In this week's issue of Banter M:
If I Was Black I Would Leave America - Ben Cohen on what would happen if the police started targeting white British men
Finally, Sociopathic Trophy Hunters Are Being Exposed to the Punishment They Deserve - Bob Cesca on why trophy hunters should be red-flagged as potential serial killers.
Seven Years - Chez Pazienza writes about the difficulty watching his baby daughter turn seven.
If I Was Black I Would Leave America
by Ben Cohen
Since July of last year, Eric Garner, 43, was killed after being put into an illegal chokehold by a police officer for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. Garner told the officer strangling him: “I can’t breathe” 11 times.
John Crawford, 22, was killed by a police officer who shot him at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. Crawford had been holding a toy BB gun, and had not confronted the police or anyone else in the store.
Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Brown was unarmed.
Dante Parker, a 36-year-old father, was stunned multiple times by a police Taser in San Bernardino County. He later died in police custody from his injuries.
Tanisha Anderson, 37, who suffered from schizophrenia, was arrested and allegedly slammed violently onto the pavement by Cleveland officers. She died before reaching hospital. The coroner ruled it a homicide, with the cause listed as “sudden death in association with physical restraint in a prone position."
Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy, was shot and killed by Cleveland police after officers claimed they mistook his toy gun for a real gun.
Tony Robinson, 19, was shot dead by a Madison police officer when confronting Robinson for apparently disrupting traffic. Robinson allegedly assaulted the police officer, who then shot him despite Robinson being unarmed.
Walter Scott, 50, was shot dead by a police officer after fleeing from a traffic stop for a broken taillight. The Officer Michael Slager claimed that Scott had taken his stun gun, but video evidence showed Scott was running away and his back to the officer when he was shot.
Freddie Gray, 25, died after his spinal chord was severed in a police car after being arrested by Baltimore police.
Sandra Bland, 28, was found dead in a Waller County jail cell in Texas on July 13, after being stopped for a minor traffic violation. The cause of her death is still unclear.
Sam Dubose, 43, was stopped by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, who shot him in the head after he refused to get out of his car.
And on, and on, and on, and on.
The names above are a fraction of the actual number of African Americans shot by the police. In 2015 alone, over 550 people have been killed by the police in America, with black people being killed at more than twice the rate of white and Hispanic or Latino people. According to the Guardian study, those black people shot by police were also significantly less likely to be carrying weapons.
This is what it means to be black in America - you are more likely to be stopped by the police, less likely to be carrying a weapons or drugs, and more likely to be shot dead for the simple crime of having darker skin pigment. While America has moved on from its horrendously dark past of slavery, racism is alive and well and black people still suffer in ways white people simply cannot imagine.
America to me has been a wonderful place. I moved here in 2004 from Britain and have made some amazing friends, fell in love (a few times), traveled the country and visited its incredible landmarks, built my business here, and made a life for myself. As a white British person, I have often been treated like a minor celebrity in America (especially in LA) and have benefited from my perceived intelligence and good breeding (both of which are nothing particularly special). I have never had women clutch their handbags when getting into an elevator, I haven't been stereotyped (other than for sounding "like Hugh Grant"), and have had no problems hailing taxis. Most importantly, I have not been stopped, assaulted or shot by the police for having the wrong skin color. And lest you think this is an exaggeration, Chris Rock has beenpulled over three times already in 2015 for the crime of driving while black. If this can happen to a multi millionaire and A list actor/comedian, it isn't difficult to imagine what it must be like for those without celebrity credentials (think Sandra Bland and Sam Dubose).
Despite being pulled over several times for various minor traffic offenses during the 11 years I've been here, I haven't even been fined.
African Americans live under the constant threat of institutional violence from a largely white power structure - an undeniable fact that much of America still does not want to acknowledge.
"You can’t legislate good parenting or responsible entertainment," said Bill O'Reilly when addressing America's race relation problems. "But you can fight against the madness with discipline, a firm message and little tolerance for excuse making. It is now time for the African American leadership, including President Obama, to stop the nonsense. Walk away from the world of victimization and grievance and lead the way out of this mess.”
Because of course black people are responsible for their own oppression.
The contrast between the land of opportunity I experience, and the land of oppression experienced by black people is glaring, and the emergence of video cell phones and police cameras is shedding light on just how severe it really is. The footage of Rodney King being beaten half to death in Los Angeles in 1991 was a rarity, but now technology is exposing just how frequent police abuse of black people really is. On an almost weekly basis there is another story about an unarmed black man or woman assaulted or shot dead by law enforcement officers for relatively minor offenses - and in some cases, no offense at all. As we have recently seen in the horrifying case of Sam Dubose, the video footage often differs remarkably from the police officer's version of events.
Faced with this constant threat of violence and discrimination, there is no way I would stay in a country that treated me like this. If I opened my newsfeed and saw a relentless stream of stories and videos of white British men shot dead by the police for closing a door on them, running away from arrest or disputing minor traffic violations, I would pack my bags immediately and head off back to jolly old England where the police can be equally as discriminating, but infinitely less likely to murder me.
