Plaid Adder's Journal
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 5,518
Number of posts: 5,518
Since the verdict, I have heard the following reasonable explanations for why the jury did the right thing (I'm going to ignore unreasonable ones):
* The jury had no choice but to acquit Zimmerman given the judge's instructions.
* The jury had no choice but to acquit Zimmerman given the content of the Stand Your Ground law.
* The jury had no choice but to acquit Zimmerman because the prosecution overreached by asking for 2nd degree murder instead of manslaughter.
* The jury had no choice but to acquit Zimmerman because the prosecution didn't make a good enough case.
And this is my response:
Let's assume for the sake of argument that any or all of the above statements are true. That does not make what happened Sunday night right. It only makes it more wrong. The more reasons we can come up with for justifying the jury's finding, the more institutions are implicated in this hideously wrong result.
* If the jury found him not guilty because of the judge's instructions, then the judge is wrong.
* If the jury found him not guilty under the terms of the Stand Your Ground law, then the Stand Your Ground Law is wrong.
* If in the context of the local justice system it is 'overreaching' to consider what happened to Trayvon Martin murder, then something is SERIOUSLY wrong with the local justice system.
* If the prosecution didn't make a case that could certainly have been made, then the prosecution is wrong.
Armchair lawyers, go ahead and have fun figuring out whether they delivered the 'right' verdict under the immediate circumstances. I don't hold it against you. But however you slice it, this verdict is a symptom of something wrong that goes far beyond the boundaries of that courtroom.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Mon Jul 15, 2013, 11:18 AM (20 replies)
I remember where I was on April 29, 1992 when I heard that the LA cops who were videotaped beating up Rodney King had been acquitted. I couldn't believe it. It seemed incredible to me that when there was actual ocular proof of a group of cops beating up an unarmed man, you could not get a conviction.
I soon noticed something interesting and, until I learned to integrate it into my worldview, painful. I was at the time living in a southern state and my social circle was about 50% white and 50% African-American. My white friends were shocked and outraged and could not believe it. My African-American friends were outraged; but they were neither shocked nor surprised.
The riots began and went on for days and my friends and I had a number of very tense conversations. I remember one of my African-American male friends talking about what it was like to walk down the street and see people start locking their car doors as you pass by. It was perhaps the first time in my life that I truly understood that there were basic things about this country that I, because I was white, did not understand. One of those things is how much fear is still mobilized against Black men. Another is that a Black man who has been beaten or--as the Amadu Diallo case later demonstrated--shot to death by the police generally does not, in this country, get justice, no matter how obvious or well-documented the evidence of police brutality might be.
That was 1992. It is now 2013. Twenty-one years later, this has gotten no better. No; it has gotten worse. Because now, in order to shoot an unarmed Black male and get away with it, you don't even have to be a cop.
That part of it, I have to say, is shocking. It is as surprising to me as the acquittal of the four police officers who beat Rodney King was back in 1992. But it shouldn't have been. We have all seen ample evidence of the power of the 'stand your ground' narrative in the post-Newtown conversations about gun control. All this verdict does, really, is reveal in an unusually stark way the racist anxieties, fantasies, and nightmares on which things like the "stand your ground" law are based.
With what I have lived through and what I have learned I ought not to be surprised. I ought to have known this would happen. I let myself believe that things like this could not happen any more. But they can. Just as the Texas legislature can pass a bill that effectively bans abortion in the biggest state in the nation. Just as the Supreme Court can strike down the Voting Rights Act. Progress is neither linear nor inevitable. The rights you win are yours only as long as you can fight off the people who still don't want you to have them.
Another thing that 1992 taught me is that no matter how much it hurts me to have my illusions about justice and the rule of law and the value of human life in this country destroyed, the news of this verdict does not and can never hurt me as hard or in as many ways as it will hurt African-Americans. My skin will always protect me from the worst this country can do, just as the life I have been privileged to lead inside this skin has protected me from knowing what that worst really is. To those of us who are not so protected, all I can say is that it makes me sick to think about what, if I had a son who was African-American, I would be telling him about what just happened. We try to teach our daughter, who like us is of mostly European descent, about justice and injustice and race and class and everything else and she does cognitively grasp these things. But we do not have to say: you will have to be careful now where you walk, because after this it is open season on people who look like us.
