Friday, April 15, 2011

Don Belton: Truth Teller (Revisited)

Yesterday Michael Griffin was convicted of killing novelist Don Belton. The jury put aside Griffin's nonsensical defense that the former Marine was driven into an insane rage after being sexually assaulted days before by his victim. The truth of the matter is painful, because of its awful consequences for both men and the people who love them, but this truth is easy enough to see: this crime was not about who Don was, it was all about who Griffin was afraid of being.

In a way, Griffin was asking the court for the same thing he sought from Don on that chilly December morning. He was asking for absolution for his actions. Not denying the act, but the responsibility. This act couldn't be a part of who he was. This act had to be the fault of someone else. Not someone who had served his country in war. Not someone who had a girlfriend. Not someone who had a son. Not someone who was all man.

It was important that the justice system rejected Griffin's argument and recognized this as the brutal murder it was, but it's hard to feel that justice has been fully served. Part of the reason Don died was that he recognized love and integrity as two sides of the same coin. His love for himself, and presumably for Griffin, wouldn't allow him to give the absolution his murderer sought for making love to another man. He knew that the only person who could find Griffin innocent was Griffin himself.

And that's what doesn't feel all the way right about this. Don's physical presence was stolen away from all of those who loved and respected him and that absence can never be filled no matter how many years Griffin is punished. But the only person who can bring true justice to the matter is Griffin himself.

Novelist/lawyer Alyce Miller, who posts to an excellent blog started by friends of Don, asked that in the spirit of Don we extend peace to Griffin and his family. Additionally, I wish Griffin the courage to face whatever it is he was running from on that fateful day. The person who took Don's life lacks the bravery to recognize his own guilt for his crime, but, just as importantly, this person lacks the bravery to recognize his own innocence in loving a man, a great man, like Don Belton.

***Link to the earlier Don Belton article

***Link with  Don Belton's brilliant work

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Coming of the Light

What a difference a year can make. Misstra Knowitall is living the aphorism these days as he celebrates the birth of his first child, Lucille Pauline Shakur. Some things I learned:

People still ask me from time to time whether I wanted a girl or boy, and I say that it didn't really matter to me, which it really didn't. I have to say that having a girl has already given me a brand new appreciation for women. This whole thing about them being the life-givers is not just feminist propaganda. Men are great and all of that, but women are closer to that divine energy that gives life.

Case in point: during the ultrasound our nurse showed us where we could see Lucille's sex. All you saw was just three little lines. That's it. But looking at those blurry three lines I remembered that a female has over 500,000 eggs in her ovaries at the time of her birth. That means that within the black and white confines of that ultrasound was not only my living child, but enough potential life to populate a small city. Deep.

I was not clear on how the whole feeding thing went between the mother and the child she was carrying. Basically, I thought it was important for the mother to eat so that the baby wouldn't go hungry. But the doctor set me straight. She said that whether the mother gets enough food or not, the baby will eat regardless. As terrible as it sounds, if mother is not supplying enough nutrients to feed the baby, the baby will take nutrients from the mother's body. That's right, baby eats mommy. And when you think about it, that makes perfect evolutionary sense. This generation sacrifices for the next.

They say a baby is more likely to look like it's father at birth. Why, you say? Well the thinking goes that displaying traits from the male of the species may help motivate said male to stick around to raise the little rugrat. Word to Maury P.!

I married a superhero. You haven't seen nothing until you see your wife bring your child into the world. Not to get into too much detail, but it gets real, real. Yes, I will wash the dishes. Yes, I will put the seat down after flushing. Yes, I will even go to the store for you.

There's a big difference between teaching other people's children and loving your own child. I can feel it already. As a teacher I feel very strongly about my students, but I always have to keep in mind that they are not my children and boundaries are important. Professions of love to any student, even if they are true, are more apt to backfire than benefit. But when it's your baby there is no one more responsible for letting them know they are loved in the world. That's my new job. And Missus Knowitall, of course.

To take a page from Chris Rock, you want to spend your money in your own community, but it's hard. We recently took a trip to our local medical facility for an infant checkup and witnessed two grown women get into an altercation over divergent methods of child rearing. This altercation resulted in three police cars out front, too too many cuss words to mention, and one call to DCFS. Good bye, West Side. Hello, Oak Park.

And what about this world, right? What a time to be born. Earthquake, tsunamis, nuclear fallout, oils spill, economic collapse, Tiger Woods missing putts, Arab revolutions, wars everywhere, 2012 coming up. Lucille, what have we gotten you into? Well, when the last days do finally come, odds are that we're not going to know anything about it. Civilizations throughout time have been convinced that they were the ones who were going to have to turn out the lights on their way out. I'm betting that statistically we aren't even that lucky. That's not to say that the world isn't about to transform in ways that we could never even dream of--of course it will. But the smart money says that things, for better or worse, are going to keep on keeping on.
We should also keep in mind the number 223. Let's say that chattel slavery lasted for somewhere around 400 years in America. That's 20 generations of people. Probably even more with life expectancy being what it was. In order for us to get to the point that we're at now, generations had to live and die through agonizing enslavement, with little hope of a better life. So when it seems like things are getting too bad and we should throw in the towel, just think of being born in the 223rd year of slavery. Somebody was, and they didn't give up. In the words of James Baldwin, who gave you the luxury of such elegant despair?

Finally, my baby is funky. In my experience, creating funk actually makes her happy. A starchild: my type of baby.