The problem is, where would African Americans go given they are already at home?
Finally, Sociopathic Trophy Hunters Are Being Exposed to the Punishment They Deserve
by Bob Cesca
There is absolutely zero downside in publicly shaming and ridiculing sociopaths who engage in trophy hunting. None. An argument can be made that raising taxes or closing military bases or any number of other policy initiatives could inflict some sort of residual damage, but reducing the numbers of people who spend way too much money shooting majestic and exotic animals just to watch them die will harm nobody.
The story of Cecil the lion and Walter Palmer, the erectile-challenged dentist who killed him, has arguably been the biggest story of the week. Whether it should've been the biggest story of the week is up for debate, but what can't be denied is that it was a story that needed to occur if only to call attention to the ghouls who think trophy hunting is a respect-worthy activity, and more so than crush videos or dog fights.
And that's really what we're talking about. Just because it happens in the light of day and assholes from Ted Nugent to Sarah Palin to Walter Palmer and all of the other mentally ill grinning bastards who we see festooning our social media feeds appear to be having a good time doesn't make it any less barbaric than torturing small animals or abusing factory farm animals. Rather, the fact that it happens in the light of day presents a serious opportunity to actually raise enough awareness so as to turn trophy hunters into societal pariahs. Sure, they're already pariahs in many circles, but until this week, it's unclear whether the public at large was aware that people were actually doing this.
My sincere hope is that some sort of good will come out of Cecil's death. Perhaps the most coveted reward at the end of a "successful" trophy hunt is the big brag. Especially in the age of social media, hunters want to be able to boast about what they accomplished and so they have to be photographed, and the photos have to be shared on social media. But now, after Cecil was killed and a massive tsunami of outrage collapsed on Palmer's head, I believe the urge to post photographs will be severely mitigated by hunters wanting to avoid the same fate.
And so it should be. It's death porn. It's gruesome and immoral. These are innocent and beautiful creatures who don't wreck havoc in our safe McMansion lives. They deserve better. They deserve to live on nature's terms, and in exchange they're mercilessly hunted and tortured by self-indulgent ugly Americans who have zero interest in the food chain or humane hunts or harvesting flesh for sustenance. These animals are killed for the thrill of killing.
In a sane world, trophy hunters would be red-flagged as potential serial killers considering how the wanton killing of defenseless animals is a powerful indicator of homicidal tendencies. But somehow we don't seem to mind unless there's a clown suit and a secret crawl space involved. We're too often deliberately ignorant to the senseless brutality inflicted upon animals even though so many species clearly experience emotions -- happiness, pain, trust and betrayal. We've fooled ourselves into believing that just because these creatures can't speak in our words, they're emotionless and immune to pain. Anyone who's loved an animal knows this isn't true. And so we torture and kill them for no other reason but sport.
By the way, this isn't to suggest that animals are more important than people. Various friends and colleagues have observed the outcry surrounding the Cecil story and suggested that perhaps less attention should be paid to a lion than to atrocities occurring at the hands of racist police inside the United States. Obviously, human lives -- and in the case of police, black lives -- matter more than exotic animals. This is indisputable.
But I think we have the capacity to multitask. There's room enough for activism in support of equal protection under the law while also carving out some time to make sure animals aren't tortured and killed by crazy people with deep pockets. Yes, for a couple of days this week, Cecil was perhaps a bigger story than, say, Sandra Bland. However, in a strange way, both causes involve a struggle to seek and discover our humanity, even though human lives, at the end of the day, matter considerably more than animal lives.
The real lesson of Cecil the lion is that we can learn much about our fellow humans based upon how they treat animals. If a man who administers medical attention to paying customers believes it's okay to torture, kill and behead an animal like Cecil, perhaps he shouldn't be allowed to practice medicine -- or, at the very least, he shouldn't be allowed to post with impunity the grinning photographs of himself after murdering an animal for no other reason than to satiate his blood lust.
I agree with my friend Chez. Walter Palmer and his fellow trophy hunters shouldn't be threatened with death or other incongruous punishments. But he should absolutely serve some form of penance for acting upon his obviously psychotic tendencies. And that penance is already underway. If it lasts several times longer than the 40 hours Cecil suffered with a crossbow arrow in his gut, it won't be long enough.
by Chez Pazienza
My daughter just turned seven. It's a difficult thing to process, looking into the eyes of the brilliant ball of pure energy that now stands tall before you and recognizing that they're the eyes of the tiny angelic creature you cradled in your arms the day she was born. I've now spent seven years watching Inara grow -- seven years monitoring her every milestone and taking immense pride in who she's slowly become as a person. My daughter is smart and quick-witted and lovely and adventurous and basically everything I ever could've wanted had I believed that my desires for her personality were what mattered most. There have been times that I've looked into those eyes and felt like my heart was about to burst and just as many times that I've looked into those eyes and felt sheer terror, precisely because I knew that with her in the world my heart could indeed burst at any moment. You don't know true fear until you have something in your life that you love more than yourself. You don't understand the promise of real pain until, as the saying goes, your heart -- that thing that's always on the verge of bursting anyway -- lives independently of your body and the relative safety provided by it.
