Friday, March 23, 2012

Over the Mountains

Sorry for the light posting - I was out of town all last week working in Walla Walla, WA (a place I am told by a native drysider should always be referred to as "the town so nice they named it twice") and was off the net. I have a crazy busy day tomorrow than then should be back on schedule.

I did want to make a brief observation on the latest news-time obsession; the murder of young Trayvon Martin.

Y'know what the really messed up part was?

That the shooter wasn't immediately escorted to the Crossbar Hotel.

Because I'll give you all the rest of the "backstory" here. You know what I'm talking about, right? All the things this is supposed to "tell" us about the U.S. circa 2012?

The perception of young urban black guys as dangerous and scary. The possobility that young urban black guys ARE dangerous and scary. The degree to which this makes it dangerous to be a young black guy. The throwaway quality of life as a young black guy.

Race. RacISM. Class. Bad Laws. Inequal Justine Under Bad Laws. Republicans vs. Democrats.

The fucked-up-ness of writing a law that makes it possible for a knucklehead with a weapon to, in effect, go looking for a fight. The overarching place that race and class plays in American life. The sociology of race, class, weapons, and American urban life. The propensity for places like Florida, where being an ignernt goober is no disqualification for public life, to make fucked-up laws that enable knuckleheads with a 'tude to pull a hogleg whenever they feel disrespected, or spooked, or like scaring somebody, or for no goddamn reason at all.

Let's just take all those as a given, K?

But even given all this, the fucked up part of this story, for me, doesn't come until the local constable doesn't even attempt to take the shooter downtown and book him for manslaughter.

At least.

Because, as we discussed earlier about the Afghan shooter, when you don't do that, you make it obvious to everyone that the dead guy (or women, or kids) doesn't really matter to you.

And when you do that you prove that you've forgotten that the important thing is that the village remained quiet.

Let's thing about what the law is for; what it's "supposed to be for, and what it really IS for.

We all like to cling to the ideal that the law is ground rules for our society; the lines on the playing field. And how we're supposed to be all "equality of opportunity", liberty, and justice for all. But, look, we already know that there are two laws in this country, or, rather, one law that, in its impartial majesty, forbids rich and poor alike to steal bread and sleep under bridges.

Steal a car, steal a stereo, and you'll probably end up in jail.

Steal an entire pension fund, steal a family's house, steal a company and run it into the ground and put thousands of people out of work?

You'll probably get a job on the Securities and Exchange Commission and never lose a night's sleep.

So we've pretty much admitted by our actions that we don't really CARE about that part of our laws.

But the other part of what the law is for is to keep everyone inside society's fences. To maintain just enough public order that we don't get convinced we're in some sort of Hobbsean war of all against all and then start acting like that. To maintain "public order" in the same way that the rules of engagement of an Army of Occupation are there to convince the occupied that doing what the foreigner tells them to is healthier than planting mines in the roads at night.

So, sure, I'd like my country to actually have one law for rich and poor, powerful and powerless. I'd like to believe that the magnificent words over the courthouse door "Equal Justice Under Law" were true. I'd like for there to be good work, decent work, living-wage work for everyone who wants it. I'd like for my country to be the best it can for the most people it can.

But I'll settle for just enough equality to keep the village quiet.

Because unlike a lot of people - unlike nearly all of our wealthy white folks, the people who are benefiting from the kind of nation where people like Trayvon Martin are, and are shown to be, disposable - I remember what happened the LAST time this country was so open an oligarchy that even the dimmest prole could figure out that both ends of the stick he or she was going to get were dirty.Yeah, that.

We forget that the Gilded Age and the Ragtime Era had a scary edge to them, because the people on the Outside knew they had no way in and many of them decided to kick the thing to pieces rather than put up with that. We had a president assassinated, the first one outside wartime. Anarchists and Reds were under every patrician's bed, and armies of Pinkertons and goons - and the real Army - was employed to "fight them". This damn situation lasted until the Depression, when the New Dealers forced some of the oligarchs to bend a little to stave off what happened to Italy in 1922 and Russia in 1917.

And I'm on the wrong side, here: the kind of people I was then were the ones shot down by troops breaking strikes, beaten by company goons, lynched by American Legion thugs, and railroaded by corrupt judges. They were shot by people very like this Zimmerman who shot the kid Martin; because they didn't like the way my sort of people; poor people, union people, working-class people, looked.

Like I've said here before; the United States was founded as a sort of oligarchy and can work perfectly well as one.