I hate this. I hate it all: the fetishization of the gun, the assumption that the sanctity of property outweighs the value of human life, the blatant fucking racism that is so heartbreakingly obvious not only in the crime but in the treatment of it everywhere from the police to the media, and most of all the way that blatant as that racism is people are still pretending it doesn't exist.
Normally I try to end a post on an up note; but at this moment, I've got nothing. This is a sad, sad, sad fucking day.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Sat Jul 13, 2013, 11:05 PM (24 replies)
I hear these questions in the media, social and otherwise, and I'm just going to answer them here:
"How come we can lock down an entire major east coast city over a bomber, but cannot get pitifully basic gun regulations through Congress? Why is something like Newtown, or like the New Orleans parade massacre, not treated the same way we treat incidents labeled as 'terrorism'?"
Well, this is an important question. It has a simple but terrifying answer:
Terrorism is a threat to the state. Gun violence, so far--and Republican rhetoric being what it is, we don't know how long this will remain true--is a threat to the citizens. The state, like any other institution, looks out for itself first. The state protects itself far more efficiently than it protects individual citizens.
"Why isn't the New Orleans parade considered a national tragedy on the order of the Boston marathon bombing?"
The Guardian piece that is currently asking this question gives us many useful answers, most of them boiling down to: New Orleans is poor and black and so the white middle-class Americans who are the target audience for media coverage do not care what happens there. I would refine this only slightly:
In general, in the eyes of enfranchised Americans--by which I mean that group of reasonably affluent Americans who are educated and compensated well enough to be full participants in the political system--the heinousness of a crime is not really determined by objective and measurable consequences. Enfranchised Americans divide crime into two categories: crimes committed against enfranchsied Americans, and crimes committed by the disenfranchised against each other. The second category--the disenfranchised attacking each other--is "normal." It can be explained by precisely the things that disenfranchse people: poverty, low educational level, unemployment, the environmental crime infesting low-income neighborhoods, etc. Though nobody acknowledges this openly any more, for many enfranchised Americans race is also one of the things that defines "normal" crime. Crime committed in low-income, depressed, blighted, overwhelmingly non-white areas of a city is 'normal'--even if in terms of individual motives it makes no fricking sense--whereas crime committed in higher-rent districts is extraordinary. This is why Newtown is a national tragedy, and the individual shootings of children that go on every day in Chicago is 'normal.' The kids at Sandy Hook were *supposed to be safe.* Kids on the Chicago south side, well, they are not safe, but that's 'normal.'
I owe this insight partly to the opening of Patricia Cornwell's 1990 novel _Postmortem,_ where her narrator/detective Kay Scarpetta lays this out in unusually blunt language in the opening chapter. Alas I cannot quote the passage from memory. But the passage is part of Scarpetta's explanation for why the murders she's investigating--all of professional women, in their own homes, tied up in an ingeniously sadistic way so that when the murderer rapes them they are strangled at the same time--garner so much attention. Murder in the poor and Black areas of the city, she explains, is normal. But these women, no, they are "somebody's sister, somebody's girlfriend, somebody's mother," etc. I imagine one out of about one thousand readers of that passage maybe stops to wonder what it takes, in this world, to become "somebody," as opposed to the nobodies who are losing their own loved ones to 'normal' crime.
All this contributes to the idea that crime amongst middle-class white people--especially if, as in the case of Newtown, it is also committed by middle-class white people--is somehow worse and more important and more devastating because it is 'crime out of place.' It's crime crossing the borders that are supposed to contain it. When people talk endlessly about the 'senselessness' of such crimes, part of what they are saying is that in the absence of poverty and all its problems (and, depending on who you're talking to, in the absence of brownness or blackness) crime does not 'make sense.'
I find this incredibly frustrating. To me murder never makes sense. Human life is so much more important than any of the reasons people take it, 'rational' or otherwise. To most everyone else in this country, murder is 'rational' (though deplorable) when it is committed for material gain (whether money, security, or power) and irrational otherwise (when committed either out of pleasure or compulsion, or where there is nothing obviously gained by it at all). And so a murderer like Adam Lanza provokes national fear and national curiosity, whereas a child killed by a man with a gun on the south side for equally nonsensical reasons is written off as part of an existing and comfortable narrative about 'normal crime,' such as the ever-popular "gang-related violence."
