Like most Americans, I really don’t pay much attention to the political happenings that happen on the other side of the border of the United States. I have to admit that I don’t know many leaders of other countries around the world. The ones I do know are the ones who occasionally appear in the news. I know there’s Angela Merkel in Germany who didn’t look too happy when President George Bush tried to give her a back rub during one of those world leader summits. There’s Silvio Berlusconi in Italy who had the party with all the naked women at his official resident. Kim Jung Il in North Korea stays in the news with his threats to blow South Korea to hell. I know Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the President of Iran that we constantly hear wants to develop a nuclear bomb to take out Israel that has an undisclosed number of nuclear weapons to retaliate, although admittedly there is some debate over whether or not Mr. Ahmadinejad truly runs the country. Ban Ki Moon isn’t the leader of the country but as the leader of United Nations I think he ranks a worth mentioning. And then there’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown of England who made the news lately because of a gaffe heard around the world.
I can’t believe that Prime Minister Gordon Brown would be caught saying something so utterly stupid. It was an embarrassing mistake with just a week before England voters go to the polls. Supposedly, Mr. Brown was caught on an open microphone calling an elderly widow on a pension a bigot. While engaging in a meet and greet with the commoners, Mr. Gordon had the unfortunate luck to run across sixty six year old Gillian Duffy. Ms. Duffy peppered the Prime Minister with questions about taxes, the national debt, and immigrants from eastern Europe. The woman insisted that Mr. Gordon do something. Mr. Gordon tried to answer her questions and recover some shred of his dignity. But he quickly ended the campaigning and got into a car and sped away. As he left, the microphone he was wearing during the campaign stop was still on and he was overheard talking to an aide saying that the whole affair was a disaster and referring to Ms. Duffy as a sort of bigoted woman.
Mr. Brown later paid a visit to Ms. Duffy’s house to apologize personally for his insult. It was his third apology to the woman after first saying he was sorry during a radio interview and secondly by a telephone call placed to Ms. Duffy. Mr. Brown said he was mortified by what happened. The visit lasted forty minutes. Mr. Brown said that he had misunderstood some of Ms. Duffy’s comments and reevaluated his approach in order to relate to her fears over the eastern European immigrants in Britain. The Prime Minister emailed members of his party and apologized for his mistake. And there’s some speculation that this event has cost Mr. Brown’s party any hopes of a favorable result in the election. Mr. Brown’s party is currently in last place in most opinion polls, behind the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Most pollsters believe that Britain is heading for a hung parliament where no single party has an overall majority.
Mr. Brown probably jumped to conclusions about what Ms. Duffy was trying to say. But anybody who bothers to take a look at the conservation could reasonably conclude that Ms. Duffy was a bigot. She talked about the fact that she had to work hard all her life to earn a living and now that she’s retired she’s being taxed on her pension. And then she added to the conversation with a comment about how the government is taking her hard earned money and is giving it to all the people who don’t work and don’t try to find work. And then Ms. Duffy went even further and made the association to the Eastern Europeans who are coming into the country. Ms. Duffy sounds like one of those people in Arizona who wants to solve all of the state’s problems by rounding up all the illegal aliens through questioning anybody who fits a supposedly generic racial profile but looks like they might be from some slum in Mexico.
The gaffe I saw Mr. Brown make was not challenging the woman’s assertions right there on the spot. He should’ve asked for the clarification he needed to remove the reasonable doubt from others. Instead, Mr. Brown continued to talking to the woman trying to placate her fears with inconsequential political talking points. Ms. Duffy wasn’t there to placate Mr. Brown. She saw an opportunity to voice her opinion and she took full advantage of it. If Mr. Brown honestly thought that the woman was being a bigot he should’ve addressed that bigotry right there on the spot. Instead, he wants to say how he really felt under his breath. The only reason he went back to Ms. Duffy’s house was to undo the damage he made to his campaign. He didn’t care about that bigot. All he cared about was politics. His attempt to repair the damage done to his party’s image was truly lame. Mr. Brown is oozing with lame right now and his high political hopes are going down in flames. Ms. Duffy may have been a bigot. Some people might argue one way or the other. But Gordon Brown is lame. And there should be no doubt about that.
