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Troy Davis and Jamey Rodemeyer: By A Jury Of Our Peers – Part II

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Please read Troy Davis and Jamey Rodemeyer: By A Jury Of Our Peers: Part I. This is part II.

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I am Troy Davis, I am Jamey Rodemeyer. I am Troy when I look at my black skin, I am Jamey when I recall being a gay teen. Most of my friends were girls too, and I was terrified while getting undressed for gym that there would be some telltale mark on me, some look that would alert the other boys that I was a “faggot.”

I am Jamey when I remember the new school I moved to in the fourth grade. One day some of us were playing touch football, and everyone was mad because I dropped the ball. One kid said the reason I was black was because my mother took a shit when I was born. Everyone laughed. The teacher saw the crowd surrounding me, saw me crying, and gave everyone a warning. She then asked me to stand beside her for the rest of recess until she rang the bell. I guess she was protecting me, but I remember I didn’t want to stand next to her. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I felt that I was being punished.

That was a million years ago, ancient history that shouldn’t matter anymore. I’m 41 now. I dismiss the hurt — kids are kids, we were all just stupid nine-year-olds, I should be over it by now. And so, like most of us, I betray myself, becoming one of those adults who tie their childhood pain to blocks of cement, hoping it will stay at the bottom of the lake forever so I can get on with the business of life.

But childhood hurts have a way of surfacing; as alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, and suicides. And you may forget, but your addictions remind you of the initial mortification, that first initiation into human cruelty. You deny how it felt to face a mob of other kids, being humiliated by your peers. You may even force your own children out of the house each day when they say they’re being bullied or they’re frightened; forgetting the feeling you once had that you would literally rather die than face another day at school.

And I wasn’t just an innocent victim; I, too, victimized. A girl at my school the following year developed breasts early. My best friend in 5th grade came up with the joke that every time we passed by her locker, we would pretend that we were holding two oranges and say, “Squeeeeze.”  (It wasn’t my joke, but I laughed anyway, so what’s the difference?) Clearly, at the age of 10, it was already clear to us, as boys, that we had a right to objectify her body, to insult her. By that time, I had already been secretly looking at my father’s Hustler magazines for two years. The message was already established; her body was there for our amusement and violation – we hadn’t started middle school, and already we’d learned the pornographic gaze. (If she is reading this now, I’d like to say I’m sorry.)

Then there were the kids that everyone hated. You gained your social status by hating them too, and could destroy that status by sitting with them at lunch, or walking home from school together. I’m friends with one of them on Facebook now. I look at his profile, the pictures of him as a parent, standing with his own kids, and I wonder if he still has the scars. I don’t see how he couldn’t; I still have the scars from watching him being bullied by others. I wonder if he worries about his own sons or daughters when he sends them to school, if he’s told them how he used to get humiliated when we played during recess, how he was picked last for teams, or how boys deliberately tried to hurt him, going for his head with the ball during “Smear the Queer”?

Does he still remember that when he asked, “Can I play with you guys?” someone would always tell him to ask Chris, and Chris would tell him to ask Phil, and Phil said talk to Pam, and eventually the bell would ring and we had to line up to go inside.  And he would cry, and say, “It’s not fair,” but he wouldn’t hate us, which made him all the more pathetic and despised, because he just wanted to be our friend.

Then there was the other kid we wouldn’t let play, who wasn’t afraid to hate us. He cried at first too, but then his face flooded with rage, he turned purple and said to all of us through clenched teeth, “One day I’m going to come back to this school and get the biggest gun in the whole wide world and blow your heads off.” We were in second grade.

I used to think about him from time to time, wondering if one day I’d open the paper or turn on the news and find him there; having unleashed his rage on someone.  But he’s a real estate agent; he’s married, two girls. His picture on his website doesn’t reveal his past. There are other men, however, taking their revenge on the innocent every day, and they are on the news. Perry Smith confesses about the murder of the Clutter family in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, published in 1966: “…And it wasn’t because of anything the Clutters did. They never hurt me. Like other people. Like people have all my life. Maybe it’s just that the Clutters were the ones who had to pay for it.” Straight boys kill others, gay boys kill themselves.

