Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Liberty and Justice for...Some...

When the verdict in the George Zimmerman case came down I don't know what I initially felt. I had been mentally preparing myself, and anyone that I talked to, for the inevitable acquittal that he was sure to get. It wasn't that I thought he wasn't guilty, but there were several factors that were contributing to the inevitability. The first major factor was that the prosecution was seeking a second degree murder conviction, which seemed to be a long shot at best. The only eye witness (other than Zimmerman and Martin) said that when he viewed the struggle Martin was on top, and what happened after that we have no clue, because we only have the perspective of George Zimmerman and not Trayvon Martin. Another major reason Zimmerman was inevitably going to be acquitted was that our country does not value the lives of young black men, and therefore a man that was portrayed by the media as a neighborhood watch captain was going to be seen as a good Samaritan, while a young black man in a hooded sweatshirt is going to be looked on with suspicion. Why do you think the defense took the posture of trying to portray Trayvon Martin as a "bad" kid? Because it made their defense that much easier when the jury can "understand" Zimmerman's feeling of suspicion and fear.
The bottom line is that justice was NOT served in this case. I don't necessarily think that the jury was given enough evidence to convict Zimmerman of second degree murder, but the fact that he precipitated the encounter and then shot an unarmed 17 year old boy is wrong - flat out. It doesn't matter if Trayvon Martin confronted him; in fact, Martin had the right to do so under the very law that saw George Zimmerman acquitted. But nobody wants to bring that up. Nobody wants to be honest about the fact that if Trayvon Martin had been beating Zimmerman (according to Zimmerman's story) and had ended up killing him, we be protesting the CONVICTION of a 17 year old boy for the killing of a neighborhood watch captain - an innocent 17 year old boy.
People in this country, or at least a lot of people, don't want to have an honest conversation about what the reality of this highlights; our culture does not value the lives of young black men the way it does everyone else. People don't want to hear that. People want to pretend the civil rights movement began, worked it's way through, and finished. Quick and easy. Equality. BULLSHIT. We haven't dealt with civil rights (at least minority civil rights) issues since the 1980s. And all of the contemporary problems we see linked to historical racism are swept under the rug or passed off from a societal problem, to a yoke that specific minority groups have to deal with themselves. There is no sense of accountability among the majority (white) society in our country that in order to solve the problem of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc. discrimination in this country, we all have to have an active interest, keep an open mind, and have an honest dialogue. Without a discussion, we will continue to see the horrible tragedies of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Jordan Davis, and hundreds of others who have been killed senselessly by a society that not only doesn't care about their death, but doesn't care about their life.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My Haitian revolution...

So I just got back after spending three weeks in Haiti. It was an amazing experience. It's actually very hard to put into words exactly how I felt being there or how I feel now that I'm back. I wouldn't necessary say that I feel "changed" in the way you often hear people say who have experienced something so alien to them, but I'm sure I will notice a subtle difference of perspective when looking at the world around me now that I'm back in a consumer-driven, more more more, society.
I think that is what struck me most about Haiti. Not the cliched idea that people there are happier, because I think that something like that is difficult to gauge. But it did seem that the people there were more content with what they had. And I'm sure a lot of that was the fact that they didn't know any different, and outside media (i.e. the internet) is not readily available to everyone so they might not necessarily know what they're missing. Not that they would choose to go after all of the bullshit we focus our lives on even if they did, but I guess what struck me was that the people seemed to be much more focused on living for the moment, living for today. And I liked that. But I think that has also been a double-edged sword for a country that has been through a lot of shit over the course of it's history. And while living for today may make individuals more content with what they have, it makes it hard to build a society around that concept. Lack of planning and savings makes it hard to build infrastructure; sanitation services, sewer systems, water filtration, etc. And it seems that while Haiti's lack of these things is due in large part to a simple lack of financial resources, the other problem that may be in play is a lack of interest on the part of most Haitian people in planning for the future.
I hope that doesn't sound culturally insensitive or relativist. In many ways I envy the perspective that most of the Haitians that I met have on the world. The constant need to improve and acquire more and more leads to a lot of unhappiness in our society and culture. But at the same time I think there are basic services of healthcare and infrastructure that are valuable to a society, and actually free up time and energy to focus on (what I would consider) more valuable activities. Now most of the time savings that we have in the United States are used for activities that actually end up wasting more time, but that is a different topic. I think there can and should be a happy medium. I don't think the people of Haiti would be unhappy with indoor plumbing that piped in clean drinking water so they didn't have to spend so much time gathering and filtering or boiling their water. Or with garbage being centralized in a dump or something of the sort to prevent the streets being piled with debris. Or with sewage services that made flushing toilets possible. Maybe I'm just too used to the society that I grew up in an and find it amazing that people don't bat an eye at these inconveniences.

Have you ever done any travel in developing countries, or even in undeveloped areas in this country. What is your perspective on this?