The Real Story
I haven’t posted since Monday because…, well, I didn’t feel like fighting with people about Darren Wilson.
Those of you who frequent these parts can imagine how I feel about the decision not to indict. And if you can’t figure it out, then you don’t know me at all.
I do want to point out a second issue surrounding the summary execution of Michael Brown, though, one that not many people are talking about as our news/entertainment complex plays up the story as purely white v. black. The racial thing, you know, fits in nicely with a TV news narrative model that exists solely for pitting us against them, whoever us or them is.
TV doesn’t do westerns anymore. When I was a little kid, TV was just coming out of a phase wherein westerns were on every night of the week and on all three networks. Westerns were perfect for simplistic mortality plays: good guys and bad guys; clearly defined moral positions; no subtlety or nuance. Ben Cartwright was a good man and that’s all there was to it. Marshall Dillon, too. And a bunch of other white guys whose names I forget.
The outsiders who came to town to stir up trouble were evil, through and through. And at the end of the hour Ben or the Marshall would have restored order and defeated the devil.
Now we have TV “news” channels which have less to do with news and pretty much everything to do with the Marshall Dillon dramatic template. Either Ted Cruz or Elizabeth Warren is the marshall — take your pick — and the rest of the world is the evil outsider. When TV finds the need to dip even lower into the muck, the anchors, the reporters, the wits and the wags set up black guys or white guys as the evil outsiders.
Either Darren Wilson is a cold blooded assassin or Michael Brown is a rampaging thug. Simple. Black and white on a couple of levels.
While we’re picking sides, we’re losing sight of what really happened on that street in Ferguson last August and in the St. Louis County press conference Monday night.
It took a true outsider, a Brit writing for Bloomberg online, to put the whole months-long drama into perspective. Clive Crook wrote Tuesday:
I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say that the lesson from Ferguson is that, in the US, if you get into an altercation with a police officer, he’s within his rights to kill you.
Are you scared yet? If not, why not?
The New American Sacrament
Let me attach an addendum to Clive Crook’s observation. Now that millions of Murricans have the right to sashay around in public with their guns holstered or shouldered, with a huge number of us living in states with Stand Your Ground Laws, and in light of the Trayvon Martin execution, a more accurate summation is If you get into a scrap with anybody, he or she has a right to shoot you.
So don’t be surprised if I or some other wag can write within the next five or so years, If you are in the presence of anybody, he or she has a right to shoot you.
This holy land’s most sacred object now is the bullet.
It can be said — and I’m one of the ones saying it — that Michael Brown was a dope for fighting a cop. Not that being a dope is a capital offense but, still, it’s the wise person who understands s/he shouldn’t play tag on the expressway. There are certain pursuits and endeavors that invariably come to no good end.
On the other hand, literature and lore is chock-full of characters who’ve been celebrated for refusing to knuckle under to the authorities. Here’s a list of people who’ve fought or fled cops — even to the point of using firearms — and become heroic figures because of it. The list includes both real and fictional characters.
- Luke Jackson from Cool Hand Luke
- Randall McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate
- John Dillinger
- OJ Simpson
- Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (both the real couple and the cinematic one)
- David Koresh
- Michael Corleone from The Godfather
- Tony Montana from Scarface (1983)
- Randy Weaver
The list goes on and on.
One of my favorite authors is PG Wodehouse, the British humorist of Bertie and Jeeves fame, who moved to the US in 1947 and became a citizen here eight years later. In his stories and books, Wodehouse regularly makes references to one young upper-crust character or another who has landed in jail for the wink-wink crime of punching a policeman, stealing his helmet, or resisting arrest.
Cop fighting was a stock in trade storyline in the works of Damon Runyon and Ring Lardner.
If one studies English language myth and literature, one might conclude that the person who slugs a cop, runs from a cop, or somehow spits on the badge is a rare hero who, unlike the rest of us, has courage and grit and is truly alive.
Now, though, cop fighters are dead.
One More Thing