Yesterday in the Washington Post, LAPD veteran and professor of homeland security Sunil Dutta published an editorial titled I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me. Black Post subscribers throughout the nation dropped their newspapers and froze. A few were shot between one and 19 times. But that wasn’t anybody’s fault, because the cops are under a lot of stress—mostly from dealing with us all day. As Dutta puts it, “It’s not the police, but the people they stop, who can prevent a detention from turning into a tragedy.” Losing my goddamned mind after the jump.
One way events in Ferguson, Missouri have affected English usage is by promoting the second sense of “disperse” as a transitive verb. To disperse as an intransitive verb, of course, is to stop demonstrating and go back to your homes. The most common sense of “disperse” as a transitive verb, with an object, is “to distribute or spread over a wide area.” That is precisely what the Missouri National Guard, the state Highway Patrol, and dozens of police with military equipment hope not to do with protests in Ferguson. When they disperse protesters—with tear gas or simply by making it illegal to stand in one place—they do it in the second, less common sense: to “cause to go in different directions.” The protest does not disperse; it gets dispersed, but the word retains a savor of consent.
What would we do without our friends? I’ll never know, because my friends are thoughtful and compassionate and ensured that I did not spend an evening alone in New York all this week. It was great, and one way I know it was great is that I hardly looked at the internet at all. Luckily for us, my friends outside New York are great, too. They sent me a steady stream of interesting articles, which just goes to show that you should stop following the news and do what my brother says. Today is Friday, and I get by with a little shelf for my pens. Won’t you enjoy support beyond your merit with me?