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Friday, July 08, 2016

Helluva Week

One of my journalist Facebook friends described this as a “bitch-slap of a week.” Pretty much. I spent some time kneeling on the floor this morning, crying and asking the Almighty to have mercy on my country.  First, yesterday, two men get murdered, then, this morning or late last night, five others were murdered…and it seems that in both situations, it was entirely because of their skin color—black, then white—not one of them was doing anything reprehensible. And the Right and the Left have both been vigorously blaming each other for the deaths, ascribing these acts of evil to various rhetorical effluvia the other has released. This also is cause for sorrow and frustration—not seeing this as a common human sin and instead ascribing its inspiration to one’s political opponents. And this same week (was it only Tuesday?), a friend of mine called me in tears because she just narrowly escaped being raped. There have been multiple (naturally caused) deaths in her family over the past three weeks, so she’s already frazzled, and now she finds herself victimized. If the world ever seemed to be going to hell in a handbasket, it seems to be in a dead level sprint in that direction lately.

In light of Thursday’s events (do none of the gun control lobbyists not realize these people would still be armed? They’re supposed to be “peacekeepers”) of policemen killing two Black men, a white friend of mine, X, shared the following experience:

It's been almost ten years, I guess--those of you who knew me back then remember what a reprobate I was. I was working as a draftsman for a company based in Atlanta's West End. My truck was in the shop for some reason, so I had to take the train to work. One of the engineers I worked with--I'll call him Chuck--was kind enough to pick me up from the station.

That's the setup.

Here's what happens:

As Chuck pulls into the pickup area, a MARTA police cruiser immediately lights him up for a traffic violation; he's driven into the exit instead of the entrance. I walk up as they ask him for his license and proof of insurance. He gives them his ID and his CCW, and informs them that his insurance card is in the glovebox, along with his pistol (Springfield XD Tactical, .45 ACP for you gun nerds--a super nice rig at the time, and not cheap). They immediately escalate to "hands where I can see 'em!" pull him out of the car, cuff him, and put him in the cruiser. Then they turn their attention to me. "Do you have any ID?," one officer asks. "Yep," I say. "OK," they respond, "Do you have any weapons on you?" "Yeah," I say, and I pull up my shirt to show them the shitty Davis pistol stuffed, holsterless, in my waistband. The quiet officer holds out her hand and I give her my gun. She can't figure out how to unload it, so she hands it back and asks me to do it, which I do. They ask me to sit in the backseat of Chuck's car while they search it and run the serial numbers on his pistol. They never look at my ID. And they seem pretty unconcerned about the fact that I'm carrying a pistol on MARTA, which is a felony at the time. Chuck's gun comes back clean (of course), and there's nothing in his car except books about math and the Roman Empire. But they inform me that they're taking him to jail. Supposedly he has a warrant for a speeding ticket in Cobb County (false, as it turns out). They give me his pistol and the keys to his car; he's screaming, "X, call my mother and let her know what's going on!" out the window of the cruiser as they drive away. I take his car to work and start making phone calls. Chuck is in a holding cell in Atlanta for 18 hours before they let him go without charges.

Recap: I'm disheveled, hungover, walking off the train like a zombie, being a smartass, feloniously carrying a shitty $80 murder pistol--no harassment whatsoever. Chuck is wearing slacks and a tie, driving a nice car, being super polite, with a $700 handgun safely and legally stored in the glovebox--he gets the handcuffs and jail. Wanna guess what race Chuck is?

I know a single experience doesn't constitute "research," but my experience certainly opened my eyes to a reality that I wasn't aware of. I normally don't post on political or hot-topic subjects, but I figured I'd throw this out there.

What he didn’t include in the story was perhaps a salient detail—that both of the police personnel involved were African American.

My own experience was much less dramatic, but no less eye-opening (I blogged about it when it happened—again, this occurred almost a decade ago, but I’ve no reason to think that the situation has changed remarkably since then). My then-boss’s husband, a long-time UPS guy, in uniform, with his truck, found a purse on the sidewalk in DC. Like any decent citizen, he went in search of a law enforcement person to give it to. When he did, the guy (of whose ethnicity I am unaware) acted like my boss’s husband was the purse-snatcher, and ransacked his company truck, looking for other stolen goods. This was a phenomenally humiliating experience, as you might expect.  My former boss and her husband are both African American.

In both my friend’s experience and in mine, the treatment of the darker-skinned person was entirely irrational, when viewed from a colorblind perspective.  Obviously, I am glad for his own future prospects that the smartass felonious pale guy didn’t get arrested (he’s now non-felonious and a business owner who employs several others), but to cuff someone without cause and incarcerate a clearly decent man who is guilty of a $25 traffic offense, if that? To suspect a UPS guy, complete with truck, of purse-snatching?

The slaughter of those Dallas police officers was pure multiple murder in cold blood—black and white in blue were all watching a peaceful protest. It was a demonstration, not a riot, and no one, protesters or police, was physically battering anyone else. And this person, who had been looking for an opportunity to murder people, took it.

I emphasize Black Lives Matter because we all—at least since September 11—should know Blue (and other first responders’) Lives Matter. The problem with all those who are ascribing the problem to “guns” is two-fold: first, as aforementioned, not recognizing that many of the perpetrators of violence would either be legally (or illegally) armed whatever the restrictions on ordinary civilians might be, and second, not recognizing that the fundamental problem is with the human heart, the motivation of individuals to take away other’s life suddenly, casually, whatever mortal tools are available.

Ultimately, the mayhem of this week distills to the issue of whether we will kneel to a common Maker who says that He made all people in his image, or whether we continue to each do what is right in our own eyes—and boy, does that vary from person to person and circumstance to circumstance!

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