Beware Americans: We’re Entering the Twilight Zone

Apr 13

The Trayvon Martin case has made me aware of one simple fact.  America has entered the twilight zone. Why do I say this?  Because despite all the media coverage of this case, the most important issues that the case demonstrates have been swamped by the hype.  Instead of focusing our attention on the failure of our criminal justice system (or in this case Sanford Florida’s criminal justice system) and the law that allowed a killer to temporarily go free, the media has focused totally on George Zimmerman and the cases racial component.

The case involves Trayvon Martin, an unarmed seventeen year old, killed by a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, while walking back from a convenience store.  Mr. Zimmerman confesses to killing Trayvon, but claims that it was self-defense, under Florida’s so called Stand-Your-Ground law.  Apparently, the law allows people not to back down from a fight.  In this case, it also seems to have allowed him to claim self-defense even when he was the aggressor.  In any event the police believe Mr. Zimmerman’s version of the event (Trayvon could not tell his version, of course, because he was dead) and within hours the police release him, even giving him back his gun.

George Zimmerman

After Trayvon’s parents are informed of the circumstances, including one assumes that Mr. Zimmerman confessed to the killing, they begin to protest that the killer should at least be charged with some kind of crime.  After all, they must have asserted: “our son has been killed by a stranger; he was unarmed at the time, and only carrying skittles and a soda pop.”  After the Sanford police ignored the parents’ protests, the parents sought a larger audience and, eventually, the story went national and international.

Then the Governor of Florida appoints a special prosecutor and eventually Mr. Zimmerman is charged with 2nd degree murder.

I assert that those are the essential facts thus far.  If you know something about the case, you’ll notice that I left out facts about race and ethnicity, and I did so, because at an essential level they are unimportant.  An unarmed person was killed by an armed person and the killer was not charged with a crime, even a misdemeanor.  Something is clearly wrong with this picture.

Being a parent myself I can understand the Martins’ grief and dismay.  When your child is killed, you most assuredly want justice.  What I don’t understand ,and what made me finally realize that America has entered the Twilight Zone, is why other people don’t understand this most basic of human needs: justice.  Why are some many people in America making excuses–not for George Zimmerman (he did what he did, what ever it was)–but why are so many people making excuses for the Sanford criminal justice system?  Or if the good people in the Sanford police department were only following Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground law, why are so many people making excuses for the insane politicians who pass a law that legalizes murder?

Now one could simply say that a lot of people are racist, and thus made a lot of excuses for why Zimmerman would kill Trayvon.  Because he had a hoodie, which is apparently a sign of thuggery (despite the fact that a lot of non-thugs wear hoodies), or because he was a teenager and today teenagers don’t have morals (as opposed to earlier eras), or because black young men don’t respect the law and thus Trayvon didn’t respect the law, or because blacks are killing blacks and not complaining — the list goes on and on as to why, according to certain people, George Zimmerman was justified in killing Trayvon Martin.

For me, however, racism does not explain why we’ve entered the Twilight Zone.  Oh, no, to enter the Twilight Zone requires a meeting of many vectors, a convergence if you will of a worm hole, an 11th plague, and a Reality Show with real people.

But seriously.  Although racism–both its long history and its current manifestations–is a factor driving the media insanity, several other factors are equally important.  An important factor is America’s other long history–gun ownership and violence.

John Wayne

The Stand your Ground laws that are sweeping the country right now are returning Americans to their Wild West roots.  We don’t need law enforcement any more.  We can just enforce the laws ourselves, or–if the job is too big for one man–we can hire a posse.  A product of the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the stand your ground laws have given many gun-owners the legal confidence to shoot first and ask questions later–or not at all.  Americans of all races and ethnicities have been killed by other well intentioned Americans with a hair trigger and perhaps more than a little paranoia.  If you add up all the things that make Americans scared these days–from drugs, disease, old age, teenagers, debt, mental illness, African-Americans (not to mention violent crime)–the stand your ground laws with their liberal interpretation of one’s perception of fear make them a disaster waiting to happen.

The Trayvon Martin case plays right into the vortex of American psychoses.  It has the gun element, the race element, the crime element, the hoodie element; plus, there is also a black president running for reelection, who a good number of people still think is a secret Muslim, socialist Kenyan.  If you add all those factors together, you enter the Twilight Zone, where everything you say or think comes out ass-backward, looking more like an episode of Amazing Videos than anything resembling serious thought.

The Time is Now: Hold Our Leaders Accountable

Jun 24

As the nation continues to wrestle with one of the largest financial crises in her history, we the people seem unable to cope with the dilemma.  We seem to spend most of our time squabbling over which political party is most responsible for the mess and which will best serve our interests or the interest of America herself as we move forward.  With trillions in deficits, record bankruptcies and home foreclosures, a stagnant economy, and political paralysis, the time is now for the American people to stop the squabbling.  The time is now to throw down the gauntlet.

