Sunday, April 12, 2015

Unbearable Blackness

There is a suffocating wind choking us almost daily now. It whistles through poor neighborhoods and posh suburbs and city streets and country lanes, a thick, odious sirocco filled with malevolence and meanness that scours away the facade of America as world builder and paragon of democracy. It leaves a deformity behind in our society that is ignored by many and suffered by too many more.

It is the unbearable blackness.

Unbearable, in that several hundred years of sable servitude's savagery was not erased by a continent-shaking war, nor all the legislation committed to reams of paper since. Not even as august a thing as a Constitution could hydraulically fracture out the deep wells of misbegotten bigotry buried so far down in the foundation of a nation. A few hundred, a few thousand years of gauging others by their tongues, their beliefs, and their skin, that pressure could not be released by so many pinpricks of the rough hide of a foreign-born nation.

Our European ancestors, wherever they went, saw the natives as "savages," because they were unaware of or unwilling to hear the words The Bible and absorb the sacrosanct belief that White Anglo-Saxon Protestants had been commanded by a swarthy prophet of the desert kingdom of the Israelites to go out and conquer the world that was rightfully theirs. New Testament churches driven by Old Testament zeal led to the corruption and conscription and dissolution of societies that had existed before Jesus set one foot upon the ground. They took the Savior's name, cloaked it in the God of Abraham's wrath and wrought conversion upon the "unenlightened."

That lust for the conversion of everything into a Christian kingdom overspread the Earth. Fed into its maw were tribes and villages and cities and creeds, to be converted into missions and cathedrals and gold and piety. And where the natives would not be pacified, they would be harnessed, and if that were too hard, exterminated. Commanded to "be fruitful and multiply," these European invaders took that as a tacit command to take what was needed to create God's kingdom there upon the ground and woe to those who stood before his host! If a Black body could be bent to serve the Lord, upright or upon their knees, so be it.

That has been the groundwork, that has been the fire, that has been the catalyst, that consumed all before it, left lands far and wide, barren and sere, removed of their joyous multitudes, now yoked to the plow of progress. With a the human landscape burnt and blasted, the winds could sweep up into a maelstrom, to plunge down upon the scattered children and suffer them further indignities.

Now we see it every day, almost. Darker skin thought cancerous, drawing the evil naturally down upon itself. Lady Macbeth wailed against a spot; now our brothers and sisters wail over the darkness of their skin, that attracts the fingers of death. The whitest among us act as if nothing is wrong, that they brought the stain upon themselves somehow, that their skin was always meant to be beneath the notice of Men. So many voices raised in Christian song on Sunday, spit epithets on Monday at the outrage of thousands of their Black countrymen beweeping the deaths of their brothers and sisters at the hands of White taskmasters thinly cloaked as purveyors of Law & Justice.

Even in our highest halls, those sent to govern instead throw fits when it appears a Black man is more competent, forthright, and knowledgeable than they. They curse The People for their progressiveness and seek to wound them at every turn, casting the orphan out on the street, failing to fill the bellies of hungry, denying the destitute refuge, even shunning those who fought so they might have the freedom to be petulant and peevish. They stammer and stamp their feet as the man duly elected to lead the nation succeeds despite their every impediment and roadblock and remains adored by a nation that not so long ago was on the brink of destruction.

This blackness is unbearable. That it suffocates the living with fear and hatred, that it pervades the souls of so many who claim to be the best of God's flock, that it is draped upon the bodies of too many who are gunned down in the street and left to die... it is a weight that cannot be withstood for much longer. The darkness of skin should not be the arbiter of human value. "All Men are created equal" it says & if we are to interpret that in the spirit it was meant, then no thing, no belief, no skin color, no sexual orientation, no language, no nationality should bar the individual from the Rights that are so inalienably theirs. No Black person should walk down the street with the thought in their mind that there is a target on their back and it is only a matter of time before the hunters come. It is wrong. It is unjust. It is un-American. And it is unbearable.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

His Name Was Walter Scott

He was a 50-year-old Black man.

He was pulled over for having a broken tail light on his car.

An officer confronted him. He broke and ran.

And received 8 bullets in the back for it.

From a White police officer.

The whole thing was caught on video.

I won't link to the video. You can find it easily enough. It's sickening. It's repulsive. It's irritating. It's mystifying. It's enraging.

I wrote a lament for Eric Garner (Sons And Daughters Of Rodney King) after there was a video of him being choked to death by a police officer, even though he was doing nothing that could be considered harmful or dangerous. That hearkened back to Rodney King, for like King, Garner's attacker was let off the hook. A Staten Island District Attorney did a slapdash job of presenting a case and a grand jury refused to convict. The only person charged with anything was the man who took the video.

The death of Walter Scott, more brutal and violent than that of Eric Garner, might have been just another source of outrage, protest, condemnation for the Black community and, ultimately, ambivalence by the White community, but the officer involved was arrested and charged with murder. His after action report read like so much bad fiction compared to the reality of the unblinking camera eye. That he felt no compunction to honesty, spinning tissues of obfuscation into the whole cloth of "fearing for his life," points to how "acceptable" we, as a society, have allowed this to become.

