Does your conscience bother you

30 11 2014

“The reason I have a clean conscience is that I know that I did my job right.”

Darren Wilson killed an unarmed young man and his conscience is clean. He does “feel remorse”, and he “never wanted to take anybodys life, that’s not the good part of the job that’s the bad part”.

He just wants “to have a normal life.”

Others have discussed the shooting of Michael Brown, the way Ferguson policies its black community, the (un)reality of Wilson’s version of events, the unusual manner in which the Ferguson prosecutor approached his job in this particular instance, and the demonization of black bodies—all with much more knowledge and eloquence than I can.

So let’s talk about that “clean conscience”. Should someone who killed another person have a clean conscience?

Is it enough to say “I did nothing wrong” or “I was following my training” or “I was doing my job”? Is that enough to buff out the dents and scratches in one’s conscience?

Because shouldn’t killing someone dent your conscience?

I think it should. Even if it were justified, even if you kill someone who clearly and unambiguously was trying to kill you or someone else, even if the law and calculations of survival are on your side, it should bother you that you killed someone.

Maybe that’s the “remorse” Wilson mentioned, that he feels bad for Brown’s parents that “their son lost his life”—but Brown’s life wasn’t lost, it was taken. By Wilson.

I don’t trust clean consciences, and I don’t trust the ways in which we scrub them, be it via Jesus or training or even necessity. We should be burdened by our actions, should have to carry our deeds with us.

This isn’t to say that there is no way of coming to terms with those deeds or their consequences, that the weight should remain heavy and constant throughout our lives, or that we shouldn’t get help to figure out how to carry that weight. I am skeptical of redemption but atonement may be possible.

Atonement, at least, rests on the recognition of a banged-up conscience, on the recognition of misdeed and error and regret and wrong. It rests on the recognition of the weight.

~~~

I accept that there are some matters beyond good and evil, and I accept that one may act—including acting to kill—to preserve life.

But that something is necessary doesn’t make it good.

At that moment of survival, at that moment of killing, one may be beyond one’s own conscience, and that may be appropriate, necessary to one’s survival.

But that doesn’t mean you get to leave that moment in the moment. This is something you did, so that as long as you are you, you should carry that moment with you. It should mark you.

This isn’t a call to scorn those who kill, but to recognize the weight of killing. And insofar as we authorize some—police, soldiers—to kill to protect others, to protect us, then we ought to carry that weight as well.

~~~

Wilson’s words seem grotesque to me, but I understand the impulse, to say not just that “I got clean” but “I was never not-clean”, to reassure oneself that not only does one not regret what one did, but would do it again. To be untouched, weightless.

But what kind of human life is weightless?

I don’t know how long we should carry our deeds, good or bad, or how we should carry them so that we are neither crushed nor untethered by them. This is hard, to know how to live in the world.

This is the work, and this is how conscience gives us weight, in order to do the work and carry the weight.

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Thanksgiving for every wrong move

27 11 2014

Hope y’all had a peaceful day—or not, if that is your wont

 





Ain’t that America

25 11 2014

From the outset, the great difficulty has been discerning whether the authorities are driven by malevolence or incompetence. —Jelani Cobb

I say: why choose?

I’m not being glib. If you don’t think black lives matter, or matter much, then why bother taking the care to preserve them?

And, of course, thinking that black lives don’t matter (much) is pretty much at the nasty little heart of malevolence.





Exposing every weakness

24 11 2014

Break out the champagne: I told myself that I would finish grading the research papers over the weekend—and I finished grading the research papers over the weekend!

Well, okay, I had two to do tonight (finished before 9!), but, c’mon, I’m givin’ myself the win.

What I am not mentioning, of course, is that I had the papers for 10 days before I sat down to grade them, and that had I really been on the ball, I’d have either gotten these puppies marked last week or graded a few every night so that a weekend grading flurry would have been unnecessary.

A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha—“graded a few every night”—like that would ever happen!

I get shit done, I do, but pretty much only when I have to. At some point “two weeks” fixed itself in my noggin as a reasonable deadline for returning papers, so ever since then, I take two weeks to grade, even if I end up doing all of the grading a day or two before that deadline.

More-or-less finishing the papers two whole (well, okay, not really whole, as I didn’t put down the pencil until Sunday night, and, y’know, that whole 2-papers-on-Monday-thing, but go with me, here, people) days before I hand them back?

I feel like the goddamn Batman of grading.





All things weird and wonderful, 48

19 11 2014

Drunk tanks for birds.

Okay, so this might be a little sad—soused waxwings binge on fermented berries, then die of “ruptured livers or ‘flying under the influence of ethanol’ “—but sometimes the wonderfully weird is a little sad.

And it’s not just avian alcoholism that makes this story wonderfully weird, but that humans have created “holding tanks” in a (yes!) rehab facility in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Already, drunken flying accidents have sent four birds to the Whitehorse headquarters for rehabilitation in a series of specially equipped “holding tanks”: Small cages with water and bedding, that are kept quiet and dark “so that [the waxwings] can have a good recovery.” One of the birds, notably, arrived still smeared with the residue of alcoholic berries.

