Monday, July 15, 2013

The Highway to Hell

William Blake (1757-1827)


But, sooner or later, what American society has told him he can do, what it has now made possible, is that George Zimmerman can load his piece, tuck it into the back of his pants, climb into his SUV, and cruise the rainy streets of Sanford in the night, all of his senses a'tingle, all his instincts honed, on the lookout with his hunter's eye for assholes and fucking punks. There's one down the block. What the hell's he doing here? Asshole. Fucking punk. Better pull over and check this out.

from What George Zimmerman Can Do Now by Charles P. Pierce****

So, last night. Henry, Oliver and I walked Valentine over to a friend's house as the sun was setting. We hung out for a while and then walked home. On the long stretch of La Brea, on a Sunday night, there were the usual cars, people walking out of restaurants, buses stopping to pick up lone people at bus-stops. We walked by several homeless camps, sleeping bags laid out, a shopping cart piled to the brim with what looked like crap but was probably essential. I yelled at the boys to slow down on their skateboards, to watch the edge of the street, to not get too far ahead of me. At Wilshire and La Brea we waited for a light and then walked through. We heard sirens in the distance, but we always hear sirens in the distance. This is Los Angeles, home to millions. And then they came. The sirens grew louder, and then they stopped. A police car raced by us, and then another. No more sirens, but lights flashed. Oliver yelled, Look how many! and we turned around as more cars raced by us, three, four, ten, twenty, forty, fifty. Look! Maybe that's an Undercover one! Oliver yelled as a huge black sedan, flanked by police rushed by. We stood there and watched them. We watched like we were at a tennis match, our heads back and forth. There was very little sound, except for the whoosh (the ball hits the racket, the player grunts). Where are they going? Henry asked. Oliver, being Oliver, yelled, They're on the highway to hell. When no more came we continued our way north, to home. We learned that there were protests in Hollywood, that marchers were heading north. We learned that earlier in the day, the police in tactical gear had been shooting beanbags at protesters that had gotten violent in the Crenshaw district, less than three miles from my home. My sons' friends who live in that district posted Instagram photos of events unfolding in their neighborhood. Nothing substantial did happen, but we saw it about to happen and we saw the response and it was silent and methodical and very, very powerful.

I wondered how, if I were caught up in an angry mob, I would convey my solidarity with the protesters. How I could possibly convey my feelings of shame about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict. How I could possibly convey my conviction that violence is never right. I am white. I am privileged, as are my sons, my daughter, and my husband. How could I convey these convictions without seeming like I have them out of fear or self-preservation?

Here's the thing. This culture of violence, of guns, of those who think people kill people and not guns, who believe that their liberty and freedom is at risk unless they can kill, or have the option to kill, is madness. It's insane madness. It's the highway to hell.




****Read that whole article by Pierce that I quoted from above. It'll knock you off your perch to the floor.

14 comments:

  1. This is why I read you.
    And the Pierce article is why I read Esquire.
    Good writing. Which gets to my heart.

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  2. If you really want to give your boys the context of this situation why not urge them to know more about the trial? I personally think George Zimmerman caused the death of that poor boy in Florida. But do I think the jury reached the wrong decision. No. Not even a little. The state of Florida simply failed to prove their case.

    I'm proud that I can live in a country where the government must PROVE beyond a doubt that someone is guilty. I made my daughter actually watch the trial. Now she understands. We have discussed who we think was to blame. Probably the prosecution for trying to put on a murder case and tell a story when they didn't have the evidence.

    Talk to the boys about whether they think many of the protestors watched the trial and whether they think someone who hasn't can come to a good decision about the validity of the verdict.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous, your points are well taken, although I disagree with you on a few of them. First of all, forgive me for this bias, but I generally am not too persuaded by anonymous commenters -- no matter their opinion. As a rule, dissenters nearly always hide behind the cloak of anonymity, and it just makes me think they're afraid to say what they feel. That being said, I agree wholeheartedly that the prosecution was abysmal in this case, but I disagree that one must watch the trial to make an informed judgement. I think it's irrelevant whether the protesters watched the trial or not, and I think it's naive to think that this case wasn't about many, many things -- beyond the scope of the trial itself. My two measly posts on it were an attempt to reframe the events as they pertain to my own family, my children, our beliefs and convictions. And I'll tell you this: like you, I'm proud that I can live in a country where the government must prove beyond a doubt that someone is guilty, but I'm ashamed to live in a country whose government OF THE PEOPLE has, time and time again, allowed and excused travesties like the one we saw two days ago.

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  3. I watched the trial and I'm going downtown tonight to protest with my son. The need and desire to do this is so strong in me that it's a physical ache. We can raise our voices. We can be one voice.