At a memorial service for the victims of the explosion in the Montcoal, West Virginia at the Upper Big Branch mine owned by Massey Energy, President Barack Obama said that the twenty nine men died in the worst mining disaster in about a generation. He said that those men died in pursuit of a better life and he is promising to do his part in developing safer working conditions underground. Mr. Obama has ordered a review of coal mines with poor safety records and urged the passage of stronger laws to close loopholes that allows the perpetuation of unsafe conditions.
Mr. Obama pledged changes to an industry that provides valuable jobs in an area known as mine country and a valued source of energy. He said that we cannot bring back the men that were lost and that what we need to do now is try and to keep lives from being lost in another such tragedy. He made the statement that we need to do what must be done, individually and collectively, to assure safe conditions underground.
A preliminary report from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and mine safety officials suggests the blast may have been caused by a preventable buildup of methane gas mixing with coal dust. The report also raised concerns about a major increase in safety violations at the Upper Big Branch mine indicated by the rate of serious violations. Although he placed the majority of blame for the accident on the mine owners, Mr. Obama conceded the government was partly at fault for the disaster, he laid most of the blame for the latest accident on the mine’s owner. He said that many letters had poured into the White House after the disaster asking him to never forget that miners keep America’s lights on. The President of the United States is clearly sympathizing with this segment of our national collective.
So far, the President has shown himself to be a very compassionate and sensitive man to this impact to the mining community. He promises to do his part to assure that these people see the type of change that should lead to a brighter future for families. The President would never say that he doesn’t have time to be the President of miners or say anything like he doesn’t have the time to be the President for such a small constituency or say that by law he can’t make any laws that favor miners. Mr. Obama would never say anything to distance himself from the community of miners the way he continues to distance himself from the black community.
Two years ago, when Tavis Smiley invited Mr. Obama to the annual State of the Black Union to discuss issues pertinent to the black community, even though the invitation was made weeks in advance, when he was just a candidate for the presidency, Mr. Obama had to decline due to other commitments. But now as President, Mr. Obama can change on a dime, put off whatever he has on his busy presidential schedule, to do his part to comfort his constituents. Mr. Obama would never say something like he is not trying to be the President of coal miners. Mr. Obama would never tell the miners anything so callous like any fool can go down a mineshaft. He would never say that miners should pick themselves up by their own bootstrap and work hard to change their conditions because no one can do it for them. Mr. Obama would never tell the miners and the family members of miners that by law he can’t do anything to help anybody to justify his inaction. Instead, he will do just the opposite and he will make it plain and clear that he has empathy and he has concern.
Honestly, no one should have a problem with Mr. Obama working the crowd at the memorial for the twenty nine miners that lost their lives. He is a politician after all. He knows that the favorable position he enjoys now can easily slip away and those West Virginia miners could put their political clout behind another candidate. Mr. Obama knows he can’t take their support for granted.
But Mr. Obama is under no illusion that his support from the black community is at stake. At the moment, after all the stiff arming he gives the black community, after doing everything he can to prove to America that he has little sympathy for the black community, he still enjoys an approval rating in the black community upwards of ninety percent. The majority of people in the black community stand ready to give America’s first black President a pass for his every refusal to do anything that might change the racial status quo.
And because so many black people are ready to give their political ass up to this man, he knows he doesn’t have to do a damn thing to earn a piece of political ass from black people. And despite the number of black people who see Mr. Obama’s black community track record for what it truly is, despite the number of black people who see the many offenses Mr. Obama keeps inflicting on the black community, as part of the black community collective their voices are drowned out by all the black people who could not care any less that the black community gets its fair share of compassion from our President.
