A Stitch on Time
Surrealism and cultural distortion are a day-to-day occurrences now. I first noticed the world shifting around me in the Summer of 2012. The CG Project was beginning its second year. It was the beginning of an idea that would lead to my Dual World photo series.
It’s tough to remember how we survived it but I preserved some of the emotions we shared over the last few years through something I called Chain Corpse, a combination Chain Letter and Exquisite Corpse. It was a way for me to connect with people I respect about issues that plagued us all. I hope that you find some value in them now that some time has passed.
This exchange happened between the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and the acquittal of George Zimmerman over the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The former is an issue that was recently settled in the courts. The latter now feels like a tiny step in long walk up a mountain. As I write this paragraph, I’m keenly aware of just how jaded I’ve become in the last two years. Two days ago, a friend asked me what happened to Hope. I had none to give at the time but managed to find some it yesterday. Today I learned that a man shot up a church after sitting among the congregation for an hour. Lately, Hope is just enough to stand you up to be knocked back down.
Linda – April 19, 2013
I love my wounded, egotistical, flawed and somewhat misguided country. To say I don’t would be lying and I work hard at not lying about life. I want to thank Tania Urzueta for posting something I felt strongly enough to comment on and then say outloud to no one at 11:26pm at the end of a week that included snow in April and a curiously moving tragedy closer to home than Boston.
I got home today, Friday, at 5:15 to find mom glued to CNN and their endless coverage of this latest urban tragedy. I wasn’t watching, I was sorting through mail and hearing her half hearted litany of the day as she would really rather watch fill in the blank correspondent sort through the facts one more time. I turned to watch for a moment only to see the correspondent’s head tilt to one side, then remove his earpiece as if to listen to the moment he was living in that reported back to him, a series of shots fired. Mom handed me the remote to turn up the volume. I went to cook dinner and listen in the next room from the now too loud television, to keep up.
After thirty minutes dinner was ready, but we were eating on our laps in the living room, glued to the ongoing coverage beginning with shots fired and ending so very long after, shots fired. I kept seeing that young face. A face like so many others I have seen so many times on my own city streets. There is nothing unusual, specific or curiously defensive about that face and yet, at this moment, that face represented the culmination of a week of the terror, concern and helplessness of a nation to do anything about it. At this moment, that face sat in a boat in a yard in a suburb of Boston.
I thought more about that face, especially once it had been captured–detained to the sounds of applause by the citizens of the city that had sheltered, supported and comforted that face and now suffered the reaction or response to some moment that triggered that face to action. I looked at that face and the face of his now deceased brother and wondered, where are the answers to my questions.
I realized, it is possible to look hard for answers in a scenario where there are none. I’m sad to think that we as a decisive culture need to package this moment as a solid story with a beginning, middle and an end. This is a story missing 2 of 3 of those parts. Especially in its clumsy process of delivery. These are boys, idealistic at best purposeful at their worst, cogs in a movement, pawns in a game where the rules were defined centuries before we even came into being.
So now what? I pray for juris prudence–for the process that includes Miranda, more than once if necessary. I listen to my red white and blue mother willing the worst on a 19 year old conscious, telling me ‘he’s stepped outside of the boundaries of the law’ and me responding ‘no he broke the law and is allowed due process’ and believing this, no matter what.
I listen to the variety of reports that describe him as culturally removed from the American experience as he has no American friends because he does not understand them. Yet, culturally present and complete in his backwards cap, hoodie and skateboard.
I wake up to tomorrow and the day after, wondering about every person riding my train, standing in front of me at the Taco Bell, cheering on a niece, nephew or godchild at the local football game. Can I ever stop wondering about my Americans, today? Tomorrow?
And I lay in my bed and pray that we as conscious, functional, thinking individualists not jump to a pre defined conclusion about what just happened to our American world. That we seek answers to the hard questions we must ask ourselves about our role as world citizens. How can we make our American sane enough to endure any prospect of a rational future?
Jennifer – July 22, 2013
A week ago Saturday George Zimmerman was acquitted of criminal charges related to the death of Trayvon Martin. I was not surprised with the verdict but so many people were outraged. Surely this is the story of white vs black, they say.
I say this is the story of a macho-pissing match and it’s known to every race, color, and neighborhood.
