On Ferguson.

I’ve been both riveted to and revolted by news coming out of Ferguson. By “news,” of course, I do not mean “establishment media,” although a few outliers have done some surprisingly good work. As of this writing, the Wikipedia page “Shooting of Michael Brown” seems to be a fairly well-sourced, up-to-date read. Obviously the story is nowhere near finished. I fear what that page will say when all is said and done, that the blanks will be filled in with more terror and more tears.

This is both the best and worst thing I’ve seen yet:


Palestinians in Gaza are tweeting tear gas advice to the people of Ferguson.

Here, you can see why they need it.

I am finding Ferguson exceptionally hard to write about for a number of reasons, not least of which is the awareness that my whiteness has insulated me from being subject to the same experiences as black and brown individuals and communities are at the hands of police. Relatedly, I feel strongly that those voices and perspectives are the ones that ought to be amplified and heard on these issues, not mine.

Another reason I find it difficult to write about it is that it is personally fucking devastating. By which I mean I feel sadness, rage, horror, disgust, fear, frustration and chaotic emotions I cannot name. It’s the same feeling evoked only a few weeks ago, when NYPD officers killed my fellow New Yorker Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold—then waited 7 minutes to give him CPR. And before that, the death of Sean Bell. And before that, the death of Amadou Diallo. And before that, the torture of Abner LouimaAnd and and

But my grief and anger are nothing—nothing—compared to what the victims, their loved ones and their communities experience, day in and day out, in a country that we call “free.” My anguish and frustration are mere shadows of enormous and unyielding terrors, betrayals, dehumanization, losses and despair I cannot even begin to fathom. I can listen, I can learn, I can signal boost, but I cannot experience the world through any eyes other than my own. I can write about law enforcement abuses, the War on Some People Who Use Drugs, the evils of private prisons, the militarization of police forces, the stupidity of our gun laws, the cruelty and inhumanity of the system. I can keep warning that no one is safe from these tactics and human rights violations, that if you think such atrocities will only ever happen to Those Other People™ you are dangerously naive. I can beg you to think about that, and to consider that if for some reason I don’t understand you are not moved by their plight, perhaps you can fear for your own. Yes, yours. If the state can target older white males who are politically conservative, have money, and often have military experience and even security clearances, who can’t they target?

I can support these people.

I can read this blog.

I can want so badly to help make things right, but the stubborn fact remains that I don’t have the first fucking clue how to do it. Not in my own city, not in my own country, and not on a far away little strip of land called Gaza.

This entry was posted in police by Iris Vander Pluym. Bookmark the permalink.

About Iris Vander Pluym

Iris Vander Pluym is an artist and activist in NYC (West Village), and an unapologetic, godless, feminist lefty. Raised to believe Nice Girls™ do not discuss politics, sex or religion, it turns out those are pretty much the only topics she ever wants to talk about.

2 thoughts on “On Ferguson.

  1. One thing that anyone can do to make a real difference to someone in prison is to be a pen-pal. Atheists in prison are especially in need of compassion and support — religious prisoners get all kinds of privileges, services, and outside visitors, which atheists do not. The Center for Inquiry runs a program which introduces volunteers to prisoners with similar interests. It’s safe (letters are sent to and from a CFI post office box), it won’t take much of your time, and it can be hugely meaningful to someone in need (one of my correspondents once wrote to me, “It makes me feel human. I forgot what that was like.”). I’ve been participating for about three years, and I’ve found it immensely rewarding for all concerned!


  2. The Geneva Convention bans use of tear gas in international warfare. Why is it that local police are permitted to use a banned chemical weapon against our own citizens? Hope a strong national dialog comes out of this about reversing the direction this country is headed.

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