H2O Man's Journal
Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
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I have never experienced being a young black male in the United States of America. But I do have an understanding of some of the issues involved in that reality. Part of that understanding comes from reading: Dr. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter published his second book in 2011, which contained numerous and overwhelming statistics about the percentage of young black men involved -- in a negative way -- with the nation's legal system. More, my 40+ year friendship with Rube provided an eye-opening experience in the context of John Artis and Carter's journey through hell on earth, as young black men in America.
The murder of Trayvon Martin, and the failure of the legal system to provide justice, hits me in a way that a book cannot. A significant portion of my extended famil is black- or brown-skinned. Others are red, yellow, or white, providing a wide range of experiences. And I am not trying to say that the majority of life experiences are "bad." But some have come to mind as I watch the coverage of this murder case.
At times, things are just stupid. A cashier in a "Quick-Mart" telling "nigger jokes" when a nephew is at the counter. (She was quickly fired.) Other incidents are even stranger. A report goes out that a young black man robbed a store in a community 42 miles away; ten minutes after the first report, a town cop handcuffs another nephew as a "suspect." This nephew grew up in the town, and was a well-known high school scholar-athlete. But they all look alike.
Sometimes it's deadly. I had known Marvin since I was three. On May 15, 1979, he was with his brother and two friends at a local bar. Marv's brother ALWAYS cheated at cards, and he attempted to "win" a drink in a cardgame with one of the other guys. But he got caught, and his friend freaked. He drove to his girlfriend's house, and grabbed his shotgun. He found Marvin and the other fellow smoking a joint in the parking lot. When he raised the shotgun, Marvin said to him, "Hey! I've got no problem with you!" After killing Marvin, then the friend, he went into the bar and killed Marvin's brother.
I remember going towards the funeral home a few days later. A town cop was across the street, standing next to his car, with a large shotgun in his hand. I knew him, as he is "half" Native American, and seemed okay about half of the time. So it was surreal when, as I was walking by him, he said, "Pat, what'll you all think if I'm aiming this at you when you leave the funeral home?"
The triple murder was treated a bit less harsh than it might have been, because Marvin and his brother were black. The judge hearing the case would hear another in the same month; he sentenced a college student, with no previous record, to longer for having a quarter-gram of cocaine, than he did to a triple-murderer.
I've spoken before on DU about my nephew being viciously attacked by 17 members of a racial hate group. They resented that a brown-skinned high school senior was getting a lot of press, for taking his team to win a state title. The judge hearing the case, after being told the attackers called my nephew a "dumb nigger," that he did not believe this "proved" racial animosity. What else could "dumb nigger" possibly suggest?
The leader of the gange, who admitted punching and kicking my nephew as he lay unconscious, would be sentenced for a $50 fine -- for having an open beer at the time. That was it. Leaving a brutalized teenager for dead in a dark field didn't warrent a penalty.
A few years later, a group of teens approached me to request help. Their friend, then 18, had been given a life sentence for having sex with a minor, they claimed. I told them that I had my doubts that I was hearing the whole case. But the next day, they brought me documentation for the arrest, the trial, and sentence.
Had the girl who admitted approaching this young man been two weeks older, the oral sex she performed on him would have been legal. But because he was black, and she was white, it was prosecuted as a felony. And he was indeed given a life sentence -- although his only previous legal record was for being at a party where teens had beer and pot, and which was busted by police.
I called Rubin's attorney; he had me contact the original lawyer, to see if he had made an honest effort to defend this young man. The guy was honest: he really hadn't, because he had been able to resolve a number of cases with the DA in one big deal.
This young man was not born in the USA, and English was not his first language. He had not been referred for a psychological evaluation, to determine things such as "risk factor," possible treatment, or if he even understood English well enough to allow him to assist in his own defense.
Long story short: we got him out. But only after he had spent a year in Attica. I still have the letters he sent me during the year of incarceration. And I'm happy to say he has not had a single brush with the law in the decade since being released.
