Neck-deep in human waste, underneath the jail

This post has almost been about several things already; Gift of Gab, one of my favorite hiphop artists, passed away earlier today, and there will still likely be a post about him in the next couple of days. I’ve had a post about critical race theory brewing as well.

And then this murdering shitbag cop’s sentencing came down, and, well, that’s probably the most timely thing I could be writing about right now.

270 months. He murdered someone he knew by kneeling on his neck for nine and a half minutes and for that he will serve 22 and one-half years in jail. If the crime hadn’t been filmed, we’d likely never have heard of it, and he would no doubt have continued to be a murdering, racist asshole for the rest of his career.

I’m of two minds– well, several, really– about all this. He was convicted of second degree murder, for which the recommended sentence was 10 years, and the prosecution was pushing for probation. So the fact that he got over twice the recommended sentence is a good thing even if the defense was hoping for 30 years. I brought this up on Twitter earlier about an entirely different criminal; I don’t know that I’m any good about determining how long sentences should be for crimes.

The person I was talking about then was one of the Capitol rioters; she was in the building for around 10 minutes and committed no acts of violence while she was in there, and she got three years of probation. Is that “enough”? Hell, I don’t know. Would jail time have been better? 3o days of jail, to pick a number, instead of three years of probation? Six months? Is that too much for participating in an insurrection for ten minutes and not being one of the ringleaders of the crowd?

And this man gets 22.5 years for cold-blooded murder in broad daylight. Which doesn’t sound like enough; life without possibility of parole sounds great to me. Sure, there are more direct ways he could have murdered George Floyd; he was convicted of 2nd degree and not 1st for a reason. But George Floyd will still be dead when and if this man gets out of jail.

Well, okay, but he’s going to be spending that entire time in solitary, and when I am in a less bloodthirsty mental state I recognize that any amount of time in solitary confinement in America’s jails amounts to psychological torture, to say nothing of fifteen years, which is what I’m seeing would be the minimum amount of time he’d serve (who knows if that’s right, because Twitter, but whatever.). Fifteen years of solitary confinement 23 hours a day is not a sentence that many people can be expected to survive, and if they survive it, what emerges is not the person that went in. And I’m strugging, right now, to balance that need for justice and vengeance (not the same thing) with my disgust at the carceral state in America. I would prefer that jail be a place for rehabilitation and not for punishment. But it isn’t, and it likely won’t be in my lifetime. And this creature is not about to be the hill I choose to die on to fight the badly broken American justice system. The fact that he was convicted at all is remarkable, to say nothing of the sentence being more than the bare available minimum.

So.

I don’t want this to happen to anyone, but if it’s going to happen to anyone, it may as well happen to him. I’m not sure how that stands as a moral position, but it’s what I have at the moment. If he doesn’t like it, he probably should have listened to the crowd of people begging him to stop strangling another human being under his knee until that man died crying for his mother.

On Captain America and racism

First things first: I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as I can, and really, Episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is not really an episode that can be spoiled, but something minor might slip through here and there if you haven’t seen the episode yet.

So, the whole thing about this show is this extended meditation– and, to put it out there, it’s a process I’ve very much enjoyed– on what the idea of Captain America is, and on what America itself is, and what it means when America’s so-called ideals don’t match up with America’s actions. We’ve been repeatedly reminded that the super-soldier serum makes you more of what you already were, and we’ve had the moral exemplar of Steve Rogers hovering over the entire show as someone everyone on the show is trying to live up to. Left unclear is whether Rogers is actually still alive; Sam and Bucky have both used the word “gone” for him several times, and everyone else thinks he’s dead, but I don’t know exactly what the situation is there.

They’ve done a good job of making John Walker a character who people can empathize with to some degree without making him sympathetic, I think, and it’s clear and getting clearer by the moment that he’s not up to the job of Captain America. But is anyone? Is Sam, who Steve Rogers actually gave the shield to, worthy of it? Is Bucky, for that matter, who doesn’t seem to want the job but also seems more than anyone else in the story to need there to be someone out there called Captain America? (Bucky, by the way, has served as Cap in the comics. So has Sam.)

