Obama gives final address at U.N.
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, President Barack Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York for the last time. His remarks covered a wide range of issues, from domestic disputes to international relations stagnation to reflecting on his legacy as an international policy maker. His tone was of a nature that reflected a “deeper urgency…for international order,” a departure from the often lighter tone of his previous seven addresses to the international organization (New York Times, “Obama, in Farewell to U.N., Paints Stark Choices for Unsettled World”, 09.19.2016).
Obama also devoted some of his speaking time to discuss the role of nationalism domestically and internationally. In regards to American popular opinion, the President noted that there existed a sharp divide between “aggressive nationalism” and “crude populism.” The President anticipated that there would be a hard road ahead if the world consolidated into these two factions.
Building on this comment, the President alluded to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his plan for constructing a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico, without explicitly mentioning him. “A nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself,” he declared (CNN, “Obama at UN warns Americans against walls and nationalism”, 09.20.2016).
Many news outlets commented on the President’s unusually pessimistic tone, especially in comparison to that of his first address in 2009, which was full of promise and hope for the future, hope to solve issues like the tension between Israel and Palestine. In last Tuesday’s speech, however, he addressed the issue in only one brief sentence, noting, “[Both states would] be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land” (New York Times).
Obama also spoke about the conflict in Syria, a favorite focus for other speeches and discussions at the U.N. last week. The same day of Obama’s speech, Secretary of State John Kerry was working with international leaders to re-establish a cease-fire in the region. Obama emphasized that in such a violent, tumultuous and dangerous situation, no one will emerge the victor; there is nothing to be won. Instead, he argued, “We’re going have to pursue the hard work of diplomacy that aims to stop the violence and deliver aid to those in need and support those who pursue a political settlement and can see those who are not like themselves as worthy of dignity and respect” (New York Times).
Russia was another topic of contention that day, specifically, the nation’s encroachment on Ukraine–an ongoing military conflict that began in 2014. Obama provided a word of advice, saying, “If Russia continues to interfere in the affairs of its neighbors…over time, it’s also going to diminish its stature and make its borders less secure” (CNN).
This being Obama’s last speech to the general assembly, he spent some time reviewing the progress made under his administration. In addition to the reversal of the international economic recession at the beginning of his first term and the nuclear arms deal with Iran, he recounted, “We opened relations with Cuba, helped Colombia end Latin America’s longest war, and we welcome a democratically elected leader of Myanmar to this assembly” (The Guardian, Obama’s final UN assembly address: ‘At this moment we all face a choice’, 09.20.2016).
The main underlying theme of his address was that the world today is at a crossroads, one which will have profound impact on the future. He claimed that the whole world now faces a difficult choice. “We can choose press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration,” he proffered. “Or we can retreat into the world sharply divided, and ultimately in conflict, along age-old lines of nation and tribe and race and religion” (The Guardian).
—Maya Sterling, Guest Reporter
Police violence shakes Tulsa
Trigger warning: police brutality
Terence T. Crutcher’s final moments were spent on the sunbaked asphalt of 36 Street North, in Tulsa, OK. His SUV had broken down before he could make it home from a music appreciation class, and a police encounter turned deadly for the 40-year-old.
Officer Betty Jo Shelby, who was charged with Crutcher’s death last Friday, had been on her way to handle a domestic violence call when she spotted Crutcher’s stalled car blocking the road. The officer got out of her cruiser and began questioning Crutcher about the vehicle. An affidavit published on Sept. 22 reads, “He was mumbling to himself and would not answer any of Officer Shelby’s questions” (The Daily Beast, “Tulsa DA: Cop ‘Overreacted’ by Shooting Terence Crutcher,” 09.22.2016). He then began to walk back towards his vehicle, hands in the air, allegedly ignoring Shelby’s calls to stop.
Many more officers arrived on the scene soon after: three by cruiser, two–one of whom, David Shelby, is Officer Shelby’s husband–by police helicopter. Video recording taken from the helicopter shows how Shelby, a white police officer, ultimately gunned down Crutcher, an African-American civilian (The Daily Beast).
In a video tweeted out on Sept. 19 by the account Unstripped Voice, a platform advocating racial, social and economic equality, the officers can be heard discussing the series of events. An abrupt shift in the camera angle obfuscates the moments between Crutcher reaching his car and the time up until Shelby shot him. “Time for the Taser, I think,” says one officer. “I got a feeling that’s about to happen,” responds another, adding, “Looks like a bad dude. Could be on something.” “Shots fired!” Shelby can be heard yelling as Crutcher collapses.
The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that Crutcher had died from a gunshot wound to the chest. His death was promptly ruled a homicide, thus catapulting the Sept. 16 shooting into the national limelight (News Channel 4, “Oklahoma Medical Examiner Releases Terence Crutcher’s Preliminary Autopsy Reports,” 09.23.2016).
After Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler declared Shelby responsible for “unlawfully and unnecessarily” gunning down an unarmed man, he officially charged her with one count of first-degree manslaughter a week after the initial incident. She turned herself in promptly thereafter. While the charge for first-degree manslaughter in Oklahoma ranges from four years to life, Shelby was released on $50,000 bail later that day (CNN, “Tulsa Police Officer Charged with Manslaughter,” 09.23.2016).
Shelby’s troubling history of domestic disputes and excessive force complaints were brought to light after video of the shooting was made public. The discoveries highlight the contrived nature behind efforts media outlets take to demonize minority victims of police brutality while humanizing the accused. Such stories include Times reporter John Eligon proclaiming that Michael Brown, a Black teenager killed by then-officer Darren Wilson, was, in fact, “no angel” as well as the repeated references to Trayvon Martin’s drug use by countless news sources.
Adding to this recurring narrative, public scrutiny of Shelby’s character changes the paradigm of how racially motivated police violence is being reported (The Huffington Post, “Cop Who Shot Terence Crutcher Has History of Drug Use, Domestic Disturbances,” 09.22.2016).
However, despite these hints of a possible change in public mindset, the problem of police brutality still remains, its frequency seemingly unchanged. The ongoing occurrence of deaths similar to Crutcher’s was made even more apparent as news of yet another police shooting rocked Charlotte, NC (The New York Times, “Yielding to Pressure, Charlotte Releases Video of Keith Scott Shooting,” 09.24.2016).
—Megan Howell, Guest Reporter