I could go on and on .... even more than I have here. And I realize that many other people have many other stories that are much the same. These are the things that I think about as I watch the Zimmerman folks adding layer upon layer of lies to try to justify the murder of a black teenager who was simply minding his own business in America.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Mar 30, 2012, 04:58 PM (37 replies)
Earlier today, I was asked to open at a rally in Albany, NY on April 4. I will have more details later.
There are going to be an interesting range of speakers; they include a representative of Veterans Against War and Cindy Sheehan.
Posted by H2O Man | Sun Mar 25, 2012, 07:20 PM (4 replies)
Save the Susquehanna!
“My role is to bring a message to non-Indian people along the Susquehanna and the rivers that are connected, like the Unadilla and Chenango. And my message is to work together to clean and protect these rivers. ….My goal is to teach people that the Susquehanna was my people's first highway. It is the actual bloodline of Mother Earth. My message is that the Susquehanna is sacred, and deserves our greatest respect.”
Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman; AHSKWA; 1997
In December, 2011, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission approved twenty new permit applications, allowing gas industries to withdraw massive amounts of the river's water for hydrofracking in Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, March 15, the SRBC will meet again, to consider passing sixty new permits. If passed, this would allow gas companies to withdraw 50 million gallons of water from the river daily.
Each water-transporting truck carries 4,000 gallons. Thus, this would mean over 12,000 new trucks carrying water from the Susquehanna, in addition to those permitted in December.
An average of one million gallons of water is required for every individual hydrofracking well. Each well also requires over 75,000 gallons of toxic chemicals, which are mixed into the water used to hydrofrack. As a result, one of the most significant evironmental dangers caused by hydrofracking for gas is millions of gallons of poisoned water: some will migrate to other water supplies under the ground, while more will be “disposed” of by discharging it into municipal waste treatment plants that are not equiped to deal with toxic industrial wastes. Thus, ground water supplies, as well as rivers, creeks, lakes, and ponds will be poisoned.
We need all concerned citizens to make four phone calls on Wednesday and Thursday. We are hoping to convince four politicians to tell their commissioners to vote “NO!” on all new water-withdrawal permits for hydrofracking in the Susquehanna River Basin – at least until a cumulative impact study is made.
The four politicians are:
1- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: 518-474-8390.
2- Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett: 717-787-2500.
3- Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley: 410-974-3901.
4- President Barack Obama: 202-456-1111.
The fact that no cumulative impact study has been done suggests that the SRBC is serving the needs of the energy corporations, rather than protecting the Susquehanna River and the plant, animal, and human populations living in the river basin.
Please call all four of these politicians both days. Also, spread the word to other family members, friends, neighbors, or groups/individuals interested in protecting the integrity of our planet.
Patrick R. McElligott
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Mar 13, 2012, 07:29 PM (6 replies)
In an article published in The Daily Star on Jan. 17 regarding hydrofracking, Richard Downey of the Unatego Landowners Association made a couple of comments about me that I have hoped to have an opportunity to respond to.
The first was: "This fellow sounds like he is way out on the bell-shaped curve." This is likely true. I believe that it is possible, if enough citizens participate, that we could re-establish the constitutional democracy in America.
Hence, in January, I was exercising my First Amendment rights. My goal has been to talk to three people: State Sen. Thomas Libous; N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo; and environmental attorney Robert Kennedy Jr., the governor's ex-brother-in-law, who sits on Cuomo's hydrofracking advisory board.
On Jan. 26, at a large rally at the NYS Capitol that featured a couple members of the NYS Assembly and Senate, I delivered a key-note speech. The focus of my presentation was the First Amendment. This led directly to my meeting with Sen. Libous, and then with two of his top aides.
This past week, I have set up a meeting between pro-environment grass roots citizens from Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Otsego counties, with Robert Kennedy Jr., and others advising Cuomo. This important meeting will take place in March. My focus is, by no coincidence, the First Amendment.
Mr. Downey also said that I have "become a sideshow in a sideshow." My fondest dream has been to become an asterisk to a footnote to a sideshow to a sideshow. This may seem like a lofty goal … but with patience, even the smallest of turtles can climb the highest of mountains.