But it's not much fun unless you're an oligarch and, can you tell me, sitting there reading this, that you feel lucky?

I didn't think so.

So while I'm sorry for Martin, his family, nice black guys everywhere, and my country in that we've made it possible for jackholes like Zimmerman to exist, because of who I am and where I am I have a vested interest in keeping the lid on enough to keep my society from flying apart.

So, for me, the important thing here, now, is that this shooter goes to jail. Goes to trial. Gets convicted - assuming the evidence shows that he did what he seems to have done, pursued an unarmed man into a fight and then killed him - and spends a long, long time in prison. Hell, we all have an interest in seeing that the people who use bloody-handed methods to emphasize the fucked up things we believe swiftly take the long step to the end of the short rope that German soldier took in Pont-avec-Crap back in 1878.

Because if we don't; if we convince enough people that the law is for you and not for me, that they might as well be hung for what they did do rather than what they didn't and some ignernt asshole thinks they did...well...

...then the village becomes unquiet and we've taken the first steps up the pass over the mountains of madness.


Labrys said...

This story has re-ignited memories from my childhood---watching black kids treated like crap. Being beaten by my father for playing with black kids.
Being stared at across a restaurant for dating a black man. And being told BY a black man, that he couldn't see my any more because it would likely trash his career for being "uppity" enough to date a white woman.

And yeah, oligarchy with a side of racism. Makes me remember why my French alleged ancestors had guillotines in the town squares.

Leon said...

And good ol' Geraldo is blaming the death (in part) on the hoodie the kid was wearing. That means the next time you catch Geraldo in a hoodie, you're partially excused from shooting him out of fear.

basilbeast said...

Yesterday hundreds marched in Wichita in support of the "million hoodies" action.

The Kansas version of Florida's law.

While the Kansas law is modeled on the Florida statute and uses much of the same language, a legal analysis by a former University of Kansas law student indicates that it could be more permissive than the Florida law.

The analysis determined that the Florida law contains a standard of reasonableness for use of force that Kansas law lacks.

Annie Wells Shank, now a lawyer in Dallas, said she researched the two laws for an article published in 2008 in the KU Law Review.

Her article cited a Florida case in which a man named Norman Borden fired five shots through the windshield at three men who were planning to attack him, then circled to the driver’s door and fired nine more shots, killing two of the men.

Prosecutors decided the first five shots were self-defense, but put him on trial alleging that the following nine were excessive force. Borden was acquitted at trial.

“Kansas’ stand-your-ground law is similar to Florida’s in several ways, but it does not include a reasonableness requirement, and it does not expressly provide for — or limit — the use of deadly force,” Shank concluded. “If the events of the Borden case had occurred in Kansas, it is possible that Borden may not even have been tried for his actions. … Rather, Borden may have been protected by the new stand-your-ground law, which allows a person to ‘meet force with force’ when ‘attacked’ in any place where he ‘has a right to be.’ ”

Kansas version of a Democrat

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, a former prosecutor, said details of the Florida case are still unclear and he would like to see what happens there before considering alterations to Kansas law.

“We should let the Florida thing pan out and next year look at our laws and see if there need to be some changes,” he said.

I don't think we're going to have a quiet spring and summer. With the Occupy movement picking up again, they surely will notwithstanding Obama's usual half-assed and generally ineffective efforts to remedy the financial/housing disasters. If the police come out in force with pepper spray and batons and mass arrests, the tension will just be too much to contain.

Legalized murder in the streets, rampant corruption, racial tensions, national political conventions, a real toxic brew, huh?


FDChief said...

Here's two things about this;

First, I wish that all the white folks (and Geraldo, the stupid ass) defending this gomer Zimmerman and arguing about how black men bring this on themselves by breathing while being black would just have a nice hot cup of STFU. Let's just all take a deep breath and say out loud what our gal Labrys is pointing at; that we STILL have a massive race problem in this country, that the "problem" is 95% because a bunch of white people don't WANT to do anything ABOUT the "problem" because it'd cost too much and cause some other white folks some discomfort.

Second; we need to have a serious come-to-Jesus talk about how we DO deal with that. Because from where I sit, we've gotta come at this from two directions;

The white Americans have gotta take it in the shorts some to get the black Americans to where they can get into society in a meaningful way AS A GROUP - that means that we gotta accept that come black people are gonna get houses, jobs, cars, dates or lifetimes with gorgeous babes like Labrys...and we ain't. And we need to just deal with that without taking a ride in the whaaaambulance like some damn FOX "news" anchor.

