Early Bird

Every Halloween I try to post a piece apropos to my favorite month, October, and my favorite holiday, Halloween. Here’s a snippet from my work-in-progress, a collection of dark, macabre and absurdist short stories titled October Dark. Pay heed, all you procrastinators who had, shall we say, father issues.

My first memory of him. I was in the backyard, pushing a toy lawnmower. I was following right behind the biggest man in the world who was pushing a real lawnmower. The biggest man in the world, and the strongest. Isn’t that how all four year old boys see their fathers?

I remember he was chewing gum as he mowed. When he stopped for a break, I approached him and asked if I could also have a stick. He smiled and said, “Sure- open your mouth.” I opened wide, and he spat the chewed wad into my mouth, then put a fresh stick into his. At four, you don’t question these things. You just assume that this is how all fathers behave.

Sometime later, perhaps a year or so, he was in a jovial mood, and gave me a kiss. His tongue darted down my throat and wiggled like a small snake. Then he giggled. Yes. When abusing me he always emitted an incongruous girlish giggle.

I’ve always wondered if he sexually molested me, and I repressed the trauma- the horror. But the cruelty, the continuous acts of physical and psychological abuse are not repressed. They are fresh in memory, as if from yesterday. We were a Catholic family. My parents observed the rhythm method. They wanted to stop bearing children after my two older sisters were born. Sadly, I had usurped the rhythm, and was inadvertently spawned. Oh how he would delight in telling me, out of ear shot of my mother, that I was a mistake, and that he had been suffering for it since the day I was born. Often, I even wondered if he knew my name. His favorite moniker for me was Stupido, or Stupe, as in stupid. He was Sicilian. Oh such exquisite Sicilian wit! Odd. I say that as if somehow I was not Sicilian. Indeed, if I could have my father’s genes “liposucked” out of me I’d do it in a heartbeat.

When I was ten years old I began to have intestinal bleeding. Ulcerative Colitis. My father had no health insurance for his family, and thus I was placed in a “teaching hospital,”a lame euphemism for charity ward. I was in the hands of clumsy, indifferent interns and nearly died, as much from malpractice as from the disease.

When I was twelve, something happened, I’m not sure what, that really set him off. He began slapping me in the face, hard, back and forth, back and forth, with both hands as hard as he could until my mother finally intervened as I felt consciousness slipping away.

I could certainly go on. My mother had no immunity to his reflexive cruelty. For most of her life she was also assailed by his malevolence. After her kids were grown, she wanted a job. Oh how important to be liberated from his oppressive yoke and affirm her worth and self esteem. She got a job as a receptionist at a local grammar school. On her first day, the floors had been waxed and buffed the night before. Her footing was precarious, she slipped and severely sprained her ankle. My father’s response? “Instead of making me money, you’re costing me money.” But far greater in cruelty, he would boast to my mother of his many infidelities and tell her if he had it all to do over again he would have married a more attractive woman.

In my early twenties, after I had an opportunity to exchange life stories with other young men, I developed points of reference. I realized my father was a monster. He was also dead, purportedly from cancer.

Years went by, but I could never liberate myself from my father’s ghost and memory. He persisted to torment me from beyond the grave. And thus I began my plan.

I had, on numerous occasions, literally pissed on his grave, hoping for some degree of catharsis. But it wasn’t enough, a feeble gesture always leaving closure far from reach. No. I needed much, much more.

I bought a pick and shovel, the heaviest and sharpest I could find. I trained with weights, and dug practice holes in my backyard. For a week, I surveilled the cemetery to ascertain when the fewest potential witnesses would be present. The gates opened at 9:AM. If I started at six, there should be enough daylight and time to do my handiwork.

D Day. D as in desecration. I arrived just before six. It was easy to climb the wall. The plan? Exhume dear old dad, pop open the coffin, and tote away his remains where I could take my time with the father and son reunion. Oh, the possibilities- the varieties of desecration!

The digging went much faster than I had calculated. I was expecting the ground around the grave would be hard and packed, but it yielded much more easily to my pick and shovel. There. The coffin was exposed. Now, for the moment of truth. I popped open the lid with my pick. Incredulity. Anticlimax and disappointment. The coffin was empty, except for a note. I opened it and read:

Sorry Bro- Beat You To It. You Weren’t His Only Son

Where Is the Good Guy With The Big Iron On His Hip?

