Anger, a national disease

“Anything that gets in the way must be attacked as well.”

On May 17 at about 3 pm, I stopped by a liquor store at the corner of Quail Street and Elberon Place and bought a bottle of wine. This is almost exactly one mile from my home.

On May 30 at about 3 am near that very same intersection, Devin McGlothan, 29, was the ninth person murdered in the city of Albany, NY in 2021. It’s the sixth killing in the month of May, including two high school girls.

This is hardly just an Albany problem. It’s a national disease. In the Miami area on Memorial Day weekend, there were two mass causality events. One involved three men jumping out of a car, shooting two dozen people in six seconds, killing at least two, then driving off. See the mass shootings list for 2021. Workplaces, grocery stores – no place appears immune.

After spending 2020 worrying about getting COVID-19, I don’t want to spend 2021 worrying about violence. But living near a hotheaded neighbor who thinks we’re always calling the cops on her -I did once, because of the dog – unexplained noises at night are unsettling.

Rage

I wish I had some cogent solutions to offer the country, but I’m just nervous because it’s rooted in a fit of cultural anger that I don’t know how we fix. And they have lots of guns

Anger over COVID: its physical and economic effects, people “forced” to wear masks, people demanding others NOT to wear masks, the belief that the disease is a “fraud”, that the vaccine will empower Bill Gates.

And when they get out and about, they seem to have forgotten how to act like civil human beings. No wonder Southwest and American Airlines at least temporarily banned the sale of liquor on their planes. A female passenger punched a female flight attendant in the face. Unruly Passenger Reports have skyrocketed in 2021

Anger over race/religion/ethnicity: Japanese-Americans and Korean-Americans assaulted because their attackers discriminate but aren’t discriminating. Jewish-Americans and their places of worship threatened, as though they control the military policy of the Israeli government. Hispanics are harassed because they don’t “talk American.” Black Americans are still killed, because.

Anger fueled by social media. When I read my political feeds from all sides, they often use terms such as “destroys.” Such as, “Adam destroyed Bob with this tweet.” Zero-sum.

45, still

Anger stirred up over the Big Lie about the 2020 election. This begat the January 6 insurrection. And has brought forth laws in several states interfering with elections; in Georgia and Texas, it’s much easier to overturn the mandate of the populace. And some wuss members of Congress who have decided that 6 Jan was a tourist event.

Terry Moran on ABC News This Week for May 30 described it this way: “The Republican Party isn’t very Republican, and it’s not really a party, right? It’s a nationalist Trumpist movement right now.

“Parties are static. They operate within a received set of laws and traditions. They compete for voter support to enact policy preferences. Movements move.

“And nationalist movements move to attack the establishment in their own party first and then everywhere else. And anything that gets in the way must be attacked as well.”

Just Google “angry Americans.” Read how political rage helps campaigns but hurts democracy.

“So, when democratic laws and traditions and values get in the way and the basic arithmetic of democracy, if the other guy gets more votes, you lose, they attack that too. And that’s what’s happening.”

As I noted, I’m looking for suggestions, because I’m bereft of them.

Give someone the third degree

burns

The Third Degree (1919)
1919

Here’s a curiosity of the language. To give someone the third degree is an American idiom.

It “means to interrogate them ruthlessly, to grill them without mercy, perhaps with threats or bodily harm. The idiom to give someone the third degree came into use around the turn of the twentieth century in the United States to describe interrogations by some police departments. The origin of the idiom is uncertain.

“Some credit Washington D.C. police chief Richard H. Sylvester, claiming that he divided police procedures into the first degree or arrest, second degree or transportation to jail, and third-degree or interrogation. A much more plausible explanation is the link with Freemasonry, in which the Third Degree level of Master Mason is achieved by undergoing a rigorous examination by the elders of the lodge.”

Likewise, when it comes to burns, the higher number, the more severe. First-degree burns (superficial burns)… cause pain and reddening of the epidermis… Second-degree burns… affect the epidermis and the dermis… They cause pain, redness, swelling, and blistering.

“Third-degree burns go through the dermis and affect deeper tissues. They result in white or blackened, charred skin that may be numb. Fourth-degree burns… can affect your muscles and bones. Nerve endings are also damaged or destroyed, so there’s no feeling in the burned area.” That was, BTW, a painful recitation.

It’s different for crimes

The third degree notwithstanding, crimes are regarded differently. I was aware of this from the time when I was arrested in May 1972 for fourth-degree criminal trespass at an antiwar demonstration, I discovered that it wasn’t even a crime – felony or misdemeanor –  but a violation, similar to a traffic citation.

The issue came up in a discussion over the third-degree murder charge, among others, George Chauvin is facing in the death of George Floyd. By the logic of the first two examples, third-degree should be the most serious. But, as someone who’s been watching legal shows since the original Perry Mason, I knew this is not the case.

From Wikipedia: “In most US jurisdictions there is a hierarchy of acts, known collectively as homicide, of which first-degree murder and felony murder are the most serious, followed by second-degree murder and, in a few states, third-degree murder, followed by voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter which are not as serious…”

So someone might be given the third degree over a first-degree murder charge, and both would be serious. But WHY is this different? I DON’T KNOW. Explain this to me if you can!

When I Heard John Lennon Had Died

The Late Great Johnny Ace

John-LennonShortly before Thanksgiving 2020, I saw in the New York Post Page Six feature some ghoulish murderabilia [PDF p. 12]. “Double Fantasy’ album John Lennon signed for his killer was up for auction. The album — which in 1998 sold for $150,000 — has a starting bid of $400,000”. It even includes “police-evidence markings.” Yuck. I didn’t bother to follow the conclusion of this sale.