These police officers, they are not the Sergeant Joe Fridays of "Dragnet" or the Lennie Briscoes of "Law & Order"; those are fabrications that Hollywood purveys in an effort to secure ratings. These are White men, mainly, who have deep seated veins of casual bigotry running through the valleys of their minds. They see the Black person as automatically the villain, the criminal, the threat. This default value denies the flight and energizes the fight, and the moral circuit breaker that should snap before they brandish a weapon is fused shut, leading to hails of lead and bleeding bodies in the street, often unarmed.

If the circle of White-Officer-on-Black-Person violence and murder is to end, this may be the first crack that breaks the linkage. It may be. Innocent until proven guilty, there is still a trial to be navigated, a jury to be seated, and an array of law enforcement and justice officials to be overcome, all of whom are naturally predisposed to believe the officer if infallible and honest. It makes the landings at the Normandy beaches seem a Sunday stroll through the park.

As Eric Garner taught us, not even the clearest evidence of impropriety can guarantee charges, let alone a guilty verdict. George Zimmerman, not even a police officer, was let off even though there was no solid evidence Trayvon Martin ever posed a threat. For the Justice system to earn it's name back in this case, it will have to set aside all the prejudices and predispositions as to the stalwart trustworthiness of a police officer, and judge his actions as a man, a man emboldened by the shield on his chest to follow a course of action that no one should ever follow. The death of Walter Scott must become a watershed moment, like Selma, if we are ever to disentangle ourselves from the skein of bigotry and racism still clinging tightly to the fabric of America.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Oafs Of Office

Any Progressive may think it's cute to poke fun at people like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, et. al., as one by one they enter the arena to do vainglorious combat to determine which of them will represent their party in the race toward the Presidency. Derogatory terms such as "clown car" and memes with Republican candidates in grease paint and big shoes might tickle the funny bone, but they detract from the real fear that should pervade the 2016 Presidential Campaign: that one of them might become President.

This idea should frighten you. It should leave you in cold sweats at night in bed. It should make you run out to find the nearest Progressive candidate of your choice and volunteer.

It doesn't.

Progressives, unlike their Conservative counterparts, don't seem to be in a lather over what is the sure threat to the country: another run of big spending, grandiose defense budgets, and cuts to entitlements, all put on the already overwhelmed American credit card. The meddling in the affairs of nations and the trashing of America's credibility as a world leader by bowing to pressure from "allies."

We should be afraid. These people have made it plain that, given the power of the Presidency, they will implement strategies and ideas that have led to economic, social, political, and global calamities in the past and will do so again in the future. They represent poor planning, bad management, ineptitude, and politicking on a grandiose scale. Every one of them has black marks on their record that would make them problematic candidates for a loan, let alone the Presidency.

But right now, social media is filled with tittering and ribbing and tomfoolery, as Progressives laugh at them and take the threat as little more than pompous chest-thumping. "They'll NEVER be President!" is the common refrain, from a pack of Progressives who sat by and watched as the 2014 mid-term elections went to some of these self-same "clowns." And why? Because Progressives COULD NOT BE BOTHERED TO VOTE. Not all mind you - I did. Many I know did. But the fact remains: too many DID NOT. End result: a Congress that is now even more dysfunctional that the previous one.

Are you willing to just sit there and think to yourself "it'll all be OK," when history has proven how fallacious that argument is? It is now a year before the first round of primaries. The Republican host will spend it scratching, clawing, and spouting in a vain effort to provide a coherent candidate. For now, everyone has anointed Hillary Clinton the Democratic front-runner, even though she is not necessarily the best person for the job. And the vast majority of Progressives have taken the "Bull Run" approach to politics, riding their carriages out to watch the spectacle, only to have the war come at them at a feverish clip and drive them home running.

We have time now, fellow Progressives, to organize, lay in ammunition, and prepare to lay siege to Conservatism's blight on our nation. We can, in fact, turn the Republican extravaganza into the sideshow it is shaping up to be, if we act now. We cannot sit idly by and simply hope the Republicans will self-destruct; we have to everything in our power to make it happen. We have to set the records straight. We have to show the American people just what these ne're-do-wells of the GOP represent to our nation: a return to policies we have barely lived through in the past. America's Progressive center must assert itself and soon, or in 2016, the "joke" will be on us.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sons And Daughters Of Rodney King

Rodney King was supposed to be the turning point.

LAPD officers caught red-handed, on tape, beating him senseless. No way the officers could not be indicted.

Guess what happened.

The turning point that was Rodney King only allowed us to turn a complete circle. A circle that lead to Amadou Diallo. To Sean Bell. To Trayvon Martin. To Eric Garner. To Mike Brown. To John Crawford. To Tamir Rice.

Circling, ever circling around a fact of life in America: Liberty and Justice is for some, not for all.

Of course, even Rodney King was just another circle back from Emmett Till. And James Earl Chaney. And Medgar Evers. And Malcolm X. And Martin Luther King, Jr.

