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Troubled by Events Here and Afar…But at Least I can Watch Baseball Tonight

Remnant of an Army 

I have had a hard time sleeping this week. There have been two things on my mind. One is the situation in Afghanistan which I think is much more dangerous than anyone wants to admit and which bears a terrible resemblance to the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842) which ended very badly for the British as well as the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1988.)  The events of the past couple of months in that “graveyard of empires” should trouble anyone.  We are finding just as the British and Soviets that Afghanistan is ungovernable and that our “control” of the country and the stability of the government that we prop up is a fantasy.  American and NATO troops are being killed by the Afghan soldiers and police that they are training and attempting to help control the country. It is so dangerous for our troops located with Afghan troops that we have had to institute force protection measures that can only further detract from our ability to both wage the war and transfer the prosecution of the war to Afghan forces.  To remember the words of Charles Metcalfe who headed the British administration of India prior to Lord Auckland who launched the First Anglo-Afghan War “We have needlessly and heedlessly plunged into difficulties and embarrassments not without much aggression and injustice on our part which we can never extricate ourselves without a disgraceful retreat which may be more fatal in its consequences than an obstinate perseverance in a wrong course.”

Many of my friends are serving in Afghanistan now and I fear for their safety should things go even more badly than they have been. Unfortunately that is very possible. Our southern supply route through Pakistan is still shut and supply convoys are being attacked with more frequency and violence.  I am just wondering when an entire Afghan unit will turn on an isolated NATO post or group of advisors as happened to the Soviets in March 1979 at Herat where 50 advisors and near 300 dependents were brutally killed when the Afghan units there mutinied and provoked a brutal Soviet response and the Soviet invasion. The Afghan troops were led by Captain Ismail Khan who now serves as a cabinet minister in the Karzai government.

I am also troubled by what I see happening in this country regarding the killing of Trayvon Martin. I am troubled that those that seek a full investigation are being called “race baiters” and worse and that some in the conservative media and politics are openly using materials produced by White Supremacist groups such as Stormfront, a Neo-Nazi organization and website in order to destroy the reputation of a dead teenager.  Likewise I am troubled by those in the New Black Panthers and Nation of Islam that are calling for revenge and or putting a bounty on the life of the man that shot Trayvon, George Zimmerman.

I am bothered by so much about this case and its aftermath that when I tried to start writing it all down I had to quit.  I will probably come back to it at a later time but all I want to see is that someone fully investigate the death of this kid. Too many things from the actions of Zimmerman at the site in ignoring the police by pursuing Trayvon.  I wonder why people defending Zimmerman’s right to stand his ground don’t at least in the absence of any evidence to the contrary at least give the dead kid the right to have stood his ground when he felt threatened by a man who was following him. But the police reports don’t match up with other evidence and the man who claims that he was brutally beaten barely looks tussled by the event when filmed entering the police station barely 40 minutes later. All I am saying is that I am bothered by lots of things about this case and the one that is most bothersome a re-emergence of the the spirit of Jim Crow racism that seems to permeate a lot of the discussion even in allegedly “Christian” discussions on Christian websites. I know that there are racists in every race and country but this is a something that has been part of our history since before our Independence. Just when you think we are over it it shows up again in all of its hateful ugliness.

Tonight I have put on the replay of the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners game that was place this morning (US time) in Tokyo.  At least that is not troubling and I got to do something really fun today that I will write about tomorrow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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52 Years: Musing on Life and Civil Rights in 2012

Trayvon Martin and Emmit Till

Well about this time of night some 52 years ago my mom was deep into a very long day of labor at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland California. 52 years and it doesn’t really seem that long but it is. When I was born Dwight Eisenhower was President and his Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy were preparing to run against each other for the Office of President.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists like Medgar Evers were campaigning for the rights of Black Americans and others and would lose their lives in doing it within a few years. In that time Blacks were violently attacked even in church, the 15 September 1963 Street Baptist Church bombing. Just 6 years before I was born a 14 year old boy named Emmit Till was murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His killers backed by a surge of popular support were acquitted of the murder and a few months later confessed to the murder unable to be prosecuted under double jeopardy. Blacks did not gain legal protections enjoyed by whites until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When I was a teenager my home town of Stockton California desegregated its schools. I am proud to be part of the first class at Edison High School that completed all of its high school years in that environment.  I remember those times fondly and my friends there are all my “Soul Vike” brothers and sisters.