(Oh, and 86ing the fucking moronic "War on Some Classes of People Who Use Some Kinds Of Drugs" would help, too, thanks)

But...second...the black community has got to pull something together, too.

Bill Cosby took a ration of shit for suggesting that black kids dress nice, act respectful, stop listening to that damn rap noise, and get the fuck off his lawn.

While I'll agree that Bill is a fusty old mug, he does have SOME point. There's no use lashing the white folks with a sharp stick if the black folks aren't going to be able to take advantage of whitey. There's GOT to be a serious MLK-like force to hammer away at black kids to stay in school - while at the same time the schools have to get hammered on to make SURE the kids are taught what they need to learn how they need to learn it (i.e. no more expelling black kids for stuff white boys get a rap on the knuckles for...)

And those kids now young men and women have GOT to be ready to work just when the companies have GOT to be hammered on to hire them...


FDChief said...


And here's one huge factor - we've GOT to stop running away from each other. That means, simply - no white flight.

I dunno how you're gonna do that, but you HAVE to stop it if we've ever going to get around that. Because right now, when the blacks move in, the whites move out, and so the problems that black families have when they try to move OUT of the 'hood just follow them.

We have GOT to figure out some way to mix up the communities so we can start getting beyond seeing each other as "the other". We don't have to love each other, or even LIKE each other...but if this whole "U.S." experiment is gonna work out for the black folks, us whities are gonna have to fucking get over ourselves and live alongside our black fellow citizens.

Like I said - I have no fucking idea how you do that. But the nation cannot exist half-white and half-black. We need to be a rich, creamy mocha or we're gonna be in deep shit.

teo said...

"And here's one huge factor - we've GOT to stop running away from each other. That means, simply - no white flight."

Pretty good idea. But who is willing to sacrifice his daughter to the 'hood gangs?
I think many agree with the theory. But the problem gets rather more complicated when the discussion gets to whose daughter will be used to promote integration.
I'd encourage you to set an example. And show the rest of the cowards/racists the right way. Because talk is well hmmmmm cheap.

I'd say it's pretty obvious that white boys just can't stand treir ground without outside help in front of black boys. Now there is no outside help so parents have to run away with the cubs. Is just as simple as that.

By the way the racist Zimmerman is hispanic, and not the white category. They are better at standing their ground. It's a tribal fight, a normal traditional one, and whites are not directly involved. I don't think we'll hear about a hispanic flight soon. A low intensity tribal warfare is the probable outcome I believe.
Whites just got out by running to the suburbs, exurbs whatever.
Mexicans - peruvians in this case - won't. Probably can't get away in any case.

There are some 50-60 million hispanics in US. The white "racists" tendency of completely ignoring them, like they are invisible or something , will not make them disappear.
It's incredible. As a hispanic you don't become visible even if you shoot someone. What does a hispanic boy have to do so that he becomes a person? Shooting to kill is not enough as you clearly showed in your post.

"But the nation cannot exist half-white and half-black."
Hmmmm. No mexicans need apply or what? It's a strange american peculiarity quite hard to understand for those not living there.

teo said...

Found a quote and a link on a blog which presents much better then I possibly can a different angle of the issue:
"If the above (and the other data provided by the blog) is true, then we are facing a Goebbels-like propaganda or disinformation campaign. For some reason, the media has decided to avoid telling the truth and instead presents a sterotypical story of White vigilantism, fresh out of the KKK kitchen. I am coming around to the idea that this is systematic and directed to fire up Black and liberal activism, showing that racism has not disappeared but it is an actual danger. "

The link:

I don't have any personal stake in the issue.
But you talk about "flight" as being bad. It seems you consider staying as being just as bad. Staying means friction. Sometimes violent. Staying sometimes leads to fighting.
You either stay and hold your ground or run away. Whites chose one line of action, hispanics the other.
You have to choose. Empty talk from whitopia is completely useless.

FDChief said...

Well, we've chosen to stand ("North Portland" is Portland shorthand for "the hood").

But I'm not saying that the people who run are "wrong" or "bad", but they've chosen to pass the problem on down to their kids rather than deal with it now. If this gets solved SOMEbody is gonna have to "...sacrifice his daughter to the 'hood gangs"...or son. The alternative is to continue to let this fester.