It’s become passé now to say that the Iraq war was wrong, but how do you tell kids not to bully when the baddest motherfuckers on the block were in the White House, on their television screens? Dick Cheney leading the pack, with Bush, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice, at his side; Cheney has said in recent interviews he has no regrets about the Iraq war. It is arguable that the high school bullies that helped kill Jamey Rodemeyer are the progeny of the George W. Bush years and the Defense of Marriage Act. Whether they understood the act or not, their parents did, and that created a climate where discrimination against gay people was okay, government-sanctioned. These are the children raised onSouth Park and Family Guy. While these shows may have their moments of gay tolerance, they are also mean-spirited, vicious, and at times pathologically cruel to difference. We’re raising sociopaths.

These kids watched us tear Iraq apart; they saw the unimaginable violence of 9/11. Did anyone explain these events to them? How do we explain? And Jamey’s story is not over, apparently. On September 27, Tim and Tracey Rodemeyer appeared on NBC’s Today show with a story about their daughter, Alyssa, who attended a recent dance at her school to take her mind off her brother’s death. (Alyssa was the one who found Jamey’s body hanging in the family’s backyard.) “We thought it would be great to be with all of her friends, then all of a sudden a Lady Gaga song came on and they all started chanting for Jamey, all his friends and whatever,” Tracy Rodemeyer said. “Then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting ‘You’re better off dead, we’re glad you’re dead.'” His sister left the school in horror, as the bullying of her brother continues even after his death.

I’m angry that Troy Davis is gone, killed by our government with all the remorse afforded a fly swatted at a family picnic. I’m angry that another gay child is dead, when things are supposedly “so much better” these days for gay people. I watch Michelle Bachmann on The Tonight Show, legs crossed, giving Sarah Palin “fabulousness” to disguise the Sarah Palin vacuity and tininess of spirit. When Leno asks about Bachmann’s “Christian Counseling Clinic” and about  “praying the gay away,” Bachmann makes a joke about midlife crisis and that she originally thought the line was “pray thegray away.” She deflects the question, without even the slightest twitch of her facial muscles, clearly coached by handlers on how to discuss the “gay thing.” Not a single person in the audience laughs and Leno won’t let her off the hook.

Leno: To me, when I was a kid, they used to try to teach me to be right-handed. ‘You’re left-handed, that’s the hand of the devil.’  And to me it’s the same thing with gay. I don’t get why – like gay marriage….why be against it? I’ve been married 31 years, first wife, very happy… two gay guys get married, how does that affect my marriage?….Why is that even an issue?

Bachmann:…Well, because the family is foundational.  And marriage between a man and woman is what the law has been for years and years and years.

Leno:  I know, I tried it myself, it works great for me. 

Bachmann: Well, there you go!

Leno: I got to admit, that’s the part I don’t get.  I know gay families that are married, they have children, and they’re wonderful people.  I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to be happy.  I’m not going to change your mind on that one.

History isn’t always kind to the people who obstruct social justice – and it won’t be kind to Mrs.Bachmann (married, as she announced to Jay Leno, 33 years.) I hear the apologists: the woman is entitled to her opinion. But as Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

And that’s the problem, we’re still seeing gay people, and gay lives, as something one can have an opinion about — like people used to have opinions about slavery or whether blacks were equal in humanity to whites, whether women deserved the right to vote. You can argue whether checkers is more fun than chess, whether Chinese food is tastier than Italian, but you can’t “argue” gay people — we exist. Denying someone their human rights because of their orientation is not an opinion, it’s the hate that leads to hate crimes, murder and suicides.

Michelle Bachman and her gang of bullies may not be aware of this, but Jamey Rodemeyer was her child too, he needed her, because he was an American, and she’s a politician and a mother. She had a responsibility to protect Jamey, and she failed him. We all failed him.