Mr. Obama is no more the President of the coal miner community than he is the President of the black community. But somehow, for some reason, he doesn’t have to go out of his way to convince anyone that he isn’t trying to prove himself to be just the President of coal miners. We see that relationship between the President and those constituents as benign. But as soon as we see the black President being compassionate to the black community we will see something dangerous and despicable and something that must be avoided at all cost.
If I had a dime for every time I saw one of those pictures of President Barack Obama with a little Adolph Hitler moustache I do believe I would be a very rich man. The sign is one of the mainstays of the tea party and other staunch political conservatives. Before Mr. Obama could be sworn into his oval office people were painting him as a dictator out to trample anything that remains of human rights not trampled on by his predecessor. By making healthcare reform his number one priority, many people who will benefit from such a change in our national policy has dubbed Mr. Obama the harbinger of everything that stands against true freedom and the American way.
Of course, anyone with an agnostic sense of politics would hardly support the idea that healthcare reform that is trying to stop the abuses of health insurance companies and give more Americans adequate healthcare equates as a threat to personal freedoms. Granted, a mandate that says everyone that can afford healthcare insurance must have healthcare insurance is an obstruction to our personal choice to do without healthcare if we so choose. But as soon as someone gets hurt and is transported to hospital for emergency care or is disabled is in need of medical assistance, the impact to the rest of us is inevitable. A healthcare plan that requires all of us to contribute out of pocket since there is no political will for any thing resembling a healthcare tax is a compromise that many people can find fault with. Nevertheless, it is a step in a right direction. Some social reform in this area is better than none. But the leap that Mr. Obama is single handedly pushing this agenda and is therefore trying to become a dictator is a pretty long one.
In the mean time, conservative Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that makes it a crime under state law to be in the United States illegally. It also requires local and state police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is any reason to suspect that someone is an illegal immigrant. The new law allows lawsuits against any government agency that hinders enforcement of immigration law and makes it illegal for anyone to hire an undocumented immigrant for day labor or knowingly transport them.
Supporters of this new law said would take handcuffs off police in dealing with illegal immigration in one of the nation’s busiest gateways for human and drug smuggling from Mexico. However, opponents of this law believe that it would lead to racial profiling and civil rights abuses. Ms. Brewer made a statement that harsh critics of the law were overreacting and that she wouldn’t tolerate racial profiling. Ms. Brewer claims that the law is intended to send a clear message that Arizona is not a haven for undocumented aliens. After waiting for decades for the federal government to act, Ms. Brewer claims that decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation for Arizona. Ms. Brewer also claims that the law is intended to protect every Arizona citizen, at least those citizens that may not fit the profile of an illegal alien.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund plans a legal challenge to the law arguing that it is a concession to people’s fear of Hispanic and Latino immigrants and would lead to community distrust and costly litigation with nationwide repercussions. The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders Legal Defense Fund is preparing a lawsuit against Arizona to stop the law from being applied. Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa said that the law will affect relations between Mexico and Arizona and it will force Mexico to reevaluate whether or not the cooperation agreements that have been developed with Arizona are viable and useful for resolving what they previously believed were mutual problems.
The law will take effect in the late July or early August time frame. The state’s law enforcement licensing agency will be developing a training course on how to implement the law without violating people’s civil rights. Ms. Brewer says that the law must be enforced evenly, without regard to skin color, accent, or social status. But it is a fair bet that she isn’t too worried about the illegal Canadian coming into her state. The idea that this law is intended for anyone other than people with Latino or Hispanic ancestry is pretty farfetched. Ms. Brewer faces a tough election battle and there is growing anger in the state over the issue of illegal immigration from south of the border. Anger against illegal immigrants has swelled and nobody is pointing a damning finger at anyone from Europe or Asia or even from Africa.
Mr. Obama, the man in more pictures with a Hitler moustache than Adolph Hitler himself, referred to the new law in Arizona as misguided. He instructed the Justice Department to examine the law under a microscope to prepare for a legal challenge from the federal government because it is the federal government’s responsibility to enact immigration policy. If not, we leave the door open to other people’s irresponsibility which will undermine basic notions of fairness that Americans claim to cherish. But it is becoming quite clear that some of us are becoming more and more comfortable with making exceptions to that notion.
