Monday, December 26, 2005


I went to view the remains of Stanley Tookie Williams last week-- he went to Washington high school with my late wife. When I went inside the mortuary’s Slumber Chamber where Tookie’s body lie in repose, there was a lady sitting in the front pew crying, presumably a member of Tookie’s family. It was obvious that the lady was in great pain, so in spite of the fact that I didn’t know her, I offered her my condolences. The chamber was quiet and solemn.  Then I walked out the side door of the mortuary—and into an absolute zoo.    

In the parking lot next to the mortuary there was a crowd of people partying like it was New Years Eve–the music was blasting, one car was on lifters so high that it seemed to be standing on end, and three sisters were dancing in a heated frenzy before a crowd of maybe a hundred people shouting, “Go ba-by! Go ba-by! Go ba-by!” It was unbelievable. But the scene outside the mortuary that night served to reinforce a point of view that I’ve held for many years now--it's time for our people to wake up and sniff the funk, because the fumes are emanating from all around us, and it’s coming at us from every direction.  That goes for the American people in general, but black people in particular.

As black people, we have a beautiful and festive culture, and I realize that in the past that festive spirit has been used to great effect as a defense against pain.  But times are changing in this country, and they’re changing faster and more drastically than we’ve ever known before.  So, if we are to survive as a people, we must adapt to that change--and we’d better do it real fast.

Looking at the United States today, one can’t help but recognize that it’s become reminiscent of Germany during the 1930s, just prior to the rise of fascism.  We have a regime currently in power that’s stolen two elections, and has taken over every branch of government; they invaded a sovereign nation on false pretenses, and they’re saber rattling towards others; They’ve set up concentration camps all over the world, and they’re torturing innocent people.  As we party, they’re not only passing laws that will allow them to spy on American citizens, but arrest those citizens, while denying them rights supposedly guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.

We’ve got to start thinking the way this government thinks (notice that I didn’t say “the White man”, because if a White man happens to be poor or middle class, he’s in trouble too). We‘ve got to start thinking ahead.  When I was in The Marine Corps way back in 1971, even then, they had me out in Twenty-nine Palms training reservists in desert warfare.  So you see, while we’re living in the moment, this government is thinking ahead.  And when you consider the fact that Bush is now spending 2 billion dollars a week in Iraq, and sending this country into so much debt that it precludes our funding education, Medicare, most entitlement programs, and possibly, even Social Security, you’d better believe they have a game plan in mind.  They have to have one, just to deal with the resulting social upheaval that is sure to result—and they are practicing that game plan in Iraq as we speak.  So it is past time for black people to set our party shoes aside, at least for the moment, and embark on a very serious and sober reassessment of where we stand in this country today.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-America--I Love America.  America has provided me and my family with a way of life, and opportunities, that we might not have found in any other place in the world. But what I love most about America is the American ideal, those ideals that we may not always live up to, but we aspire to.  It is the American ideal that makes America special, and it is the assault on those ideals that makes me very nervous about the Bush administration. Under Bush, we seem to be losing sight of what America stands for. He claims that the terrorist hate us because of the American ideal of freedom, justice, and equality.  But if that is indeed the case, the terrorist are clearly winning this war, because with every day that passes those ideals are being whittled away.

When Bush invaded Iraq in response to 9-11, he demonstrated very clearly his propensity for venting his hostility towards people of color.  In spite of the fact that all available evidence pointed to the fact that Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with attacking this country, his invasion of Iraq seems to say, “Oh well, one Arab is just like another—they’ll do.”  That is not the American way.

And as a result of that policy, United Press International reported on July 12, 2005 that according to an Iraqi humanitarian organization, 128,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invasion began in March 2003.  The report goes on to say,  “chairman of the 'Iraqiyun humanitarian organization in Baghdad, Dr. Hatim al-'Alwani, said that the toll includes everyone who has been killed since that time, adding that 55 percent of those killed have been women and children aged 12 and under.”  Thus, according to this report, more women and children are being killed in Iraq than anyone else--and that, is not the American way.

