Monday, November 29, 2021

Discussion needed, not undercover investigation

There was once a great discussion.

It was in the newsrooms and around the dinner table. In the classroom and at the bar. Around the pipe, beneath the stars and in the theater. It was scrawled on the bathroom walls. Even between the sheets and in books, there was once a dialogue that most participated in.

Some call it “deep” discussion; it is the stuff philosophy books and volumes of criticism are made of. It is talking about the nature of our lives and the content of our culture. It consists of analyzing the way we are organized into political systems.

Human contemplation and group discussion are what tuned our ears to Marx and Madison, lit the fires that have engulfed corrupt regimes and propelled the wave of global democracy.

But that discussion is over. Let us snap the introspective thread that has run through human existence since communication. Fill the bars with booming Destiny’s Child; there’s nothing more to say when gathered ’round the pint.

The many men in business and politics who are more interested in their white-knuckle power grips than the sovereignty of the human spirit would like us to think that. That archaic, agonizing dialogue has been effectively phased out, they tell us. Our Constitution has perfected political philosophy. In this productive American environment, there is simply no time for that radical talk of change. It’s gone the way of the icebox, the horse and buggy and the book.

But I’ll never believe that. Then I would have to surrender to a country filled with distraught teenagers who find salvation in a slug. I would have to believe unconditionally in a country that executes people with mental disabilities. A nation that refuses to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, a hard-won international agreement to control climate change and air quality because our president says our economy can’t handle such regulations.

This is a country where people crowd around the tube to watch shows like “Cops,” which portray cowboy police officers valiantly criminalizing the poor in areas so decomposed that one wonders: “This is America?”

“Get those nasty criminals,” the audience roars.

When I watch that propaganda garbage, I wonder, “If Americans have perfected political philosophy, why is there still poverty?”

If you have had a burning discussion, you know our country’s greatness is trumped by the egotistical insistence that criticizing it is treason.

Even if you throb for our nation, you must know that the metaphysical state of Americans needs repair.

The damage of American-style unbridled capitalism has caused a kind of spiritual depravity that is so expertly obscured by those in power that I wonder what havoc this virus must wreak.

Many American children grow up lonely, in households where there is only one parent or both parents work. People’s lives are stretched longer than ever and the elderly, who benefit from the progress of medicine, are often neglected by our supposedly elite social structure.

Our segregated America is riddled with inequity. People of color are consistently slighted in our social system and then blamed for their downtrodden existence.

It saddens me that black popular culture, for instance, does not respond to its communities’ exploitation effectively. Many black music videos, so popular and influential to a large audience, are capitalistic orgies filled with sultry women simulating sex on cars and singers bragging about material wealth. That media arena is the perfect place to indict whitey, yet black stars are scrambling to beat whitey at his game.

In any arena, just stimulating the discourse can be enough. Keeping the talk alive is so cathartic. But acting on intentions for a better world is essential to the purity of our democracy and personally, very meaningful.

On our campus and in East Lansing, where a downtown beating-death is still unsolved and regular reckless drunkenness tarnishes people’s security, the perceived criminals are the ones who act on the urge to keep the dialogue alive - the activists. The MSU police have used “Red Squad”-like tactics on the student group, Students for Economic Justice. The department justified using an undercover police officer posing as a student member of the nonviolent group because members of SEJ were supposedly involved with protests around the country that turned violent. Mind you, these protests included tens of thousands of people and only a small minority were violent demonstrators.

That’s a flimsy excuse for an embarrassingly paranoid plot by the police, especially on a university campus, where many students feel the responsibility as scholars to spotlight injustice. An immediate apology to SEJ’s hard-working members must be issued to reassure our community that such ridiculous tactics will never be employed again.

Furthermore, the infiltrator, MSU police Officer Jamie Gonzales, should immediately resign as Brody Complex community policing officer, for sacrificing our community’s trust in her as an officer.

Or maybe Gonzales should attend meetings as an interested community member with a conscience instead of a mole. Maybe then she will understand what all this important, passionate talk is about.

Erica Saelens, State News wire editor, can be reached at


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