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Impunity. There is a machismo to the word "impunity".
It means you are too important to fail.
Like some belovéd boy-child who can do no wrong,
who affirms life by acting out in the way he does,
like Hercules strangling snakes or Krishna stealing butter.

It means that no matter what you do,
someone will find an excuse. Someone will say
"You know what, that must have been difficult for you.
I know it was, because you felt you had to do
[this out-of-line thing]. By doing such a thing,
you proved how important it was to do that thing."

And once that out-of-line thing has been done,
it's equally important to enshrine its permanent sanction
in history, so that, in the future, people will say,
"Oh, yeah, that was then, though. We did stuff like that.
No point in going back to that. It's over and done with."

When people are not punished for crimes,
Those crimes become norms.
And when crimes become norms,
Injustice is institutional.

People say racism is "I hate you because you are
[fill in skin color, nationality or creed here],"
but that's not racism. That's simply personal prejudice.

Racism is when you let impunity create a system where
[fill in skin color, nationality or creed here] is denied justice
permanently. Institutionally. Because
"that's the stuff we did/do/will do."
We do this. Because we can,
because nobody will punish us for doing so.

I hate the Daily KOS. I hate it because it is one-sided
and often stupid, and doesn't check its facts,
and although I am generally a left-wing nut,
I do not feel comfortable with one-eyed kings.

So it pains me to say
that the Most Important article I read this year...

...was on the fucking daily KOS.

Here it is: "Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did"

Read it. Seriously, do. It's short. I know you're busy.

Anyway, it's because of impunity
that I'm probably related to the subject of the article.
My great-great-great grandfather's son was a rapist
of, well, rapacious proportions. Because he could be.
Because nobody told him he couldn't.
Because he held the whip over anyone who challenged him.
And nobody challenged him in return.

Because the crimes that happened under slavery.
Went unpunished to this day. Even in Ferguson.
Part of me wants to add: "Even in Erbil, Even in Gaza, even in...."

But that's a distraction from the point:

Impunity is the keystone of injustice.
The only person who can break the power of impunity.
Is the oppressed. Nobody can do it for them.

"That is what Dr. King did—not march, not give good speeches. He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives."


Aug. 15th, 2014 01:02 pm (UTC)
Did you, by the way, hear Terry Gross's interview with Chris Tomlinson, a man sort of in your position, in terms of heritage, who sought truth and reconciliation? His statement that our country has never gone through that made me stop and think. Jesus. I'm always thinking I'm thinking, and then things come along and make me realize I haven't been thinking half hard enough.

Unlike the Storycorp link above, which is only about three minutes long, the link here is to a full Fresh Air program, but there's a transcript if, like me, you prefer to read than to listen (though as it happened, this was something I listened to).
Aug. 15th, 2014 05:59 pm (UTC)
Interesting interview. Thank you for that. I'll go back and listen to the rest, but I had to stop to write you back when I heard this one: "I have yet to hear a descendant of slave owners say that their ancestor was ... a sadistic, brutal master who tortured people."

Well, I'll be at least one to say so. Roswell and Roswell Jr. were, and I'm appalled that to this day, people will gather at the family house in the town that bears his name and go on about the genteel old south as if it was something to be proud of.

Makes me sick to my stomach, it does.
Aug. 15th, 2014 10:40 pm (UTC)
Well, and I think **he** would, too, now, and he probably had an inkling from the start, which is what prompted the journey, so to speak. And actually, I think that thinking people, and honest people, must realize this--I think he's speaking about the majority who prefer to plug their ears and hum and not look at unpleasant reality. But maybe the number of thinking, honest people is eroding that majority. I've talked to other descendants of slaveholders who've said similar.

Aug. 16th, 2014 03:14 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's my sick stomach grousing, that. But I'm surprised he didn't run into more people. I mean, who am I to Roswell or he to me? Some old photograph in a box under my bookshelf.