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I don’t care….

… if you are a Democrat.

… if you are a Republican.

… if you are young.

… if you are old.

… if you are mentally ill, disenchanted, angry, poor, rich, white, black, drunk, sober, or, Heaven help you, a twisted soul who imagines you can rouse the ranks by attacking your own.

You are the person or people who firebombed a political party’s building, destroyed property, reinforced all the worst conspiracy theories, and added no good thing to an election year already floundering in outright insanity.

I’m sure, when you’re found, you will offer an excuse.  Just so you know ahead of time, I’m not buying it.  I don’t care what it is.

I’m just as sure that somebody will use your actions to do something just as criminal or worse.  I’m not buying that excuse either.

We have an election process, and a country, that deserves better than you.  We don’t need your ideas of protest to poison the last shreds of sanity left in this political discourse.

If you think violence is the answer, and firebombs are the answer, and burning political signs is the answer, you’re wrong.

Cut it out.  Now.

“I have a dream” fifty years later

White Sororities Admit Black Students at the University of Alabama

And you know what?  It’ s about time.  I just wonder, how did it ever take this long?

Or maybe we’ve still got some growing up to do.

The house of broken mirrors

You don’t get it, do you, Ariel Castro?  You didn’t get it, ever.  Not when you lured Michelle Knight into your house, promising a puppy for her son.  Not when you comforted Gina De Jesus’ parents at their daughter’s vigils.  Not when you were the proud daddy buying stuffed toys for Amanda Berry’s little girl.

Not when they snapped the handcuffs over your wrists.  Not when they sentenced you on 937 counts of rape, kidnapping, aggravated murder … the list goes on.  You looked the death penalty in the face, and decided that life in jail was better–but you still didn’t get it.

All you can find to say is “I’m not violent.”  “I’m just sick.”  “I’m a normal person.”  “I’m not a monster.”

I wonder if you ever watched television with the little girl–I won’t call her yours.  And watching some old fairy tale, did you ever see a hall of mirrors, smashed to pieces?  And getting up from the couch, did you happen to step on a piece of broken glass or two?  Because I’m thinking there was a lot of it.  Broken mirrors.

Now that society holds up the cold hard looking-glass, you recoil, because you don’t even recognize what you’re seeing.  Evil can’t look itself in the face.

“That’s not me.”  “I’m not a monster.”

Wait, what do you think a monster is?  Green scaly skin?  Horns?  Fangs?  Let us have a definition here.  But first let me give you a few examples, because the line between humans and monsters is so thin, a lot of us seem to miss it.

We get the obvious ones, and wonder why you don’t.  Murder–over the line.  Rape–over the line.  Kidnapping, beating, torturing–so far over the line it’s out of sight.

Slave labor–over the line.  Women forced into prostitution–over the line.  Ok, this is still basic.

Taking pictures of a woman bleeding to death on a supermarket floor.  Over the line.  Telling a suicidal poster on the internet, “Why don’t you go ahead?”  Over the line.

Posting obscene comments about the plight of a helpless person you’ve never met, who can’t defend themselves–wait, is that just trolling, or–

How about taking that million dollar bonus while the woman who works sixty hours a week for you can’t pay for the shoes that would help her painful feet, and you’re thinking about letting her go, because she’s “not meeting productivity standards in her department.”  I see something here, does that look like a line?

So let me draw you a line.  Crossing it starts with this simple piece of self-deception:

“What I want for my own gratification–though I may believe I have higher motives–is more important than someone else’s life, liberty, or well-being.”

THIS IS THE LINE.

Cross it at your peril.  Like that first drink of alcohol, you don’t know the end of it.  Maybe you’ll be the social drinker who lives to be ninety-nine.  Maybe you’ll be the forty-one year old John Doe on the slab at city morgue.  But once you cross, the decision is cast.  Maybe you’ll get back.  But it’s a lot harder than it looks.

Across the line, the way back turns blurry.  The little hill that was easy to slide down–it’s steep; it’s high.  It’s way easier to go down that next little hill.  Keep going, as the thin line recedes behind you–you can’t see it now.  Line?  Was there ever a line?  It must be somewhere ahead.

And so, walking down a path of broken mirrors, you never see where you lose your humanity.

Doing what you did did not transform you into a monster.  That change was already in your mind, one thought at a time.  You were what you were on the day you offered Michelle Knight a ride that she never came back from until now.  That action did not turn you into every family’s worst imaginings.  It only opened the door and let out the creature you had become.

You see, you got to the line before you acted.  And you crossed it before you made a decision.  You crossed it when you began to believe that someone else’s basic rights as a human being did not matter as much as your desires, your agenda.

