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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Monday, December 12, 2005


Lots of people will die tonight.

One of them will be Tookie Williams. He won't be alone in that. Not on this planet.

No one ever is. It just feels that way.

He may be a murderer. He may not be. But he was a gang leader. If he didn't pull a trigger...he'd still be complicit in killings. Everybody knows that. Including him.

But there's this odd thing about a 'Christian country' that executes people. You'd think it would be the other way around. Jesus said turn the other cheek, to forgive. Rome killed Jesus. Rome tortured his followers. And then Rome took over the religion...they put the cross on their shields.

The cross was an execution device. A means of enforcing a death penalty.

Americans love our guns. We shoot each other like its going out of style. But when we officially kill someone as punishment...we use a needle. Not a cruise missile, or a cluster bomb, or a round from a machine gun.

America is so proud that we are a "Christian" country. Our pride makes us blind. We don't really look much anymore at what we do. We've tuned out. We assume we've seen what we think is there. We don't even notice our contradictions anymore. A "Gang Leader" is executed by "the Terminator"....a man who played mass murderers in his films...a man every last American has probably seen kill someone on TV. I guess that message doesn't matter.

Arnold, whom we knew riding a motorcycle and carrying a shotgun...decided whether Tookie would live or die.

There are lots of kinds of "death penalties."

Kids die on the streets of this city every week. That's a death penalty too. Hunger and disease count. Neglect even more.

But I would guess that a society that endorses execution as an acceptable punishment...that embraces legal killing...isn't really interested in how we are complicit in these other death penalties.

Hell, the most powerful nation on earth sees itself as a victim. A victim of crime, of terror, of unfair judgment from the world. You can hear it from the interviews and in the media. This fantasy of American victimhood...a victimhood that necessitates our self-righteous use of force all over the world. A fantasy that obsesses about gruesome theoretical acts committed on hypothetical victims...acts that justify....murder...revenge...appeasement of something.

We stopped looking at Iraq or Afghanistan.....the bombs that fell on kids and moms and wedding parties. The gunfire that took out somebody's grandpa at a checkpoint. Accidental. But brutal nonetheless.

We've come to see Abu Ghraib as an unfair accusation against us. You can hear it in Condi's voice when she talks about torture.

How dare you accuse us of THAT. We don't do THAT. We're not responsible for THAT.


It's not like crime does not exist. It's not like the worst does not happen...because it does, it has, and it will. In small ways, and in large ways too.

But America is so out of touch that we don't realize...bunkered in our middle class fortress of a continent...the message we send to the rest of the world. Even that part of "the rest of the world" that lives here in the United States.

That message resounds loud and clear tonight.

We don't care what you think.

We're victims.

We have to do this.

That's the way it is.

Live with it.