Monday, April 30, 2018

Who Will Say Her Name?

On April 12, 2018 in Shreveport, Louisiana, Johnathan Robinson intentionally shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Rannita Williams during a live stream on the Facebook social media platform. After the shooting, he engaged the police in an hour-long stand-off wherein he shot at officers, wounding one. After his arraignment, a judge set Robinson's bail at $2.5 million. Previously, Robinson had a felony conviction in 2015 stemming from a domestic assault for which he received probation and a suspended sentence.

The following is what people are NOT going to talk about.

Robinson received a slap on the wrist for a vicious, aggravated assault. Rather than simply saying the penal code is broken, slaps on the wrist are usually attributed to wealth, privilege, maleness or whiteness. However, Robinson is not wealthy, privileged or white and if it's one thing they love to do in Louisiana, it's put black men in prison. Therefore, it boggles the mind why he wasn't charged with domestic abuse aggravated assault which carries a max 5 year term and MIGHT have saved Rannita Williams life.

As not only a felon but also a domestic abuser, Johnathan Robinson was doubly prohibited from buying or owning a firearm. How did he get one? He discharged his firearm 6 times in Rannita Williams direction and prevented help from reaching her for over an hour. No background check, no magazine restriction, no gun-specific ban--no firearm regulation of any kind--would have saved her life from this attack. The only thing that might have given her a chance would have been shooting him before he shot her.

The police forgot the Golden Rule of policing in America: black suspects are NOT to be apprehended alive. Especially not black men that shoot at and/or wound officers. Given the disproportionate number of black males in prison, they forget this rule quite frequently, so it might just be an unremarkable fact.

After Robinson intentionally murdered a mother live for the entire world to see, engaged in a stand-off with cops, shot a cop and became combative in jail...a judge determined he should be granted bail. I doubt Robinson has the bond price and I doubt anyone is going to provide it for him, so he'll sit in jail where a danger to the community belongs. However, you might recall a certain shooting, by a man of a certain race, using a weapon of a certain kind, against people of a certain other race in Tennessee that has held American attention for the last two weeks. That alleged mass murderer was granted bail also, but the difference is there was community uproar and his bond was revoked--as it should have been. As is typical, when their isn't much to gain politically, those crying foul the loudest disappear.

Neither Donald Trump nor the NRA has spoken out against this act of senseless violence...and neither has Barack Obama, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, Beyonce, Corey Booker or Angela Davis. And, nobody with a voice will. Nobody cares about the day-in-and-day-out violence that is a byproduct of social and moral decay. Nobody cares about suffering that isn't polarizing, and can't be monetized or politicized. Rannita will get no hashtag and no law, because, frankly, nobody cares about the Rannitas of this world. Nobody will say her name.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sinners, Saints and Everyone In Between

In Catholic art Satan, Adam/Eve, Nephilim, fallen angels, Judas Iscariot and other disgraced souls are often displayed in poses and with expressions that suggest isolation, shame and anguish.

Let that marinate. Some more. A little more. Moooooore. Okay. Why did I mention it? Don't cheat. Why is it important? Are you ready?

Sinners are prominently displayed in catholic art.

Not hidden. Not ignored. Not swept under the rug. Not tucked away in a place no one will ever visit. No, the most repulsive characters in the Bible are exquisitely rendered in beautiful and awe-inspiring artwork in churches, in squares, in cemetaries, on official buildings and museums.

Shame is the national pastime of Catholics. Remembering the liars, the betrayers, the Rebels and the disgraced (and their fates) is important to the development of faith and obedience. Secularly, from a literary point-of-view, these characters are allegory for the folly of pride, arrogance, hatred, disobedience and other vices.

If Americans were half as smart as they think they are, Confederate symbolism would be as well.

These so-called "heroes" of the Confederacy should be displayed like Biblical sinners in Catholic art...heads down-turned, faces showing their guilt, blood on their hands shielding their faces from unseen scornful stares--and the Coup de grace--a plaque that reads:

"Here stands the traitor, slaver, bigot and terrorist Nathan Bedford Forrest who dedicated his life to hatred and the murder of innocents. This statue, erected by We The People of these United States, stands so that future generations may know of his shame and remember the patriots who gave their lives to preserve this Imperfect Union and provide liberty and justice for all. Let no man, woman or child repeat the crimes of Nathan Bedford Forrest."

Boom! Two birds, one stone. Racists get to have their heroes on display and non-racists don't have to see traitors glorified in public places. Confederate symbols would not be insensitive to Black Americans and would grow to be a bitter poison twisting the bowels of people who long for the antebellum days. Not a glorious homage to the rebel spirit, but an allegory to the folly of bigotry. Win-win.

Unfortunately, Americans don't like "win-win..." they like "I win." So, you get what we had here last week: one group of children trying to out shout another group of children and an innocent life lost over...what? Nothing...that's what. Time and time again, America makes this same mistake, believing they can force others to their way of thinking and destroy any enemy set before them.

