knows what he’s doing – we trained him."
Beck, Los Angeles Chief of Police
police officers and administrators continue to look over their
shoulders, fearing the sight of one of their former comrades,
Chris Dorner, who has threatened to retaliate for his firing from
the department in 2008. His contention is that his employment
was terminated without required due process, for the offense of
reporting an alleged act of brutality by a fellow officer upon
a suspect. Dorner – also a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy
– is alleged to have killed three persons with ties to the police
system. Angry that his name was tarnished by the LAPD action taken
against him, Dorner has written: "You’re going to see what
a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him, especially
For a number
of days, Americans have been fixated on this story, which has
received far greater attention than would have been the case had
a former police officer killed a few teenagers. Indeed, so irrational
has been the reaction of some LA area cops that two women delivering
newspapers – one a 71-year-old grandmother – had their pickup
truck riddled with 30 to 40 bullets fired at them by police officers!
Shortly thereafter, another pickup truck was fired at by other
police officers who apparently had mistaken the driver for Dorner.
nothing comical about people being wounded or killed, but this
saga does have a superficial theater-of-the-absurd quality to
it, something one might expect from a low-budget Hollywood film.
The police system and its lapdog media take seriously any threats
or embarrassments to that system or any of its members. According
to Dorner, it was his crossing of the "Blue Line" (the
unspoken offense of reporting police wrongdoing) that led to his
dismissal from the force. Police officers who brutalize or kill
Grigg calls the "mundanes" are rarely called to
account for their actions.
But the Dorner/LAPD
drama goes beyond just the inherently vicious nature of all police
systems. The state is, by definition, an agency that enjoys a
monopoly on the use of violence within a given territory. As such,
those who act to enforce governmental action – be they police
officers or the military – are necessarily wrapped up in the exercise
of institutionalized violence against people. Grade-school children
are trained to chant the mantra "the policeman is your friend"
which, out on the streets, is interpreted as "the policeman
will probably not hurt you if you obey his every whim and call
It is the
entire political system that is characterized by the arbitrariness
of violence. While states like to hide behind such abstractions
as "constitutions," "bills of rights," "habeas
corpus," and other pretended "limitations" on their
powers, the harsh reality is that such language is always subject
to interpretation, and government officials insist upon being
the translators. This is how – and why – the powers of government
are given expansive constructions, while supposed limitations
on government authority are interpreted very narrowly.
years have revealed to millions of thoughtful minds – particularly
those of the younger generation – the fraudulent, corrupt, vicious,
and destructive nature of the state. It is increasingly difficult
to find young men and women who can recite, with a straight face,
the catechism "we are the government." Gandhi’s observation
that "nonviolence and truth are inseparable and presuppose
one another" is more widely understood by today’s youth than
by their grandparents.
I am reminded
of the closing scene in Orwell’s Animal Farm, where the
livestock who had been systematically exploited by the pigs look
in the farm house window to see their swinish rulers living it
up with the humans from whom the animals thought they had been
liberated. Every political system is a conspiracy, enforced by
legally-defined violence, by which the few are able to promote
their interests at the expense of the many. The Chris Dorner/LAPD
theater has become a road-show, allowing many more people to discover
the destructive nature of the game being played at their expense.
lengthy manifesto is no challenge to Jefferson’s Declaration of
Independence, Paine’s Common Sense, or Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience.
To minds unaccustomed to complexity – minds that are unable to
distinguish explanations of events from justifications – no purpose
will be seen in reading his words, or considering them in the
context of the political environment in which we live.
In case anyone
should fail to understand my point, let me emphasize that there
is no justification for Mr. Dorner’s physical attacks – or threatened
attacks – on others. Whatever degree of anger and resentment he
has against the LAPD does not warrant the wounding or killing
of members of this group or of any one else.
But for the
sake of intelligent thinking, ask yourself this question: where
might this man have gotten the idea that his campaign had any
legitimacy? Others in the political hierarchy have long been playing
out the premises upon which his actions have been undertaken?
I have written, for some time, about how our politically-dominated
culture is in decline; how the top-down, vertically-structured
systems of centralized control are collapsing into horizontal
networks of decentralized cooperation. The political establishment
continues to forcibly resist such peaceful, liberating transformations,
calling upon its appointed sock-puppet, President Bushobama, to
use whatever tools of violence at the government’s disposal to
maintain the established power-structure.
To this end,
Bushobama undertook wars against Iraq and Afghanistan – nations
whose residents posed no threat to Americans – and extended such
brutishness into acts of torture and other forms of degradation
against prisoners; imprisoning people without trial; and killing
men, women, and children for no other "offense" than
the bad judgment of having been born outside the United States!
If American presidents are allowed to declare wars against nations
of their choosing, why should we be shocked when Mr. Dorner declares
war against the LAPD?
It is worthy
of attention that, in the same week the Dorner/LAPD matter arose,
another Chris – the Navy’s most effective sniper, Chris Kyle,
credited with the killing of 160 Iraqis – was killed at a shooting
range, allegedly by another Marine who suffered from post-traumatic
stress syndrome. The federal government recently acknowledged
that an average of some twenty-two soldiers and veterans commit
suicide every day, a statistic confirming that the human costs
of military violence are paid not only by those residing in foreign
lands, but by the emotional and spiritual destruction of American
while Mr. Dorner was allegedly fulfilling the details of his manifesto,
a New York Times editorial was calling into question the
reasoning behind President Obama’s claimed power to order the
killing of American citizens. In what significant ways do the
rationales of these two men differ? Doesn’t each operate from
the premise that there may be persons who need to be killed in
order to further important policies; that each man’s considered
judgment satisfies the legal niceties of "due process?"
If presidents can engage in horrific acts against the millions
without negative repercussions, why should other persons not feel
qualified to emulate such conduct?
have no interest in plumbing the sordid depths to which our culture
has descended will find it easy to pass off Dorner’s comments
as nothing more than the rants of a mentally disturbed man, or
to follow the lead of weak-minded men and women who blame inanimate
objects – guns – for the violence that dominates our politically-dominated
world. Dorner’s words do not justify his actions, but they may
offer a symptom of what our thinking has made of society and of
our relationships to one another. He may be a mirror that reflects
the logical extension of our unexamined assumptions about the
necessary conditions for social order. The closing comments in
this man’s manifesto provide more of an explanation of our well-organized
destructiveness than what I have heard from others: "I am
the walking exigent circumstance you created."