The surest way to ensure the continued abuse of people of color under the auspices of the drug war is to reduce or eliminate any corresponding threat to white Americans. This seems to me to be such a fundamental of realpolitik in the United States that I’m still a little bit astonished that The Nation, in a recent assessment of marijuana reform efforts and racial bias, can’t see any forest from the trees.
Archive for category: Commentary
Some nice folk hoping to help craft a better future for my alma mater, The Baltimore Sun, stopped by the office a few weeks ago and asked me some questions about what I thought about the Koch brothers, those politically passioned gentlemen, purchasing the half-empty husks of what remains of the Chicago Tribune newspapers.
Among many, many others of similar passion:
- pat stevens ?
- david simon, I hope a black guy punches you right in the fucking face just for being white..
- Willy Scanlon ?
@7sMRD313 Then David Simon should leave for Israel with the rest of the Fucking Jews who think that they own this country.
- Robert Aguilar Jr. ?
David Simon can take the first Asiana flight the fuck out of here too!!
My actual words: “Tonight, anyone who truly understands what justice is and what it requires of a society is ashamed to call himself an American.”
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Some random moments in my lifetime when I have been intensely proud of my country:
1. “Ich bin ein Berliner” and “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
2. The arrival of U.S. carriers off the shores of Indonesia after a devastating tsunami.
3. Standing on a lawn in College Park, Md. when President Reagan arrived to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a black family that had endured a cross burning there.
4. The realization that if the state of Iowa — Iowa! — could accept gay marriage, then a great wall of intolerance was certain to collapse in our own time.
5. The rebuilding of New Orleans with the celebration of American culture as its essential fuel.
6. MLK’s 1963 address from the Lincoln Memorial.
7. Walking among the graves at Coleville-sur-Mer in Normandy and walking the ground at Gettysburg, Antietam and Cold Harbor.
8. The first time I actually heard the Library of Congress recording of Woody Guthrie singing “This Land Is Your Land.”
9. The night we answered precisely an act of mass murder by the necessary capture or death of Osama bin Laden.
10. The Gourds’ cover of “Gin & Juice.” I’m not kidding, but no, I can’t quite explain.
Random moments from my life in which I have been ashamed to be an American.
1. The shooting down of a civilian airliner by the U.S. Navy and the deaths of hundreds of ordinary people for which a president said he would never apologize.
2. The assassination of Dr. King.
3. Our drug war and the realization of what it has done to our underclass, to the northern Mexican states and to our own civil liberties.
4. Extra-legal rendition and torture.
5. The imagery of young Americans chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A.” gleefully in the wake of the necessary but sobering death of Osama bin Laden.
6. Listening to Irving Berlin’s sanctification of a nation-state at every seventh-inning stretch.
7. The federal sentencing guidelines and the evisceration of the federal judiciary.
8. The killing of doctors, bombings of abortion clinics and the harassment and stigmatization of patients in the name of a political cause which then claims the mantle of pro-life.
9. The systemic response to the death of an unarmed 17-year-old boy, profiled and shot to death.
10. The callow insecurity that accompanies any cry of “America, right or wrong” or “America, love it or leave it.”
As with 300 million other souls, I am fully vested in the American experiment. I try my best to be attentive to what America achieves for its citizens and by its citizens, and what it offers the world. When we are honorable and generous and in concert with our stated ideals, pride naturally follows. When we act otherwise, shame is, for me, the resulting emotion.
To those who can’t conceive of anyone ever being ashamed, or expressing shame at those moments when this country abandons or even betrays its core values, I’m actually willing to go even further than my initial comment: You may, in fact, be the one who doesn’t understand what it means to be a proud American. Not truly and not deeply; not without some measure of shame as well.
