RPCV Writer Paul Eggers on Pepper-Spray at Davis

[Paul Eggers (Malaysia 1976-78) teaches creative writing at Chico State in California. He has a PhD from the University of Nebraska and is the author of two books (Saviors, a novel; and How the Water Feels, a collection of short stories). Besides the Peace Corps, Paul was also a UN relief worker and his fiction is focus mostly on first-world/third-world interactions.

On Sunday, Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000-02, Madagascar 2002-03) made the wise suggestion that I reach out to Paul and ask him for his take–as a California academic–about the pepper spraying last Friday at the University of Davis.

Paul emailed me earlier today and this is some of what he had to say.]

“I’m outraged by the thuggery shown by the police, as well as by the mealy-mouthed initial response from the Davis chancellor, as well as by the ludicrous claim by the police administration that they were “surrounded” by students and felt threatened.  There was no way out of the circle of students?  Even in full riot gear? Ridiculous. The police weren’t trying to escape. They were not being threatened.

“What amazes me more and more nowadays is the apparent sense by those in power that any sort of denial, no matter how patently nonsensical, is good enough to appease the public. The right-wing, in particular, seems not to care if their statements mesh with reality; and it’s hard not associate the right-wing with a focus on maintaining order and the status-quo.

“The pepper-spray incident, to my mind, is significant if you place it into a larger political context, which will of course culminate in next year’s presidential elections.  Right-wing thuggery and right-wing fear-mongering may likely be the weapon of choice by what used to be the Republican party, but which is now a rogue’s gallery of nut-jobs, let-them-eat-cake billionaire obscene-ocrats, and morally bankrupt politicians.  This is political porn, a direct, crass exploitation of American wealth and citizenry made socially acceptable by cloaking itself in layers of deceitful imagery and fantasy.  It seems to me that this kind of political behavior conforms to our aggregate notions of politics in the developing world.  But now it’s coming home: the plutocrats, the thugs, and the pandering Republican policy wonks are to my mind a long-range threat to American democracy.”

Thanks, Paul. Well said and how true.


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  • I work at one of the California State campuses about an hour south of Davis and the students here were really shocked by the youtube videos of the pepper spray incident. What bothered me was the relaxed casual attitudes of the campus police; they were smiling, occasionally laughing, and the officer who pepper sprayed the students did so in the most off-hand way imaginable. The UC Davis students, it seemed to me, were running an extremely peaceful demonstration.

  • John and Paul. This member of the “rogue’s gallery of nut-jobs, let-them-eat-cake billionaire obscene-crats, and morally bankrupt politicians….plutocrats, thugs, and pandering Republican policy wonks… and long range threat to American democracy” looks forward to facing you in the elections next year. While I am not sure where I fall in the “forces of evil” under the black flag, I would assume you will be in the vanguard of the “righteous” under the white flag.

  • We can just remain angry or we can begin to work. How many of us have some connection to universities in states where new regulations are being established to limit students from voting? What can be done to make sure these new laws do not disenfranchise students and others?

    I am considering various options for political work this year. Are you?

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