Monday, November 23, 2009

Reflections on Yesterdays Post

So I realize that I was somewhat brief with my comments last night and possibly glossed over some important issues. I'm going to go over some of the points I made in order to clarify some things that could be misconstrued. I was tired last night and wrote a quick posting and think I was a little too brief. Also I urge you to read the press release distributed by organizers of a vigil in Oakland in honor of Jorge Lopez Steven Mercado and James Mattison. They make a lot of the points that I was trying to make, just more eloquently. If you want to read more about Jorge or James they provide links adjacent to the press release.

Last night I wrote: As I saw video of the people lighting candles and various people make statements, I began to feel warm-hearted. I realize that people might think I am trying to put a fancy ribbon on a horrific event. That is the tendency of American Culture. Like when my teachers said: "And then the natives and pilgrims sat down and ate dinner together." Or "the Declaration of Indepenence says that 'all men are created equal' but today it really means everyone." Or "slavery was terrible but today we are all equals." I wouldn't want anyone to think for one second that I'm saying "Jorge died, it was aweful, but we held hands and sung Kumbaya and it's all better now." What I was trying to say is that people are killed in Puerto Rico everyday. In spite of the horrific circumstances, there was something inspiring in seeing masses of people gathered to honor the life of this young Puerto Rican. Our existence is so often silent on the mainland (unless one of us is driving by blasting Pop/Salsa with a Puerto Rican Flag etched into the doors of our car). Jorge's death is a tremendous tragedy and there is no amount of hand holding, singing, or candle lighting that can minimize that.

I also wrote: Martinez Matos, claims that part of the reason for his actions was a result of being raped in prison. I obviously do not trust a word that he says, nor do I think anything that has happened to him could possibly serve as an explanation for his grotesque actions. I think that I missed an opportunity to point out how extremely insidious it is for people to attempt to use the "gay/trans panic" defense. The fact that someone would even consider using it as a defense is a testament to the entrenched homophobia of our society, because they think people might be sympathetic to it. It is our duty to reject anything that implies that there is any justification for harming someone based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. I apologize for not emphasizing this point more emphatically.

Finally I wrote: Prisons do not make us safer... So, in your rage and anger, I expect that you will want to see Juan A. Martinez Matos held accountable, and I assume he will be. But once he is locked up, possibly for life, do not believe for one second that justice was served. I stand by this statement for the most part. When I say that "Prisons do not make us safer", I'm talking about society as a whole. That said there are victims that sometimes are able to escape their abusers or stalkers because the perpetrator is locked up. These are situations where individuals are safer. And although I am not a supporter of the prison system, I am a supporter of Malcolm X's philosophy "by any means necessary" and I believe in accountability. So victims have no choice but to utilize the criminal Injustice system in order to create a safe space for themselves or to hold their perpetrators accountable. These are necessary individual victories. But as a whole we will not find justice in the human warehousing units of the U.S. Criminial Justice System. I believe the organizers of the vigil in Oakland said it best:

“Hate crimes legislation and more police patrols would not make our communities safer. It would not have prevented the murders, and no punishment will bring these two men back,” organizer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha said. “Systemic homophobia and transphobia killed L√≥pez-Mercado and Mattison, who like other queer or gender non-comforming youth of color, faced barriers like street harassment and discrimination in every facet of life..."

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