The fear is that we are in the early stages of a large scale environmental disaster that is occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. Houston based energy contractor Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig leased by the big oil company BP, exploded and sank off the Louisiana coast last week. It was carrying out exploratory drilling about fifty miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, in an area referred to as the Macondo well, when the disaster occurred. While More than one hundred workers on the rig were rescued, eleven workers are still missing and presumed to have been killed in the accident. The search for them has been called off. It had been burning for more than a day and a half when it sank into the water offshore about a mile deep.
Poor weather conditions have hampered efforts to clean up the spill. And right now it is estimated that oil is leaking out of the damaged vessel and into the sea at a rate of about a thousand barrels a day. The oil leak has the potential to damage beaches, barrier islands and wetlands up and down the coastline. Officials from the United States Coast Guard estimate that the slick has grown to more than six hundred square miles in area. A significant change from the fifteen square mile slick observed just the day after the explosion.
BP has been using a remote controlled submarine to try to activate a valve that could stop the leak. However, BP officials do warn it was a highly complex task and there is a very good chance that it may not be successful. The company has hired more than thirty cleanup vessels and several aircraft to help control the spill by spraying chemicals to help disperse the floating oil. And at the moment, the same weather conditions that hampered clean up efforts are keeping the oil away from the coastline and it is hoped the waves will break up the heavy crude oil, allowing it to harden and sink back to the ocean floor. That way, its toxic effects will be kept out of the eye of the majority of the public.
The spill, and its looming threat of major environmental damage to the Gulf Coast from Mississippi all the way across Texas, comes at a critical moment for the oil industry. After years of lobbying by oil producers, the Obama administration has proposed opening the east cost of the United States to offshore drilling. For years the east coast was protected by a moratorium that allowed for exploration for oil, but prevented drilling.
Proponents of big oil welcome the change in the law thinking that giving oil companies access to more oil will somehow help alleviate America’s addiction to foreign. People who really want to fool themselves believe that offshore drilling in the waters off the east coast would help lower fuel prices to the public. But any oil extracted there, like oil extracted anywhere, would go onto the world’s oil market and would only give oil companies more inventory to sell at the best price possible.
President Barack Obama has promised that the federal government’s response to this disaster will be one of his number one priorities. Mr. Obama says that the entire federal government was offering all assistance needed in the rescue effort as well as in mitigating and responding to the environmental impact. The White House is ready to do everything it possibly can to help control this problem, with the exception of keeping laws in place that would help keep these problems from happening in the first place.
There is little doubt that we will not learn much of anything from this awful event. Every effort will be made to clean the place up, at least enough where the majority of the public could put their mind at ease and devote their attention elsewhere. The workers who were injured and the families of the people who were regrettably killed in this disaster will be compensated. The rig will be salvaged and the company will file a claim to their insurance company to replace it. The fragile ecosystem in Louisiana’s wetlands will take a hit. But this too shall pass for the vast majority of us. This is little more than a hiccup as we will continue to guzzle as much petroleum as possible as quickly as possible.
We will continue with the plan to open the east coast up and expose more of our environment to potential danger. When any future disasters happen we will simply consider it the price of doing business as the oil companies continue to make huge profits and our ecosystem continues to bear the burden of our need to extract every drop of petroleum available no matter what the cost.
I don’t know if this was a surprise to anybody with a clear understanding of the black community’s relationship with the Republican Party. But in a speech at DePaul University in Chicago, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele admitted that for the past forty years the party of the conservatives had a southern style strategy that focused primarily on the needs of its white male constituents in the southern states while simultaneously alienating the African American community.
