Some mornings I think how different my routines are from many in America, wondering about the forces of waking up that set their day and influence their lives. I am especially wondering about a young 18 year old local male arrested locally for a gun shot murder committed during a robbery he carried out with a friend. During his arraignment, he cursed the grandmother of the young man he killed, interrupting her statement to the court to say “fuck you.”
His words broke me to pieces. No rage or sadness, no anger and despair, not any combination of emotions and feelings can tell you the empty, swirling dark pit his words created in the void of his own humanity. He is exactly one of the predators that the Black Lives Matter movement protested that Hillary stigmatized in her statement about predators during the height of the crack epidemic that left bodies littered on the streets and sidewalks in poor neighborhoods in America’s cities back in the 1990s. I remember those days; bodies turned up in front of a corner store I shopped in (the owners didn’t close), even doors away on the street where I lived.
History requires context. An understanding of the broad forces that shape thinking and actions, but murder is madness to the extreme; it defies context. Never is there call to threaten or take someone’s life. Death doesn’t come from seeds of poverty or anger, from family dysfunction, from gangs or a code of respect; murder is a evil willingness to waste someone’s divine gift, ending their life, taking away their laughter and smile, the rhythm of their walk, their morning transition to separate them from those who loved them and found joy in their attention and voices.
The poor and angry are often the victims of murder, but so are the innocent, young and old. No matter the outside forces, murder means something has snapped within. That criminal’s reported curse made me feel the same way as Zimmerman’s offer to sell the gun he used to kill Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman wants to auction online the revolver returned to him after he was found not guilty for the killing of Trayvon Martin, who was talking on his cell phone just minutes after Zimmerman disobeyed a police dispatcher’s order and shot Trayvon after he followed him and engaged Trayvon in a fight.
The violence of the profanity, its horror, made he think of another local crime. The slaughter of nine church members who attended a prayer meeting, deliberately killed in the church after praying by a young man who planned the murders to start a race war incited by the murderous injustice he had chosen as its trigger–by repeatedly pulling the trigger of a gun.
I hear the attitudes of the NRA in the curse of the grandmother, in the planned auction of a famous racial murder weapon, and in the premeditated action of a spree killer who left a digital manifesto drawn from white supremacist views. In all, I find a void that I can not describe. I see protesters promising to hurt others; I read internet threats of murder and death, of rape and violence over politics, without a discussion of issues or logic or process. I remember New York City cops, after Eric Gardner was choked to death on Long Island, his last words, repeated nine times, “I can’t breathe,” wearing t-shirts they printed saying, I Can Breathe. Their callousness took my breathe away.
I choked when recently Clarence Thomas, in a 7 – 1 decision, became the only dissenting Supreme Court justice to vote against overturning a conviction based on overwhelming evidence that Georgia prosecutors disqualified jurors based on race in the capital trial whose verdict was being appealed. Despite discussing cases collectively, Thomas could not be dissuaded by argument or fact. In the circle of injustice and death, a cursed grandma, an auctioned gun, mocking tee shirts, a justice ruling in favor of rigged justice–each out of place in the prism of truth that we seek to abide. Add Cleveland’s horrific 137 bullet execution of an unarmed couple during the end of 20 mile car chase, with an officer firing 49 times into the car and victims while standing on its hood.
I am losing strength and patience. A wall won’t restore it. Banning Muslims won’t reduce the burdens my heart feels. Deporting 12 million undocumented workers and separating families won’t help. Mocking our differences is not a restorative tonic. I do not want this to become a chronic condition.
My online I Ching casting was sympathetic. It asked, “What are you sure of in your heart when nothing else is sure? How can you flow on and through the dark?” (From “The Abysmal or Chasms.”) It changed into the assessment: “What limits apply here? What agreements are at work?” In times of pain, limits have to be set within and we make agreements with ourselves: “Thus the superior man walks in lasting virtue. And carries on the business of teaching.”
Barack–President Obama–my guy–is in Vietnam this week, speaking to the officials and youth leaders of the country, a country with which we had a long and bloody war. So have called his visit self-serving, saying it has no purpose except to pad his legacy. They see no role for or significance in the free world’s leader, its best example of democracy and merit, speaking to national officials about corruption and about education to youth who will be tomorrow’s global leaders.
In one town hall outing in Hanoi, he requested a young woman, a rap star in Vietnam, to free style and provided a beat; she asked if he wanted it in English or Vietnamese. Vietnamese,he said. Not knowing the words, her gestures, suggestive of thugs, associated with violent lyrics, of actions without a conscience made me shudder in reflex. When asked by the President what her words meant, I found myself crying. In this language I did not understand, she had given old gestures new meanings. She reminded me not to dwell, to leave what cannot be explained. She said she sung of material things and their contrast with hope.