If this were an 80s film by Robert Benton (Places In the Heart), Troy and Jamey would meet in a Hollywood heaven, perhaps standing in line next to each other. In my fantasy Troy would put an arm around Jamey and guide him, helping him figure out where he needed to go. To some this may be a despicable fantasy, but it brings me comfort, and the generosity on Troy’s part isn’t inconceivable. Before his execution, and after proclaiming his innocence a final time, Davis said, “For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.” The scene may recall something out of Janet Langhart Cohen’s play, Anne and Emmett, in which Emmett Till and Anne Frank meet– other victims of intolerance and hate. Perhaps, as teenagers, they would welcome Jamey, they would understand his pain.

The state of Georgia has made Troy Davis a martyr. He is now the face of the death penalty as the ultimate racist act. The question still remains whether a black person can get a fair trial in America, and whether the people who tried him, from the bullies in Georgia to the ones on the Supreme Court, were really his peers?

Troy and Jamey may not stand in line together in heaven, but they stand together in history; tried, convicted, and ultimately bullied and betrayed.

Bullying is about entitlement; who belongs and who doesn’t, who can be “othered.” I was ganged up on that day in 4th grade because I was new to the school; I didn’t belong. The image of Troy and Jameystays in my mind, and begs the question: Who is the face of America? One of the reasons that MichelleBachmann can be so smug, despite what was once considered the fringe politics of the Tea Party, is that in her whiteness and privilege, her belief is unshakeable that she is America. She owns; blacks and gays are renting. The only way out of this hell is for those of us who have been marginalized to insist on visibility, to find solidarity and stand together.

In his 1984 address to the Democratic National Convention, Jesse Jackson recalled the making of his grandmother’s quilt:

“When I was a child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina… grandmama could not afford a blanket, she didn’t complain and we did not freeze. Instead she took pieces of old cloth, patches, wool, silk, gabardine, crooker sack…barely good enough to wipe off your shoes with.  But they didn’t stay that way very long. With steady hand and a strong cord, she sewed them into a quilt, a thing of beauty, and power, and culture.

Now…we must build such a quilt. Farmers, you seek fair prices, and you’re right, but you cannot stand alone.  Your patch is not big enough. Workers, you fight for fair wages, you’re right, but your patch, labor, is not big enough.  Women, you see comparable worth and pay equity, you’re right, but your patch is not big enough. Women, mothers, who seek Head Start, and daycare, and prenatal care on the front side of life, rather than jail care and welfare on the backside of life, you’re right, but your patch is not big enough. Students, you seek scholarships, you’re right, but your patch is not big enough. Blacks and Hispanics, when we fight for civil rights we are right, but our patch is not big enough. Gays and lesbians, when you fight against discrimination and a cure for AIDS, you’re right! But your patch is not big enough. Conservatives and progressives, when you fight for what you believe, right wing, left wing, hawk, dove, you’re right, from your point of view.  But your point of view is not enough.

But don’t despair, be as wise as my grandmama.  Pull the patches and the pieces together.  Bound by a Common Thread, when we form a great quilt of unity and common ground we’ll have the power to bring…hope to our nation.”

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On this morning, Troy Davis haunts us from the posters in my neighborhood; now it is clear: someone is refusing to take them down. Perhaps if the posters stay up, somewhere in our consciousness, Troy Davis hasn’t been executed yet. Which means that in our denial, there is potential and hope. Not hope for Troy, but for us.

The same hope makes me wish someone had saved Jamey Rodemeyer from harming himself.  Even for those who say that Jamey killed himself to make a statement; he believed he was worth more dead to us, than alive, which still makes him tragic.  I want some gay superhero to climb in his window and to tell him he has everything to live for, that his life will be different in a few years (might be different next week!); and that when he gets to be 41, like me, he’ll see that the bullies grow up and lose their hair, hate their jobs, and have kids that they turn into bullies too, or have to protect; and that he’ll have a partner one day who loves him, he’ll have his own kids to raise. And life goes on. But only if you live.

When asked, “What do you want people to take away from what happened to Jamie?” Tim Rodemeyer said to Anderson Cooper, “One is the message of Jamie. His message was that people should be treated the same no matter how different they are, no matter if they’re black, white, gay, bisexual, disabled, fat, skinny…that was his big thing. He treated everyone equally.”

