Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Chair waits for you...

Downtowne Coffee
12oz Soy Black Swan Mocha
Ginger Cookie

I feel everything.  Since the dramatic movie-style finish to the manhunt yesterday I have found myself trying to have every emotion at once.  The world has been surreal.  For an American, anyway.  I happened to catch the dramatic beginning of the standoff at 11pm the night before and resigned myself to being up till 3am - the kitchen needed to be cleaned anyway - as the details slowly unraveled and it became more apparent that these were the two marathon bombers.

I gave a whispered synopsis to the "little man" as I climbed into bed.  He declared, equally quietly, that he hoped the officers shot the guy - no trial to line the pockets of lawyers, no pleas of innocence and speeches of martyrdom.  Just kill 'im.

Clearer pictures came the next day, as did stories.  The elder brother, hot-headed, extreme and intolerant in his religious observance.  The younger brother, still at large after the bloody gun-battle (not an exaggeration, for once) the night before... to everyone who spoke of him, in every way, seemingly a good kid.  And yet, what he had done...

The day of the bombing I had felt, as many, the acute feeling of loss and fear that any parent feels.  The horror of hearing about children missing limbs, as I looked at my little boys playing, laughing, giving each other hugs and even kissing the other's boo-boos... often after inflicting them...  And I thought then of all the mothers everywhere and the children they have lost to bombs and guns and all the horrors of the world.  I didn't need a bomb to remind me.  It simply gave me another opportunity to feel their pain fresh.

And yesterday, as I listened to the reports... there are helicopters circling... tons of cop cars lining one street... and finally, he's in custody... I thought of one more mother.  The mother half around the world absolutely refusing to believe that her boys had become monsters.

"I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die... When I hear that whistle blowin', I hang my head and cry..."

Johnny Cash is on the overhead play, singing of remorse for his heinous deeds, right now as I type this.  (Literally right now - no kidding.  Crazy world.)

I can't explain why, but the moment I heard the two suspects in the blurry photos were brothers, something caught inside me.  Brothers.  Just like my little boys.

I am relieved that the final standoff ended as peacefully as it could have.  I'm glad there's a chance now that the victims and their families have someone to face, and that we might be given some kind of answer as to why these young men chose to do this horrible, horrible thing.  I'm also glad that the mother unloved by most of we shell-shocked onlookers will have her son a little longer, at least, so that she too can look him in the eye and ask why.  And, also, so that she can say good-bye to the child she knew.

The story of the bombings and the fatal manhunt was not the only horrible story in the world this week.  It sounds crazy, but I don't even know if it's the worst.  And they just keep coming.  To greater and lesser degree, there is no shortage of stories of people being horrible to other people.  And from all this one theme has struck me: Otherism.

It seems the root of all this evil.  The moment we create an artificial division, a category between one person and another person, we can then diminish them, by category.  It's not just the obvious color categories our country grew up with, White vs. Anybody Else.  And it's not just by country or religion, or sect within a religion.  It's social groups, too.  It's Rich vs. Middle Class vs. The Poor.  It's Yankees fans, and Red Sox fans, and football hooligans.  It's Republicans vs. Democrats.  It's Men vs. Women.  It's Conformists vs. Deviants.  Straights vs. queers.  Bullies vs. Sluts, Geeks, Stoners... Whatevers...  Beliebers vs. People Who Like Music.

(Okay, cheap shot.)

And once these Others can be categorized, they can have lesser attributes attached to them, and their inherent rights and dignities can then be ignored.  It's okay to treat Them that way, because They aren't Us.  There are more hateful slurs than there are words on this page.  Far, far more.

And now, that white Republican male, Senator Lindsay Graham, has just called upon President Obama to classify the young terrorist as an "enemy combatant" so that he can be handed over to the military.  As if our justice system is a luxury reserved only for Our Kind.  Our kind of criminal?

Does everyone remember why the term "enemy combatant" was invented?  The answer is in the UN's Declaration of Human Rights.  In that document, the United Nations spells out what rights shall be respected for all people around the world.  And they felt it necessary, from grim experience, to spell out all the many classifications that could NOT be used to deny any person these rights.  When they said "all" they meant "all," damn it, and no country get's out of respecting these rights.  Period.

So the United States, under the Bush Administration, created the new category of "enemy combatant" to get around it.  And if anybody but the United States had done it, they would have answered for it.  Or they would have, at least, been given a stern warning, never to be followed up on.

But "these people" are different... they always say.  Just insert your least favorite category in between the quote marks.

Let me leave you with one final story, before they kick me out of this coffeehouse.  A while ago I heard a story (you Google it) from a high school.  Two boys had gotten in trouble for fighting, or some such, and the principle, or whomever, had come up with an "innovative" choice of punishment.  He had the boys sit in a couple of chairs and forced them hold hands, while the surrounding student body was encouraged to shout homophobic slurs.

Yeah, that happened.

I hope that one day when my boys are older, if they were to stand amongst that crowd, I hope that they would not go along with the crowd.  I hope that they will be the kind of people who would dare to walk forward and challenge the crowd.  I hope that they would speak for all the people who have been shamed, who have been abused, and how the hate is nonsensical, evil.  I hope that they would say that it is only happenstance that those two are in the chair and anyone else is in the crowd.  The crowd is not a safe place.  But a community is.  A community which does not value dominance.  A community which rejects artificial divisions and celebrates real differences.  A community which embraces and respects all, which loves and supports any person in need.  A community which recognizes that every person is a person and has within them the capacity for both good and evil.  And the first act of evil is bringing out that chair.

The crowd is not safe.  The crowd will turn on you.  They'll find a reason.  There is no membership to be revoked.  No reason needs to be found to put you in the chair.

Closing time. 

No edits.

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