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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tolerating, excusing, and encouraging violence

(Posted 29 Sep 2007)
So far this year there have been at least 105 murders in Prince George's County. Last year there were at least 134, and at least 173 the year before that. And not all county murders are reported by the police or press.

Our murder rate is one of the highest in the nation--many, many times that of any other suburban jurisdiction in Maryland or Virginia.


Could it be because we and our leaders are so willing to tolerate, excuse, and even encourage violent behavior, especially by young men, while at the same time failing to encourage good behavior by our more civilized young people?

The September 29 Washington Post has yet another disturbing article by Ruben Castaneda, "Jury Acquits Suspect in Temple Hills Shootings; Lack of Cooperation From Witnesses Is Cited."

This is just the latest in a series of cases where the combination of
  1. juries who apparently feel sympathy for the poor killer in front of them,
  2. often intimidated witnesses refusing to testify, and
  3. residents who believe that being a snitch is a far greater evil than allowing thugs and killers free rein,
all leading to acquittals that send our brutal killers a fairly clear message--even if you get caught, you will most likely get off and be free to terrorize the innocent again.

What have our elected officials done to resolve the witness intimidation problem? NOTHING. Under the "leadership" of our Judiciary Committee chairman, Joseph Vallario (D-27A), the General Assembly has come down clearly on the side of the witness intimidators.

Most of our pro-criminal General Assembly members openly and vociferously oppose the death penalty for murderers, while remaining silent when innocent victims are put to death without benefit of trial. Many of them, and some of our pro-criminal council members, further discourage respect for the rule of law by supporting, rather than condemning or prosecuting people who have broken the law by entering the country illegally.

Whatever we, the "civilized" members of the community may think, our murderous brothers and sisters seem to be reading the clear signals that we and our leaders will not only go easy on killers, but seem to endorse a society where people are free to pick and choose which laws they want to obey or disobey.

And then there's the "Jena 6." Despite whatever racism there may be in Jena, the simple fact remains that six African-American males savagely beat and stomped another single individual.

Many of our county's "leaders" seem to think that's just dandy. I have not seen any indication that any of our leaders, or any of our county's people contributing to the discussion of this issue, have condemned the violence in Jena. We are sending to our youth (and out to the world, thanks to wide press coverage), a very clear signal that we in Prince George's County believe violence and brutality are an acceptable response to perceived racism and that we will support violent and brutal young African-Americans no matter what they do.

At the same time that our local PTA president, Robert Ross, has been demonstrating in support of the violence in Jena, school board members, led by Ron Watson, and the organization "People for Change" have been busy attacking non-violent, well-behaved youth in the community.

"People for Change" launched an all out attack to destroy the future of our immediate past student school board member, deeming him guilty without hearing or chance to reply of moral offenses for hanging out with an adult board member--one who had been firmly endorsed by most of our political establishment. The student is question was always well-behaved, stayed in school, got good grades, is going to college, and wants to be a teacher. He is not a violent, murderous drug dealer who has dropped out of school. Just look at the message "People for Change" seems to be sending--if you are a goody-goody and do anything we don't like, we'll savage you, but if you drop out and deal drugs or kill people, we'll be silent. What conclusion do you suppose students facing hard life choices will draw from that?

Now board member Watson seems to want to punish the current student school board member--a high achiever with a good record--and future student members for the perceived transgressions of the former member (and remember, there were never any real charges, nor was he given any formal opportunity to respond to the smear campaign) .

When numerous other well-behaved students, who apparently learned something from their civics classes, showed up to speak against Watson's proposal, Watson "
said he was unmoved by the students' testimony." Apparently one unbalanced investigator's report filled with gossip and innuendo about one student is more important to Watson than anything else, certainly more important than the behavior or testimony of the rest of the universe of students.

Watson has probably taught those students, who have remained school, and who cared enough to attend and speak at a board meeting, exactly the opposite of what they learned in school.

Looking at what seems to be important to the "adult" leadership, the students might get a better hearing, and more respect, if they staged a violent protest.

So, why do we have high levels of violence and school drop-outs? Because we tolerate, excuse, and even encourage violence and confrontation among our young people while showing disrespect for well-behaved, civilized youth who stay in school and play by the rules.

As Jacob Andoh would ask: "What say ye?"

Thoughtful responses preferred, hate mail also welcome.


  1. I hardly know where to begin. Lord, help me focus my passion and write something that deserves to be read.

    Jena 6? Do you think that harshly criticizing, or flatly attacking, the moral priorities and the political leadership of our County is appropriate, warranted and constructive? Do you realistically hope to provoke a reassessment of the attitudes underlying the passionate support for the Jena 6? Doesn't such a broadside impugn Jena 6 advocates and their core values on the subject of justice?

    My answer to all these questions would be an emphatic and hopeful "YES." That's right: yes.

    Are well-documented instances of racial injustice really so rare in the US that activists must make martyrs of violent teenagers? Were these teens framed? Were they lynched, beaten by police, or even assaulted by officers with the N-word? No. They were not.

    Was there something---anything---noble about their conduct? No, there was not.

    Whatever happened to the Rosa Parks of America? Why must we hold up Mychal Bell as victim and, implicitly, as role model? Has it come to that?

    In this case, what horrific injustice against them has occurred (and since been reversed)? “Over-charging.”

    Is injustice is such short supply that African-American activists must rally against the despicable and grave assault on justice that is "over-charging"---of assailants whose violence is not even in doubt?

    This attitude precisely underlies the current realities here in Maryland.

    The cry in Prince George's---no longer in churches but rather in courtrooms---is: "Can I get a witness?!" Please, any witness.

    Courthouse banter in Prince George’s has it these days that the cry is becoming “Can I get a juror?!” Without a felony conviction? Please.

    (Felons can’t vote at the polls but they can vote on juries?! Is that possible?)

    For those indignant marchers who set upon the small-and-maybe-even-backwards town of Jena, Louisiana, the mantra appears to have evolved to this: "Can I get a victim?" A black victim? With a white victimizer? Please. (Anything to show I’m right. That my experience is right. That my world view is not the tragic cumulative result of decades of racial cynicism, false inferences and pessimism in my own community….)

    No doubt some readers will feel this post is inspired by racial animus or self-hatred or some other poisonous brew of malevolence and fear. Instead, it is inspired by dismay. The dismay that occurs when obviously guilty murderers escape even token sanctions because witnesses are routinely intimidated, jurors empathize not with victims but victimizers, and local politicians seem to place a higher priority on pandering to the cult of “ex-offenders” than seeking convictions of people who so casually do harm to our community.

    This blog quite very effectively puts the facts right-side up. It is courageous even when done pseudonymously, and truly sad that it must be done without a real name. “Stop snitching” has become “stop advocating,” “stop truth-telling” and if you wish to avoid being vilified with real hate speech, “stop signing your name.”

  2. Hi, I saw your question on the Malkin board regarding MoveOn's attorneys. They were provided at the end of the letter from Carrie Olson.

    Here it is verbatim.

    "We are represented by Tsan Abrahamson and Kate Spelman at Cobalt, LLP. in Berkeley, CA. If you need further follow up
    from our attorneys, I am happy to ask them to be in touch."

    I can't register for the Malkin site --registrations have been closed. So I thought I'd answer on your blog.

    Hope you'll participate in the fundraiser.