Of late, I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite songs from my childhood. Though not a big Country Western fan, the exception was Marty Robbins, who I could listen to all day. Although his signature song was the immortal “El Paso,”my favorite was another ballad called “Big Iron.” The ballad deals with a small South Western town which is visited by a tall handsome stranger with a “Big Iron” on his hip. At first the town’s people think he is an outlaw come to do them harm, but he explains that he is in fact an Arizona ranger who has come to bring a vicious young gunslinger named Texas Red to justice- dead or alive. Texas Red has twenty notches on his gun, and he is so fast on the draw the town’s people assume the ranger will surely be twenty one. They meet the next morning:

“There was 40 feet between them when they stopped to make their play, and the swiftness of the ranger is still talked about today. Texas Red had not cleared leather ‘fore a bullet fairly ripped, and the ranger’s aim was deadly with the Big Iron on his hip.”

And there, for an innocent young boy, was embedded the myth of the good guy with a gun taking out the bad guy with a gun.

I’ve been down this road before, and I try not to be redundant, but when horrific things keep happening, over and over, perhaps redundancy is forgivable.

I’ve said it before. Part of the horror is a gradual erosion of the collective memory. The places, names, body count and parents driven mad by grief begin to blend. Newtown, Buffalo, Parkland, El Paso, Uvalde. Can we match the killer with the proper location, motive, (if any) degree of carnage, law enforcement response? Did I say law enforcement response?

It was after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, in Newtown Connecticut, where Adam Lanza slaughtered 20 children and 6 adults, that the NRA’s spokesman Wayne LaPierre indirectly invoked the “Man With A Big Iron On His Hip.”How do you stop a bad guy with a gun? With a good guy with a gun. The NRA’s new mantra. Then came the avalanche of absurd stupidities. Arm the teachers. Aren’t teachers good guys? Imagine the image of arithmetic teachers or librarians, moms and grandmas, who bake and grow Tulips on the weekend (yes, I’m stereotyping, thank you) taking on a homicidal psychopath with an Ar-15, wearing full body armor. (Note: in no way am I trying to malign moms, grandmas, librarians, arithmetic teachers or nurturers of tulips.) I would venture with confidence that the chance of a teacher going off her nut and gunning down her students, (a favorite fantasy of teachers, I’ve been told) or a lunatic student disarming the teacher and shooting both teacher and fellow students is far greater than the psycho shooter breaching the school and slaughtering everyone in sight.

And how about those real life good guys with a gun? The kids at Rob Elementary in Uvalde Texas were surrounded by good guys with guns. Highly trained, body armored, with weapons at least as effective as the shooter’s. When they finally arrived at the school, they immediately committed their own crime- loitering. For 73 minutes, as children were being murdered, they loitered in the hall, looking frightened and confused. One of them was videoed applying hand sanitizer from a wall dispenser. Why? Was this a homage to Pontius Pilate, washing his hands of the whole sordid debacle? Or, perhaps if one is loitering in the hall with one’s member in one’s hand as feet away screaming children are being ripped beyond recognition, a display of hygiene in lieu of courage is, well, better than nothing. Or how about Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida? The security cop there was a good guy who went into hiding for 45 minutes instead of confronting the shooter who murdered 17. He was later arrested and charged with 11 criminal violations, including child endangerment. It didn’t work in the grocery store in Buffalo, where the shoppers were mostly Black. When an armed, experienced security guard who was also a retired police officer did have the guts to confront the racist shooter, he was no match with his side arm against the body armored AR-15 toting shooter. 10 people dead, including the heroic security guard.

There is a way in which the almost weekly carnage can at least be diminished. I probably said this not long ago in a previous piece. Bump up the age at which AR-15 style rifles can be purchased to 21; require a safety and proficiency test as is done for car license acquisition; require a written test and some type of psychiatric vetting. The Founding Fathers could live with that, although they were thinking of muzzle loaders when the 2nd amendment was forged.

And to all of you good guys out there, I salute you. Alas, sometimes being good isn’t enough.

Gird Up Your Loins

During the senate confirmation hearing of justice Amy Coney Barrett, I early on began chomping at the bit to hear a critical and revealing question posed by one of the senators. The question? “Ms. Barrett, if you were pregnant within the first trimester, and your physician gave you the grim news that if the fetus is not aborted, you will die, how would you decide- your life, or the fetus?”