Troy Davis and Jamey Rodemeyer are dead, both killed at the hands of the State, and the sad news, beyond the fact that no one saved them, is that no one is going to save us, either. And as horrifying as it is to consider, we all know: Troy Davis will not be the last person executed on Death Row who may be innocent, Jamey Rodemeyer won’t be the last gay child to take his life. And the bullies will thrive, and will continue to thrive until gay white men and women will say, “I am Troy Davis”; and blacks — rich and poor, Christian and secular — step out front and say, “We won’t allow you to bully our gay children anymore. I am Jamey Rodemeyer”.

In an online video created before his death, Jamey said:

“I always got made fun of because I virtually have no guy friends….and it bothered me because people would be, like, “faggot”….and they caught me in the hallways and I felt like I could never escape it…and people would constantly send me hate, telling me that gay people go to hell…And I just want to tell you that it does get better…You were born this way. Hold your head up and you’ll go far. Because that’s all you have to do. Just love yourself…”

Everyone is essential. There is no one who can be thrown away. And we who are called different will not be “othered” any longer. We stand together. We are America. And the day will come when we all realize there is no “Them”; there never was. It always is, and always will be, “Us.”

Max Gordon is a writer and activist. He has been published in the anthologies Inside Separate Worlds: Life Stories of Young Blacks, Jews and Latinos (University of Michigan Press, 1991), Go the Way Your Blood Beats: An Anthology of African-American Lesbian and Gay Fiction (Henry Holt, 1996) and Mixed Messages: An Anthology of Literature to Benefit Hospice and Cancer Causes. His work has also appeared on openDemocracy, Democratic Underground and Truthout, in Z Magazine, Gay Times, Sapience, and other progressive on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally.

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BREAKING NEWS

‘The Law Is Clear’: Appeals Court Rules Trump Handpicked Judge Should Never Have Appointed Special Master

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A three-judge panel on the conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Donald Trump, and effectively against his hand-picked federal district court judge Aileen Cannon in the ex-president’s “special master” case.

The judges, all three conservatives, two of whom appointed to the bench by Trump himself, ruled that Judge Cannon should never have agreed to Trump’s request to appoint a “special master” to review all the items the Dept. of Justice removed from his Mar-a-Lago residence by executing a legal search warrant.

Cannon had ordered the special master to specifically review approximately 100 classified documents, and blocked the DOJ from accessing them while they were under review. That block halted its investigation into Trump’s likely illegal retention of the documents and other items – over 10,000 – he removed from the White House and was string at Mar-a-Lago.

RELATED: In Trump’s ‘Special Master’ Appeal 2 of 3 Judges Are Ones He Appointed – and Both Previously Ruled Against Him

CNN calls Thursday’s ruling “a major defeat for former President Donald Trump.” The appeals court’s ruling halts  “a third-party review of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate,” and “removes a major obstacle to the Justice Department’s investigation into the mishandling of government records from Trump’s time in the White House.”

“The law is clear,” the judges wrote in their ruling Thursday, posted by NBC News’ Daniel Barnes. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations.”

“And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations,” they continued. “Accordingly, we agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.”

READ MORE: ‘Roughing Him Up’: Judges Scorch Trump’s Attorney in Tense Hearing Over His ‘Secret’ Argument

They also wrote: “In considering these arguments, we are faced with a choice: apply our usual test; drastically expand the availability of equitable jurisdiction for every subject of a search warrant; or carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents. We choose the first option. So the case must be dismissed.”

“The district court,” meaning Judge Cannon, “improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction in this case. For that reason, we VACATE the September 5 order on appeal and REMAND with instructions for the district court to DISMISS the underlying civil action.”

 

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Right Wing Social Media Platform Parler Announces Kanye West Will No Longer Buy It in ‘Interest of Both Parties’

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After Kanye West‘s antisemitic and racist remarks last month, which led to him being deplatformed by Twitter and Instagram, the extremist artist and rapper announced he was purchasing the right wing “free speech” social media platform Parler, which performs little content moderation.

