maarmie's musings

Saturday, April 22, 2006

What do we want! (Justice!) When do we want it! (Now!)

Friday's lesson: If you fuck with Martin Lee Anderson, you fuck with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

I trudged several uphill blocks with the famous black activists Friday morning. It was just me, Jesse and Al - and a cozy group of 600 or so pissed off protestors - who marched toward the capitol building where microphones waited to project so much rousing rhetoric crafted to appeal to Gov. Jeb Bush and scores of journalists willing to spread the message: Justice will be served.

The story

Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old black kid who violated probation, died after spending one day at the Bay County Sherrif's Office boot camp in January. The initial stated cause of death? Complications of a sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder found most frequently among blacks. A videotape found later showed Anderson being punched and kicked by boot camp guards as he lay on the ground motionless after having collapsed while exercising his first day at the camp. He died in the hospital the next day.

After the tape was found, there was a second autopsy and a change in the cause of death. But there have been no arrests or firings. There hasn't even been so much as an investigation.

The aftermath

Sharpton and Jackson didn't keep their mouths shut about King and Diallo, and they're not going to keep their mouths shut now. They say they know that singing "We Shall Overcome" and chanting "Justice delayed/Justice denied" won't bring about a happier ending to this story. Marches don't solve problems. They expose problems, said Sharpton, who grew up in a housing project in Brooklyn and recounted a story from his impoverished childhood to illustrate the issue at hand.

"As long as momma had the lights out, roaches would sit at the table and eat all the food. As soon as the lights came on, they would run for cover," Sharpton said. "We need to turn on the lights."

Jackson is a mesmerizing speaker who rallied the crowd with something about choosing excellence over mediocrity, futures over funerals and sobriety over drunkenness and standing up to save the world. Backwards never; forward ever. Rah! Rah! Rah! I was impressed and slightly moved at the time, but it's late now. I'm tired.

Overall, I felt that Friday morning was little more than a display of an excessive amount of posturing punctuated with predictable sound bites that will likely get Jackson and Sharpton somewhere largely because of who they are. I seriously hope something wonderful - or at least logical - will come out of Friday's efforts. But I learned long ago never to hold my breath.


no-nuthin said...

Sharpton and Jackson are so over-the-top and ridiculous with their pageantry that it’s sometimes hard to believe they’re not government plants meant to lead blacks in America away from meaningful protest and political efficacy. Over the years, there has been speculation that Jesse Jackson was an FBI mole in Martin Luther King’s camp in the 1960’s. African-Americans would be better served by financing smooth, amoral lobbyists who can take Tom Delay out for the lobster dinner at Signatures and a Redskins game.

As for the boot camps, Martin Lee Anderson’s unfortunate death is yet another reminder that parents need to raise their own kids. Some structure, help with homework and a few swift kicks in the ass from Mom and Dad may just have prevented the whole thing from happening. The government obviously has no place raising children. They screw it up just like everything else. They killed the kid.

Annie said...

I have to say in response to no-nuthin that parents aren't fully responsible for the decisions their kids make, the decisions that get kids into trouble.

About Sharpton and Jackson, both have powerful messages and great speaking styles. But they've each compromised their integrity in the past and so their messages often meet with cynicism and dismissal by the larger community.

maarmie said...

In some ways, I agree with the both of you. I think that Sharpton and Jackson are great speakers (Jackson was smoother; Sharpton more "street") but I don't think their messages yesterday conveyed anything that hasn't already been conveyed a million times. While I think a lot of parents probably do a lousy job raising their children in many respects, it would be ridiculous to punish them for what their children do. I mean, at some point the kids need to be held accountable for their actions. But it's not surprising that sometimes their actions aren't wise considering the tiny scrap of leftovers (time, praise, effort, attention, correction) their parents likely throw their way every once in a while.

palinode said...

Perhaps no-nuthin should send those sentiments to Martin Lee Anderson's family. They'll be sure to take the advice to heart and provide more structure for any future children.

When a kid gets kicked to death in a boot camp, it seems beside the point to bring up his parenting. Actually, it's more than beside the point; it's spreading the blame onto people who didn't actually beat him, hold him down, prevent him from breathing until he suffered brain damage, and then, in a moment of supreme classlessness, attribute the death to sickle-cell trait. Unless Mom and Dad showed up in the yard and got in a few kicks in the ass, I think they're in the clear. I watched the surveillance video and all I saw were several men in military uniforms smacking around the body of a kid while a nurse stood around.

no-nuthin said...

I've seen the surveillance video, too, Palinode, and I know what happened there. I saw it with my own eyes, but I admire your ability to present a colorful narrative.

The fact of the matter is that I don't think that the boot camps are a good thing. If you read a person's comment to the end, you will see that I don't think the government should be put into the role of the parent. They did kill the boy. So you don't refute my statement with your appeal to emotion.

You ought to really think about what the boot camps are. You will notice that what they boil down to is an attempt to force feed the social skills missed over the course of a lifetime of questionable parenting. They try to do this in the shortest time and the most brutal way possible.

Certainly, it is not solely the fault of Anderson's parents. Parents can't have total control of a kid. The kid has peers who may also not have received ample parental guidance. The kid grows up in a society that glorifies violence and looks down at all things intellectual and egalitarian.

Anonymous said...

First of all, leave the parents out of it. Why don't you survey all the parents with kids in boot camps. Are ALL of those people incompetent parents?

