What in the hell has come over you…

What in heavens name have you done?

You’re breaking the speed of the sound of loneliness…

John Prine

(Tho I do prefer Chris Wilson’s version)

There’s a lot of noise in the air at the moment.  The recent tragedy in Tuscon has touched a world of nerve.  There are claims and counter claims and a whole lot more.  Its one of those “hold a mirror up to society” moments.  But more than that, its a seemingly inexplicable tragedy in an America that hasn’t been this politically charged since the 1960s, maybe earlier.

Everyone thinks they can explain it tho, including me.

But before I do that I’m gonna pause for a moment.

I read a comment from an American recently about the flags still being at half mast.  And I don’t know if its still too early, but for the survivors and the families of the victims it’ll probably never stop being too early.

The most reasonable claim, and the one thats generated the highest noise to signal ratio, is that there may be some relationship between the rhetoric of some on the US political right and the shootings.  Maybe.  Definitely on some level, maybe not as much as people think.  Given whats happened, if this claim is to stand up it needs to be examined in light of other shootings.

“Some other shooting in America?” you might ask.  ” Surely not!”

As an aside, the rabid respose – including some of the most jaw droppingly idiotic or provocative comments ever made – reinforces the original suspicion.  Surely someone’s protesting too much.  (Tho there may be much to protest about.  Sometimes irony is nasty and karma is a bitch.  It’s Kali’s attack dog, and it can bite.)

That face at the top of the page belonged to John T Williams.

The police in car video of his shooting can be viewed here. (Warning.  This is disturbing.)

Its not conclusive of anything, ‘cept perhaps that in America people are too quick to kill each other with guns.

It certainly suggests an awful lot tho.  And I do mean awful.  Right now the police officer driving the car should be on trial for murder.  His employer – the Seattle Police Dept – has been accused repeatedly of excessive violence and other brutality.

What does this mean in light of the woeful rhetoric we are surrounded by?

Probably not that much (sadly), just another killing by cop in a place that increasingly resembles a police state.  A place where police power is becoming an authority in itself, not the representation of a constitutional one.  Anyone who has followed or been touched by the rise of tasers, and the function creep that sees them being used not as a non lethal replacement for lethal force but increasingly as a tool of compliance or punishment, has an appreciation of this dangerous development.

But it might mean more if that killing was motivated by Palin’s rhetoric.  Cos its one thing to influence an isolated and disturbed individual on the margins, its another if agents of the state, authorised to use lethal force are killing in the name of…

If John T Williams’ killer is ever on trial for murder – everyone will probably think the system works if he gets convicted.  What could this possibly have to do with the Tea Party?

Well possibly nothing.  But in light of the revelations published this week online, and the leaking of the Seattle PDs private “Police Only” publication The Guradian‘ editorials. Possibly an awful lot.

And yes, again I do mean awful.  Because here is the editorial policy of a private Police Dept publication reflecting the words and sentiments of a political movement.  Thats bad enough on its own – this movement has some adherents calling for “second amendment solutions” and a potential Presidential candidate who is  adding bulls-eyes to a map to represent political opponents.

One of them was recently shot in Tuscon, Arizona.

Arizona of the mythical landscapes, where the Pima people have a story concerning a place called Cuk son, or shookson or something along those lines.  Concerning a culture hero murdered by public consent.

I don’t think it would be too controversial to suggest that we are embedded actors in an imagined landscape: this collective narrative is a participatory project, an occult language with a grammatical and syntactical structure that recapitulates the ontological themes which are the motivating mythologies of every tragedy and comedy.

A anonymous online voice wrote that trying to make sense of the whole thing.  The way we all do.

It seems that if anything links these two shootings beside the rhetoric it is power.  Thats what shootings are, by definition.  The ultimate expression of power over someone else, and the ultimate disregard for them.

But these are slightly different expressions of power, one comes from someone who seems so powerless in society and one from someone who seems so powerful.  It appears their actions have reversed their positions.  The Seattle policeman will be facing a murder charge*, and an unknown ineffectual, ineffective kid has defined and defied the United States  as 2011 begins.

Thats counter intuitive cos you’d expect someone acting on behalf of the state to prosper and someone acting against it by shooting a representative of its power would … well not capture the hearts and minds of the world.

Supposedly power structures are dropping like flies at the moment – across the planet and in the US as well, and one “lone nut” with a gun can make the headlines and more. But what has America become  when people are so disenfranchised they see no way to power or even to meaning other than to walk outside with a gun and shoot people they don’t know?  And that the only meaning worth such atrocity is fame, or notoriety?

Maybe what it was always destined to become, thats really for Americans to answer.  We can read some things into these events tho.  They hold a mirror up to the past the present and the future and give us options.

I’ll reflect more on this in further posts, particularly on whether the grammatical mind control Loughner identified, and feared was what drove him to kill.  Cos thats what being vulnerable to rhetoric entails.  And what effect that same grammatical mind control might have in future given the form its taken in the leaked Guardian op eds.

John T Williams’ killer is on trial, and in the spirit of circumventing Jarred Loungher’s demented but frighteningly accurate vision of America I won’t name him.

I’ll just wonder aloud about how embedded in a landscape the people who do this stuff actually are.  People like the agent of the state who can stop in a busy street,  casually exit his car and shoot a homeless and harmless indigenous man known only for his artwork, who just happened to walk by.

Because if thats the embedded landscape of America now then God help the poor, huddled masses if Palin comes to power.  Things are shocking enough for them already.  The only response I can think of is good music and the company of loved ones right now.  But we can’t stand silent if Williams’ killer walks and we can’t stand silent if he doesn’t.  Cos he’s a symptom of a greater problem not a symbol of the cure.

I’ll leave you with one final thought, cos this is not just an issue for America.  Most Australians would recall the Cronulla Riots and the hate fueled media frenzy that preceded them.  Its best articulated by Chris Wilson, singing John Prine’s song in that link below a dead man’s face.

Its a dreadful shame and an awful sorrow

Its crossed the evil line today.

How in hell can you talk about tomorrow

When you don’t have one good word to say?


~ by jules on January 15, 2011.

3 Responses to “What in the hell has come over you…”

  1. * Lets be positive about this OK.

  2. Nice. Very nice. Thank you, Joe. I have a small story to tell shortly that for now I will just throw up (and yes possibly I mean “vomit”) on RI very soon. For now, I am waiting to meet with an attorney tomorrow. However, I hope to make a post with cosmic significance as to our devolvement into a surreal, technofascist global society, with absolutely no knowledge of what is right or wrong — where, though criminals, the criminals are far more morally right than the jail keepers. Yet, it is subtle, it is sad and no one will win. It truly is the panopticon. It goes very deep and in some ways I am glad that I have had to experience this jail they keep for us.

  3. Good luck man.

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