Monthly Archives: December 2011

Money Jungle: The Sound and the Fury

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The Florida A&M University Marching 100 Band is something any true music fan must see at least once in their life. There are other bands, and they are excellent, but the 100 is the band. It’s not an outfit for the lazy or the slow of mind, because they exist on perfection in all aspects of their performances, from musicianship to the choreography. For every person in the band, there are ten, if not 100, who would take their spot immediately if possible. And, when the standards are that high, it’s always possible.

As such, it’s hardly surprising that the FAMU band would now find itself embroiled in a scandal rooted in the perfectionism of such a perfect band. What does shock the senses, though, is the level of violence this scandal entails. Stories of fraternity hazing, sometimes to the point of death, abound in our culture, but rarely is it this bad. Pranks, paddlings, forced-marches, water-boarding, wire hangers bent into Greek letters and used as branding irons on bare flesh (an old George W. Bush specialty, allegedly)—we’ve heard all this. In extreme cases, maybe some nude wrestling, or a raid on Geronimo’s tomb, or a fatal bender; most deaths in college hazing seem to be from alcohol poisoning and/or blunt trauma from falling off of something. Almost never do they kill each other on purpose.

That is point #1 to this whole thing: It takes significant malice, cruelty and focus to dish out a beating like that boy endured, in defiance of his screams, his crying, his bleeding. There is no possible way they did not know exactly what they were doing, and what the consequences would be. Unless he did something horrible that has not been made public yet (which is entirely possible), it appears he was executed by a group of his own peers for nothing more severe than a mistake made in performance. If that’s true, then his assailants are psychopaths, flat-out, and their defenders have enabled a low-tech lynching.

Had a black man died like that at the hands of white people, all hell might be breaking loose right now. Had some black woman gotten her femurs broken by, say, a bunch of cops, the odds of lethal blowback would hover somewhere just shy of 100%. But because the beating was done by their fellow African-Americans, it cannot be so simple, because these kids are products of a culture that, on the whole, celebrates violence while openly protecting the worst offenders as if it’s part of some collective duty.

(To be fair, note in consideration of those names epicentric to the Penn State scandal—names like McQueary, Paterno and that dirty bastard Sandusky—that all those names sound vaguely Catholic. Not that it means anything, necessarily, any more than the ethnicity of the FAMU beat-down boys. But it’s worth noting that Catholics have had a special, unseemly history of looking the other way in regard to this very specific form of systematic abuse, thousands of times all over the world—and that’s just what we know. In fact, the current Pope, through his many years a ranking church official working out of his native Germany and later the Vatican, is himself directly implicated in the very same kinds of behaviors ascribed to school officials at FAMU and Penn State, but no one’s weeping on their vestments.)

FAMU fans imply that some double-standard is in play, that this hazing scandal gets more attention because the principals are black. Well, of course, but it goes far deeper than that. The truth is that the American people worship authority and never fail to find new and creative ways to subjugate themselves. If control-structures do not exist, people will create their own. It makes perfect sense that an institution founded in the spirit of lifting black people into a higher plane of existence would come to incubate a culture of sadistic brutality that, quite frankly, is the sort of thing one usually expects of white people.

We’ll never know how many kids took beatings in that band, because most of them will never speak of it, not if they’re smart. I doubt you could get their stories for any price, because the stigma of snitching defies any upside, any pretense of justice. A long-term predator like the vile Sandusky surely knew well how to scout his victims. It should be no surprise that most of his victims have so far been described as young black males, because 1) He’s a football coach, and that’s just the demographics of it, and 2) Those kids grow up in a culture that openly declares it will not tell the cops about anything, even child-rape. And had that boy at FAMU not died from his injuries, he would have kept his mouth shut, as would everyone else involved. And that is why racial profiling exists—real talk.

sheltonhull@gmail.com; December 29, 2011

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Money Jungle: Weakness Is Provocative

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Weakness Is Provocative

Since the Occupy Jacksonville movement began, I’ve studiously avoided making comments about it in this space, mostly so I could see how it was handled by the authorities. Having witnessed much of their disgraceful behavior firsthand, I feel now obliged to speak my peace. The city’s crackdown on the Occupation going on outside of City Hall is humiliation for all citizens of a city that, let’s face it, routinely goes out of its way to humiliate itself.

