The Unforgotten

I’ve been thinking of posting about this exhibit for some time now, but following the horrific event in Charleston South Carolina, I figured this was probably an appropriate time.

The Unforgotten is an amazing piece of art, that transcends what it actually is, into something much more. As I heard the news emerging out of Charleston, I knew 2 bits of information would be inevitable to cross the television.

1) The number of victims
2) The name of the murderer

And that is all people will really remember.  That is the train of thought behind the exhibit The Unforgotten.  In these events, we always remember the name(s) of the killer(s), and yet we reduce the victims to numbers, perhaps ages…but ultimately statistics.

So a group of people decided that they would attempt to change that.  They would make sure that the victims of gun violence would remain “Unforgotten,” by celebrating them as people.  The best way to make that impact…is to have them there, at least in spirit, and more poignantly, in a physical form.  It is that point that makes the Unforgotten so genius.

Now, I’ve had the occasion to see this exhibit twice.  It’s amazing striking…powerful.  I hate using that word “powerful”….it feels so cliche…but in this case it is so appropriate.  The first time I saw them, I immediately teared up.

The statues are, in most cases, wearing the actual clothes of the victims.  The statues were also built to scale, in terms of height and size of the victims.  I also had the occasion to be present when the families of the victims saw the statues for the first time.  Overwhelmingly, you heard the repeated refrain “That’s him.  That’s her”. The creators spent time to try and get the feel of the people, down to the way they stood, the character they would present if they were standing or sitting out in public.

Which is what makes this particular exhibit so very sad, because they aren’t sitting or standing out…and they never will again.  Most of the victims in this exhibit were teenagers, teens being the group most disproportionately affected by gun violence, although the oldest victim was one month away from retirement, and a police officer no less.

This exhibit will be on display yet again at the Annual Saint Sabina End of School Peace Rally and March tomorrow, June 19th.  If anyone has the opportunity to go see it,


I also encourage you to go the Unforgotten website and read the stories of the victims represented in the exhibit.  Spread the video, the site and information to others.  Then, sign the accompanying petition on the site.  It will help to combat illegal gun use and gun violence.

Finally…in the upcoming days, you’re going to hear a lot of news coming out of Charleston, concerning the shooting.  And you will hear the name of the shooter…over and over.  Make sure that you take some time to see and/or hear the names of the victims.  In this situation, they are the ones who are truly important.  They lost their lives to a senseless act of violence, and we owe it to them to remember them, and to make their deaths stand for something more than just a senseless, horrible act.  We need to make sure that they too, remain #Unforgotten.


Guns, Guns, Guns

So, this 4th of July weekend here in Chicago, 82 people were shot. At least 14 of those were fatal. The lion’s share of those shootings were on Sunday, June 6th.

Let that sink in for a minute

82 people shot in 3 days, including minors.

That’s a lot of people.  Even in a city as large as Chicago, that’s a lot of people.

That’s such a significantly large amount of people, that both the mayor and the police superintendent had to address the situation. While I can’t find the police press conference on Youtube, the message was very clear from Supt. McCarthy:

“It all comes down to these guns: there’s too many guns coming in and too little punishment gong out.”

Gun Laws Blamed For Chicago’s Weekend Shooting Surge

It also can’t be lost  that a significant number of these shootings occurred in poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods, and that was actually brought up by a reporter. It was at least pleasant that the Superintendent acknowledged that these neighborhoods don’t have adequate employment, schools, programs, ad nauseum…

…however, this doesn’t change the sad fact that children are running around in the killing fields, killing and being killed.

So, what is the answer? How can this problem be fixed?

Unfortunately, I firmly feel that a lot of people in Chicago don’t care, because it doesn’t affect them. As long as the violence is isolated to the southside, who cares. This problem is a direct by-product of the deep racial and economic fissures in the city. And good sociology teaches us that the violence won’t stay there forever.

So, are stiffer penalties the solution?  I’d love to hear you all’s views on this.



Martin & Zimmerman

One of my favorite Jiu jitsu professors will often say in class,

“I know this isn’t on the syllabus, but I feel I would be remiss if I failed to mention this…”

That’s how I feel about this topic. As a Social Scientist, I feel the need to at least mention my thoughts on this pivotal case. Not that my opinion matters at all, but it is mine.

So, unless you’ve been under a rock, or in a foreign country, you are undoubtedly familiar with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. If not, Google it. It’s quite interesting from a law perspective, as well as a social one.

So, it seemed that a lot of people were shocked by the verdict. I, however, was not. While every fabric of my being tells me that in a court of reason, Zimmerman was undoubtedly guilty.