Zimmerman was obviously a paranoid person. He lived in a gated community, participated in a neighborhood watch and had to carry a loaded gun because why? Has anyone tried to answer this? Apparently some homes had been broken into. Big deal. Who takes up arms to protect their Xbox? Zimmerman apparently. He’s the kind of guy who has to drive around late at night looking for the boogie man. Is this racist? No, it’s fucking crazy. If your mom did this she’d be put on valium. A guy does this and he’s in the neighborhood watch.
Ever since the verdict came down and the nation has erupted with anger with the race card in hand I’ve taken a look at the guys in my neighborhood. My neighborhood doesn’t have a gate though we do have a young man that looks like a skinny Glenn Danzig in bondage pants, a man that looks like an ogre, an old man with a wooden cross strapped to his bicycle, a Juggalo who collects scrap metal from the garbage and alleys, a couple of guys who walk everywhere because they’ve lost their licenses, and the hillbilly who lives off of energy drinks and filled in his front yard with mulch- the entire front yard. And there are the guys who are just walking around passing time before the homeless shelter opens for the night and the guys who are your average young adults who just stepped out to have a smoke.
Had anyone one of these guys been walking down Zimmerman’s street that night in February I’m pretty sure he would have said something. And I’m pretty sure more than a few of them would have been just as freaked out at Trayvon. And the one guy would have puffed out his chest and the other would have done the same and a punch and a blow and before you know it, boom. Someone who really wasn’t doing anything wrong is dead.
It wouldn’t have made the national news. It wouldn’t have been a racially motivated crime. There wouldn’t have even been a trial.
It’s time to stop using racism as the catch-all explanation for all that’s wrong with the world and just accept that some people are crazy assholes who shouldn’t be allowed to have guns.
Camille – July 27, 2013
Fear and False Equivalency:
In various articles and spaces human beings vociferously declare the killing of Trayvon Martin had nothing to do with race. The failure to arrest George Zimmerman after he admitted to killing a kid had nothing to do with race either. And finally, the acquittal of George Zimmerman after a long protracted battle resultant of efforts by his family and thousands of citizens across the U.S. had nothing to do with race. Instead we are asked to believe that Trayvon Martin deserved to die. There was something about him that made him look, seem, feel, threatening. “If I saw a strange looking guy in my neighborhood, I would have…”
My response to these people who work to convince themselves blackness had no role to play in the tragic death of a child is… “It’s okay.” If you don’t know how to talk about race… you don’t have to. If you are afraid to talk about blackness. You shouldn’t. To equate Trayvon Martin to some “strange dude” walking through your neighborhood means you’ve already bought into a racialized narrative that teaches Americans that black bodies are dangerous, and suspicious, and menacing. You’ve also bought into a narrative that convinces you that black kids aren’t “kids” at all. Many aspects we equate to children- curiosity, innocence, naiveté, they don’t apply, in your mind, to black kids. How surprising must it have been for Zimmerman to realize he’d killed a child armed with nothing more than a daily dose of sugar. “Armed” is how we must see him. Black bodies are always “armed” with something. A gun, a knife, a… something. We view the world through a racialized lens and we speak about it using racialized language. It’s okay if you didn’t know. We only use the word “semantics” when we’re being sarcastic and most never touch the word “semiotics.” But these things… are. Like fire and water they are elemental forces shaping the way we see the world. If you’re convinced blackness played no role in the death of Trayvon Martin it doesn’t mean you are confused. It means you’ve learned your lessons well.
How illogical to compare Trayvon to an odd man pushing a cart full of salvaged metal down the lane. It’s illogical because Trayvon was a middle-class kid, doing okay in school, with plans on attending college upon graduation. How does he, in one’s mind, become the equivalent of the salvaged metal guy? How much do we know about Trayvon? How much do you think you know? How do you know it? Who told it to you? What about him gives you the information you need to strip him of any characteristics of childhood and make him, strange? It’s okay if you don’t know how to talk about race. It’s okay if it makes you afraid. But most of all. It’s okay to say nothing so that your words don’t add to the wounds so deeply inflicted upon a family, a community, a country. Trayvon Martin was shot through the heart and lung at close range. The bullet ravaged his young body. He died in pain and fear. You may not have considered that. It may have escaped you that he felt tremendous pain as his life’s blood seeped out of his damaged body. Why is that? What about him made you forget?
Here’s where it gets interesting. I sent this entry to someone else who was gracious enough to respond, but before I post that mystery person’s piece of the puzzle, I’m giving you all a chance to respond to my piece. I’ll give you all this opportunity to contribute after each installment. Let see how this all plays out.