About forty years ago America was in the infancy of the civil rights movement. This is about the time people like Alabama Governor George Wallace was standing in the doorway of Alabama University and made it clear that racial segregation was a major entitlement for the white community. These are the same white people who spat on and harassed black people who sat at lunch carters demanding service. These are the same white people who threatened black students as they tried to attend Little Rock High School. These are the same white people who cheered and applauded when the news hit the airwaves the civil rights icon Dr. King was murdered as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. And these are the same people who wanted to use their political influence to keep the black community from becoming the true equal of the dominant community as much as possible.
Now, considering that this is the attitude of the pool of people serving as the party’s base, what incentive does a black person with strong affiliations to the black community have to support such a political agenda? It’s a fair bet that the great majority of the black people who call themselves Republicans have zero interest in addressing the issues pertinent to the black community. Yes, a nation wide unemployment rate approaching double digits might be pretty important to everyone, but the black community has been dealing with double digit unemployment rates for years. While the national rate might be somewhere in the ten percent range, the black community rate might be up in the sixteen percent range. But this issue of unemployment rates doesn’t register as a problem until it becomes a problem to the dominant community.
Some people will point a finger at Mr. Steele, not the middle one, and say that he’s off his rocker. The Republican Party is the party that freed the slaves after all. Any Republican affiliation with anybody who indulges in racism is totally coincidental and is often considered an anomaly to the larger party and any act of racism is an isolated incident from people who don’t have a single racist bone in their body. True, there might not be a single racist bone, but there are more than enough acts of racism by some high profile conservatives to call into question conservative’s sensitivity to matters of race.
More often than not conservatives will say that there’s absolutely nothing in their party’s agenda to prevent people from the black community from getting their fair share of the American dream. All black people have to do is work hard or get a quality education where they can compete fairly for various opportunities. But as soon as the black community asks for so much as a dime to make black community schools the equal of schools in the white community because the black community schools have been left to fall into such poor conditions, conservatives will say that black people need to stop asking for handouts and pull themselves up by their bootstrap. If black people would only learn to think outside the box and demonstrate some kind of personal responsibility and quit trying to appeal to the dominant community’s sense of social responsibility.
Many conservatives who heard Mr. Steele’s political assessment will simply dismiss him as irrelevant. Many will say that Mr. Steele is simply trying to inject some degree of race into the debate as to why so many of his party constituents see him as such an embarrassment to their cause. Many conservatives will say that their party is truly color blind and is far more effective at helping the black community through rough times with a social responsibility cheerfully referred to as tough love instead of the doting mother kind of love that retards personal growth. Funny how these people don’t have a problem being a doting mother to one of America’s corporate conglomerates that lobbies hard to get a multi billion dollar contract.
Many people will say that Mr. Steele missed the mark. They will say that if anything is holding the black community back it is black people’s insistence for undeserved handouts and special consideration. And that is one way to look at things. It could be called the conservative way of looking at things. But when we see high profile conservatives referring to black people with racially charged terms or descriptions, and so many conservatives continue to support such blatant disregard for the black community, it is a serious misrepresentation of facts to say that these attitudes play no roll in the subjugation and alienation of black people.
Whether or not people see Mr. Steele’s statement as accurate is moot. Whether we recognize it as true or not is little more than a matter of perception. Conservatives will say that there is no foundation. People in the black community will say it is about time somebody in the Republican Party admitted what has been going on for the past forty years or so. Do black people have any reason to vote for the Republican Party? Not really. As far as the majority of the black community thinks, the Republicans appear to be the worse of two evils.
Matt Mitchell is the Illinois State Police trooper who was suspended for an accident he caused that killed two teenage sisters, Jessica and Kelli Uhl, back in November of 2007 after he lost control of his squad car. According to prosecutors, Mr. Mitchell had been talking on a cell phone and emailing on the mobile computer inside his Chevrolet Impala patrol car as he drove more than one hundred twenty miles per hour on Interstate 64 near Scott Air Force Base. Mr. Mitchell’s cruiser jumped the median and then slammed into the car with the two sisters from Collinsville, Illinois. Jessica and Kelli were killed instantly.