On Thursday, hours after West went on far right extremist and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show and praised Adolf Hitler, Parler issued a statement saying by mutual agreement West would not be purchasing the platform.

But the Parler statement, which came from its parent company, also claimed the decision had been made weeks ago.

“In response to numerous media inquiries, Parlement Technologies would like to confirm that the company has mutually agreed with Ye to terminate the intent of sale of Parler,” Parler said on Twitter. “This decision was made in the interest of both parties in mid-November.”

READ MORE: ‘This Is Nazism’: Americans Outraged After Kanye West Praises Hitler – ‘This Is Not a Clown Show. It’s Dangerous’

On Thursday, stunning many, West told Alex Jones, “I see good things about Hitler,” as Consequence reported. “Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.” 

When West had agreed to purchase Parler, he stated, “In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves.”

CNBC reported last month that “Parler, which initially launched in 2018, was swept up in controversy last year over the role it played in the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the Capitol building. That led a slew of tech companies, including Google and Amazon, to blacklist the service, rendering its app and website inaccessible.”

READ MORE: Matt Gaetz ‘Wingman’ Joel Greenberg Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison – Attorney ‘Disappointed’ Others Not Prosecute

Parler’s CEO is George Farmer, who is married to far right commentator Candace Owens. Owens several years ago had her own Hitler-praising scandal.

Owens, promoting nationalism, told young supporters in London, “Whenever we say nationalism, the first thing people think about, at least in America, is Hitler.”

“But if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. The problem is that he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalise. He wanted everybody to be German, everybody to be speaking German. Everybody to look a different way. To me, that’s not nationalism.”

Hitler was responsible for the slaughter of up to 17 million people.

 

Image via Tinseltown / Shutterstock

 

 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘This Is Nazism’: Americans Outraged After Kanye West Praises Hitler – ‘This Is Not a Clown Show. It’s Dangerous’

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Disgraced rapper and antisemite Kanye West on Thursday praised Adolf Hitler while in an interview with far right extremist and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Many are expressing outrage online.

“I see good things about Hitler,” West told Jones, as Consequence reports. “Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.” 

In between those two remarks West launched into a plethora of lies about all the good things Hitler has done, including inventing the microphone (false) and highways (also false.)

West doubled down, exclaiming, “I like Hitler,” and said, “the Jewish media has made us feel like Nazis and Hitler have never offered us anything of value to the world.”

West, who brought a white supremacist with him to dine with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago last week, today also claimed he loves everyone but injected antisemitic tropes about contracts and pornography.

“I think most Jews are great people,” West said, while claiming, “I agree there’s a Jewish mafia.”

West, who goes by “Ye,” astonishingly “took credit for popularizing antisemitism,” Consequence reports, “saying, ‘No one in high school knew what antisemitic meant until Ye made it popular.'”

That, too, is a lie.

The outrage online is palpable.

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) tweeted, “JUST NOW: ‘I see good things about Hitler, also. The Jews… Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.’
— Kanye West on far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ InfoWars show.”

“This is Nazism,” he added. “When are we going to say ENOUGH?”

Many pointed to a wildly offensive tweet posted by GOP Congressman Jim Jordan, who heads the House Judiciary Republicans. After nearly two months it was removed within minutes of West praising Hitler.

U.S. Rep. Eric Falwell (D-CA) blasted Jordan, saying: “for 2 months you were cool with Jew-bashing.”

Sam Stern of Politico and MSNBC took a wider view.

“We’re all gawking at Kanye saying he sees ‘good things about Hitler’ but i can’t escape the absolute dread that people who know no better and look up to this man and stumble upon this interview will be moved, even on the margins, by him,” he tweeted. “This is not a clown show. It’s dangerous.”

As did actor Josh Gad:

“It’s not what Kanye West says that scares me. It’s that he has 30 million followers who listen to his insanity on top of a cheerleader in the form of the current owner of this platform. No one who says “I love Hitler” should be allowed any oxygen on any social platform (period).”

There is video online of Kanye West’s vile remarks. NCRM will not post or link to it.

 

Image via Shutterstock

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