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Strangers to Ourselves

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You know how it goes. An unarmed man is killed, most likely by an "officer of the peace." Barring witnesses, you will likely never hear the story. Another "thug" is dead. God Bless America.

Except – as recent events have proved – sometimes the dead won't stay silent. Turns out they had parents, or friends, or what the TeeVee covets most – video of their dying breaths.

Now tragedy morphs into a nationwide screen play. Actors are staged across the divide. Writers vie to control the unfolding narrative: White fights Black for the role of Victim. Directors wrangle over angles and acceptable context. How did an unarmed man end up dead? You probably already know the why – just not the how. How did a perfectly responsible armed policeman become an unarmed man's executioner? How is it all these fools decide to condemn themselves to death? And no, it has nothing to do with slavery or segregation or discrimination or poor education. Self-preservation needs no justification. Sane is sane. The Past is dead.

Still it haunts – the specter of state-sanctioned murder.

Bulgarian-French psychoanalyst, Julia Kristeva, offers a concept that may bypass the contentions of status and history. In Strangers to Ourselves she claims that to exist in harmony with the "Other" we need to recognize the "foreignness" in ourselves – to see in our role as "Observer" that the very features setting apart the "Other" both attract and then repel us. Following that line, one sees that on a Sunday the football fanatic lives and dies with his team, a team likely chock-full of exceptional, predominantly black athletes. On Monday, that same fanatic who almost felt right there on that field is confronted by his own diminished peculiarity. What yesterday was awe and admiration has congealed once more to fear and subconscious resentment.

That thug was no angel. He had it coming.

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Guest Saturday, 21 October 2017

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