For the sake of discussion, let us for the moment forget the situation of race as it pertains to this situation.

An adult male viewed, and then began following a teenage male. The adult male, also armed, confronted the teenage boy. A physical altercation then ensued, resulting in the teenager being shot and dying.

And the person who instigated the situation, even after being told to cease and desist said activity by a 911 operator, is innocent?

Oh yes….Stand your ground. The stand your ground law was what allowed Zimmerman to be declared not guilty.

A stand-your-ground law is a type of self-defense law that gives individuals the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation. It is law in certain jurisdictions within the United States. The basis may lie in either statutory law and or common law precedents. One key distinction is whether the concept only applies to defending a home or vehicle, or whether it applies to all lawfully occupied locations. Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the “stand your ground” law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention and arrest. A defense, such as an affirmative defense, permits a plaintiff or the state to seek civil damages or a criminal conviction but may offer mitigating circumstances that justify the accused’s conduct
More than half of the states in the United States have adopted the Castle doctrine, that a person has no duty to retreat when their home is attacked. Some states go a step further, removing the duty of retreat from other locations. “Stand Your Ground”, “Line in the Sand” or “No Duty to Retreat” laws thus state that a person has no duty or other requirement to abandon a place in which he has a right to be, or to give up ground to an assailant. Under such laws, there is no duty to retreat from anywhere the defender may legally be.[1] Other restrictions may still exist; such as when in public, a person must be carrying firearms in a legal manner, whether concealed or openly.

While in my mind, Zimmerman was the assailant, the jury didn’t see it that way, and he thus had “no duty to retreat” when the teenager allegedly attacked him.

And yet I think.. How would I react if a guy was following me, and then confronted me about where I was going and what I was doing.

My initial thought, I assume, is that I would fear for my safety. If the guy isn’t wearing a badge, he’s obviously got some problems..and at that point, I truly believe that I would make a reasonable verbal effort to make him leave me alone, and if ignored, would make a concerted effort to knock his dick in the dirt.

And if he then shot me dead… He’s in the right?


And so, let’s throw race back in the mix.

So many people can attempt to live a pipe dream, but the fact of the matter is that race relations in America are still not what I would call good. It’s still a very volatile topic.

Racism is still alive and well in 2013 America, and the fact that so many people want to believe it isn’t an issue is what makes it such a treacherous time for race relations.

How does the saying go, “The greatest trick the Devil ever did was convincing people that he doesn’t exist,” or something like that.

But let’s think about it from a historical perspective:

The Atlantic Slave Trade ran for approximately 400 years

We are only 148 or so years removed from the American Civil War, as well as the abolition of slavery.

The last anti-miscegenation law( ban on interracial marriage) was struck down 48 years ago.

56 years removed from school racial integration.

57 years removed from Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus…and Emmett Till was murdered for reportedly whistling at a white woman only a few months earlier

50 years since the racially motivated church bombing that killed 4 little girls.

Ad Nauseum…

60 years ago, blacks in America were oppressed, terrorized, and subjugated at every twist and turn.

I think we simply haven’t had enough time to move ourselves away from those cultural norms, particularly in the south, where that animosity and hatred ran so deep, on both sides of the fence…and Florida is still the south…and chest deep in racism.

A dear friend of mine who lives in Cocoa, Florida recently had a woman tell her that her interracial daughters made her sick.

Post-racial America?

I wasn’t surprised over what happened in Florida, because the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I was dismayed, and slightly horrified…but not surprised. Hopefully, this case will have some positive results, in causing good discussion and debate, and further understanding about America…as it truly is, and about how we someday hope it will be.

Yo, yo…let me speak on this….

So, I just gotta express this thought:

I love how people worship the second amendment like it came from a private back room meeting consisting of Jesus, Buddha, Allah and Mother Theresa. It wasn’t conceived in divinity, and have you ever thought that maybe it rests in a realm of thought like many of the other ideas that the framers of the constitution had, like slavery, racism, the rule of thumb, and powdered wigs.

Maybe, just maybe, in the evolution of society, it’s not a good idea for everyone to be running around with a gun to be left to their own devices.

You want a gun? Great! Serve your city or your country. Become a cop or a soldier, and you can carry a gun 24 hours of a day.

Otherwise, get out of my face with your 2nd amendment malarkey. I ran around with ’em for 9 years. I don’t want one now, and while I’m not going to lobby so that you can’t have one, one of the truest statements I’ve found to be true in this life:

“When you live by the gun, you die by the gun.”

“Ooh…Guns, Guns, Guns…”

“Come on, Sal!  The Tigers are playing…tonight! I never miss a game.” 