I know this is a weird start to a birthday article but I never believed that I would see racism become fashionable again.  But then I should have seen it coming because it has always been there maybe just under the surface but still there.  Back in 2009 I was attacked and threatened by a White Supremacist in response to articles about world War II and a baseball game on this site.

So when I started reading responses of certain media and political figures to the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman it struck a chord. I have been following the case online and have read a good number of posts by people “defending” Zimmerman by making the most racist and hateful comments maligning the dead kid and those that have the nerve to make this killing an issue.

No one is perfect and I am not calling for a mob approach to justice that would condemn Zimmerman without a full and impartial investigation and if need be a trial. However that being said if no one bothered to raise Trayvon Martin’s death the story would be buried deeper that Trayvon.  Without the actions of some nationally known activists and media personalities Zimmerman would never be forced to account for his actions that night in which he killed Trayvon. Zimmerman is said to have allegedly killed in self defense despite defying police who told him not to pursue or confront the teenager and the police at the minimum did a terribly inept investigation and at worst were complicit in a cover up that now may involve leaking material to a local reporter that they believe is helpful to painting the dead kid in a negative manner.

That bothers me. It reminds me of what I have read of reaction to and defense of the murderers that killed Emmit Till.  If Zimmerman did nothing wrong and if Trayvon Martin actually attacked him first a thorough investigation would have left no doubt. Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty but he may never even face trial based on the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law.  I just don’t get the convoluted arguments that self defense trumps even a fair and thorough investigation of of a man that used a gun to kill another. But now all we have is the trigger puller’s account to rely on and the stultifying spin of his defenders who seem more intent on killing the victim once again than they are on finding out what really happened. The Sanford Police have probably ensured that will never happen by not doing the ballistics, gunpowder residue and other normal procedures that would show what happened. That is not justice.

I was perusing a Christian blog which the matter was being discussed and I think that what I read there was the most discouraging as people professing to be Christians were in the lead trashing the life of a dead kid and making comments on race, African Americans and civil rights that if they were said about White Christians that would be decried in the right wing press and blogosphere.

I wonder at times how far we have come.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Killing Trayvon: The Power of Fear and Racism

Trayvon Martin and his Killer George Zimmerman

By all accounts George Zimmerman is nothing more than a vigilante and thug, a self-deputized “Neighborhood Watch Captain” who may well get away with the cold blooded murder of a teenager.  A teenage who was unarmed and returning to where he and his dad were visiting was killed by a man who despite being told by police not to intervene got out of his car and provoked an altercation that left an unarmed teenager dead.

The killing of Trayvon Martin sends chills down my spine for a number of reasons. First is the pre-meditated way in which it occurred. Zimmerman was conducting his own armed patrol of his neighborhood. When he spotted Trayvon walking he called 911 because he thought Trayvon who was black and wearing a hoodie looked suspicious. The 911 operator let him know that police were on the way and not to pursue the teen. Instead Zimmerman left the safety of his vehicle, got out of it, accosted the teen and put a bullet in his chest. The Sanford Florida police did no investigation outside of taking the killer’s word that it was self defense.

George Zimmerman was a habitual caller to 911, nearly 50 calls in a little over a year. In the latest call leading to Trayvon’s death he can be clearly heard using the term “f***ing Coon” a derisive term for blacks.  I would dare say that the killing was racially motivated. Saying that however will have some say that I am “pulling the race card” as if somehow pointing out the obvious is a crime. Racism exists and there are racists amount all ethnic groups, but in the United States historically blacks have been the victims of it.

The shooting has provoked uproar and even Tea Party Republican Representative Allen West and Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have condemned it and demanded a full investigation. Protests and marches are being organized with good reason. George Zimmerman was not even booked. Even a police officer would be investigated for a shooting and placed on administrative duty until the situation was fully investigated but Zimmerman is still walking free with his gun.  Had Trayvon Martin killed Zimmerman there is no doubt that he would be in jail regardless of the circumstances.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who signed the “Stand Your Ground” legislation into law in 2005 said today that “This law does not apply to this particular circumstance…. Stand your ground means stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.