Why not? Because just as good cannot be truly understood to the marrow without a corresponding sense of evil, pride in one’s country — if it is substantive pride, and not merely the rote, pledge-allegiance mouthings of patriotic cliche — requires the sober knowledge that American greatness is neither assured, nor heaven-sent. It comes to us from our national premise and ideals — and our willingness to maintain those things at all hazards. And if you’ve never felt ashamed for us for having strayed from our core values in even the most appalling ways — say, the wartime detention of Japanese-Americans, or a My Lai or Kent State , or Bull Conner, or COINTELPRO, or life sentences for juvenile defendants, or prisons-for-profit — then maybe you’ve never really acknowledged what the actual stakes are for a republic, or how much work, rather than platitude, is required to assure an honorable, democratic future. Yes, you claim an all-encompassing pride and you wallow in it, brooking not even a mention of anything shameful that happens on our watch as citizens. But in fact, real pride is earned and internalized only with a grown-up understanding that even a good or great nation, while deserving of our allegiance and civic commitment, can indeed shame itself. Saying so when it happens is a fundamental of self-governance, as all dissent is a fundamental of self-governance.
I’m not going anywhere. And I’m doubling down. Our national response to the death of an unarmed 17-year-old, and the new legal construct that prevents any judicial redress of his death is shameful and as an American, I am ashamed.
If you go to the original post on the verdict itself, entitled “Trayvon,” you will find more than five hundred posts in which all of the issues regarding the case were debated to the point of repetition over more than 48 hours, after which, as every new comment in the last several hundred had already been addressed, we closed the comments to preserve the give-and-take of the debate — debate becing one of the fundamental goals of the website.
The dynamic is explained in greater detail in the subsequent and concluding post, “Trayvon: Calling It.” Commentary on that post is naturally being limited to a discussion about the debate dynamic here. A third post stands only as a corrective to the false claim that I was exhorting anyone to riot, and that the reductive medium of Twitter was being so utilized. Commentary there is being limited largely to a discussion of the claim and the uses or misuses of Twitter.
If you have a point to argue about the issue itself — be it the false claim that SYG was not fundamental to the prosecution of this case, that black-and-black violence can be cited so that we should all turn our attention away from the slaying of Trayvon Martin because sentient humans can only be concerned about one tragedy at a time, or just feel the general need to tell me to leave the country because I feel ashamed of this verdict and what it says about our nation — rest assured that you will likely find the appropriate back-and-forth already enshrined in the comments. Oppositional comments were not winnowed, save for those that veered into outright racism, psychosis, hyperbolic ad hominem insult and libel. Other than that, it all got a ride.
If you’re arriving late to the party, rest assured that it’s already in the comments, ready for your perusal. As life is short, I can’t oblige by undertaking to answer the same arguments in sidebar posts that have already been answered in detail and with diligence on the main post in the days prior.
A new top to this, apparently: A reader has informed me that Mr. Podhoretz has apologized for the mischaracterization of the quote. That was manful, and direct. So while this post remains as a means of reaffirming the actual intent of what I wrote, it should be acquired henceforth with the knowledge that Mr. Podhoretz appears to have been unaware of the full context when he tweeted. Mr. Kurtz remains in the wind, but due respect to Mr. Podhoretz.
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Willful stupidity or rank intellectual dishonesty? With these two fellows and their output, there is really no third choice that can be legitimately considered:
Ugh: Wire’s David Simon: If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford.
The Actual Statement:
If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford. Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve. I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own.
Yes, the complete statement is not an exhortation for anyone to riot. It is instead a statement of admiration for the restraint and civic commitment that African-Americans are displaying in the wake of an appalling betrayal of their citizenship.
By the time Mr. Kurtz and Mr. Podhoretz practice their intellectual reductions, they have achieved and propagated the opposite. Perhaps the willingness to convert the skill set that used to be journalism and essaying to 140-character morsels breaks down the human brain. Or perhaps, the process is readily suited for ideologues and paper-thin media gurus to simply manufacture a quote so simple and corrupted that they can actually wrestle with it.