Monday, March 26, 2012

Up in Arms

It's been a while since I've written anything for this blog. I think I should just plan a hiatus for the middle of winter, when SAD seems to kill everyone's motivation, including mine. Or, maybe it's just that there's little to write about in winter, when people try to celebrate made-up holidays (Valentine's Day, Stupor Bowl, etc) and the biggest story seems to be the weather -- either too much winter or too little of it. The Republican primary was supposedly the big story, but the reality is that we have half the country deluding themselves into thinking that a change of letter from D to R behind the title of President is going to even marginally affect what is going to be a foregone conclusion for the long hangover the country is starting to enter. Romney vs. Obama seems to be the upcoming battle for the fall...in other words, an argument over using non-existent corporate dollars vs. using non-existent government dollars to oil the gears of the giant consumerist machine.

While the primary is forgettable, the Treyvon Martin shooting is worth taking a look at. Much to the chagrin of people who tend to whistle "Kumbaya" past the graveyard of reality, race relations still don't seem to have entered the phase where we can be united in American xenophobia, but still find reasons to turn on each other with depressing regularity. The media has been busy trying to make the situation fit the "template" of what a "hate crime" should be like. According to them, Zimmerman (who seems to be Hispanic) shot Martin (who seems to be African-American) in a fit of vigilante-ism gone wrong (or right). National outrage has been accompanied by what look suspiciously like calls of "eye for an eye" justice, with a Dead or Alive bounty being offered for Zimmerman's head, and talking of forming a black militia.

These situations are never as cut and dried as they appear to be, of course. Is Zimmerman a racist? Was Martin looking for trouble? Maybe and maybe, but I wonder if these two people that weren't even north of 30, with much of their life ahead of them, had thought much about their own place in the national narrative. Long buried in the national discourse on race has been the simmering racial tension between blacks and hispanics, both considered to be "minorities," with theodd piece leaking out now and then from front-line places like California . These tensions are not going to subside as our sinking economy and failing national system creates greater and greater pressure to try to get a share of the pie before it's gone.

Think about it for a minute. We are going to enter a future where we are going to have to figure out how to best cope with dwindling natural resources, especially the all-important oil, and come up with a plan for dealing fairly with each other. At the same time, we can't even stand back as a nation long enough to let a full investigation of a shooting run its course. And, even if it turns out that Zimmerman acted without cause, or Martin attacked Zimmerman, does this affect what we should think of our neighbor because they have a little more or less melanin than we do? Do the actions of an individual represent the entire group, or that individual?

Worse, we're entering the "long hot summer," and it looks like it's going to be a truly long and hot one if our above-average temperatures keep on going. What happens when people are already angry and miserable and a not-guilty verdict is returned, or a grand jury even refuses to indict? The outrage doesn't seem to be confined to one city, like it was with Rodney King and L.A., but across the nation, and it seems to not be exclusive to blacks, but across racial groups, in a season where the second incarnation of OWS seems to be stirring, and maybe a reboot of the Tea Parties if the health care ruling turns out badly. Stay tuned.

7 comments:

  1. my 2 cents on the trayvon martin shooting: i'm white, but know what it's like to be persecuted or hassled by 'authorities' for being out of place, in this case being a 'hippie' in an upscale neighborhood, or simply being out at night walking in a poor urban neighborhood where drugs and prostitution are prevalent. thus my view is this black teenager was out minding his own business when he was unreasonably accosted by this would-be vigilante, and however it played out from that point, the vigilante is in the wrong, and should be held accountable. there are too many stupid puritanical prohibitions and fears fueling this society of intolerance and paranoia. collapse of society will no doubt be horrific, but a bright spot is that eventually oppression based on hierarchy and huge wealth disparities will mostly disappear when everyone's either poor or dead.

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    1. I don't tend to share optimism that a collapse would be a great leveler, or at least that collapse would be a panacea for these things. The Middle Ages were rife with people who were willing to use force to maintain their position on the point of the pyramid, in spite of numerous angry peasants willing to do something to bump them off of it.

      If and when we do hit the great draw-down in human civilization, it's going to take extra effort from people who hold to various ideals of fairness and decency to make sure we don't wind up with a one-sided tyranny based on access to remaining limited resources. One reason I had for starting the Leibowitz Society was that certain notions needed to be preserved, such as the idea of basic human rights, instead of some dictatorial god-king claiming that "It's always been done this way, so keep digging those ditches to worship me."

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  2. Leibowitz - Come visit the Zone - I got recharged and started blogging in depth in January - perhaps some of my material can 'cheer you up'. Couldn't possibly depress you more.

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    1. Thanks for the invite, but I have a long way to go before I'd be "depressed" about all these things. Not a lot we can to do change inevitability, so we may as well figure out how to deal with it. If it helps, if there's ever a meteroite headed to earth that would wipe us all out, I'd be sitting on my back porch drinking a scotch and not worrying about it too much. :)

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  3. good to see you back here, bud...

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    1. Thanks. It's been a while since I've really felt like commenting on the good ship Titanic. I realized, though, that the best reason to write this blog is out of love for people, not contempt for what they do, in order to really make a difference. That alone really brought me back to writing commentary.

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  4. Part of the problem here is that there _was no investigation_ for over a month, until national outrage put enough pressure on Florida and the local prosecutor to even start one. Regardless of the nature of Mr. Martin's death and the individuals and their respective races, it's the institutional racism in the south (no official investigation because of this "stand your ground" law, even though a trivial investigation would show the shooter violated even that fig leaf) that has fueled the level of anger in this particular case.

    Now, I'm white as a John Birch tree, and I live in a state where any non felon can get a lisence to carry a concealed weapon. Presumably if I went to Florida I could pretty much shoot darker people as I pleased, lie plausibly about it and suffer no consequences. That would not be justice, would not lead to a more peaceful society and is not the sort of place I want to live. Injustice leads sooner or later to violence outside the law, and who gets hurt or killed is pretty random. No thanks.

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