And the huge part of this that we don't want to deal with is that we ("we" as a nation) have chosen to throw black guys under the economic bus. It flat out sucks to be black when you try to get and stay hired. If the deck wasn't so obviously stacked - visibly stacked, stacked so that any idiot could see it - then it'd be a hell of a lot simpler to tell black guys to stay the fuck in school, get smart, and get a job. The bottom line right now is that smart WHITE kids are having a damn hard time getting work. I'll bet the genuine unemployment rate in urban black communities is damn near 40-50%.

When you're looking at that, "urban gangsta" looks like a decent career choice.

Not that it lets the black communities off the hook. Like I said - Cosby, for all that he is a curmudgeonly old scold, has a point. There needs to be a fierce push from the black side to get these kids to pull up their pants, put down the 40, and get a goddam college degree.

But the pull has to come from the other side, and that pull has to be a hell of a lot bigger than it is now.

Which translates as - I don't think this is gonna happen. Like our foreign policy, we're just kinda fucked.

FDChief said...

The issue of hispanics is an interesting one because it's so complex.

First of all, lots of Latin and South American countries have their own INTERNAL race issues. I'm most familiar with Panama's, but many Latin countries have a hard core of Caribbean black citizens, many of whom face the exact sort of racist problems that American blacks do here. Plus, at least in Panama, there was a subtle but definate "gradation" of, well, "whiteness" was the best way I can describe it, with the very European/Spanish-looking and sounding classes on top and then a descent in class the more indio you looked.

One thing I noticed is that, for example, the most Maya-looking "hispanics" seemed to mingle more easily with the black Panamanians than they did with the "gachupines", the "Spaniards" at the top...

And there was a LOT of bitterness there; there were violent riots when Coco Solo got handed back to Panama and was renamed "Christo Negro" - the choice of the largely black residents - which made the paler Panamanians sorta nuts...

So you then transplant that HERE, where you throw that up against American blacks and American crackers...

I don't know how you figure that out, frankly...

But all I know is that we have to figure something out. Look at the example of places like Austria-Hungary or Yugoslavia if you want to see the result of a bunch of immiscible ethnic groups thrown together in a single polity...

teo said...

"Look at the example of places like Austria-Hungary or Yugoslavia if you want to see the result of a bunch of immiscible ethnic groups thrown together in a single polity..."

Well in this case the central structure has to become stronger and more oppressive. There is no other way. The alternative is that the ethnic groups will fight it out.
What we are seeing now with the enormous growth of US public law enforcement structures is a natural evolution of a multi ethnic society. Political correctness had to be invented etc.

Succesfull examples of multi ethnic societies in my opinion are Russia and Iran. But differences of behavior and system of values between ethnic groups are much smaller. In many cases non existent. So it does not fit the US case and is useless as an inspiration.
Cuba managed to integrate and socialize its african- cuban community. But it involves a degree of state intervention which many in US find unappealing.

Future will be very interesting it seems.
Strictly from a historical point of view is interesting. The old US is gone. We already knew it very well, it was not interesting anymore. The new one might become pretty unpleasant for its residents and the world but we can see social evolution, changes in ethnic balances and in power in real time. So it's much more interesting to observe. It might not be able to launch space rockets but it's fascinating from a sociological/historical point of view.

Nice for you to make a stand. Problem is that it might lead you to the unpleasant position of having to well make a stand. As long as kids are small it's OK. When they grow it gets complicated.
I like very much social experiments. That is why the american case study is great for me. As long as it does not involve my kids that is, and the US case creates no problem for mine.
As long as the US citizens don't mind being part of the experiment and I enjoy observing it then I suppose it's OK for all of us.

FDChief said...

"What we are seeing now with the enormous growth of US public law enforcement structures is a natural evolution of a multi ethnic society."

Couldn't disagree more; what we're seeing now is the wholly invented response to a created perception of the U.S. as "menaced" by "terrorism" and urban crime.

The degree to which we have let ourselves become more of a policed-state, and the ridiculous degree to which we have allowed our police agencies to become more militarized and more intrusive is, to me, anyway, a symptom of the social and political illness that has settled into the head and chest of U.S. society.

We were a MUCH less homogeneous society in the Teens and Twenties - in fact, all the way up to the Sixties, and yet we managed to crush "crime" with no more than a relative handful of the coppers we now have armed with nothing more lethal than a Colt Police Positive.

In fact, had this shoot been done by a copper there would probably be very little in the way of this furor - in Portland our bluesuits shoot black people all the time, and it's pretty much treated as business-as-usual unless the circumstances were SO obviously a bad shoot that even the locals have to take notice.