I talk to Inara now and I notice things that weren't there before. These little revelations shouldn't be surprising and yet somehow they are. She's seven, which means that of course she now has music she loves and will defend when I roll my eyes at it (as all parents eventually do when confronted with the mindless crap their kids worship). She's more advanced than I remember being at her age, which may say more about me than it does about her. She's fickle and expects the world to move at whatever pace she feels like at any given moment, understandable seeing as how most kids think the world really does revolve around them. She picks up on pop culture cues and allows them to infuse her language, behavior and tastes -- again not surprising considering the awesome grasp the various media have on kids beginning at their earliest stages of development. She's still the same sweet little girl I've always known and loved, but she's much more assertive about who she is and that means not always concerning herself with whether she's the same sweet little girl I've always known and loved. She adores her dad just like her dad adores her, but at a young age she's definitely coming into her own and I have to imagine that that's only going to become more apparent over the next couple of years. Her entire length of her existence on this planet is only seven years. Her life is just beginning. Or is it?
A couple of days ago, The Washington Post ran a terrific piece that helped to explain why, by the age of seven, half a person's life experience is already over. The column was pegged off of a gorgeous moving graphic created by Austrian designer Maximilian Kiener which illustrates how perspective skews the way a person looks at the years of his or her life. Spelled out simply, it goes like this: When you're a year old, that one year is literally forever for you; it's 100% of your life. As you age, the years appear to go by faster simply because percentage-wise there's more to work with. By the time you're eight-years-old, a year is only 12.5 percent of your life. "Kiener attributes this idea to Paul Janet, a French philosopher," the article reads. "The idea is that we perceive time by comparing it with our life span... We perceive our first few years to be much longer in duration than the years that come later." The bottom line here: "If you measure your life this way, in 'perceived' time rather than actual time, half of your 'perceived life' is over by age 7." Granted, the piece factors in the way that the first few years of a person's life aren't actually perceived at all -- meaning that they're typically barely remembered -- but the basics are still there are they say a lot about why, for example, the entire length of my child's life feels like it's gone by in a flash for me while a simple car trip for her is an eternity.
I'm a sucker for nostalgia and always have been, which is probably more a product of depression than any true affinity for the past. I romanticize history merely because the future has rarely appeared bright to me, certainly not for an extended period of time. When I think of the past seven years of Inara's existence, it's as if a genuine lifetime has passed for both of us, despite its all having done so in an instant. Inara was born in New York City in July of 2008. By March of 2009 I had already left New York with her and relocated to Florida because my marriage had fallen apart. For the next two years, I had my baby girl only for a couple of months at a time, sharing her equally with my ex. Inara's mother moved in with someone new, relocating to his home in Dallas. My child, after traveling back and forth for the better part of the first three years of her life, now had a new place to live with a new guy. I eventually moved out to L.A. -- the interstate transfer of my child still happening at a regular clip for a while -- and in time Inara's mother and the new guy moved to his other home in Laguna Beach. Inara has lived in states in seven years. I feel like every now and then I see the impact of all that uncertainty and inconsistency, but it might just be my imagination. Still, it's not hard to envision the constant back-and-forth having at least some kind of impact on who my child is and who she'll ultimately become.
For Inara's big seventh, I took her to Universal Studios in Hollywood. While we were there she asked me when she'd graduate high school. I had to tap it out on my fingers but I eventually came up with the number: 2026. She'll graduate high school in 2026. She then asked me how old I'll be when she's 30 (provided I last that long). Again, a little more calculation and then the number: 68. I had her at a late age so I already feel like an aging man trying to keep up with a little kid, but the thought of the impact of our age difference on the two of us as we both get older is daunting to say the very least. It's difficult enough in these early years being excluded from a large portion of her life thanks to circumstances involving her mother and I, but I'm wondering how it's all going to play out later. What will her transition into the teen years then into adulthood mean for my relationship with my daughter? This is the kind of thing I've always obsessed over. Now, though, I'm taking stock of not just what the passage of time holds but how my perception of time will impact the years ahead with my child. Her life is so new and yet it feels so wonderfully long to her. Every day is a new adventure and an opportunity to do something completely original for her. Every day for me feels like one more in a swiftly moving series. Every day is the same. Even when big changes come, they feel like something I've experienced before. Changes are the same -- imagine that.
All I can do then is take joy in Inara's experiences. Try to stop and notice every little thing about her. It's a cliché but it's true: appreciate every single moment, because while those moments feel like an eternity to her -- to me they're here and gone in a heartbeat.