Posted by H2O Man | Thu Mar 8, 2012, 11:56 AM (4 replies)
When I announced my hunger strike on Martin Luther King Day in January, I based my speech on some of the writings of Thomas Merton. Although it was a bitter cold day, the group assembled outside of the State Office Building in Binghamton, NY, seemed to find my presentation interesting. When I finished, a gentleman came up and introduced himself to me: he was a Vietnam combat veteran, and had found Merton's teachings valuable in helping him to reintegrate into society. I found myself impressed at the fact that he had become a greater type of “warrior,” doing battle with the dark forces that Merton called “the Unspeakable.”
This week, during the course of driving my wife and I to a total of five lengthy medical appointments, I stopped at a bookstore for some new reading material. I picked up two good books. The first, by Bruce Miroff, a professor of political science at SUNY-Albany, is “The Liberals' Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party” (2007). Older forum members will recall the 1972 presidential election as disheartening. Ugly divisions within the Democratic Party, added to the post-60s fatigue and republican dirty tricks, resulted in the re-election of Richard Nixon. At that time, Nixon appeared to be the lowest life form that could possibly occupy the White House; both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush suggested there was a level beneath Nixon.
Younger forum members may recognize that there tends to be focus on that election than any other in recent history. Yet the cast of Democratic characters who played a role included both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, along with numerous others who played significant roles in national politics in every election since '72. Miroff produces a powerful argument about how the older established party leaders were more willing to force the nation to endure another Nixon term, than to join forces with the younger generation of insurgents who made McGovern's improbable nomination possible.
It's not a puff piece, though: Miroff shines a bright light on the errors of McGover, an honorable leader in a poisoned political atmosphere, and his campaign staff. It's fascinating reading for old activists. More, it is essential reading for all democratic/liberal/progressive grass roots activists today. (The McGovern campaign was the first that used the “new” technology of computers in the primary season!) It's said that wise people learn from others' mistakes; most people have to learn from their own mistakes; and that fools just never learn. We can all learn from this book.
The second book I got – which was recommended by a Good Friend who posts on this forum – is James Douglass's 2012 release, “Gandhi and the Unspeakable: His Final Experiment With Truth.” Douglass previously wrote “JFK and the Unspeakable”; he is currently working on books on the murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Douglass, who had a friendship with Thomas Merton, is an important author. I believe that both his JFK and Gandhi books are extremely important reads for those who are engaged in the struggle for social justice. By no coincidence, I also urge people to read books by and about Merton, Malcolm, Martin, and RFK.
As noted in previous essays here, I am currently involved in the grass roots effort to protect the environment – including all life forms therein – from the destructive forces of hydrofracking. Those forces include both the “energy industry” pushing hydrofracking, and the extremely damaging process itself. But it goes beyond that. As every person who has been or presently is involved in grass roots activism knows, there are frequent stumbling blocks presented by the inevitable differences in opinion among the grass roots group/groups. That is human nature: it took place in the Civil Rights and the Anti-War movements, and in virtually every social justice movement since.
Gandhi called for a New Awakening in the human potential for growth. Most of the distractions that groups face internally are the result of “personality” conflicts. People get their feelings hurt. People have fears and anxieties. People want recognition. Even more, there is rarely only one “correct” view of any given situation: for we are all individuals, who see things from our own unique frame of reference.
What Gandhi promoted was the casting of personality quirks aside, much as a seed discards its outer shell while germinating. As individuals, we need to allow our true essence to sprout and grow. Not because of what our opposition thinks of us, nor for our allies' alone. We are confronted with a form of societal decay so powerful – the Unspeakable – that can only be overcome by our very best efforts.
In New York, that Unspeakable has sought to take root by way of hydrofracking. There are, obviously, numerous other very important issues at stake in the struggle for social justice. Other states and other communities have their own Unspeakable struggles. What they have in common is the calling upon us – you and I – to bring forth the best potential within us. For, as Gandhi said, love is the only thing that even atom bombs cannot destroy.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Mar 2, 2012, 09:03 PM (7 replies)
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