Mr. Mitchell said that he was responding to a call for help to a previous traffic crash that had already been cleared. Mr. Mitchell pleaded guilty and a St. Clair County grand jury indicted Mr. Mitchell on two counts each of reckless homicide and aggravated reckless driving. As a result of his conviction, Mr. Mitchell was given a slight slap on the wrist when he was sentenced to just thirty months probation.
Kimberly Schlau is the mother of the two girls that were killed. She has filed a lawsuit for the wrongful death of her daughters. She is holding Mr. Mitchell and the state responsible and accountable for the crash. She is seeking twelve million dollars for each girl.
But here’s the piece of the puzzle that piqued my interest. Although he initially denied responsibility, Mr. Mitchell eventually pleaded guilty. Mr. Mitchell admitted that he was criminally responsible for his crash on duty that killed the two sisters and apologized for his recklessness. That happened on a Friday. He was sentenced to probation and walked away from the courts a free man. On Monday, facing civil charges from Ms. Schlau’s lawsuit, Mr. Mitchell tried to take back his guilty plea saying that the only reason he pleaded guilty in the criminal case was because he felt that he didn’t think he could get a fair trial. At the time of his sentencing, trying to appeal to the sympathy of the court, he said he would forever regret what happened. The following Monday, just three days later, under heated questioning by Ms. Schlau’s lawyer Tom Keefe, Mr. Mitchell refused to admit he caused the collision. When Mr. Mitchell was asked if he had lied when he admitted wrongdoing, the Illinois trooper said that he did.
Mr. Mitchell insisted he had used reasonable care and that he had finished his phone call before a white car cut him off and he lost control. Coincidentally, the dashboard camera of his car was turned off moments before the accident. Accident investigators never found the white car Mr. Mitchell claimed as the true cause of the accident. The phone call just before the accident had been a private conversation with the mother of his child. The email he sent from the patrol car computer was to another office for directions to the previous crash scene he was trying to respond to. It seems somewhat irresponsible to be in such a hurry to get to a place when you have no idea where you’re going. Mr. Mitchell said he was driving so fast because it was an emergency. Transcripts from the police radio conversation indicate the wayward trooper was told the accident had been cleared by other emergency responders. But Mr. Mitchell claims that he did not hear that piece of the conversation. How Mr. Mitchell avoided serious time in prison is beyond the comprehension of reason.
And this was not the first accident he caused. He has been involved in two previous crashes in his relatively short six year career as a state police officer. One of the previous accidents resulted in a seven figure judgment against the state.
Mr. Mitchell has proven himself a liar and a coward. He admits to lying to the court out of fear that he would be unfairly prosecuted. With such little confidence in his chosen profession of law enforcement it is a wonder that he bothered to become, let alone stay, a state trooper. He demonstrates no desire to protect or seek the truth. How many times has Mr. Mitchell lied in a court or in his police reports in order to get the outcome he wanted? He admitted to lying when he said that he regretted causing the accident. How do we know he’s not lying about the white car that he claims cut him off or about not hearing that the accident he was headed to was cleared?
I cannot help but think how fortunate it is to be a state police officer in Illinois. I could have a history of reckless behavior, kill innocent people with my squad car, and go home with a thirty month probation as punishment based on my ability to lie to the court about having some sense of remorse. Mr. Mitchell is a first class example of why we shouldn’t be so quick to trust the word of people who carry badges. The people of Illinois would do well to get Mr. Mitchell off their payroll. This man is a serious liability to the state’s ability to keep the peace. They didn’t learn the lesson after his first accident. They didn’t learn the lesson after the second accident. Maybe the third time will be a charm.
I feel like a slacker. I haven’t been keeping up with my writing like a good blogger should. And it’s not because nothing has been happening in the news or on a personal level. With all the happenings in politics and in the community at the local, national, and global level, if anything the world has kicked into hyper drive. The only problem is that my world has kicked into hyper drive as well. The job is getting ready to do everybody’s annual review so it’s super important to get those goals planned last year done. The weather is nicer and so work on getting that pile of bricks I call my house into some kind of livable condition. And I still need to find the time to be with family and friends.
