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."