Circling, ever circling from a time when it was clear that a large portion of America saw Blacks as sub-human, as slaves, as property.

The calendar may say we are in the 21st Century as the Earth processes around the Sun, but in the hearts and minds of many Americans, it is still the 18th Century. To them, America has been poisoned by the continual struggle for racial equality. They still hold to Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's credo, that Blacks do not have rights White men should respect. This thread of racism is so woven into the fabric of our nation, that even though it has long petered out, it simply continues to be pulled along.

"Thou shall not murder." There are no qualifiers on that sentiment, no exceptions outlined. A fundamental law of all human societies, it should know no color or creed. And yet, here we are, mere hours after a video of a cop choking a gasping Eric Garner to death could not bring about the indictment of the officer in question and we have to ask: why?

You know the answer.

You see, it's not enough that we see the ugly thread of racism and attempt to pull it, for when there are too few of us doing the pulling, we cannot hope to dislodge it. Those who need to pull are White; the profusion of other races have been pulling a great while now, but cannot make headway because the force resisting them is too strong. That strength is not because the bigoted are strong, it's because the vast majority of White people sit on the thread, inert, generating a resistance others cannot easily overcome.

Yes, you and I, we Whites, we stumble along through life wrapped in the knowledge that our history books tell us we are righteous, we have done many great things, and that we have established a nation built on Peace and Justice for a long time.

And a lot of it is lies.

Maybe lies is too harsh; more like half-truths and obfuscations. Ask any member of a Native tribe if our arrival in North America "improved" anything.

The vast bulk of White America sits upon the thread of bigotry, thinking little of it, assuming that all is right with the world. They refuse to see their place in the injustice that Blacks suffer at the hands of White police and White gun owners. The bigoted simply yammer about "Black on Black" crime, as if there were no other form of crime. A pipeline has been built to line the pockets of investors by shuttling Black children from the womb to the iron cell and there is no hew and outcry by White America.

The blood is on our hands, where we turn a blind eye to such injustices, where we take for granted how secure we are in our rights. The Black man pulled over for a traffic stop may wind up being shot by a police officer for merely attempting to get out his license; the White man is given a scolding and sent on his way. That disparity has never been more evident now, but that evidence seems to only drive many Whites to work harder to ignore it.

The change must come. The change must be led by White America, because, frankly, we are the only ones with the power to force the change. To do this, we must accept our role in the disparity. We must acknowledge our privilege and all that it buys us. We must deny that privilege, forswear it, and work to ensure that the words "Liberty and Justice For All" are more than words, but the code by which our nation is known.

It is high time, that the circle be broken.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

American Crucible

Ferguson, Missouri was licked by the flames of unrepentant grief and anger, when her son, Mike Brown, was judged to have been unworthy of being given a voice by the justice system which supposedly protects him and all Americans from the murderous excesses of society. A police officer, who by many accounts took unwarranted action unfettered by justification, was allowed the triumph of spilling blood in the street.

Ferguson burned.

We revile the idea of violence. The violence of police, who seem less interested in protecting and more interested in assaulting. The violence of poverty, that causes a community to be sown with the seeds of despair. The violence of rage, unloosed with little provocation when the mood suits it. Violence in any form is despicable. We cannot condone the actions of those who thought bricks and bottles were appropriate counterpoints to grief and anger. We cannot applaud those who chose to punish innocent shop owners for the failures of a justice system by torches and thievery. No amount of violence makes the thing better or more palatable.

But we can understand.

For in the breast of every decent and compassionate American is a heart pounding, picturing a Black man sprawled on the ground, a White officer standing over him as rivulets of blood soak the pavement. Within that heart, our blood cries out to that blood, as it is forced to our brain, carrying the chemical equivalent of sorrow, grief, and above all, rage. Like the flames that devoured Ferguson, our anger flows into the tiny recesses of our brains, devouring hope and decency, leaving a furious ash, that would have us strike out and smite those who so gleefully revel in the actions of a rogue police officer.

We, too, are consumed by fire.

Mike Brown and Darren Wilson are far from symptoms of the wider scope that is a society still shot through with racism and hatred, unbent and undimmed despite a century-and-a-half's passing. They are the wound, that now should cause the blood of the body politic in America to flow, to bring the platelets that are required to heal the wound and the antibodies to inoculate us from further outbreaks of this malevolent disease that clings to life within. For when invaded, the body will turn to fever to try to burn away the invading organism, to deprive it of the conditions that allow for its growth. The cycles of fever and chills are meant to break the grip of the infection, to give the body time to build immunity.

So, too, must it be with Ferguson, Missouri. Let the fire smolder and let the chill of November descend. Let us cleanse the American body of this vile disease, which blemishes us and cripples us. Let it be known that no decent American will tolerate the denigration and destruction of any among us, no matter color nor creed. Let it be known that all who are citizens of America have equal rights under LAW, and where that law will not protect all, let us do what we must to ensure it does. Racism CANNOT prevail. We will NOT allow it. We will provide the antidote and the American body will take it in full measure.