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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Open Letter to Governor Jerry Brown

Dear Jerry -

We met several years ago, when the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University - of which I was then Chair - invited you to give one of our annual lectures about Marshall McLuhan.   You and I had the opportunity to have an excellent, wide-ranging talk about media and society, prior to your lecture.   I was already an admirer of your perceptive vision and understanding of our society.  I consider of our conversation one of the best I've had with anyone.   I was, therefore, delighted with your re-entry into politics, and cheered when you were again elected Governor of California, even though I'm a New Yorker, through and through.

But with this in mind, I've been stunned to see what your police have doing in your state.  And I find your lack of public response incomprehensible.

What on Earth is going on with you and the state of California?

A former Marine - an Iraq War veteran - was shot point blank in the head by a rubber bullet, landing him in the hospital in critical condition.   A person who dared to point a video camera at police in another protest was shot at point blank range in the body with a rubber bullet.  Just last night, I saw a video on YouTube of your police beating students who dared to stand up for their First Amendment rights at Berkeley.

What on Earth is going on in California, and why are you doing nothing about it?

As you must know, none of the Occupy protesters in these incidents were the least bit violent.  In some cases, a few raised their voices a little.  All of this is their right under the First Amendment, to "peaceably assemble".

I am surprised and deeply disturbed and saddened that you seem unwilling or unable to use the power of your office to curb your police.  Do you think rubber bullets which send citizens to the hospital in critical condition are a proper response to people who are assembling and raising their voices in protest of the economic and other inequalities in this country?  Whether the police are local, or even security forces at a private institution, this brutality is happening in your state, and, as Governor, it is your responsibility to stop it.

I know you were once in a seminary, and thought of joining the priesthood.   I was always glad that you brought that sensitivity, that awareness of the human condition, to your important work in government.

The nation, and your state, stand at a crossroads now.  You can make s decisive difference in the outcome, and help our nation continue on it path to a better democracy.   You can become a national leader on the side of the angels and the Constitution in this.

Please stop your out of control police, before lives are lost, and you miss your chance.

-Paul Levinson, PhD
Professor of Communication and Media Studies
[Chair of Department, 2002-2008]
Fordham University

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