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  4. That Oliver, he always seems to get just what is going on behind what is apparent. I so appreciate this post. On my blog I just linked to a tumblr someone made, obviously someone who was asking the same questions you are. They are powerful questions. The questions are perhaps more important than the answers. xo

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    1. Thanks, Angella. That is an amazing post and I so appreciate that you link to it. For some odd reason, my reply to the anonymous commenter above only now appeared. I hope he/she takes note of your post, but just in case, I'll link it here: http://37paddington.blogspot.com/2013/07/good-people.html

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  5. Oliver has a real sense about things. That must have been quite dystopian.

    I was at the neighborhood grocery store today where a guy had a table with 3 petitions for "gun rights" and I overheard a lady say, "I'll sign those, I'm an all American girl." He asked me to sign them and I said, "no thank you, I'm an all American girl."

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  6. It might be a deadly highway indeed for a young black man. This http://www.chattcougar.com/nhayes/BlackMen%5B1%5D.pdf is an interesting piece, too.

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  7. I post as anonymous because I don't have any of your types of accounts. My only e mail is thru work. iAd a google account hacked and I shut it down. In any event did you read the cnn account of why Zimmerman was found not guilty. It's pretty accurate. I would love to see Zimmerman found guilty in a civil trial where the standard of proof is lower. I wish the prosecution had gone for manslaughter from the start. Way better chance on that. The reason I think one needed to see the trial is that so much I merely heard about was inaccurate. For example I had heard that Zimmerman continued to follow Martin after
    the police told him to stop. I dint know that they had no evidence of this. He claims he did and was on his way back to his truck. I don't believe him for a second. But I didn't know until I followed closely that there was no evidence to contradict his claim. It's possible under the timeline. And in a beyond a reasonable doubt standard that's a problem.

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    1. Thanks so much, Anonymous, for your clarification. I appreciate all points of view and perhaps struggle the most looking at the law and process as existing in a vacumn. I think it's often a way to justify injustice, to tell you the truth. A young and unarmed black man was shot to death by an armed security guard. There has been no reckoning for that, no remorse that I can see, from Zimmerman and certainly not from his supporters who have positively crowed over their "victory." Zimmerman has asked for his gun back -- DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE'S KILLED AN UNARMED MAN with it and acted irresponsibly otherwise -- and that request is being granted because there are people in this country who believe in violence as an answer to conflict. As far as being Anonymous, I know there are always problems registering to make comments. Sometimes, people use anonymous to register a comment, but they type in a name at the bottom of the post. That goes a long way toward fostering discussion and just makes it easier to "converse" I think. We have quite a community so discussion is always welcome, and I appreciate yours!

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  8. I want to make clear I think Zimmerman acted despicably. That following Trayvon wiith for no good reason and calling the police were clear acts of profiling. That he was responsible for the acts he set in motion. That I'd love to see him in jail for life. But the law just didn't support a murder conviction. Which is so disappointing.

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  9. I read somewhere yesterday that Florida's homicide rate has tripled since SYG was passed. It scares me, the mindset of people packing weapons. They are the ones looking for trouble. And the protestors, I wonder. I don't think there would be violence if they weren't being confronted with silent lines of heavily armed police in the first place. My thoughts are so scattered but you have captured some of them. Today the Dalai Lama tweeted "A person who practices compassion and forgiveness has great inner strength, whereas aggression is usually a sign of weakness."

    And I do blame the justice system, for letting bullshit laws like SYG and concealed carry pass in the first place.

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  10. Oh, Elizabeth, I am so thankful for bloggy "friends" like you! I live in the Christian Midwest and when I posted my views about the verdict (sadness, anger, etc.) I either got silence in return or responses that I was being manipulated by the media and that they were in support of George Zimmerman (except my Af. American friends and mixed-race families). ARGH!!! Sometimes I want to move to a different state!!! My hubby and I (who are opposite politically, but he does side with me on this) said the same thing. Gee, if I don't like my neighbor or I think he or she looks suspicious, I'll just shoot them because who cares?! And of course if they are a minority, then I am really safe! ARGH!!!

    I did attend a vigil/march here in my mid-sized Midwest city. It was nervous, and no one I knew went with me (hubby stayed with the kids). But I am so glad I went. It was very peaceful and I stood up to be counted with others who feel the same way.

    Thanks for posting this link.

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  11. Thanks for this post and the link to the thought-provoking Esquire article. Many Americans have a soft spot for vigilante justice, which is scary. Perhaps it's our frontier mentality. In any case, I can think of little else as scary as an aggrieved wanna-be cop armed with a gun -- or, God forbid, in the outcome suggested by the Esquire article, a whole bunch of them -- and I think you're spot-on in both your post and your comments above.

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