For fifty years, women in our country have had sovereignty over their own bodies. This is not to say that patriarchy, entrenched in varying degrees in all societies, has been relegated to the ash heap of history. No indeed, it casts its dark shadow in most facets of our lives. But for half a century, women have been able to live their lives as more than breeders under a supposed god driven edict to go forth and multiply. I’ve got my thinking cap on, and I’m trying, trying heroically, to think of what person should know better if a fetus should come to birth than the person carrying that entity which in fact is not yet a child? Prior to Roe V. Wade, repealed today by an ultra-conservative majority supreme court, women who sought abortions were societal pariahs, and indeed criminals. Tales of the back alley quack with bourbon on his breath and a rusty coat hanger in his hands performing abortions are not apocryphal. Countless women have died from such butchery (so much for the Right’s constant evocation of the sanctity of life.) If we role back the clock to the days of our founders, termination of pregnancies was as normal as any other medical procedure. In 1748, “The Instructor,”a popular British manual for all matter of real life issues, was adapted by Ben Franklin himself, to include how to perform at home abortions. In Colonial times, abortion was a common part of life, barely inspiring discussion, let alone push-back. In Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion of overturning Roe V. Wade, he states, “The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.” Was he referring to our nation? For the 18th century colonists, it was very deeply rooted and as traditional as apple pie.

Joe Manchin and Susan Collins both have stated that they were snookered when they voted to confirm the Trump Supreme Court nominees. Gorsuch stated, when asked if he would support abolishing Roe V. Wade, that it’s “The law of the land.” He added that Roe is a Super-Precedent. “The ruling has been reaffirmed many times, I can say that.” Barret stated that Roe meets all the rules of “Stare Decisis,”the legal principle that precedents should not be overturned without strong reason. Kavanaugh stated that Planned Parenthood V. Casey, the 1992 case that reaffirmed Roe, was “Precedent on precedent.”

Why did they say these things when they clearly didn’t mean them? I believe the legal term is, “They lied through their teeth.”

Justice Clarence Thomas opined that the rationale for the decision to give Roe the boot, could be applied to overturn other major cases, including Gay marriage. I wonder if he would also consider the 13th amendment?

Roe V. Wade has been woven into the fabric of our society for fifty years, with a decided majority of Americans supporting it. But what is really happening? Justice and equality acquired through the sacrifice and blood of millions is being purged by a powerful minority of religious zealots hell bent on cramming their barbaric and unscientific beliefs down the throats of the majority. This minority would like to establish America as a Christian theocracy, that in many ways would be more stringent and oppressive than Sharia law.

And so Gays, adulteresses, Blacks, atheists, blasphemers et al, as stated in The Good Book, “Gird up your loins.” The battle has just begun.

Uvalde Post Mortem

Again. The barbaric, grotesque redundancy of it. Another slaughter of the children.

Although there is a tendency for what is now a rich tradition of massacres in our society to blend in name, location, numbers of victims and dates of occurrence, as mass murder with AR-15 type rifles have perversely become a part of our societal landscape, the ones involving children stand out in bold, bloody detail.

Newtown Connecticut, December 14th, 2012. 20 year old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Of the 26, 20 were children between six and seven years old. February 14th, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, 19 year old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people, 14 of them students, with 17 seriously injured. And now again. Uvalde Texas, May 24th, 2022, at Robb Elementary School, Salvador Rolando Ramos shot to death 19 students and two teachers, and wounded 17 others.

All three of these massacres (and let’s stop white washing them as tragedies, as if they were an act of god or nature) share a common thread: The killers were White or Hispanic males ( let’s dispense with non-binary gender pronouns i.e “they” or “them”- stick with him and he) between 18 and 20; no criminal records, but red flags galore of serious anti-social mental heath issues via social media and parental statements, and all perpetrated their carnage with AR-15 type semi-automated rifles.

My intent is not to analyze or dissect the myriad failures of law enforcement in the Uvalde massacre, or analyze the psychotic flotsam who did the killings at the three schools. And if I hear once more that “The System” failed the killers, I might literally puke on my computer screen. The days of limp-dick liberalism arguing that these poor young men are victims in their own right because insufficient hugs or too early potty training turned them into monsters should be forever debunked as the psycho-babble that it is. Perhaps these homicidal little bastards were simply bad seed- born evil, inherent and undetectable in a M.R.I. .