Here's another theory: maybe the parents are all great but maybe kids' school teachers turn 'em into little monsters. I mean, teachers spend more waking hours with a kid than many parents do. And teachers are government workers, a class of people No-Nuthin seems to have little faith in.

Eww, that was a little mean, wasn't it? I am just kidding, dude, I think that teachers are great, underappreciated, and have one of the toughest yet most important jobs in society. Sorry, I am probably just being a touchy parent (who couldn't imagine giving my child a "swift kick in the ass" and they seem to be perfectly fine so far.)

And I don't think that boot camps try to teach "social skills." What they do is use physical methods to try to wear down the perceived "wildness" of a kid. Imagine having a PE class 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Being forced for hours to run and exercise in the Florida sun, being constantly screamed at and insulted. And that's the approved part of the program. Obviously the part about beating kids to death is not sanctioned. And why do kids need to be taught these "social skills?" Because of their "lifetime of questionable parenting." That's right, every single time a kid does something wrong, we need to tell the parent that he or she is a failure. Perhaps people wouldn't be so quick to judge parents if they had any first-hand experience parenting.

no-nuthin said...

Dear anonymous,

I will NEVER leave parents out of it.

I happen to work all the time with at-risk kids. I have personally experienced - over and over again - that the kids who are in the most trouble generally are the ones with the least parental involvement.

Boot camps are there to teach social skills. "The perceived 'wildness' of a kid" is a manifestation of a lack of effective social skills or, sometimes but seldom, a sign of an emotional handicap that can be diagnosed. The boot camp people are in the business of wearing down kids in the false hope of trying to give them those social skills. I think they're wrong! Don't you get that by now?

I just don't understand why everyone who writes a response to my comment thinks that I am in favor of these camps. You are dead wrong. Pay attention!!!

Not "every time a kids does something wrong" the parents should be blamed. But it is an important factor in the way a child will ultimately act. It is probably the most important factor of all. Hasn't everyone heard of the theory of child abuse going from generation to generation? Aren't your attitudes about life shaped in large part by your parents? Your language? Possibly your religion? Or shaped in purposeful opposotion to your parents? Put it together! And if a parent thinks that their children are more shaped by peers than by them, isn't that a sign that something is wrong?

Anonymous, I'm glad you wouldn't give your kid a swift kick in the ass. Here's a resource about figurative language you might find helpful:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification, No-Nuthin, and sorry for gettin' your panties in a jumble. I had no doubt that you are not a fan of boot camps. And of course I know that the parent's role is the most important in shaping a child's development. But poor parenting, or not, sometimes kids make mistakes - big and little. Of course the kid's chances of making good choices are improved with good parenting. Of course. But you seem to imply that the parents caused their child to be beaten to death, because you assume they are bad parents. Maybe they are; I don't know them. But even if they were the best parents in the world, their kid could have made a mistake and gotten sent to boot camp. And their kid would have been at risk of death.

I understand that you are frustrated with the "at-risk" (a term I personally hate for being such a racist, classist euphemism) kids you work with, but your anecdotal experiences still don't give you the credentials to perform a long-distance psychosocial analysis of the
Anderson family.

And thank you for the condescending link to "teen writing" to explain figurative language. I think I am okay in not checking it out because I have a degree in English. However, if you think that kids shouldn't grow up in a society that glorifies violence, then maybe you should avoid using violent metaphors yourself. And if you want to go all grammarian on me, you might want to avoid using three exclamation marks in row, lest you be confused with lovelorn adolescents ("Do you like me?!!!! check yes or no!!!") or Harriet Miers ("You're the best governor ever!!!).

no-nuthin said...

Anonymous, your English degree has done nothing for your ability to understand the English language. Your petty assault of my exclamation points only demonstrates that you are grasping at straws as a way to assault me becaus you have no leg to stand on in a discussion.

I find no real reason to continue a discussion with someone who will invent things to snap about each and every time I try to clarify myself.

You got it into your head that we can't agree on things, and you can't let it go.

Anonymous said...

Fine!!! We!!! Disagree!!!

By the way, I can't do Friday because something else has come up. What about Saturday?

Anonymous said...

Fine!!! We!!! Disagree!!!

By the way, I can't do Friday because something else has come up. What about Saturday?

no-nuthin said...

anonymous, you are childish and a jackass. You can't let the exclamation points go.

It's sad to me when a person feels they have to resort to attacks on grammar because their arguments and grasp on reality are so weak. Nothing you ever wrote could convince me to think in a way other than when I started. I never even felt the need to reconsider the point I was trying to make.

Certainly, responding negatively to a person's comment is meant to show the error in that person's thinking. It doesn't matter if it the criticism is there for the benefit of the audience or for the person who made the comment. You never have done that.

I'll take your criticism of my grammar as an indication that you realize your failure. I feel sorry for you.

no-nuthin said...

and if anonymous is really TT, you're gonna get it!

maarmie said...

Oh, but it is!!!

Anonymous said...

Obviously, I am not TT.

I am some sort of jackass. Obviously.

Now, question, which one of us "gets it?" Anonymous, or Maarm? Oh, I see, never mind....the one who finally gets it is you.

But don't feel sorry for me. Because, lucky me, I have to go to a Red Sox game on Friday, so I was wondering if we could reschedule our date for Saturday instead. Or will you be too tired from being a kayak sherpa?

maarmie said...

Yes, I'd have to agree, TT, you are a jackass...But I love you, anyway!