Unfortunately, ideas cannot be destroyed with cannons or wrecking balls. Not in the American Civil War. Not in World Wars I and II. Not in Korea, Vietnam, China or Russia. Not during the Modern Civil Rights Movement. Not in The Middle East. Not in Africa. Not in Cuba. And, we won't destroy it today by pulverizing monuments to hatred, now that the hatred in some Americans' hearts has reared its ugly head again.

Driving these people underground only ensures they will come back stronger, more virulent and more dangerous than they were to begin. If we have learn ANYTHING from the last CENTURY of ruining Middle Eastern countries is should be

Destroying the symbols extremists revere does nothing to destroy the extremist's reverence for extremism; it only serves as validation that his or her extremist beliefs are righteous and just.

I have often repeated the phrase: "we must be intolerant or intolerable things." However, the ONLY way to destroy an evil ideology is to replace it with one that is pure and good. Therefore, we must abandon our almost pathological desire to be right, to win and bend others to our will. We must be willing to be cursed, be spat upon, turn the other cheek and truly embrace our brothers and sisters. We must be willing to weather the storm of racist tirades, conservative indifference and  liberal tantrums. To get rid of the most intolerable evil, we must tolerate those possessed by it.

The road to the mind is through the heart. Where the heart leads, the soul follows. Traveling that road is an impossible journey for a vindictive, self-righteous and me-centric society, who only has a hammer and sees every problem as a nail. If we are going to change the minds of others--and eradicate the disease that is rotting away the soul of this once great nation--we must start by first changing our own.

P.S.: No Catholics were harmed in the making of this blog. Agree or disagree with the wars they fought, please show some love to those that answered the call and fulfilled their oaths to the Constitution with honor and bravery. Instead of continuing to revile each other, stop your congressional representatives from sending them to fight another immoral and unjust war. Don't screw it up this time, America. We may not get another chance.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One Nation Indivisible

When I started to write this, my intention was to have a thought experiment where we pretended slavery didn't exist in America in the 1860s and I would ask "ok then, why did we go to war?"

I realized that was a fool's errand.

The South had an economic and political strangehold on America, and they wanted to expand that into the new territories. Furthermore, they believed the central government had no right to impede them.

How did they get control?

Through slavery.

The wealthiest agricultural magnates in the South--the 1%-ers of the Antebellum days--used forced labor to make ridiculous profits. They effectively lobbied to get disproportionate congressional representation based upon the slaves who were not free to leave the south. And finally, they successfully lobbied to have any escaped slaves returned. It was the perfect business model, protected by the authority of the central government--an authority they would later rebuke.

Forget about morality and essential liberty. Forget about the suffering of black people. Just put it out your mind. The only way to make government fair and representative and to make the market free--duties of the government enshrined in the constitution--was to abolish slavery.

The South needed to preserve and extend slavery to maintain economic supremacy. Abolitionists wanted to end slavery because it was immoral. Blacks wanted to end slavery because they had been languishing under the lash for 400 years. Poor white southerners wanted to end slavery so they could compete fairly. The North wanted to end slavery to break the back of the South. And, the government had a duty to end slavery because it was unconstitutional.

It was ALL about slavery.

Lincoln had a plan to preserve the Union and end the abomination of slavery. He wanted to gradually wean the south off the slavery tit through compensated voluntary manumission. It was not ideal, but it fulfilled the constitutional and moral obligation of the States in the most painless way possible.

How did the south react? They refused. They turned their back on the Union and attacked their former compatriots on the the grounds of states' right and the financial well-being of 1%-ers. They did not care about the constitutional need to end slavery. They did not care about loyalty to their country. They did not care about a free, competitive economy. They didn't care about the inalienable rights of slaves. They didn't even want to coexist in peace as two separate nations.

If this was anyone else except our great great grandparents, we would say the "Rebels" were selfish, disloyal, stubborn, immoral and foolhardy. But, because we idolize that prideful rebel spirit, we whitewash what they really did and what it meant.

At the point they seceded, raised a new flag and called themselves the Confederate States they were no longer American. They're history is NOT our history. Furthermore, when they attacked the United States, they became no different than Imperial Japan, Communist Russia, Nazi Germany or ISIS.

What loyal American patriot flies the black flag of ISIS? Who dons a swastika and gives the Roman salute? Who reveres the crescent and the hammer of communism? If any American of Islamic faith, Russian or German heritage did, they would be reviled. Japanese Americans won't even talk about old Imperial Japan. British expats never speak of the "good ol' days" when America was still British. Mexican Americans don't erect statues to the Spaniards who died in the Mexican-American War. Confederate symbols and "heroes," however... they are special. They have been (white)washed clean and, somehow, made holy.

We born in this country, we have a common history ALL can remember with pride--American history. Americans are pioneers, freedom fighters, liberators, innovators, discoverers, philosophers, makers of exquisite art and soulful music. We conquered the wild and reached for the stars. We harnessed the power of nature by splitting the atom and connected the world with the internet. We have fought genocide, famine and plagued. We destroyed fascism, totalitarianism and communism. We have spread freedom and democracy the world over. We were the original Rebels of modernity; all free, democratic republics are the progeny of America. It means something to be American. Despite all this deep American history, some Americans want to glorify the 4 years when we couldn't get our shit together.

And that... is truly sad.