And then there’s this specter of racism that’s hung over the entire show. Early on, Sam and his sister Sarah are denied a loan by a bank officer. He blames it on the effects of the Blip, and of course they leave that frisson of deniability in there, but you wonder. There’s Isaiah Bradley, a Black man experimented on in the process of developing the super soldier serum and later locked in jail and forgotten. Walker literally tells Sam to his face that America will never accept a Black Captain America– and, hell, judging from the reaction when he was Cap in the comics, America had a lot of trouble with a comic book about a Black Captain America. And then there’s Walker himself, a less-than-great white man propped up by a Black wife and a Black best friend, introduced to a screaming crowd by a Black marching band, and who only has the shield in the first place because a Black man gave it up and the government stole it.

All this is leading into me wondering why the hell Bucky and Steve aren’t big racists.

Now, okay, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: these versions of those characters can’t be racists, and that’s why they aren’t. Marvel needed Chris Evans’ Captain America to be all-caps-and-italics CAPTAIN AMERICA, and while Bucky is allowed his dark side, what with the decades of murdering, we still need him to be sympathetic and a hero. Both Rogers’ and Barnes’ man-out-of-time thing is played mostly for laughs and nothing else; Cap doesn’t understand pop culture references and doesn’t like to swear, and Barnes read Lord of the Rings when it first came out, because he’s a hundred and nine damn years old. So we’re just going to choose to ignore certain aspects of being a white man in 1945 who suddenly wakes up in 2015 (or whatever year Captain America: The First Avenger was set in) and is immediately confronted with a Black man in a position of enormous power and has absolutely no questions about it. Bucky Barnes grew up white in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 40s but he has a date with a Japanese girl in the first episode and has immediate chemistry with Sam’s sister in the fifth, and never once treats his Black Best Friend ™ with a drop of paternalism or condescension or anything.

Well, okay, he won’t move his seat up, but I don’t think that counts. And maybe you’re wondering Wait, Luther, are you seriously saying that every white person in the 1940s was a racist? To which my answer is, yes, I absolutely am saying that, at least by modern-day standards. And Steve and Bucky haven’t had eighty years of changing society to drag them along, they got plucked out of one timeline and dropped into another with no time to adjust in between.

But, to be clear: I don’t actually want Bucky accidentally dropping the n-word about Sam’s sister and having an episode where he apologizes. I don’t want Steve Rogers calling the Black Widow “Toots,” or blowing the Scarlet Witch shit for being Jewish, assuming she actually is Jewish in the MCU, which is sort of up for debate.

But it would be damned interesting to see a sort of What If? or Elseworlds-type series where Cap gets brought back by the type of person who is always holding up the forties and fifties as some sort of American Golden Age, something we should try to get back to, only to find out that the guy who was such a big hero in World War II is a massive asshole by anything approaching modern standards. The Ultimates universe leaned into this a little harder than the regular Marvel universe ever has; their Cap was jingoistic and a sexist and a whole lot of other things, but it was mostly played for comedy and/or shock value; what I’m looking for here tilts closer into villainy, and I want to see a story where America’s reaction to Captain America is part of the story. They got into that a little bit when Sam Wilson became Cap in the comics, now let’s see what happens when Steve Rogers himself is held up as this great guy and turns out not to be. What if Cap came back to modern-day America and rejected it? What if America rejected him, and said this is not who we want to be?

It’s been fun to think about, at least.


A quick social media note: I shut down my Facebook and Instagram accounts yesterday, at least temporarily, and as such blog posts won’t be shared there any longer. We’ll see if this hurts traffic or engagement on the site; you can still share posts yourself with the social media icons below, and sign up for email updates somewhere in that list of boxes on the right there.

I hate it here

My son has a peanut allergy, along with a handful of other other allergies, and while we’ve never had any sort of medical emergency related to his allergies we have always kept EpiPens on hand, both in the house and at school. He’s going back to school next week so we needed another one.

They wanted four hundred and fifty dollars for a pair of EpiPens, and the ones they had on hand had expiration dates in December.

Four hundred and fifty fucking dollars for something that, if you don’t have it on hand when you need it, you’re very likely to die. $100 more than the last time we ordered them, and the last time we ordered them they were also obscenely expensive.

Go ahead. Ask if we have insurance.

Venting; ignore

My students have broken me already, and it’s only Tuesday. I try to be Mr. Positivity over on TikTok, and I’m also trying my damnedest to be as realistic as possible about what’s going on in my students’ lives. I put up a video the other day that basically boiled down to some of you are going to have to accept that your students have more important things to worry about in their lives right now than school, and you need to stop taking their grades personally. They’re not failing because they hate you.