In addition, it has now come to light that the Bush administration has been spying on Muslims in their homes, businesses, and mosques, without warrant, since September 11, 2001. Conservative spin masters try to justify this policy by saying that this fudging of the Constitution only affects
0.1% of the people, so those of us who don’t have anything to hide, don’t have anything to worry about.  But the fact is, these violations set a precedent that sends the nation down a slippery slope that affects us all.  It’s not only a gross violation of an entire community of people, but a corruption of the United States Constitution that places us all in jeopardy. That is not the American way.

So it is clear that our government, under Bush, has no understanding, nor respect, for limits.  Since he's already demonstrated his propensity to paint all people of color with the same brush, it’s not a very big leap from terrorist, to Muslim, to Black Muslim, to black people in general.  While that's not the American way, it's a glaring reality.

So, again, it is past time for the black community to turn down the music for a minute and get serious. The Cabbage Patch can wait, because if there has ever been a time in our history where it is incumbent upon us to focus, educate ourselves, and become politically engaged, it is now. We’ve demonstrated over the years that we can party hardier than any group of people in the world, but at this point in our history, we have nothing to party about.  Tookie’s body should attest to that fact.

Eric L. Wattree
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005


The December 13th execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams by the state of California was a gruesome example of retribution, political expediency, and institutionalized murder. But in spite of that fact, Brother Williams went out like a Trojan--even to the point of trying to assist the technician to find a vein in which to inject the lethal potion that, moments later, would certainly bring his life to an end.

That scene alone demonstrated that this brother was an exceptional individual. He clearly had more strength of character than any other player in this sad and sorted affair, and therefore, was certainly worth saving.

Of course, there are those who are going to say that he didn’t have so much character that it prevented him from killing four innocent victims in cold blood. But in response to that, remember, it is not at all clear whether or not Mr. Williams committed the crimes in which he was ultimately executed, since he declared his innocence to the very end. What is clear, however, is that this brother had something far less than a fair trial.

As Dr. Firpo Carr pointed out in his piece, Terminate Tookie? Terrible Travesty!, in the December 8th edition of the Los Angeles Sentinel, the irregularities in Tookie’s trial provided more than enough grounds to, at the very least, spare this brother’s life.

First of all, the prosecutor in the case, Robert Martin, made it a point to see that there were no black jurors on Mr. Williams’ case. Secondly, he had the venue of the trial moved from Los Angeles to the predominately white city of Torrance, Ca. Also, this same prosecutor, Robert Martin, was censored by the California Supreme Court for “invidious discrimination” during the prosecution of Tookie’s case. In addition, there was absolutely no physical evidence pointing to Tookie committing any of the crimes in which he was charged, and every witness that testified against him had a vested interest in testifying for the state (such as charges being reduced or dropped for crimes they’d committed). And beyond that, one witness was even allowed to read the police report in his jail cell so he’d know how to testify. So again, to my mind’s eye, all of these irregularities in the prosecution of this brother constitutes more than a compelling reason to, at the very least, not put this brother to death.

But even if Tookie did commit the crimes in which he was convicted, the fact is, that happened a lifetime ago. In the twenty-five years since those crimes were committed Mr. Williams’ life had undergone a dramatic change, and certainly the years that he lived with death as his constant companion (not to mention the last agonizing hours that he spent not knowing whether or not he was going to live or die) should have paid some dividend on that debt. That brother must have died a million times over the years. And beyond that, it wasn’t as though he was going to be freed—he would have still had to face his natural life behind bars.

The most tragic thing surrounding this sad affair, however, is our failure to at least try to drag something positive out this negative situation. Our society was so bent on retribution that once again we’ve missed yet another opportunity to make an investment in our young people—and thus, an investment in our society.

Stanley “Tookie” Williams could have made a tremendous contribution to the curbing of crime and violence on our streets, but once again, this society has allowed its lust for stupidity to overwhelm its dire need for enlightenment. But the black community doesn’t have to follow suit. Let us mark the death of this brother as the beginning of a new era—an era where our passion for enlightenment will overwhelm society's lust for stupidity.

So let us begin our renewed demonstrations now. Let us redouble our efforts to save the next Tookie, while he’s still in the cradle. And let us pray for all our sakes, that the world at large doesn’t judge America, as severely as the state of California judged this proud blcak man.

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