All crime is extroardinary to the people it happens to. It becomes 'normal' only at a distance. The farther away from you it seems, the more normal it gets.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Thu May 16, 2013, 08:48 AM (1 replies)
So glad this is over. So very glad.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Fri Apr 19, 2013, 09:32 PM (11 replies)
Mrs. Plaidder and I have decided to put some money into the cause. I thought I would consult the collective re the best way to get, as it were, the least bang for our buck.
There is the Brady Campaign, which has a track record. Then there are MoveOn and the other similar organizations from which I get approximately 1000 emails a day asking me to donate money to fight gun violence. However, it appears that the money you give to such organizations is usually fungible--in other words, there is no way to ensure that the money you donate actually goes to the cause you're interested in as opposed to entering the giant donation pool from which the organization draws. Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is new and it's hard to know how effective they are.
We are working the Google, of course; but if any of you are already working with/supporting an organization dedicated to this issue, I would be interested to hear your opinion of where a donation will do the most good, and no doubt other DUers would too.
Thanks in advance,
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Sat Feb 16, 2013, 04:28 PM (5 replies)
It is depressing how very little he is really proposing, and yet how hard it will be to get even that much done.
I took the unusual step of buying <i>Rolling Stone</i> this week for the sake of their article, "The NRA vs. America." It was so discouraging it took me three tries to get through it. Briefly, what is wrong with our public policy on gun violence is what is wrong with all of American policy: it is dictated, through lobbying and the massive floods of campaign cash that go with it, by the industry owners, with no regard whatsoever to whether it is good for the American people. This fact happens to be more obvious re the NRA because what the gun industry promotes is so obviously and violently harmful to the body politic. But basically, a serious change in policy will require us to solve the problem of corporate ownership of the legislative process--a problem that has resisted most attempts to solve it so far.
But this is also good news, I guess, in that if the country remains highly motivated to deal with the issue of gun violence, then eventually that process will teach us how to cut an industry lobbying group off at the knees. And this would be information that could be usefully applied to other desperately important issues which have been stymied by industry lobbying, such as, I don't know, climate change.
Let's hope the new Congress is more effective than the old one,
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Tue Feb 12, 2013, 11:50 PM (6 replies)
Now tell me what we can do about it.
That is not a rhetorical question. I really want to know. Unless your answer is "express outrage in online fora," because I've tried that and there is never any material result.
Also, if your answer is "public protest," I've tried that one too. The number of people in this country that you can get together for a march to prevent an actual, overt, about-to-be-declared war, such as the war in Iraq, is too small to make any political or media impact. The number of people you're going to be able to get together to protest a memo authorizing future abuses of power is going to be even smaller.
Fundamentally, most Americans do not care what we do in the rest of the world. It doesn't matter how atrocious it is. Violence done by our military against other people does not matter to most Americans. Yes, you would think that the knowledge that they can be targeted for death without due process once they leave US soil would make most Americans think that this is an issue that affects them. But they will not. You watch. Most Americans will think, well, I'm not working with Al Qaeda, nobody is going to kill ME in a drone attack. And really, most of them will be right. The purpose of this memo is not to terrorize American tourists. Its purpose is to remove limits on the use of force against people identified by the administration as enemies of the country. Or, naturally, of their administration. And most Americans will not fall into that category, because most Americans are not involved or even very well aware of what their government does overseas.
Yes, I'm angry about the way the Obama administration has betrayed the promises they made about restoring human rights and liberties after the Bush era. I'm very angry about the fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open. I'm angry about the drone strikes in general and angry about this memo too. Plenty of anger over here. What I do not have is faith that anything can be done about this. And another thing I do not believe is that anybody who does NOT fall in line with this foreign policy could ever or will ever become President of the United States.
Belief in the right of the US to be supreme military and economic ruler of the world is a prerequisite for that office. Things like your party affiliation or your race or your gender are much less important, in terms of your ultimate chances, than signing on to this hideously durable version of American exceptionalism.
Yes. It is bad. I do not need to be told that it is bad. I want to know how it is ever going to get any better.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Thu Feb 7, 2013, 02:07 PM (0 replies)
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