And I still need to do my blog. Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, the blog is the least of the priorities and will be the one that suffers the most. Not that my blog isn’t important to me. But getting a roof over the immediate family’s collective head and keeping a job so I can afford to get that roof are much bigger priorities. Eventually, the blog will bubble to the surface of the priority list every now and then. I just can’t make much of a promise about keeping it as regular as it used to be. Life is just a little full right now.
And speaking of the house, it is coming along very well. It’s still a gutted hovel. But it’s a gutted hovel with electrical wiring, new water and gas plumbing, duct work for the central air conditioning already ordered and scheduled for delivery in about two weeks time, a new roof, windows, and doors, and all the walls moved and reinforced and ready for inspection. We had a carpenter helping us. But our budget took a serious hit a couple of weeks ago and had to kick the carpenter to the curb. So now that we’re doing a lot of the framing and other carpentry ourselves, things just aren’t moving as quickly as they should. Doing it ourselves, we’re not the quickest repair crew on the market, but we’ll get the job done eventually.
And it didn’t help when somebody broke into our basement. We were thinking that it was another attempt by someone to get some easy access copper pipes. But we’ve been doing all the water in PVC which is pretty much worthless as salvage. But the additional damage done to the basement door already damaged didn’t help things. Securing the basement stairwell with something much more secure instantly jumped to the top of the priority list. Instead of just replacing the door the door at the bottom of the stairwell with another day that could be kicked in, we went with the angled cellar door type of arrangement at the top of the stairwell that would help keep water from collecting at the bottom of the steps as well as prevent a would be burglar from simply kicking the door in. Buying the door and having it installed would run about a thousand dollars. We decided to fabricate something out of pressure treated wood. It took us about six hours to put it together, but the basement, and therefore the house, is now much more secure.
After the work was done the misses and I was exhausted. We went back to our room in the basement of my mom’s house and cleaned up. It was late in the evening. But even though we were exhausted, we were still a little too keyed up to just go to bed. We went to the front porch for a minute to wind down. Even though it was just before midnight, it was a weekend and so a lot of people were still walking up and down the street. Three young black men emerged out of the alley and started walking down the street. They were walking with a purpose and talking loudly like many people do when they have no idea of any sense of discretion. Suddenly they turned and started walking down the gangway between my mom’s house and her neighbor to the west. They walked behind the house as if they knew exactly where they were going and as if they owned the place.
The misses asked if they needed help. Two of the guys jumped as if startled and quickly turned around. They continued their walk down the street. The third stayed between the houses. I got up to see what he was doing. The misses followed. The young brother was pissing on the side of the neighbor’s house. I was flabbergasted. I yelled asking him what the fuck he was doing. He zipped up his pants and turned around explaining that it was okay because he only pissed on the neighbor’s house. I asked what fucking difference did it make, that shit was going to make both houses stink. The pisser ran to catch up with his friends. I yelled after him, it’s people like you that make this place the shit hole everybody thinks it is. The nasty trio continued walking wherever they were walking to.
For a brief second I hated my neighborhood. I hated the fact that people think they can simply walk up to somebody’s house, whip their dick out and start urinating at their convenience. I hated the fact that people see a house being rehabbed and think that they are entitled to break down doors and steal pipes or whatever. I too wanted to put this shit behind me. But it was only for a brief second. By the time we went to bed we were laughing at the pissing trio. We were thanking the guy that kicked the door in who reminded us that we had a weakness in our house. We took the steps necessary to correct it and now our house is better for it. It now has a burglar alarm as well.
I was reminded that our neighborhood is just like any other neighborhood. There are people who will make the place better. There are people who couldn’t care any less if our neighborhood smelled like somebody’s piss. A lot of people would see these problems and think that they need to pack up and leave. But that’s just a knee jerk reaction. I went to sleep thinking that it was way too easy to fall into that pattern of judging the entire neighborhood full of black people on the behavior of a few knuckleheads. Hopefully I won’t be so quick to forget this lesson when I encounter the next knucklehead in my neighborhood.
