by Tess Adair
It hasn’t been a very good year. I guess it’s kind of a bummer to start off a post that way, but I don’t see any way around it. It hasn’t been a very good year. Too many bad things have happened.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember good things when you’re swamped in the middle of the bad. I’ve felt that way a lot this year. I feel it a lot this week, in the wake of the non-indictment in the death of Tamir Rice. I am reminded that justice is not a guarantee in this country, or in this world, and I am reminded that youth and innocence are no protection against violence.
Recently, Mandy Patinkin has gone around quite a bit talking about the Syrian refugees, urging empathy for their suffering. He’s mentioned in interviews that he dislikes Ted Cruz quoting his Princess Bride character, and he thinks Ted Cruz must have missed much of the point of the film.
He says nobody ever uses his own personal favorite quote from the film, which comes near the end. It’s this one:
“It is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”
I looked, but I couldn’t find any memes for that one.
The point of the quote is how meaningless revenge really is. None of us should be in the business of revenge. I’ve written about this before: violence only begets more violence.
But we also cannot ignore injustice. Whether or not you think the officer who killed Tamir Rice should have been indicted, I don’t think you can argue that his death was just. He was twelve years old--just a baby. He should be alive today. If the world were just, he would be. If the officers who killed him had given the decision more than two seconds’ thought, he might be. If the information the 911 caller gave (that he was a child and it was likely a toy) had actually been relayed to those officers, then again, he might still be here.
If we didn’t live inside of such entrenched racism, he might be with his mother right now.
I know there are people out in the universe who don’t think Tamir Rice’s death had anything to do with racism. Stupid’s gonna think what stupid’s gonna think. Tamir Rice is dead and Dylann Roof is alive and well. One of those people is a murderer, and it isn’t the dead black child. Tell me again that race has nothing to do with it.
I don’t even know what to say anymore. It’s been a bad year. The only hope I can offer is this: the truth is, black people have been dying unjust deaths for decades, only most of us didn’t know about it. Most of us lived in happy ignorance, trusting the police, trusting the media. Sure, some of us understood that racism was endemic to the whole system, weaving into every fabric of our lives and undoubtedly affecting the police as well, but we didn’t know too many specifics. Us white folks, that is. Us white folks have turned an easy blind eye--what we didn’t know wasn’t hurting us.
Oh but for modern technology. We know now. We can deny that it’s racism all we want, but the stories are out there. The names are out there.
Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. I’m only scratching the surface.
2015 has been a bad year. But it’s a bad year we needed. I will never be glad that these innocent people have died, but I can be glad that we know their names.
We know now. We can’t un-know. The only way to move is forward. Make sure you’re paying attention.
I’ve been listening to this Amanda Palmer song on repeat long enough to drive my roommates insane--it’s called The Killing Type. The song begins: “I wouldn’t kill to win a war/I don’t get what they do it for,” and goes on to describe other situations for which the speaker would not kill. In the chorus, she explains that she’s simply “not the killing type.” She wouldn’t kill if she got jumped, she wouldn’t kill to get you back, she wouldn’t kill to save a life.
But towards the end, of course, the song turns:
“But I would kill to make you feel
I’d kill to move your face an inch
I see you staring into space
I wanna stick my fist into your mouth
And twist your arctic heart.”
The words build up a message of anti-violence while their delivery grows steadily more violent. Somehow, I think this song has perfectly captured my feeling of the moment--my violent, rage-fueled belief that we need to end all this violence.
I would kill to make you feel. That sounds about right.
Well, I’ve come to the end and I haven’t stumbled across a good enough conclusion. I’m too sad and I’m not wise enough. So it goes.
I hope 2016 is better.