Friday, June 29, 2007

Strange Fruit

The analogy of a tree bearing fruit as an image of a man and his works is quite common in the Bible. Matthew 7:15-20 for instance:

'...Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits...'

As time passes on and the time left for the present administration fades away, I've had my mind wander over what lasting results will occur from the catastrophe of the last six years. It will take a generation to repair some of the damage done to government institutions and to our standing in the world. Other things could take far longer to fix, if they ever can be. But it is starting to feel that the President's choices for the Supreme Court will be among the worst problems we will have to deal with.

This morning I read of the latest Supreme Court Rulings, including the one that essentially overturns any possible enforcement of Brown. There are a lot of unpleasant undercurrents in our country that can be hard to pin down, but the memes tend to run along the lines of "Brown was useful once (like unions) but it isn't really relevant any more" and "Racism isn't the kind of problem that it used to be." They're the sort of things that you can chat about at parties and sound wonderfully moderate and even-tempered. So it can be hard to get worked up about a Supreme Court case that, in one way of looking at it, seems to indicate that we have solved these 1960's problems of racism and segregation, and so let's get on with solving the problems of the 21st century.

Except of course, one would be utterly full of shit to argue that.

In an odd timing, the Jena case in Louisiana got resolved today. No, I hadn't heard much about it either. The press coverage has been minimal, probably because it's not the kind of story to make us feel very good about ourselves. Some background here:

'...In September 2006, a group of African American high school students in Jena, Louisiana, asked the school for permission to sit beneath a "whites only" shade tree. There was an unwritten rule that blacks couldn't sit beneath the tree. The school said they didn't care where students sat. The next day, students arrived at school to see three nooses (in school colors) hanging from the tree....

The boys who hung the nooses were suspended from school for a few days. The school administration chalked it up as a harmless prank, but Jena's black population didn't take it so lightly. Fights and unrest started breaking out at school. The District Attorney, Reed Walters, was called in to directly address black students at the school and told them all he could "end their life with a stroke of the pen."

Black students were assaulted at white parties. A white man drew a loaded rifle on three black teens at a local convenience store. (They wrestled it from him and ran away.) Someone tried to burn down the school, and on December 4th, a fight broke out that led to six black students being charged with attempted murder. To his word, the D.A. pushed for maximum charges, which carry sentences of eighty years. Four of the six are being tried as adults (ages 17 & 18) and two are juveniles....'

Today the first verdict was handed out:

'...An all-White jury in a tiny central Louisiana town found a Black teen guilty of assault and conspiracy in a racially charged drama involving the beating of a White schoolmate....'

So we can thank the President for the Strange Fruit of his tree. Normally I would end with a quote from the famous song, but I think that the Rude Pundit nailed it our of the park today:

'...Fuck you, Sandra Day O'Connor. Fuck you, fuck you, and, uh, oh, fuck you. Fuck you for stepping down, yet still being able to do work like for the Iraq Study Group. Fuck you for putting yourself and your family above the good of the country. And fuck you because, even though you're a conservative who allowed George W. Bush to take office, we have to wish you were still on the court. Fuck you because you probably would have voted differently than Justice Alito on both desegregation and late-term abortion, maybe even on the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case. Fuck you, and, hey, by the way, fuck you, Senate Democrats, for not having the balls to filibuster John Roberts or Samuel Alito. Don't fuckin' crow about how you voted against them. You could have stopped them...'