Some conservative commentators have blamed the victim for his death. Geraldo Rivera said that Trayvon’s hoodie was to blame for his death as much as Zimmerman. Say what? I don’t think that it is illegal to wear a hoodie the last time that I checked. Sean Hannity posited that it might be a “tragic accident” but why even offer that explanation when the killer ignored the police and acted on his own to provoke a confrontation?  In regards to hoodies in cool weather I almost always wear a black Baltimore Orioles or San Francisco Giants hoodie. Does that mean that I am more likely to be a criminal?  I think not but then I am not an African American teenager. However I wear hoodies all the time but the dirty little secret is that Trayvon Martin was black and as we all know the equation: Young Black Male+Hoodie=Criminal Thug that deserves to die; at least in the minds of some people.

President Obama did what any parent should do in regard to this and for him it is personal. On a day where a spectator at a shooting range where Rick Santorum was practicing yelled out “pretend it is Obama” the President said remarked that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon. Of course Newt Gingrich called Obama’s comments “disgraceful.” Newt Gingrich is an ass who will do anything he can to make the story about him when he is being trounced by Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum who both by the way condemned the shooting and called for an investigation.

Racism is at play in this and African Americans should be incensed about how the Sanford Police department handled this killing. The killer is free. The victim dead. The parents of the victim were not notified and Trayvon’s body was not released for three days.  Some have said that Zimmerman was “Spanish speaking and had black friends.” Well that does not not mean that the killing was not racially motivated, the fact that Zimmerman was calling him a “Coon” on the 911 tape is indisputable evidence.

I don’t live in some “white liberal dream land” when it comes to crime. When I was 19 my wife and I along with her parents were held up at gunpoint by two black men in our home town of Stockton California. I had a gun at my head and Judy had her glasses ripped off by the other assailant and ground into the parking lot. I don’t think that violent criminals should go unpunished or that people should not maintain a sharp eye and or not be able to defend themselves when actually threatened.

But that does not mean that I think that young black men are all potential armed robbers. I live in a racially mixed neighborhood with many black neighbors. A couple of years ago there was a series of break ins and robberies in the neighborhood that brought about the formation of a neighborhood watch.  Some of the criminals were black and eventually the burglary ring was broken. However that being said I cannot simply assume that a person is a criminal based on their race or how they dress.

When I am in town I am part of our neighborhood watch. However for law enforcement purposes I am a civilian. If I see something that I think is suspicious I call the police. I don’t take the law into my own hands. Being part of a neighborhood watch doesn’t give me or anyone the authority to take the law into our hands.

It really is that simple. George Zimmerman exceeded any measure of authority that he had under the law. He decided that he knew better than the police and ignored their guidance not to pursue the victim. The fact that he was given a pass by the Sanford Police under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is unconscionable.  Stand Your Ground was not designed to provide someone a license to kill. Zimmerman was not threatened. He took the initiative, ignored the police 911 operator and provoked a confrontation in which he killed an unarmed teenager while mumbling racial slurs on the 911 tape.  Zimmerman the vigilante pursued and killed a teenager who posed no threat to him and who was trying to avoid a confrontation.

Jeb Bush is right. The “Stand Your Ground” law provides no cover for Zimmerman who I view as a cold blooded killer. At the same time if charged Zimmerman deserves his day in court no-matter what I think which is far more grace than he gave to Trayvon Williams.

That my friends is premeditated murder motivated by racial prejudice and enabled by a law that gives a pass to anyone who claims that they “feel threatened.” It is a crude form of racially motivated vigilantism and it was not a tragic accident nor it was not the fault of the victim for wearing a hoodie.

Justice needs to be done in this and hopefully the attention that has been brought to this case will shake us from our complacency about the power of racially motivated fear that empowers men like George Zimmerman to kill kids and claim that they are the victim. There is something unjust about such a situation and I have to agree with the great civil rights activists that if there is not justice there can be no peace. Trayvon Martin is dead at the hands of a vigilante. His killer is free.

When will we ever learn?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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