You’re gone now–but you’re not.  Regrettably, you will go on troubling us long after you leave prison “nailed in a box, or in an ashcan.”  Even though we’ve sent you away–though we’re applauding the survivors of your cruelty, and feeling like the law did its job–still, that doesn’t seem like enough somehow; and leaves me wondering, what is there left to do?

Perhaps it’s this–which is for us to take a good hard look at your trail of broken glass.  Then think twice the next time we go to break a mirror.

In the court of names

As I mentioned in my first post, “First they came for the Communists” is a choice among several versions of Niemöller’s poem.  It’s a choice with some baggage to it.  There are some affiliations–let’s face it–that are difficult to defend.  Make an effort, and you risk damaging your popularity, reputation, career, or what-have-you.

Back in 1914, the bogeyman of choice was “the Hun,” thanks to a nasty circa-1900 speech made by Kaiser Wilhelm that provided lots of material for Allied propaganda.  By 1944, “Jerries,” “Krauts,” and “Japs,” were the faceless but malignant enemy.  Less than five years later, “Commies” held the stage.  We’ve weathered the Korean War, the Cold War, the Viet Cong and Saddam Hussein.  Fast forward, and we’ve arrived at  splintered factions of armed ideologues bent on creating as bloody of a splash as possible, preferably on international television.  Designation: terrorists.

As words go, it’s not a bad choice.  Neither vulgar, nor racist; and an accurate depiction of aims and means.  A fair designation for criminal mayhem and murder.

Straight-up: I do not advocate for murderers.  People wrongly convicted of murder, yes.  People who commit cold-blooded killing, no–only the lawful due process that’s due everyone.  Neither do I necessarily oppose the death penalty, when it’s fairly applied.  I don’t have a problem with life sentences, also fairly applied.  In other words, call me a bleeding-heart liberal if you want, but the liberals wouldn’t lay claim to me either.

Back to “terrorists.”  Fair word, fair use.  When it’s fairly used.

When it’s not, it’s a weapon all by itself.  A black slash across someone’s name, and Heaven help the journalist, lawyer, or layman trying to erase it in the name of justice.  Pardon my phrase, you get tarred with the same brush.  You must be out of your mind to advocate for a terrorist.

I didn’t use to think I was out of my mind.  There was a time when I’d rather other people didn’t think so either.  Now I’m so angry, I don’t care.

Eighty-six people have been cleared, some for a long, long time, by government authorities of the United States, to be released from Guantanamo Bay.  The decision has been stated: they are not threats.  They are not a danger.  Probably, they never were.  At least fifty-five, or more, are still there.*

Of the last men left, some are considered not prosecutable, but “too dangerous” to release thanks to years of cruelty and mishandling; some are so-called “active cases” still grinding through a Sisyphian system;** too many have been cleared and told “you can go–but you can’t.”  And of all these leftovers, the flotsam and jetsam of “enemy combatants” who never did get the rights of prisoners of war, too many have decided to die because there is no hope to hope for.

They went on hunger strike.  They’ve done it again.  They’ve attempted suicide.  Again and again.

Now, the U.S. government says that they have no right to die.  Not a right to a civil trial, not a right to be treated as POWs, not a right to protest by dying.  They can be force-fed.***

If comments all over the Internet are any indication, that is just fine by a whole lot of people.  Who cares what happens to terrorists?  Didn’t they–well, whatever it was they did?

No.  They didn’t.  Some of them were cleared for release back when George Bush was president.  If one reason had existed in the world not to clear them, believe me, that’s an administration that would have found the reason.  Except there wasn’t one.

No protections of being war-prisoners.  No civil trial.  No open court.  No release.  A life sentence passed by default.  No right to die.  In only one court, the court of too great a segment of the public opinion, they are terrorists.  Trial by insanity.  God help us, what are we doing?

I remember the Cold War.  More, I remember the time when Natan Sharansky was just newly freed from Soviet prisons–the stories of solitary confinement, cruelty, forced feeding–yes, the Soviet Union did that.  And what an unspeakable thing we thought it was.  Such a violation of basic human rights, human dignity, human decency.

I ask again, what are we doing?  What have we come to?

Endless imprisonment, life by force, not even the right to die in protest.  That’s as un-American as it gets.

*For an article by Josh Gerstein on fifty-five names of prisoners cleared for release, with a list of the names, click here and here.

**For the NBC news article on Judge Kessler’s decision, click here.

***For the Guantanamo Review Commission’s final report, click here.