"Political correctness had to be invented etc."


"Political correctness" was invented to give white people an excuse to whine and bitch when attempts to unfuck hundreds of years of legal and extralegal racism/sexism/etc got in the way of their having a good time.

I'll grant that it sucks to get the short end of the stick, but us whities need to deal with it without whining. To really get around the problems raised by a multiethnic society some of us are gonna have to climb down from the ladder we got from being born with less melanin; sucks to be us, but it's either that or confront the possibility of dealing with large, unenfranchised groups of black and hispanic citizens...

teo said...

""Political correctness" was invented to give white people an excuse to whine and bitch when attempts to unfuck hundreds of years of legal and extralegal racism/sexism/etc got in the way of their having a good time."

Here I have some disagreements. PC controls public discourse. It's the corner stone of the multi ethnic US.
The degree of violence - it's classical low intensity tribal warfare, nothing new or strange - afro community unleashed upon its main rival would normally provoke a violent riposte. It had to be avoided at all cost so a lot of social control mechanisms had to be created or enlarged.
In the longer term of course the problem has to be solved somehow. Easier brazilian style solution is mating.
The others are separation or genocide. Pretty unpleasant both of them, I completely agree with you, mating as a problem solver is a much better solution.

Your theoretical approach is perfect I believe. But in our messy real world you are also part of the problem.
The way you treated this subject. You talk about staying in the 'hood. Perfect nice great etc.
But if you want to do that well the trouble makers have to be confronted and stopped. And yet this somehow does not show up in your story line. It somehow does not compute.

Another quote from the much better writer :
"Now that the truth of who Trayvon Martin was (a burglar and drug dealer) and how he attacked a neighborhood volunteer who spotted him scouting the area, we can go back and see how the media reacted to the event. It is revolting. "

Well your approach leads to white flight. If you try to defend yourself all Chiefs are going to crush you. Bloody racist how dare you stop that nice black boy from crushing your head?
Much better to run away from the problem. The burglar/rapist maybe you can fight off. But what good intentioned chiefs are going to do to you well that you can not stop.
So we get white flight. It is as much a white as a black creation.
As always in social domain reality has a tendency of being rather murky.

I mean what is a normal guy who does not intend to mimic Jesus's life going to do?
Nice boys can do whatever they want to you and your family.
If you try to defend well too bad then hmmmm something like this follows:
"Y'know what the really messed up part was?
That the shooter wasn't immediately escorted to the Crossbar Hotel."
"until the local constable doesn't even attempt to take the shooter downtown and book him for manslaughter.
At least."
For me the reasons of white flight start to become quite clear. You made them clear. One tribe can fight, the other should be punished for any attempt to defend itself. What can they do?
Hmmmm well pretty hard to find the answer hmmmm they run away?

teo said...

"So while I'm sorry for Martin, his family, nice black guys everywhere, and my country in that we've made it possible for jackholes like Zimmerman to exist, because of who I am and where I am I have a vested interest in keeping the lid on enough to keep my society from flying apart."

Nice approach. And then talk about the other zimmermans , the smarter ones, who ran away. LOL
It seems only the death of zimmermans might satisfy you. If they run hmmmm bad zimmermans.
If they defend their lives wow incredibly bad zimmermans they should be destroyed asap by any means.
So only way to satisfy you is for the zimmermans to die at the hands of nice kind boys who can do no evil.
You wanna live another day jackhole?
Can't you see you stand in the way of that nice boy?
Die already bloody racist!!!!

Pretty balanced approach you have.
I won't try to define this type of behavior, I'll live that to you.
It seems US has more problems then I thought. And people trying to do good things like you - whatever that means, I have no idea, and after reading your post I think you don't have any either - are part of the problems not of the solutions.
In history do-gooders are always worse then purely bad ones.
Even if it seems strange, your approach is more dangerous and damaging for society the all the zimmermans and Trayvons. Society can swallow them and limp along. It's not Japan but it can work. In a different way then Japan, but it can. When your group of do-gooders come along well it can't anymore.

And the more brotherly the do-gooders are the worse the results are. I had the opportunity to see close by an attempt to create a better just world, I'm eastern european. Do-gooders are something to run away from. Did they come to town?
Well flight is the smartest idea. And the sooner the better.
An old saying defines this line of thought: " the road to hell is paved with good intentions."
It seems to me the american do-gooder version is even worse then eastern european communist one.