Those of us who labor daily against the perception that Jacksonville is a sub-literate cesspool of racism and religious dogma, a place whose land, air and water are so polluted that the only things that grow here consistently are criminals, have seen our effort rebuked yet again. Whether it was corrupt fire inspectors in the 1990s or the disastrous DART raids of a couple years ago, our “leaders” have remained keen to waste law-enforcement resources on bullshit, despite ample evidence that their methods have actually empowered the organized crime groups that, let’s face it, control far more of this city than any silly old church.

The situation also tends to confirm the mayor’s political cowardice to those handfuls of observers for whom the question remained in doubt. Brown’s tenure has mostly been defined by throwing key supporters under the bus, while retaining much of the core of the administration that preceded his—the one he was elected largely in opposition to. From day one, Brown has acted like an embattled incumbent; it’s almost like he anticipates being there for just one term, a historical aberration, a failed experiment in the craven new style.

The Occupy movement represents, perhaps, the last significant opportunity to address the issues of corporate greed and economic and social inequality in non-violent fashion. It’s scary to think that, when young people organize to assert their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association, the establishment reaction is viscerally negative.

Councilman Don Redman has been a constant presence at Occupy events, playing the role of amiable scold. Unless he’s secretly a part of the 99% (and some think he may be), he has devoted extraordinary amounts of his personal time harassing a bunch of kids who have not yet been trained in how to deal with hatemongers. Whatever the needs of the voters in his district, they should know those needs fall second to Redman’s need to bother the protesters. The recent crackdown indicates that it’s Redman, not Brown, who calls the shots as far as how this was handled. Speculation has already begun that the term-limited Redman may join what will surely be a wave of politicians seeking to unseat an already-weakened mayor Brown; Sheriff John Rutherford, who’s been at odds with the mayor and his own union, remains at the top of most lists, but more will come. Because weakness is provocative.

But let’s say this much for Redman: At least he showed up. Brown and other members of the Council have basically adopted the policy of other city leaders nationwide—that of running their mouths about things they have no understanding of. It makes sense that Brown, who bounced back and forth between the Beltway and Corporate America, would be ignorant of the underlying economic reality. It makes sense that his populist campaign rhetoric would be a front for more of the same-old, same-old. It makes sense that our visionary new leader is a just a cut-out caricature, eager to conform to stereotype.

Because as we’ve seen with President Obama, the first job for any black executive-branch pol is to act forcefully to retain the confidence and support of the white business leaders who brought them to power. Hence, the firings, politically-motivated. Ironic that a mayor who was elected largely on a promise to encourage growth downtown has signed-off on suppressing the only people who can actually draw numbers into downtown on a weekend without promising football or free food. It’s further ironic that most of the local Occupiers either voted for Alvin Brown or actively worked for his campaign. Well, they won’t next time!

Our mayor has apparently forgotten that he won by the closest margin in local history, and that it was the support of young progressives that kept him in the game back when elites were focused on that shoddy Hogan-Moran-Mullaney horserace. I’ve heard many Democrats in recent months wish aloud that Audrey Moran had just a little bit more guts, hadn’t been so passive in response to conservative attacks, had tried to reach out to progressive a little bit more instead of prostrating for the business community like everyone else has. Of course, it’s unlikely that she would have handled OccupyJax any differently because, overall, this movement exists to show the people of this country that our leaders have not only abnegated their responsibilities, but have deliberately acted against the best interests of this country.

Why? Because they are on the take. Every single politician in this country is hopelessly corrupt, whether they want to be or not. The system of campaign finance ensures that whoever wins any election is probably already bought and paid for by foreign capital. Those of you who complain about Brown now have forgotten  that he was trained by Bill Clinton, arguably one of the most morally bankrupt human beings to ever walk this earth. He learned his lessons well, but it remains to be seen how much the voters themselves have learned.

sheltonhull@gmail.com; December 24, 2011