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.

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