Some basic questions: why is it more difficult to obtain a driver’s license than it is for an 18 year old to purchase an AR-15? Ramos bought two within weeks of each other. Total lunacy. The other industrialized countries are baffled by our laissez faire gun culture. But I don’t want to get bogged down in how other countries perceive us. How we perceive ourselves is more important.

If substantial gun law reforms were ever to be made it would have happened after Sandy Hook. Why? I’m not writing this to be politically correct, I’m writing this to be honest and heartfelt. The Sandy Hook victims were first graders, the youngest of all the child victims, their parents were relatively well off and their kids were White. But all efforts to enact even minor changes in the gun laws were stifled. Why? Because of Republicans in the house and senate unable to stand up to the NRA and the gun manufacturers’ lobby. Fast forward ten years and it’s the same story and the same pitiful bleating from the Republicans- thoughts and prayers go out to the victims’ families, or pea brained ideas like arming the teachers. At Uvalde, the school was surrounded by highly trained heavily armed law enforcement. They failed to protect. I doubt grammar school teachers with side arms would fare any better.

How, I ask, is raising the age to 21 to purchase an AR-15, expanding background checks and forging reasonable red flag laws a diminution of the Second Amendment? You know who agrees with me? Well over half of the American people.

And so I say to Ted Cruz, one of the NRA’s more embarrassing concubines, and all of his other gutless, feckless ilk in the house and senate who whorishly fall to their knees before their NRA pimp- a pox on all of your houses.

On The Timidity Of Samuel Alito

Like many Americans I am vehemently opposed to the overturning of Roe vs Wade. Why? Because it doesn’t go far enough!

Yes, you heard me right. The efforts of Alito and his majority of conservative Justices, six of whom are fellow Catholics, five of whom are ultra orthodox Catholics, is a mere band aid. We must not stop at protecting the fetus (or zygote, at the early stages of pregnancy). We must get to the root of the issue. In order to fully protect the fetus (to hell with the mother) we must first protect the unheralded hero of pregnancy- that feisty, indefatigable little fellow- the spermatozoa.

We do not like to think of these things, let alone discuss them. But every day these microscopic little Argonauts are massacred to the tune of 40 to 600 million per ejaculation. How can we prevent these crimes against potential future humanity? I really don’t think I need to tell you. Yes, by not only making masturbation a crime, but indeed a capital one. This on the surface may seem draconian, but extreme actions require extreme measures. Yes, that vile, unnatural and depraved act must be dealt with appropriately. All masturbaters must be imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole.

Look at it from the point of view of the spermatozoa. Upon ejaculation each and every sperm cell has certain expectations. He (and I think in this case binary gender pronouns are appropriate) is suddenly jettisoned into a strange and murky new world. By instinct ( does one require a brain to follow instinct?) he begins his destined quest. Swimming, frantically, to cross the finish line first, he is welcomed with open arms by a grateful ovum (have you seen the little sperm cells under the microscope? They are cute, like wiggly little guppies.) But what if he is thwarted right out of the gate?

Picture the absolute horror of the little guy upon realization that the elusive ovum is now unobtainable. He looks about and sees only whiteness. Where is he? Was the ejaculation so powerful that he has been propelled to the surface of the moon? No, infinitely worse. He is floundering on the surface of a toilet tissue, one that will soon be crumpled up and tossed in the wastebasket, or worse, ye gads, tossed into the toilet, into oblivion, where he will join trillions of his hapless brethren.

But all dark clouds have a silver lining. Unintended consequences are not always bad. It is estimated that 95% of all men masturbate. If the morally correct measure is taken to outlaw this vile act, more prisons will need to be built to contain the billions of spermicidal monsters who thus far have stroked away with impunity. The construction and servicing of these prisons would result in full global employment. Hunger and homelessness would be eliminated. But, a conundrum: if 95% of men are incarcerated, can the righteous 5% construct sufficient prisons without assistance? No. Women, by necessity, would have to assist, but this pool would also be depleted, as 29% of all pregnancies end in abortion, and that 29% would, presumably, also be incarcerated. Solution: robots. These robotic workmates of the diminished human worker could fill the gap, and could actually be constructed by the incarcerated men and women, as an ongoing project akin to the time honored production of license plates.