And … like, I still think that’s true, or I wouldn’t have said it? But fucking hell, children. I have 143 kids and less than 30 did today’s assignment. About 35 have done yesterday’s. And that includes a handful of kids who faithfully do every single assignment

… within a minute of me posting it …

… by putting in completely random numbers for every single question. Every day.

Why the fuck are you bothering.

I just posted this to my Google Classroom announcements:

The thing is, while I can not let myself be this way while dealing with specific kids, the simple fact is that a number of my students aren’t struggling with the pandemic, they’re living their ideal fucking lives and playing video games all fucking day. They could do the work, they just don’t want to, and no fucker in their house is about to make them because their parents are lazy dumbshits too. And while I struggle with this part of myself every single day, there is very much a part of me that is absolutely fine with these kids deciding they’ve had enough education halfway through seventh grade (because that’s where they were when we went into quarantine) because, fuck it, life’s gonna catch up with them eventually, and we’ll see what they can do to feed their damn selves when they’re adults who can’t Goddamned read.

I had a kid today who did her assignment and got a 0/10 on it (important: I use Google Forms a lot, so the assignments get graded automatically) and immediately asked me if I could reset it so she could try again. I looked at it and discovered that she had the right basic idea but had forgotten to reduce all of her fractions– so, in other words, she’d put 25/100 but I wanted to see 1/4, for example. So I coached her through how to do that (she, an 8th grader, didn’t remember how) and she redid it. I told her to share her screen with me before submitting it so I could check it over again, and she’d gotten, like, three of them wrong. So I coached her through those, showing her how to do them right–

–and then she hit submit and turned the assignment in without changing any of the wrong answers. And, like, why did I just waste that time, then, if you weren’t going to bother taking the four seconds you needed to adjust those answers? And she signed out immediately afterwards, so she knew exactly what she was doing and knew I was going to say something about it if she’d stayed in the Meet.

Multiply that interaction by fifty or so and you have my last couple of days. I am right fucking there. I am in front of a computer fucking up my eyes and my back eight fucking hours a day so that I can answer questions and help kids and I will have kids who were present for instruction put in randomly chosen numbers and turn in their assignments. Yesterday we were doing something that I knew was tricky and so I actually did the first two questions on the assignment– an assignment that only had five questions to begin with. I pointed that out. I said “I am doing the first two for you, so you should get these right,” and then recorded myself saying that to them, along with the right answers. And I had kids who were in that Meet while I was doing that get the first two questions wrong.

I just …

Fuck.

a brief historical note

First things first: while I am not expecting people to come to their senses in any meaningful way, I would also not be surprised if we had a new president by the end of the day. The 25th Amendment must be invoked, and I actually do believe that it is possible that it may be.

A whole lot of people need to suffer genuine and severe consequences for yesterday. A whole fucking lot of people. There is no room for reconciliation and no room for forgiveness here, because they already got off scot-free with pulling this shit in Michigan, and if a whole bunch of people don’t pay the price for what they did, either by losing their elected offices, being forced to resign, being fired from their jobs, jail, whatever– they will do it again. And it will be worse next time. Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch failed, remember.

But that’s not what I want to talk about right now.

Cast your minds, if you’re old enough, back to January of 2001. George W. Bush had just taken office, having either actually defeated or come close enough to defeating Al Gore that it didn’t matter. And right away there were all sorts of reports that the Clinton people had done all sorts of damage on their way out the door– there were all sorts of reports of vandalism, of phone cords being ripped out of walls, of W keys being removed from keyboards, of graffiti and things being carved into desks and tables, all sorts of stuff. The news was all over the level of “frat house disarray” that the Clinton people left behind. If you’d listened to any Republicans or to the news in general, you’d have thought they completely destroyed the place.

And that got reported all over the place, and eventually the GAO did a yearlong investigation, and it turned out that while there was some damage– something around 12-15 grand, I think, across everything, which is real money to us normal people but in Washington terms is peanuts– it wasn’t remotely as bad as it had been initially described. Now, I’m not justifying any vandalism or damage here (okay, removing a couple of W keys is kind of funny, but nothing more serious than that,) only pointing out that what was a problem got blown up and magnified into something much worse than it was, and there was never, of course, any attempt to really correct the error. If you talk to most people old enough to remember this they’ll likely tell you that the Clinton people completely wrecked the White House on the way out, even though that basically wasn’t true.

Something makes me think that what happens when this administration leaves office– and they are going to, have no doubt about that– the damage will be both much worse, and much less reported on.