LAW AND DISORDER BONA FIDES – PT. I

Here we go again: Another unarmed black man in an amazingly racist America shot dead in the afternoon by another white cop, buried in Missouri in August, amid rhetorical old-timey black gossip preacher ellipticisms “calls for yet more action and civilized behavior”.

Reminds me of David Wiffen’s great, wholly unappreciated song “More Often Than Not”:

“Well, have I not been quite far enough
How many times do you have to die now
How many sets has it been
Not another one, oh no
And would you believe
That it happens more often than not…”

What about all those other (legion) calls for action in Los Angeles after a posse of cops beat the living shit out of a defenseless Rodney King and, in spite of the fact it was all caught on video, (then highly unusual unequivocal evidence of mindless racist authoritarian violence) a white jury acquitted the whole bloody lot, inciting the most extended, nightmarish race riot in the City of Angel’s history.

What about Montgomery and Mobile and Mississippi? One thing history tells us: It happens more often than not, and will continue to do so.

There are the mourners and celebrities and community activists, not necessarily the same ones or as many “A” listers for Michael Brown, but reasonable facsimiles.

I met Rubin Carter once. I heard Bob Dylan’s anthem. Carter died a bitter man, estranged from the Canadian “family” who “saved” him and betrayed (at least in his eyes) by James Lockyer and the organization for the wrongly convicted Carter endorsed and worked tirelessly for up here in the Great White North, land of hewers of wood, drawers of water where the rallying cry is not “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” rather “law, order and good government”. A nation shaped by an anomaly, Rubin should have known he would never be entirely at home in a Hypocracy.

Another black man (or boy), unarmed, shot dead in the street by a white cop in broad daylight. At Kent State it was white children shot dead by white National Guardsmen. At Sandy Hook the child killer was indiscriminate. He didn’t care what color the children were.

Yesterday it was Michael Brown they eulogized in St. Louis at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church.

“There is a cry being made from the ground, not just for Michael Brown, but for the Trayvon Martins, for those children in Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Columbine massacre, for black on black crime,” is how the Rev. Charles Ewing, Brown’s uncle, put it at his nephew’s funeral last Monday afternoon, August 25th.

“Something is rotten in the State of Denmark,” is the way Shakespeare put it. And indeed there is something rotten at the heart of our democracy.

It is by no means immediately evident. If it were that short litany of recent outrages would not have been available to Rev. Ewing.

Like Henry James “figure in the carpet” or an Escher drawing, it takes proximity and close scrutiny to discern. But when the configuration of seemingly discordant shapes and patterns yields a picture, as it invariably does, it paints a nightmarish panorama and tells a story both disturbing and revelatory.

Perhaps because it points to something that is fundamentally wrong in how we recruit, teach, instruct and configure the minions who man those institutions responsible for seeing Justice done, the “figure” that reverses out has never been closely examined, at least not in a sustained, accessible way. Thus its recognition brings out ennui not revolution.

Or perhaps the deep, structural fissures and systemic anomalies in our institutions of law and order have been, by virtue of the very impenetrability of their thick, institutional carapaces, impervious to investigation.

These are institutions and individuals sworn to “serve and protect” but they are among the least devout and most secretive in the world. They have been allowed to evolve that way. And it seems that our collective willpower and attention span are even shorter than news cycles. We are a society of social amnesiacs.

Whatever, I decided to try and configure the patterns in an intelligible way in this blog called “Law and Disorder: Analyzing Disorderly Conduct” as much to corral my own disparate thoughts and ideas about the topic as for whatever readership it may garner.

You may well ask, as Penny Wharvey McGill did in Oh Brother! Where Art Thou about Everett, (played by George Clooney) when she says to him “Vernon here’s got a job. Vernon’s got prospects. He’s bona fide. What are you?”

Indeed. What qualifies me to add my voice to the cacophony of all the other stutterers and pontificators out there? What are my bona fides?

Simple. The melodious lyric of Joni Mitchell‘s “Both Sides Now” – I’ve seen them, I’ve been up close and personal on both sides of the law for decades now and therefore uniquely qualified to analyze and criticize. And until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes don’t doubt it.

If you do doubt it stay tuned. Part 2 in the next day or two.

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