Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Stand Your Ground ... Ward Churchill & Genocide ... Barry Graham ... Drumming fool ...


Sometimes I live in a bubble, so it was a particularly difficult shock to my system when I learned of the Stand Your Ground laws that apparently 31 states have on their books (or something similar to it). Probably like many people wrapped up in their own survival, I had no idea of such a law until the uproar over the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. Apparently, if not for the uproar from activists (legitimate and otherwise), this particular tragedy might well have been swept under the rug (as so many unjustifiable homicides/manslaughter/reckless disregard for human life--take your pick) too often are.

It appears to me the law is way too ambiguous; a person may use deadly force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first. The problem, of course, is who gets to determine what is a “reasonable belief of a threat”? And how great should that “threat” be? We all know the case details as they’ve been presented thus far: George Zimmerman profiled a 17 year old black kid wearing a hoodie for no other reason than he was a black kid wearing a hoodie in a mostly white neighborhood. He made a 911 call and then ignored the advice of the operator to “not pursue” ... there was an altercation and he wound up killing the kid.

The police “investigation” is an entire other enchilada even more suspicious than the shooting itself, which may be the result of a wannabe with some serious racial issues and a gun. What the police did (and didn’t do) trends way beyond incompetence and reeks of cover-up.

Without getting into the character assassination attempts by some against the victim (and setting aside the shooter’s contention that his life was in danger), the fact the shooter has the opportunity to claim self-defense in a shooting he initiated (by ignoring the 911 operator) seems to me a bit absurd. Zimmerman keeps his distance and does what he’s told, there’s no shooting. At least not that night.

The fact 31 states have the same or similar laws is pretty frightening. Conservatives argue that the tripling of deaths where the new law was used in Florida may prove there were that many potential victims saved, but the fact the shooter in the Martin case used it suggests otherwise. There’s no way to know how many of the number of tripling deaths could be assigned one way or the other (it may well be that more potential victims were saved than unjustifiable deaths occurred), but in this case, at least one victim was killed for no other reason than being a black kid wearing a hoodie. That, it seems to me, is more than enough reason to rewrite (or do away with) the law itself.

For those who haven’t seen the video of the shooter after he was brought to the police department (allegedly 34 minutes after the shooting), that’s it above. Claims have been made he feared for his life and was pummeled by the 17 year old. The video shows no signs of anyone being pummeled; no broken nose, no bloody clothes, etc. It looks more like he did what he wasn’t supposed to do, wound up in a fight he couldn’t win with his hands and then shot the kid ... because he could ... because he had a gun on him and a potential defense as the law is written on the books. Unless there’s a witness (probably with a video camera) to prove otherwise, it’s the words of the shooter vs. the only other person who could’ve told his side of the story, except he’s dead.

It’s a bad, bad law ...

A Little Matter of Genocide ... Ward Churchill is an author and activist unjustly removed from his college position at the University of Colorado (for speaking his mind). He’s written numerous books and articles that focus on the treatment of Native Americans as well as genocide throughout the world and the effects of U.S. policy home and abroad. He also writes about the trials and tribulations of political dissenters within America (to include the Black Panthers, the American Indian movement and the American communist party); how they were (and are) targeted by the FBI.

In the book above, Churchill offers well documented essays on the issues of genocide throughout history and links, quite effectively, how Hitler’s use of Lebensraum (living space) could be linked to what happened here in the United States during our expansion west (at the cost of Native American life and culture). There’s an essay on the Columbus myth we were sold in our earliest years and how his genocidal imprint extended centuries forward as European imperialism spread to the Americas.

Churchill also takes on those who insist the Jewish holocaust during World War II was “unique”; the only genocide (or the most significant); that those who make such claims do as great an injustice to other people and cultures that have gone through much more enveloping genocides; that to make such a claim is as great a disservice to humanity as those who deny any genocide.

Dealing with the genocide of Native Americans, Churchill offers many counter arguments to the population numbers handed down from both defenders of the government (usually conservative) and scholars who would like us to believe the number of America’s indigenous population was miniscule (thus minimizing any potential genocidal guilt). There is very little in this book of essays anyone can deny as fact. While the numbers may (or may not be) disputed, I have to lean on the side of Churchill’s figures for the same reason so many in the Tea Party claim they are against big government -- because it (the government) can’t be trusted.

No shit.

You bet your ass it does, kid.

The fact this government, since its inception, hasn’t honored a single treaty with the native population might suggest they have something to hide. Try selling that to conservative blind faith thought (as I recently tried) and what you’ll get in response is EXACTLY what Churchill points to at the start of this intriguing read (what is often the response): “Quit your whining.”

No matter how FOX news and Bill O’Reilly treat Mr. Churchill and his reputation, the man is a scholar and a hell of a nice guy. We exchanged books (he’s written for more and far better books than I ever could) and I’m making the time to read as many as I can between my MFA requirements and other readings/projects.

For those of my Italian heritage who want to hang on to the celebration of the Columbus Day Parade, perhaps it’s time to read something other than what we’ve been sold growing up (as naive kids who have to take the word of government approved text books). Not to mention there remains quite a bit of doubt regarding Columbus’s true ethnicity, but for Native Americans (here I'll go one better than Mr. C), celebrating Columbus Day is akin to Jews celebrating Hitler’s birthday.

When It All Comes Down To Dust ... Barry Graham  is a hidden treasure who writes with an openness that is refreshing. In this wonderful read, his protagonist (Laura Ponto) has a short fuse when it comes to bullies and the like (one of my favorite scenes is how she handles an asswipe who has just set a kitten on a barbecue). When a man (Frank del Rio) is released from the joint, she is exceptionally upset (he’s done bad things to kids, including her). Her job is to find mitigating evidence in death penalty cases, but her temper sometimes precludes her from acting within the law. Graham writes without hesitation; sex scenes aren’t abbreviated, violence isn’t whitewashed and his characters are recognizable (in each of us, the good and the bad). It’s another winner from the Dogo himself.

Graham’s The Wrong Thing has been nominated for Spinetingler Magazine’s best novel of the year award. It’s time to buy another Graham novel ...


Drumming fool ... neck collar and all, I’ll be jamming with a new band (auditioning really) ... Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ... the playlist has some CREAM, STONES and CCR and a general jam ...

Did he mention CREAM?