Just a week ago the media was abuzz with the story about the Hutaree members headquartered in Michigan and how they planned to wreak havoc on the government by assassinating a police officer and then following up with a murderous campaign against the all of the police officers who would come to pay respects at the fallen officer’s funeral. The government decided to pull the plug on the Hutaree operation and nine people were arrested in three states. All the members were white. The militia culture is a phenomenon exclusive to the white community. If there was a group of black or Hispanic or some other minority brandishing weapons and planning violence we’d simply call them gangs.
That was last week. Last night I was watching the national news where one of the top stories was the huge spike in the homicide violence in certain urban areas in America. As the news report rolled, the video was replete with a variety of images of young black men being processed through the justice system. There were images of urban black neighborhoods. There was a sound bite from one of the Chicago police chiefs talking about the explosion of violence ravaging our inner city communities. Along with Chicago, St. Louis, Missouri was named as a city where violence is up about sixteen percent so far this year compared to last year. There was a third urban city that I cannot remember now. But minus these three urban area exceptions, the news article went on to say that the homicide violence throughout the country actually dropped over the past year’s time.
This news story was aired late Sunday night on the local CBS affiliate KMOV-TV. The misses and I were watching the news trying to catch up on what’s happening in the world after a long busy weekend. Earlier in the day we participated in a survey where a woman came to the house to interview us about our medical history. We’ve been participating in a study that, out of the blue, picked us to voluntarily reveal our personal experiences with getting medical coverage and medical services for our family. We’ve been doing this every four months for the past three years. We’ve enjoyed participating in the study and feel like we’ve made a difference in the healthcare debate. Yesterday was our last interview.
The woman who interviewed us was older and white and lived out in the suburbs. We chatted a bit on the front porch. With all the personal information she had for us I guess she didn’t mind sharing the fact that she used to live in the city, not too far from our house. She asked if we liked living in the city. I told her it has its good and bad aspects like everything else. She said she missed living in the city. But she also said that she had lots of friends who lived in the suburbs who wouldn’t visit her because they were so afraid of the crime. I said there’s crime everywhere and she agreed. As long as you use a little common sense you can survive anywhere. I told her that a few years back we were the only black people living in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho and we survived that. Relatively speaking the north side of St. Louis was a walk in the park. She laughed.
But she quickly sobered up a bit and talked about the tabloid news approach to what happens in the city. There is such a focus on broadcasting every little negative thing that happens on the black side of racially polarized St. Louis that one would think that black people do nothing more than run around shooting each other and stealing and wrecking cars. Yes it happens an awful lot on the north side. But the only thing we do to combat the problems is hire more police to arrest people and build bigger jails to hold the arrested. When do we stop simply responding to crime and actually take the steps to proactively stop the crime? Our conversation went on for a few more minutes. I really enjoyed talking with her and wished her the best in her future endeavors. She did the same and we said our goodbyes forever.
And then last night we saw that news article. What precipitated the local news telling us that there is more crime in the black neighborhoods of three major cities? Could it be some kind of reminder that black people are still much more violent after the focus on the arrest and conviction of the Hutaree members? This morning I combed through the website of the local news station. I couldn’t find any mention of the story. I expanded the search parameters to reveal anything associated with crime for the past week, thinking the story may have been a rehash of something broadcast earlier in the week. You know they do that kind of stuff to help fill in the weekend broadcast. But I found nothing.
I expanded the search to the previous month. I must’ve looked through two hundred articles about some crime that happened on the local level as well as nationally. I still didn’t find any reference to last night’s report. It was as if it was a dream. And if not a dream then it was some sordid reminder to help put things back in perspective for somebody. Despite what might be happening in the rest of the country, despite the fact that we just saw the arrest of the Hutaree militia, despite the fact that today is the fifteen year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, despite the fact that this day is the anniversary of the siege on Waco starring David Koresh, let us not forget that black people are the most criminally oriented people, at least in three cities.