One of the birds, notably, arrived still smeared with the residue of alcoholic berries: of course she did.

In any case, the facility is prepared for

“a couple big flocks, and you can see them flying a bit erratically, trying to avoid things,” said Meghan Larivee with the territory’s Animal Health Unit. . . .

“We expect there will be more,” said Ms. Larivee.

h/t Raw Story





Bless the beasts and the children

18 11 2014

Why one law for all?

Yes, I have and will continue to bang on about principle and theory, but sometimes concrete examples work best.

Such as dead children.

Jeez louise, you might be thinking, do you really have to get all extreme about this? I mean, aren’t you exaggerating just a wee?

Nope.

Despite the deaths of least 12 children from “faith healing” Christian families in their state, lawmakers and public officials in Idaho have refused to challenge a state law providing a religious exemption from manslaughter and murder charges, Vocativ reported.

There is little push to change the laws.

“This is about religious beliefs, the belief God is in charge of whether they live, and God is in charge of whether they die,” state Rep. Christy Perry (R) said. “This is about where they go for eternity.”

The move from doctor-centered to patient-centered decision-making has, on the whole, been good for patients, and one of the most important powers which has migrated to patients has been the right to refuse treatment.

I am foursquare in favor of such a right—for an adult, for herself, for any reason.

When making decisions on another’s behalf, however—especially a child whose care the state has charged one with providing—the exercise of such power ought to be scrutinized.

Or, to put it less abstractly, parents ought not be able to refuse life-saving care for their kids, especially when such care is routine and effective, because God said so.

Parental custody is conditional, not absolute.

This shouldn’t be a controversial statement: parents who starve or beat or neglect—including medically neglect—their children may be charged with crimes and have the kids taken away from them.

But throw a veneer of religiosity over such neglect, and well, whatcha gonna do?

Jackson Scott Porter, a newborn girl. . . lived for just 20 minutes before dying in her grandfather’s home. The girl’s mother did not receive any pre-natal care. Her cause of death was listed as untreated pneumonia.

“That’s the way we believe,” the grandfather, Mark Jerome, told KATU at the time. “We believe in God and the way God handles the situation, the way we do things.”

KATU also reported that local officials believe that another minor, 14-year-old Rockwell Sevy, had undiagnosed Down’s syndrome before he also died from pneumonia, in 2011.

Sevy’s father, Dan Sevy, refused to discuss his son’s death with KATU last year, citing his right to freedom of religion.

“I would like to say, I picture freedom as a full object. It’s not like you take ‘a’ freedom away,” Dan Sevy said. “It’s that you chip at the entire thing. Freedom is freedom. Whenever you try to restrict any one person, then you’re chipping away at freedom. Yours and mine.”

This is the dumbest goddamned argument about freedom this side of Galt’s Gulch, which dumbness would make it pathetic were it not pernicious—which is to say, had it not resulted in a boy’s death.

This religious exemption necessarily removes the children in these homes from protections of the law, specifically, of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment: in allowing parents to neglect their children for religious reasons, the children in these religious households are given fewer protections of the law than children in other households.

I had thought such exemptions were narrow (confined to vaccinations, say), but they are, dismayingly, widespread.

The right of the parent to inflict her religious beliefs on the child, even if it kills him, apparently matters more than the child himself.





Everybody knows the deal is rotten, 14

16 11 2014

The Greek state is caging children:

Nine-year-old Jenny stands and rocks backwards and forwards, staring through the bars of a wooden cage.

When the door is unlocked she jumps down on to the stone floor and wraps her arms tightly around the nurse. But a few minutes later she allows herself to be locked back in again without a fuss.

She is used to her cage. It’s been her home since she was two years old.

Jenny, who has been diagnosed with autism, lives in a state-run institution for disabled children in Lechaina, a small town in the south of Greece, along with more than 60 others, many of whom are locked in cells or cages.

Fotis, who is in his twenties and has Down’s syndrome, sleeps in a small cell separated from the other residents by ceiling-high wooden bars and a locked gate. His cell is furnished only with a single bed. There are no personal possessions in sight anywhere in the centre.

“Are we going on a trip?” is this wiry young man’s hopeful refrain whenever he sees anyone new. But with barely six members of staff caring for more than 65 residents there is rarely an opportunity to leave the centre.

They have no money to care; they cannot care without money.

Efi Bekou, who looks after the institutions in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, states that

the economic crisis means that the Greek state is bound to rules set by its lenders in the EU and IMF, including a moratorium on hiring new staff – as a result, she says, it would be impossible to employ the number of staff needed at the centre.

Is this the fault of the Greek state? It is a poor, and poorly-run state, so probably yes.

But not only the state’s fault: the Greek crisis was set in motion by the global recession in the fall of 2008—the same global recession which saw Americans lose their jobs and their homes and blamed by financial analysts for their lax fiscal morals.

And so, too, have the Greeks been blamed by the European Union for its lax fiscal morals, from which they, the EU, must sighingly rescue them yet again.

No word on any rescue for children in cages.

h/t Filipa Ioannou, Slate