And so, to all the bleeding hearts like Justice Alito, who lack the temerity to take the full measure, I would suggest to, er, strap on a pair of balls. But expect a backlash. Carpel Tunnel surgeons will lobby against the new law, in addition to the makers of Vaseline and Kleenex. And of course there will be the inevitable bumper sticker-

I’ll Stop Masturbating When They Pry My Cold Dead Fingers Off My …

Cheers!

The melodic, seemingly happy chirping of birds in the morning is not an expression of joy, but a territorial warning to other birds.

The beautiful, crisp Autumn leaves swaying lazily to the ground, are dead.

Our pet dogs hate us, and are just waiting for the right moment.

Our cats hold us in contempt, but at least don’t pretend otherwise.

The bright, glorious sun is steadily burning out.

Since the dawn of humanity, somewhere, at every minute, war is being waged.

The glass is half empty, with a hole in the bottom.

When life brings you lemons, pucker.

Optimism is reflective of a slave mentality i.e. I was tied to the whipping post for an hour and got fifty lashes, but it could have been two hours and a hundred lashes; Hallelujah!

People who believe lethal injections are humane are too stupid to recognize oxymorons and should be drawn and quartered, in the nicest possible way, of course.

The Founding Fathers were slave owning oligarchs who plagiarized The Declaration Of Independence.

Most accidental shooting deaths are in fact premeditated murders.

The Bubonic Plague of the 14th century wiped out half of Europe, and the surviving other half was ecstatic.

Climate change is real and the deniers will eventually burst in flame and not be included in The Rapture.

Most suicides by hanging are in fact auto-erotic strangulations gone awry, but the decedent’s family is too humiliated to admit it.

Purgatory in fact lasts longer than Hell, and is even hotter.

Surgeons frequently and summarily amputate the wrong limb with impunity, and exhibit neither shame nor remorse.

Diamonds are not a girl’s best friend and are plucked out of mines by slaves who are worked to death.

A kiss on the hand is not quite continental.

Everything Qanon says is true; as a registered Democrat, I can attest that baby is quite good, when prepared properly.

To top everything off, I was just inexplicably fired from my job answering phone calls at a suicide prevention hotline.

ON THE DEATH OF WIT AND CHARM

One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, North By Northwest, is when protagonist Roger Thornhill, played by the immortal Cary Grant, is confronted by an obnoxious ticket seller at the train station. Grant is being pursued by spies who have misidentified him as a rival agent named Kaplan, as well as by the police who believe he murdered a United Nations diplomat. Wanted posters are everywhere, including the train station. Grant, attempting to flee aboard a train, has donned dark glasses to conceal his identity. The ticket seller is sufficiently suspicious to query Grant, “Is there something wrong with your eyes, mister?”

I will digress just a bit to mention that if you are not familiar with Grant’s films, I beseech you to familiarize yourselves. Grant is what is sometimes referred to as an essential persona actor. Whatever character he played he was always Cary Grant: quintessentially charming; effortlessly suave and reflexively witty. So when asked by the ticket seller if something is wrong with his eyes, he replies with droll sarcasm as only Cary Grant could, “Yes- they’re sensitive to questions.” After successfully entering the train, Grant encounters a radiantly beautiful blond, played by the radiantly beautiful Eva Marie Saint, who is in fact in collusion with the spies. An affair develops, and entire scenes are devoted to their sexy, sophisticated repartee, with Grant’s lines delivered with a style and class that he alone could deliver. Alas, romantic repartee has been abrogated by truncated words on text messages, embellished by some absurd emoji.

And so I beg the question: how would Cary Grant’s style and class be perceived today? Would the coarse and vulgar times in which we live render a latter day Cary Grant infinitely weird and inconceivable? Are wit and charm gone forever, permanently swiped from our stark barren world, gone with the wind along with love letters written in personalized cursive? Is it folly to yearn for another time? Do people drink Gibsons anymore, as did Cary Grant as he charmed Eva Marie Saint on the train? Would it even be legal today to offer an elegant lady a cigarette extracted from a platinum cigarette case? For that matter, is it acceptable to even refer to a woman as a lady, or is the very word deemed to be an archaic derogation imposed by a brutish patriarchy?