Please tell me you’re familiar with that quote!  No???  Well allow me to share.

It’s Clarence Boddicker, from the original Robocop…which is being remade might I add…yet I digress.

So today, I posted a picture originally posted by HuffPost Chicago:

227665_10151206658152843_508615691_n Which they accompanied with the text:

This Colt AR-15 is just one of the semiautomatic weapons that would be illegal if the Illinois Assault Weapon Ban is passed.

Read more:

To which I added in my posting:

Who, in all honesty needs that weapon? I spent a year in Afghanistan, and 2 years living in rural Alaska. If you need that weapon to hunt anything, you suck, and need to find a new hobby. I can’t swim, so I keep my black behind out of the pool. If you need an AR-15 to bag a duck, deer, or bear, you can’t shoot!

Needless to say this started some spirited debate.

Now, allow me to start by saying that the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) official stance on this issue is that they oppose semi-automatic weapons bans.
*source:  NRA: We will oppose semi-automatic weapons ban  Now I encourage you to go to that link and watch the video, it’s very interesting, and pretty well sets off this debate.  Now, it’s also important to note that a weapon similar to the one above was used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Now, I’m pretty sure that I support a ban on assault weapons in IL., and if not the entire state, most definitely in the Chicagoland area.  However, this issue is long, arduous, and emotional…and I don’t know what is necessarily the right move to make.  But I think there is a few key issues (and this list certainly isn’t exhaustive) that come to mind when thinking about whether anyone, living in an urban environment (please note the word urban), needs to have this kind of weapon, and how that relates to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

  • The Second Amendment of the Constitution states: 

As passed by the Congress:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Now it’s very important to remember that a key part of the Constitution to be interpretation, and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has always interpreted this to mean that every law abiding citizen, with some exceptions, has the freedom to own a gun.  I personally think that interpretation is wrong. I feel that this amendment means those who choose to stand with the militia in times of defense may own a gun.
We don’t really do the militia thing anymore…oh wait, I suppose we do.  It’s called The National Guard! Yeah, I was in that for a while, got to play with guns, grenades, and the whole nine.  Anywho, we don’t really have the days of mustering men in the town square to beat back the Red Coats.
Now, with this issue, particularly any kind of ban on guns, we have a fundamental issue:
  • Gun bans only affect law abiding citizens!  

Now, it’s hard to argue with this point.  Criminals don’t care what you ban, or what regulations you put forth. This is true.  Now, this comes the time when you have to move away from the gray and start making some hard, dare i say coarse decisions.  So, you ban semi-automatic assault weapons.  What then becomes the penalty when you find someone with one?  How many years should that person server without chance of parole?  I think that’s a fundamental question that needs to be faced.  Police are not controlling our streets as it is.  I do not however think that giving every John Q. Public on the street an AR-15 is going to help current crime problems.

I think it’s important to keep in mind that:
The United States has the highest rate of gun related injuries (not deaths per capita) among developed countries, though it also has the highest rate of gun ownership and the highest rate of officers.
source: Wikipedia: Gun violence
Other countries refer to our plight as “The American Disease.”  No one, I mean no one, in this world does gun violence like we do.  When I was deployed to Afghanistan, a kid on the south side of Chicago had a higher probability of dying in a shooting than I did.  That’s sad, sorry, and unacceptable.  I think we have something to learn from countries that don’t worship the almighty gun.
  • Guns have evolved and advanced beyond the framers of the Constitutions’ wildest dreams! 
Now, as far as the Second Amendment goes…maybe the framers did intend for everyone to have a gun…but what kind of gun were they talking about?
FortMcHenry_MusketFire_lg The sassy weapons these gentlemen are firing are called muskets.  At the time of the ratification of the Constitution, pistols and cannons were also in vogue.  Now, the musket had several key attributes:

Guns in 1791 WOULD

Guns in 1791 WOULD NOT

and I think of the utmost importance:
and that’s if you were good.  Now, that’s a mite bit slower than our friend Erika here:
God forbid she has good aim and a “One shot, one kill” mentality
and here’s another friend  who subscribes to the “spray and pray” mentality:
Now you must excuse me, but I’m going to use foul language….the NRA would have you believe
and to that I say kiss my black a**.  It’s simply an irresponsible, and uneducated outlook to what is obviously a much more evolved piece of hardware.
Now, I firmly believe that in different parts of the United States, and in different living conditions, the ownership of a semi-automatic weapon may be justified.  I do not believe that justification exists in an urban area.  However, I do believe you should be able to own a musket.  I would have no problem with everyone running around with muskets.
Muskets are kind of cool.