes of the media are trained on the horse-race aspects of American politics. But thinking this way misses the bigger picture.
When we see Black Lives Matter rallying for racial equality, or when the Water Protectors at Standing Rock camp out for weeks to protect their water supply, that’s democracy. When workers decide that they want a union in their workplace, that’s democracy. And when those same workers decide to withhold their labor and demand the compensation and respect that they are owed, that’s democracy as well.
In Donald Trump’s executive orders last week, we got a peek into how the current administration plans to view the relationship between law enforcement and its citizens. It is not pretty. The executive order titled Presidential Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers promises to:
- “Pursue appropriate legislation, consistent with the Constitution’s regime of limited and enumerated Federal powers, that will define new Federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing Federal crimes, in order to prevent violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers.”
- “Review existing Federal laws to determine whether those laws are adequate to address the protection and safety of Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers.”
That’s right. In a country where police chiefs consider resisting arrest a hate crime punishable by ten years in prison and where state legislatures are considering immunity for those who run over protesters, the Trump administration has signaled that, actually, we are not tough enough on protesters and activists. As bad as this may be, however, it is this part of the executive order that is the most chilling:
- “Following that review … make recommendations to the President for legislation …. defining new crimes of violence and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for existing crimes of violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, as well as for related crimes.”
This administration will not only increase the penalties for already-existing statutes, but are planning on new legislation that would further “protect … law enforcement officers”. Not that it matters to the far-right buccaneers that seem to be holding sway in this administration, but you are more likely to suffer death as a farmer or a steelworker than you are as a law enforcement officer. In fact, law enforcement officers fall outside the top 10 deadliest jobs in America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wake up, people.