Election 2020: Dumbing down “law and order”

We could be having another discussion, another social discourse. About equal justice, economic rehabilitation, communal and environmental health.

Instead we are being treated to and abused by “Law and order”: the resounding crusader-like cry returns. Chaos in the streets! Feckless politicians! Wimpy Democrats! Sound the alarms!

Why now these false innuendos? Our rational orientation resists. If not now during a medical and economic catastrophe, then when better to have a discourse on equal justice. On economic rehabilitation. On communal and environmental health.

We are told that “the stakes” are high, not who the “stakeholders” are. Congressional laundry lists multiply. Congressional funding for a new FBI building bundled with extending unemployment benefits.


What was once derided as “aspirational politics” is now relief for the marginalized. This should not be a high bar on the national agenda, but here we are.

The inherent problem with “law and order” is that this dumb down eludes the power discussion, eg. whose laws, whose order? So we start with what Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. first delineated as “bad faith”: that those in power act incredulously in the face of those not in power or not enjoying power’s perquisites. The script must be turned over in order for the discussion to begin.

To avoid this ping pong game we need to reframe the discussion beyond “haves” and “have nots.”

And here’s WHERE the foul taste of “stay in place” virus protection checks in: mobility, access, an “open society,” “transparency.”. And WHY our collective experience in the time of COVID 19 is an opportunity for a new discussion about social risk and humility.

Ask the “disabled” who this past week celebrated the anniversary of the passage of the Americans Disabilities Act. Without reframing “disability” as a violation of freedom of movement and equal access to public buildings the rights of the disabled would have been curtailed perhaps for another generation. You don’t have to have a mobility challenged family member to experience this violation: try navigating a grocery cart or a baby buggy down a sidewalk.

Ask the researchers in systemic poverty, who have exposed the poor, those living under the national poverty level, as the vulnerable target of COVID 19. One “data point” of systemic poverty is the inability to move out of one’s birth environment. Not “upward” as in “upwardly mobile” but simply “moving out,” “moving away.”

If you’re poor, you are “environmentally challenged.” You are denied access to movement. Researchers have documented the physiological and emotional consequences of restricted and limited movement. Feel familiar?

Both reveal the social cost of “lock down.” But herein may lie an opportunity to finally put to rest the “law and order” conundrum: the reframed object is peaceful and stabile access to societal and cultural resources. In other words, if we can’t give “law and order,” legs, so-to-speak, than what really are we focusing on? What are we advocating for? Does “law and order” and the way we frame this term engender broader access to public safety?

Noted is the latest in “access supremacy” technology: iris detection systems designed to speed wealthy travelers through TSA lines at airports.

A metaphor for our times.

August 3–4, 2020



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Rodney Clough

Rodney Clough

Refuses to nap. Septuagenarian. Cliche’ raker. Writes weekly.