The question should not be which political party is responsible for the mess or which can save the country and us from ruin, because the answer to those two questions if both and then neither.  Both parties are deeply responsible for the financial swamp in which we currently drown.  And because both parties are so deeply aligned to the forces of corruption and greed that drove us into this quagmire, no amount of political pressure will force them to do what is necessary to steer us clear of it in the future.  The truth of the matter is that a lot of people have made a lot of money, not only in spite of the financial crisis, but also because of it, and that money will make it impossible to sway our politicians away from those allegiances.  In other words, that swamp is all around us, and we have to either put up with the stench, or drain it.  Personally, I’m for draining the muck and throwing the vermin in prison, and I think a good number of Americans are with me.

We must demand that our political establishment take on the corruption destroying this country.  If our leaders will not, then we must demand that they, the nation’s entire political regime, resign or to be driven from power—by any means necessary. Many Americans might have taken on bad debt, and most of them are now suffering the consequences.  Bad home mortgages were not, however, the cause of our financial collapse.  The financial collapse was caused by the endless repackaging of those bad loans, of those loans which the bankers knew were bad, into ever more deceptive, and risky, bundles.  Now, many Americans have a clear sense that thousands of people and corporate enterprises reaped huge profits from these economic shenanigans, and they reaped these huge profits knowing that the financial instruments that the Wall Street Bankers were using were fraudulent, scandalous instruments of deception.  They then received bailouts and are now more profitable than ever.

Many American also know that those instruments were constructed for the sole purpose of defrauding the middle class out of years of hard-earned savings. Yet, the American justice system is either unable or unwilling to go after those criminals, some of whom are no doubt history’s greatest cheats and criminals. They are unwilling or unable to freeze their bank accounts and to prosecute them.  Then, to add insult to injury, many of those criminals are still in positions with enormous power and influence.  It is painfully clear that the justice system of this country is aligned with the lawmakers who protect these criminals from prosecution.  In other words, the lawmakers are, and have been for years, in cahoots with these criminals, writing laws that allow immoral and unjust behavior to be unpunishable.

The corporate news agencies and nation’s lawmakers will boast that Bernie Medoff and his ilk have been or are being punished. Financial analysts will also agree that Medoff represents simply the worst of the lot, and that the trading in fraudulent derivatives and credit default swaps was widespread.  Many will say that to punish one Wall Street financial wizard would lead to the punishment of all Wall Street wizards.  I say, the smoking of marijuana is wide-spread, speeding on highways is wide-spread, gang activity in urban centers is wide-spread, and that hasn’t stopped our criminal justice system from cracking down on the violators, arresting hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults each year.  Simply because all the demons are playing in the same sandbox does not mean that they are not demons or that they are not destroying the sandbox.  The behavior that led to this crisis was without a doubt wrong.  It was, without a doubt, a violation of more than one commandment, and if it was not a violation of any law, that is only because our lawmakers, who are almost all rich, only want to protect their own.  They have thus assured, through the writing of the law, that criminal, immoral behavior is not illegal.

Alan Greenspan is the perfect example of a rich man protecting his own.  For years he knew that fraudulent devices were being used by his associates, not only to protect their institutions from financial difficulties but also to reap huge financial rewards for themselves and friends.  Nevertheless, he asserted what his ideology told him.  He believed that the rich financial wizards wheeling and dealing in these instruments could and would regulate the market for the better because they would have an interest in protecting their institutional identities.  He believed that, although they would trade in fraudulent financial instruments, they would not do so to the extent that those instruments would endanger their own companies.  In other words, Mr. Greenspan considered these gurus of the economy to exist above the individual greed and selfishness that is so rampant in our financial sector today.  What idiocy!  And yet we still listen to this man as if he were a fount of wisdom.  Or take the example of the entity Moody’s.  Throughout the financial crisis, they gave this fraudulent, criminal behavior a triple A stamp of approval.  One would think that their reputation would have been ruined, either because they were liars and cheats, or because they were just plain stupid.  But no!  They are still quoted by the corporate media as capable of giving sound economic advice to Americans.  Either the media agencies are brain dead or they are in cahoots with the criminals, dedicated to weaving yet another lie to rob us of our life’s savings.

It is clearly time for the hard working American people to stand up and say, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”  It is time for all of us to go out and march to our state capitals.  Or we should board busses, travel to Washington, DC, camp out on the National Mall, and—like an Egyptian—refuse to leave until our political leaders either arrest the criminals and freeze their bank accounts, or resign from office.  Yes!  For decades we have pleaded with our politicians to clean up the mess, but it is clear that those pleadings have been to the very pigs that have turned our nation into the squalor in which we now sink.  So the time is now—not for another silly rally at the Capital where we chant “Democracy Now!”—but for a full-fledge throwing down of the gauntlet.  We must be willing to facedown the corrupt corporate-political alliance.  To do so means that we become as committed to changing our world as those wizards are at preserving and expanding the corruption.  Our only other option is simply to endure the continued deterioration of the middle class, of its decency and steadfastness.  But if we continue to choose endurance, we are only ensuring an explosion in the future.