Is it possible that a new Cary Grant is now germinating, to emerge when the time is right? Could today’s high tech literalists even recognize sarcasm, wit, satire and irony in a neo-Cary Grant, or in an intelligent novel? For that matter, are intelligent novels still being written, and if so, who reads them?

How unfair and unrealistic you may ponder, for me to bemoan the extinction of styles and sensibilities from bygone days, especially when they may have been manifested more in celluloid than in reality. But I can’t help it. I yearn to see people today dance like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. I want there to be Noel Cowards and Cole Porters, uttering wit and playful wordplay.

I fantasize. Oh, if only once in my drab life I could don a top hat and tux and approach that glamorous and sophisticated lady who got caught in a storm, and with Cary Grant’s voice and elan, query, “Why don’t you get out of those wet clothes and into a dry Martini?”

Once There Were Great Men

Can you recall the last time you took a risk? More difficult yet, can you remember the last time you took a risk- as in risking your life for a moral principle; a higher good? I suspect most of us would have difficulty with such recollection- we are human, driven by self-interest and survival, and there is no shame in this. But there are, and have been, exceptions.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. If I’ve done my math correctly, he would have been 93, as he was only 39 when assassinated in 1968. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I remember being shocked, horrified and heartbroken. And yet, I was amazed it didn’t happen sooner.

For the better part of his life, whenever he stepped out the door, the sense that his head was in the crosshairs was both palpable and realistic. Behaving fearlessly doesn’t negate fear. He was an absolute non-violent warrior for justice- for all people. During his numerous marches and protests he had been beaten, arrested, jailed and stabbed by a deranged woman. J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the F.B.I. , bore an obsessed, pathological hatred for him. William Sullivan, the head of the F.B.I.’s infamous COINTELPRO project (the F.B.I.’s covert and illegal program to surveil, infiltrate and disrupt political groups deemed unamerican, ) wrote in a secret memo, “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.” For Dr. King, paranoia was an understatement of reality. Racist organizations, individuals and the full power of the F.B.I. wanted him dead. He was, in reality, their greatest threat.

Dr. King’s charisma was not of the demagogue, but of the iconic moral teacher. And he was, arguably, the greatest orator of the 20th century. His “I Have A Dream” speech from 1963, delivered before thousands at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, is indelibly etched in the minds of justice loving people everywhere. “I have a dream,” he stated, “That my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”

“I have a dream today. That one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. …”

And, as the days of our time grow darker and divides widen, as tribal hatred supplants reason and the sulphuric stench of civil war is in the air, I find myself drifting into cynicism and hopelessness. I feel the whispers of the darker angels of ourselves growing louder, and I feel within myself a growing hatred for those who trade in hate. And when I feel myself sliding toward the abyss, I pause and reflect that once there were great men. You remain my hero, Dr. King. Happy birthday. Your spirit still shines through the darkness.

The Best And The Brightest

And now, gentle readers, I feel morally compelled to reflect upon the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and the audacity of his killers’ defense at the subsequent trial.

My reiteration of the events relating to Arbery’s murder will be brief. My goal is not to revisit this crime in all of its horrific and absurd minutia. A recap:

On February 23rd, 2020, a young Black man (Arbery) who was a devoted jogger and aspiring electrician was jogging along the streets of Satilla Shores, Georgia, in a neighborhood where some of the residents don’t, well, cotton to a young Black man jogging along their streets, because, dog gone it, if he’s running he must have done something wrong. Two men, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34 had seen Arbery in the neighborhood before, which reflexively raised their suspicions. Gregory and Travis, along with neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 50, in separate trucks pursued and cornered Arbery. When Arbery was boxed in, Travis jumped from his truck, aimed his shotgun point blank at Arbery’s chest, and as Arbery tried to escape he was shot three times. The pursuit of Arbery was ostensibly to affect a citizen’s arrest because they believed Arbery may have been involved in a series of burglaries (not to digress, but a citizen’s arrest where there is no actual evidence of a crime is illegal- even in the state of Georgia.) For reasons I will conjecture upon later, “Roddie” videoed the pursuit and killing with his cell phone. Initially, no charges were filed. The presiding D.A., Jackie Johnson, knew Gregory, who once worked for her. Ah, the prevailing attitude- let’s sweep this one under the carpet, tidy things up a bit and move on. But alas, the video was inexplicably turned over to police by “Roddie.” Somehow, he later claimed, it would justify the actions of him and his friends. Not surprisingly, it leaked, and soon went viral, generating global outrage. The case was turned over to The Georgia Bureau Of Investigation. The bureau concluded that all three men “Chased, hunted down and ultimately executed Arbery.” In due course, the case went to trial.

