Like Clockwork– A game of Guess Who? Russian Roulette? The prevalence of police beat-down videos makes one wonder who is wearing the uniform. Is he kind, noble officer Bill, a Clone of Mr. Rogers, who honorably serves and protects or is the man in uniform simply a rogue cop, a common thug like Alex, a character in the book/movie Clockwork Orange.
In my series Like Clockwork, the tradition of cartooning is used to shrink concerns about policing into single potent images. Cartoons have played an important role in political dissent from the birth of this nation to the present. The themes are power, violence and sex. Alex, the epitome of a violent sociopath, juxtaposes the policeman and his uniform.
With Alex, there is no illusion that he will serve and protect. Dressed in black boots, a derby and white cricket uniform he will beat you to an inch of your life and if you are female, he’ll throw in a rape for good measure. The question being asked is, who is the man in the uniform and what is he policing? Obedience? Submission? Authority?
Regardless of whether there is an encounter with Alex or a rogue cop like the one who threatened to “light up” Sandra Bland or the one shown pinning down a sexy teen in a yellow bikini, the outcome is the same, trauma. All victims experience trauma the same way. The words of rape victims are the same as victims of stop and frisk, violation, fear, rage, helplessness, humiliation, and anxiety.
Aggressors are not dissimilar. Both experience satisfaction from dominance, submission, and obedience. Both have rapid heartbeats, sweaty palms, dilated pupils and adrenaline coursing through their bodies. It’s taboo to admit that during an arrest, a body on high alert feels damn good. My images say that police violence is sexual. It is law enforcement XX, fueled by adrenaline, S and M and an unwilling submissive. While there are no shiny black vinyl-zippered body suits, whips or mouth gags in police videos, one simply must wonder what’s really at play. It’s scarier, more dangerous than just his uniform, handcuffs and gun. It’s a loaded situation, a game of Guess Who, Russian roulette and good cop or bad cop.
Today’s law enforcement is a study of what we as a society hold dear, conscience or blind obedience to authority. The videos say it all. Officers seem to mimic participants in Stanley Milgram’s study on authority using teachers, learners (students) and electric shocks. Like the teachers, they go way too far in utilizing their authority. Instead of a teachers-verses-learners scenario police officers are seen on video torturing people while onlookers (some fellow men in uniform) appear to be frozen. Unlike in the study, the cell phone video is the loudest voice showing that they have gone too far.
Blind authority is a beast, left to gallop unchecked, unharnessed, like wild horses over our civil liberties. We are wide eyed, fascinated by its majestic power. We are asked to have blind pride and respect for the men in blue uniforms, to not trust our eyes. We were being told that we see kind officer Bill even though we see Alex. I am trying to disrupt the Officer Bill narrative in my cartoons. He is shown in a state of undress or in boots, badge and cricket uniform. It is truth laid bare.