Corey Robin has an excellent post on the latest twist in the ‘General Petraeus at CUNY‘ fubar situation: students protesting Petraeus’ presence at CUNY are treated, first, to a tongue-lashing by various CUNY administrators including the University Faculty Senate, and then, when six of them are arrested, manhandled, and have the book thrown at them by New York City police, the same folks shrink into stony silence.
I don’t have anything to add to Corey’s perspicuous analysis of CUNY administrators’ continued kowtowing to the powers that be. I do, however, want to make a few remarks about what this incident shows about CUNY students and their relationship with New York City police and the rest of the city.
When videos of the CUNY students’ arrest first became available, angered by what I had seen, I posted a link to the video on Facebook and added the following intemperate status:
NYPD’s thugs are back in action. At :33 you can see four of the City’s finest holding down a student while one punches him in the back [addendum: to be more precise, in the kidneys]. And for sheer porcinity it’s hard to beat that thug at 1:44.
Unsurprisingly, when the same video made the rounds of many other sites, opinions on the police’s actions were split roughly evenly between reactions like mine, which see these actions as yet another instance of heavy-handed policing, and others, which amounted to describing the students as scruffy hooligans, not fit to lick Petraeus’ boots, who needed the ass-whipping that had been sent their way by New York’s Finest. This contrary reaction is, as noted, hardly noteworthy.
What, I think, is more problematic, is that New York’s police force, which is, I think, drawn from the same demographic as most CUNY students are, seem to hold the same blinkered opinion about them; they do not, now–having made it through the police academy, and become part of the Grand American Correctional Apparatus–feel any solidarity with them. They are committed now to protecting the Powerful and manning their barricades; they see no resonance in the struggles of these students, not even on behalf of their own children, who in all probability will attend the same city university. Surely, they aren’t dreaming that their salaries will enable them to climb up this American ladder, whose rungs are disappearing upward quicker than ever, and allow them to pay the tuition at one of those swanky schools that the plutocrats’ children go to?
The police is a unionized force made up of working class folks; its struggles should be seen by them as existing on a continuum with those of the students who attend a public university like CUNY. But so successful has the brainwashing and indoctrination of the police been, that every time they step out, booted, uniformed, swaggering and strutting on a city street, swinging their night-sticks, and see a ‘long-haired punk,’ they fail to recognize a little bit of themselves. With every blow they hand out to a protester, they merely ensure that their miserable state of endless precinct-centered resentment and bitterness will continue.
The pity is that they don’t suffer alone; they make the rest of us bear the burden of their anomie too.