But, the murder was on video, for gosh darn. The accused men’s’ attorneys heads were spinning for a defense. Brainstorm! That’s it- defense- self defense! Why, it’s all there in, well, Black and White. When Arbery was cornered between the two trucks, “Trapped like a rat,” as Gregory later stated, Travis jumped out of the truck, aimed his shotgun point blank at Arbery’s chest, and shot him three times. But you see, he had to! He had no choice. When the unarmed Arbery instinctively tried to wrest the shotgun barrel from his chest to save his life, he could have- no, better, make that would have- wrenched the gun away and murdered poor Travis. Why, it’s common sense that this would have happened. Look- look you eleven out of twelve White Georgian jury members. Yes, yes, we’re not supposed to think these things, but you know how these people are. How fast, powerful and violent they are. Why, as one of the defense attorneys stated, “Arbery was not an innocent victim. Why, he wore no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.” Ah ha- a smoking gun, if you will. By the way, not to digress, as I am wont to do, but how did she get close enough to Arbery’s feet to discern the state of his toenails? Fascinating thought- does she live a secret life as a necrophiliac foot fetishist, sneaking into morgues at dead of night to drool ghoulishly over dead men’s feet? Did she produce evidence, statistics or scientific studies that suggest that long dirty toenails correlate to criminality? I mean the dirty toenail argument is pretty slim pickins’, but they have to come up with something. Or, perhaps she thought a radiantly stupid, racist, ad hominem and non sequitur attack on the victim might sway some fence straddlers on the jury.

But the defense’s case was problematic. Optics are important. It didn’t help that the three defendants looked like racist rednecks plucked out of Hollywood central casting. What to do? Ignorance of the law may not be an excuse, but how about severe stupidity? That was the track taken by “Roddie’s” lead attorney. His counsel brilliantly did the impossible, by characterizing “Roddie” as even more dimwitted than his co-defendants. Yes, his attorney argued, that even if a crime had been committed, his client was such a dullard as to be rendered harmless. Look at him- the neighborhood fool. A bumbling buffoon lacking the grey matter to participate in a homicide. Oh the chutzpah! Could Alan Dershowitz have argued more effectively?

Was this a racially motivated hate crime? Nonsense, the attorneys would opine. When interviewed by police, “Roddie” of the dim light stated that Travis called Arbery “A fucking nigger” as he lay dying on the road. The image of the Confederate flag appeared on Travis’s truck, and overtly racist text massages were found in “Roddie’s” phone. Irrelevant- coincidental! Uncanny perhaps, but nothing of import nonetheless. And that video. As mentioned, though not a member of Mensa, did “Roddie” really believe it was to their benefit, proving they tried to arrest Arbery- proving if nothing else his attorney’s depiction of his client’s mental acumen? But allow me to posit an alternate explanation:

The video does not show decent citizens protecting their neighborhood. No. This was a lynching. A father and son bonding lynching as in the good ole’ Jim Crow days. Why did “Roddie” video the proceedings? Why do some hunters bring along a buddy to video the taking down of an elk- or a buck? To memorialize the victory for posterity.

Ultimately they overplayed their cards, an inherently losing hand. The mostly White jury didn’t close ranks along racial lines. They had it within them to think critically, examine the evidence, and arrive at a just decision. All three, guilty of various counts of murder.

And so, for all you White supremacists, look at your shackled brethren. Do they look supreme, slouching as they shuffle from the court room to their new home- the penitentiary?

Take pride. They may be the best and the brightest of you.

The Trouble With Kyle

Look at him. Such a sweet innocent face. Those plump cherubic cheeks, the kind of cheeks my Sicilian uncles would reflexively pinch and not let go. Come on. He’s just a kid. All kids get into mischief from time to time. Did you see the video? Did you see him traipsing about the streets, the burning streets of Kenosha, like a carefree, frisky puppy, his baby fat jiggling as he ran? How could such a harmless looking boy be a killer? Rather easily, it would appear.

