Thursday, May 4, 2017
LA POLICE by BILL LAVENDER
M. EARL SMITH Reviews
La Police by Bill Lavender
(Moria Books’ Locofo Chap. Chicago, 2017)
They tell us historians, as we walk through the hallowed halls of whatever prestigious institution that we choose to matriculate at, that we, as the gatekeepers of history, exist, in part, to prevent humanity from making the same tragic mistakes that led to the black death, World War I, or the election of Donald Trump. As Bill Lavender illustrates in his volume La Police, our musings on matter past, when combined with linguistics and philosophy, serve another purpose, namely, to arm the working class with the knowledge needed to resist the tool of oppression put into place by the elite and the bourgeois, namely, the police state.
Lavender starts this volume by saying “The degree to which we consider the Police indispensable is the degree to which Police can be said to be effective.” Even this sentence is harrowingly effective; by capitalizing the world police every time it is used, Lavender treats the unit like a monolithic, repressive state. What follows is a history, both etymology of the word police and its evolution from a private, capitalist force to one that serves as a tool of neoliberal oppression. He goes on to speak, among many other things, about how the Police have been integrated into popular culture, and formed from a faceless, repressive mass to a sympathetic character, all through the medium of television (“The TV police is tire, haggard, and emotional and physical wreck”). Lavender also shatters the myth of innocent until proven guilty when he discusses how being a member of the proletariat is just cause for suspicion of crime, a point that he accents with the remark “One is a thief unless one can prove otherwise. Thievery is not merely punished; it is prevented by this pragmatic measure. Have your identity card or go to gaol.”
This generation, Lavender points out, seems ready to repress the nature of Police by co-opting one of its tools of repression: the mugshot. “The mugshot begat the passport photo which begat the selfie. It is the basis of Gay Pride, of Black Power and White Supremacy, of every racial, ethnic or gendered grouping.” In the very next sentence, however, Lavender is quick to war against the use of identity politics over class politics when he states “It is the awakening of Freud’s Ego and the reflector of Lacan’s ‘Mirror Phase.’” Thus, a warning is given: don’t co-op the tools of repression just to become repressors yourselves. Or, as Che Guevara once said: “Cruel leaders are replaced only to have new leaders turn cruel!”
From works for children to the macabre, from academic research to sports journalism, and from opinion essays to the erotic, M. Earl Smith is a writer that seeks to stretch the boundaries of genre and style. A native of Southeast Tennessee, M. Earl moved to Ohio at nineteen and, with success, reinvented himself as a writer after parting ways with his wife of eleven years. After graduating from Chatfield College (with highest honors) in 2015, M. Earl became the first student from Chatfield to matriculate at an Ivy League institution when he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. The proud father of two wonderful children (Nicholas and Leah), M. Earl studies creative writing and history at UPenn. When he’s not studying, M. Earl splits time between Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chattanooga, with road trips to New York City, Wichita, Kansas, and Northampton, Massachusetts in between.
Posted by EILEEN at 11:48 AM