John Lennon died 40 years ago? I seem to remember it so well. On December 1, I had broken up with my girlfriend. So a week later, it was another Monday night. I decided this was the opportunity to watch Monday Night Football, which I would generally pass on for her sake. Since she wasn’t there…

It’s odd that I didn’t remember the game even before Howard Cosell informed me that the ex-Beatle had been killed. I do remember trying to call one of my friends repeatedly in Boston, but the line was busy for a couple of hours. Then I called my now-ex-girlfriend. What’s on the radio? WQBK was taking requests, and I may have asked for The End by the Doors.

The next day at lunchtime, I went to a local record store – Just A Song or maybe Strawberry’s – to buy Double Fantasy. It was sold out, so I purchased John’s Rock and Roll album from 1975. That Sunday, I was working at FantaCo, and the comic book store closed for ten minutes around 2 pm, per Yoko’s request for a period of silence.

Songs

(Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon, the first single off Double Fantasy. If I recall correctly, it was selling fine. But in the wake of his death, it soared to #1  for five weeks in the US, one of those odd posthumous #1 hits. The bitter irony of the damn song made me teary; OK, occasionally, it still does. As did Merry Xmas (War Is Over) by John and Yoko, which I heard a lot that season.

Walking On Thin Ice – Yoko Ono. The guitar on this recording is the last guitar John Lennon ever played on a record, on the day he died. I bought the single and still have it. It went to #58 in the US in early 1981. The B-side was It Happened.

All Those Years Ago – George Harrison. Released in May 1981 as a single from his album Somewhere in England. Ringo on drums, Paul and Linda McCartney on backing vocals. #2 for three weeks in 1981.

Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) – Elton John, #13 in 1982.

Here Today – Paul McCartney, from the April 1982 album Tug of War. It was written like a dialogue between Lennon and McCartney.

The Late Great Johnny Ace – Paul Simon. From the 1983 album Hearts and Bones. A haunting coda composed by Philip Glass.

And also:

Coverville 1335: The 17th Annual Beatles Thanksgiving Cover Story, featuring songs from Rubber Soul

Fight Poverty, Not the Poor; “White Genocide”

America is something we do, not something we are. It is an idea that can be shared by anyone who is inspired to share it.

poor people's campaignRev. Liz Theoharis from the The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, came to my church this past weekend. It was a very meaningful event on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Part of the scripture reading was the beginning of Isaiah 10 (NIV): “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people.”

But beyond the message was the relational connections. I knew a LOT of people there, and not just my fellow parishioners. There’s a colleague from the North Country, way above Albany, who attended. He’d heard Liz speak on videos and wanted to see her in person. I sent him this Faith in Public Life webinar on Census 2020, trying to include everyone.

One friend shocked another – they had never met each other – in discussing John Calvin, the progenitor of Presbyterianism and his role in the burning of Michael Servetus. As the Calvinist said, “We never learned about THAT in my confirmation class.”

Still another buddy was stunned by the assertion, by me and another, that the National Rifle Association, founded 1871, was actually a largely non-partisan group in its first century. It’s only been since the 1970s that it became radically politicized.

Even someone breaking into our church at 4 a.m. on Sunday – a broken door window, but nothing of value apparently taken – did not cancel out the meaningfulness of the weekend.

The talk Saturday night, of course, began with more than a moment of silence for those massacred in New Zealand. I really have no words that aren’t better expressed by Arthur the AmeriNZ.

He too is incredibly impressed by the Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who offered “the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this. You may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you.”

I was likewise taken by the Weekly Sift guy, Doug Muder, who managed to read the whole 70+-page “manifesto” of the gunman, something I was not able to stomach. Muder wrote Fear of White Genocide: the underground stream feeding right-wing causes.

A key paragraph of the Weekly Sift rebuttal: “In my view, America (or Western culture, for that matter) isn’t something that arises from the essential nature of the White race. America is something we do, not something we are. It is an idea that can be shared by anyone who is inspired to share it.”

I suppose it’s important to understand the hate mentality, though I’m not convinced that comprehension will be enough to stem the tide of bigotry. But I do see a linkage between the attack on the poor and attacks on racial/ethnic/religious “others.” It’s driven by fear.

It’s sometimes difficult to remember that most people are good and kind and just trying to get through life like the rest of us.

The Lydster: the late Johni Dunia

It made me painfully aware of how scary the world can be.

Johni DuniaGreg, one of the first people I met online when I started blogging in 2005, wrote a provocative post on Facebook. He noted that his eighth-grader told him and his wife that a student brought a gun to school.

“Apparently it wasn’t a gun, just a facsimile, but still. He brought the replica… because he sold weed to somebody who refused to pay and he wanted to intimidate the kid. This is a regular public school in a perfectly fine neighborhood, mind you.”

Greg’s takeaway is that you should “talk to your kids about “adult” stuff even if you don’t think they’re old enough.” It reminded me that I had this notion that my daughter was in the other room doing something else when I watched the news. But she was listening, paying attention. She is, not to brag, one of the most politically savvy kid in her class, and has been for the past four or five years.

Of course, it made me painfully aware of how scary the world can be. I recalled the daughter learning whatever terrible things that were going on in 2012 (e.g., Newtown). Yes, you can’t protect them, but I’m terrified we’re leaving them a sucky world – the pollution issues alone bring me to despair.

This semester, a young man named Johni Dunia, 17, a student at my daughter’s high school, “entered into eternal life on Friday, November 16, 2018.” He was shot numerous times, allegedly by a 22-year-old, on a bike trail in mid-November.

Ironically, his family left their war-torn homeland of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his mother said, for the United States because it “offered security and safety.” Johni “is lovingly recalled as a person with a large and kind heart who never showed anger. He loved his family and was very dedicated to his mother and his brother and sisters.”

At this point, there is an arrest but no motive provided yet. “The suspect and victim knew each other, according to police.”