On August 25th, 2020, at a protest that turned into a riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, resulting from the police shooting of a Black man multiple times in the back, seventeen year old Kyle Rittenhouse crossed state lines from Antioch Illinois into Wisconsin. Ostensibly, he was there to join other civilian militia to guard and protect property. Was he invited by property owners? No. When interviewed by a roving reporter, young Kyle stated he was an EMT (emergency medical technician) and wanted to administer medical attention to anyone he encountered who was hurt. He was not an EMT. He carried with him a medical kit, a fire extinguisher and- an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Why, every earnest EMT should carry one- they are designed to save lives, are they not? Now the narrative becomes obfuscated, a la Rashomon Effect.

At one point, Young Kyle is seen running across the street, away from the roving interviewer. There is a confrontation with a man named Joseph Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum threw a bag at Young Kyle and allegedly issued verbal threats. Young Kyle shot him four times within four feet. The crowd observes. Is he an active shooter? Is he not decked out in the typical garb of civilian militia? He is pursued and falls on his back. A man named Anthony Huber attempts to disarm Young Kyle, and strikes him with a skateboard. He is shot in the chest and dies. A third man, admittedly brandishing a hand gun, is shot in the arm. Most of the bicep is blown away. Young Kyle gets up and flees from the crowd, and encounters police. He tells them he has shot people. They give him water and tell him to go home. Honest Injun’. What is it about cops and baby faced right wing killers? Remember Dylann Roof? The cops gave him Burger King when they arrested him. Now, if at all possible, try to imagine the above described scenario, all details identical, except Young Kyle is Black. He tells the cop he has shot three people. How might they reply? “Aw, get out of here kid. Here’s some water. Now scram and go home.” I know. You can’t imagine it.

Eventually, our young rascal was arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including murder. When Young Kyle appeared before a judge, Lady Luck was beaming at him. He went before Judge Bruce Schroeder, who at an earlier hearing, denied a request from the D.A. to increase bail by $200,000 because a video had surfaced showing Young Kyle in a bar drinking beer with members of the “Proud Boys,” the notorious White Nationalist group who were key players in the January 6th storming of the nation’s capital. Well, is not storming what storm troopers do? Our boy, who for the remainder of this piece shall be referred to as YK, was wearing a “Free As Fuck” tee shirt and flashing the OK sign (thumb touching index finger), often displayed by White Supremacists. The charge of a minor in possession of a firearm was dropped because YK did not buy the weapon, but borrowed it, and within the infinite wisdom of Wisconsin law, the barrel was too long to qualify as a hand gun, which would have been illegal. I hope you are processing this better than I am. The honorable Judge Schroeder also ordered that the three men who YK shot could not be referred to as victims by the D.A., but the defense could refer to them as arsonists or looters, if there was evidence they were involved in such activities. Question: if there was no such evidence, then why could they not then be described as victims? Ask the judge. Throughout the trial the judge excoriated in near rage the D.A. over technicalities. Such an impartial adjudicator. He may as well have been wearing a sandwich board stating, “I’M WITH KYLE!”

During the actual trial, the defense rolled the dice and put YK on the stand. It was self-defense, he pleaded. He only did what he had to do to stay alive. At one point, he broke down, poor boy, in sobs- enough crocodile tears to fill the Nile. Such a convincing performance- Stanislavski would be proud; a Proud Boy, if you will.

Then- the day of reckoning. Not guilty on all charges. More histrionic sobs, wracked with them; tears of joy, of vindication- and then he began to swoon.

And what now for YK? From day one he has been the darling of the Alt-Right and White Nationalists. He has been deified by the likes of Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter and Matt Gaetz, the champion and protector of seventeen year olds. YK may himself emerge as a pundit on Fox, with a bit of grooming. But what about now. How can he make a bit of money?

Remember George Zimmerman, who, in my opinion, murdered another seventeen year old, Travon Martin, a kid who was unarmed, minding his own business and Black? Zimmerman sold the murder weapon, a 9MM hand gun, for $250,000 at auction. An AR-15, with two kills and a maiming on it’s pedigree, should do a Hell of a lot better.