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Who Stole the Soul

October 6, 2009

Friend emailed me from the USA telling me of a friend, Juan Armando Rojas, a fellow academic who is also a poet and a social activist, who was arrested, working late in his office. A victim of racial profiling. A victim of some form of paranoia that still infests the country. It is said that the police report said he was wearing a teeshirt featureing a revolutionary carrying an AK-47, with a ‘terrorist slogan’. When translated it said, ‘Everyone has everything except we who have nothing’.

I was listening to William Elliott Whitmore’s latest album in the car a couple of days ago. It’s called Animals in the Dark. And when I heard track 2 I thought of him. It’s a beautiful lament over loss, but it is not hopeless. [lyrics below]

Who stole the soul
And who stole the heart
And who took the spark from inside of me
Why can’t I breathe

And I’m afraid they won’t stop
Til all the poets have failed
Til all the good men are jailed
For nothin’ at all

Who let them take the fall

And they’ll bring devastation
And call it diplomacy
But an occupation won’t bring a nation to peace

Oh and I’m so ashamed
In these things beyond value
That we cherish so dear
I won’t let them go
No I won’t let them go
And who stole the soul
And who stole the heart
And I got back the spark from inside of me
And I can finally breathe
Hear the shuffle of my dancin’ feet

And if you get a chance, check Whitmore out in a live gig.

  1. David F permalink

    This was not a case of racial profiling at all. Officers were called to the scene by campus security. In the previous two months, two campus officers (who do not carry guns) were injured when they came upon burglaries in progress.

    There was no description of a suspect other than an open door and a light on in an office window. This is the same scenario that campus security had found earlier in the summer when they interrupted a burglary in progress and an employee was injured by the suspect.

    Officers do a search of a campus hall the same way they would any other building where there is a possible B&E in progress. The training is sound and is kept the same in each type of building so there is no confusion amongst the officers.

    Professor Rojas says he didn’t hear the police dog barking or the shouts of officers to come out, so when he finally opened the door he was placed in handcuffs by officers who had their guns drawn. Not because of his race, but because that is how they must do their job. When he was recognized he was immediately released and began to yell at the officers saying he would see them on the street without a gun or bagde. While officers viewed this as a threat, he was NEVER arrested. Being placed in handcuffs for safety reasons is not an arrest and his race had nothing to do with this. This is common procedure.

    Professor Rojas wasn’t targeted for his race, he was just caught up in a police search that scared him greatly. It would have scared anyone. But because it scared him he is now emailing his fellow intellectuals and telling only his side and failing to see that the reason police do their job in this manner is because they, like so many of us, have a family they want to go home to.

    Can you imagine what would happen if there is another campus shooting and a police force would worry about offending someone by showing up with guns drawn until they were sure of the situation?

  2. thanks david. I appreciate you commenting here and putting an alternative view. Of course from this distance I can only hear of things second and third hand, but I have to say that my information and the interpretation is coming from a friend who I trust on these matters.

    That said, your voice is an important one to hear. I fully understand the inherent complications of the role of police officers. I live and work in Northern Ireland for goodness sake where policing is a huge political issue. And while instinctively I want to support the police, I am not unaware of the mistakes they can make due to the limitations of their own cultural background and understandings.

    We do well to listen to all sides of a conflict. And while technically we might argue that being placed in handcuffs is not the same as being arrested I’m not sure if I could make the same fine distinctions if I was in that position.

    Finally, and I can only speak for the UK here, others must speak for the US, this so-called war on terror has resulted in a huge loss of personal freedoms for individuals in the name of national security. I’m not comfortable with it all, and I don’t trust the authorities to always use their powers in an unblemished way.

    I’m interested in your perspective on this.

  3. David F permalink

    In the situation that affected Professor Rojas there was no chance for racial profiling. He opened the door and was pulled out and ordered to the ground. I have read the police reports and the Sgt. on scene thought he was a white male. Another thought he was Hispanic, either way he was going to be detained for safety purposes.

    While I can completely understand why he would be frightened, I think anyone would be, his blaming it on racial profiling is where I see him crossing the line. The officers were not told there was a “Latino, black, Hispanic, Asian or Mexican” in the building. All they knew was there was a door open and a light on where they saw someone trying to peek out.

    Officers are trained to clear any building in the same manner. Guns are drawn and a systematic search is done. The canine officer announces loudly on each floor their presence because the dog is trained to bite non-officers. Because they announce their presence, their is no “stealth” or element of surprise, if anything, the officers are now at a distinct disadvantage in the case of ambush.

    Professor Rojas says he didn’t hear the officers through the thick wooden door and he had his music playing. So when he opened the door he was facing a gun. Yes, scary. He was quickly detained, which is the normal procedure for anyone, white, black, Latino, male or female etc. and released as soon as he was identified.

    The whole incident had nothing to do with the war on terror or anything beyond a single building in Delaware Ohio. It was a group of men who have families and are asked to do a job where they understand that each day could be their last. Not because of some global war, but simply because some moron could shoot them just because they wear a badge. All these men and women of law enforcement want is to see their families at the end of the day.

    Professor Rojas was unlucky to be in a building that police believed to have been broken into. The same campus had seen similar incidents where suspects assaulted campus security. He was unlucky to be found and detained, but that is the way these men must do their job to ensure their own safety. I feel it is unfortunate that Professor Rojas can’t see that they were doing a thankless job and even if he couldn’t go as far as to be thankful they did the job they did that evening in September, that maybe he could appreciate they were simply doing what their job entails. I hope one day law enforcement will help him and in retrospect he may rethink his claims of racial profiling.

    I truly appreciate your conversation on this topic and to be honest, I am very curious about Northern Ireland and your life there.

  4. David F permalink

    To address your concerns about the war on terror, I have to agree with the loss of freedom and national governments not always doing what is in the people’s best interests.

    Since you live in Northern Ireland I will share one of the thoughts I had not long after we (the USA) invaded Iraq. I wondered what the British government would ask for in return for their support. The most obvious to me was the IRA. I have to believe we have offered support in many ways to the fight against them. I am sure we have more satellite coverage of Ireland and Northern Ireland and share the data with the UK. I also think this “support” goes much deeper.

    I think it would be rather naive to think anything less.

    While I support much of the work against terrorism, I agree that the infringement upon our personal freedoms in the name of said fight goes beyond what is needed.

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