Privilege and the Shooting Outside Nationals Park
By Jonathan V. Last
I’d like to tell you a story.
On Saturday I took my 13-year-old son, Flash, to the ballpark to see the Nationals and the visiting San Diego Padres. Here’s the view from our seats as the most exciting player in baseball took the field:
What a thrill to be able to watch Tatis and Manny and the rest of the Swingin’ Friars up close. Not just a thrill, but a privilege. Not everyone gets to do this. I remind Flash of that sort of thing often.
Midway through the 6th inning there was an incident. Behind us and above us there was a burst of semi-automatic gunfire. The sound was unmistakable. My mind immediately tried to figure out the distance. It was loud—everyone in the stadium heard it. But it didn’t seem loud enough to have come from the concourse immediately behind us.
I told Flash to get down between the seats. I scanned the section of the stadium behind us trying to figure if it had come from the second-level concourse.
The crowd was calm for a minute. I wondered if my mind had played tricks on me—maybe the sound had come from a speaker. Then I glanced at the field and saw that the Nationals dugout was empty. That’s when I got nervous. If anyone was going to have a good line to information from the stadium ops/security guys, it was going to be the home team dugout. I got down pretty low and watched the crowd begin to panic.
People started moving in flows. In right field, people ran up toward the concourse. People in the sections behind home plate surged laterally, toward us.
And that’s when I saw something that broke my heart: A bunch of the Padres players had sprinted down the third base line toward the family and friends section and grabbed wives, kids, older parents and random fans and dragged them back toward the visitor’s dugout.
The image from the night I’ll never forget is Fernando Tatis Jr. carrying a little blonde girl across his body and running toward the dugout like he was stealing home.
After a long-ish interval, the ballpark PA announced that an “incident” had occurred just outside the park at the third-base gate. This explained why I’d heard the reports behind and above me, and why it hadn’t seemed quite loud enough to have been a shooter on the ground-level concourse.
What seems to have happened is that someone in a car opened fire immediately outside the third-base gate. Three people were wounded. This is what counts as a happy ending in America, circa 2021: It was “only” a drive-by shooting. “Only” three people were injured. There was not a spree killer inside Nationals Park. Yay.
I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t scared even a little bit. But this wasn’t the first, or second, or third time that I’ve been nearby people getting shot. I lived in Baltimore in the ‘90s. This is a thing that happened.
As I was doing the mental calculations on where the shots came from, I was also assessing our position in case there was a shooter inside the stadium. I thought we were in a good place. Flash and I were in the second row behind the dugout. We had lots of hard cover and the freedom to move North, South, East, or West, as needed. It was a solid tactical situation.
And while I wasn’t thrilled to have to talk to my middle schooler about shooting angles, reducing his visible cross section, the supremacy of good cover, and how to think about freedom of maneuver, he’s 13. He can handle it.
But think about the little blonde girl Tatis carried into the dugout. The ballpark was filled with kids her age. Kids who aren’t old enough to handle this sort of stuff, but were sure as hell old enough that they’ll remember the terror for a good long time.
And what kills me is that even this phrase—“kids who aren’t old enough to handle this sort of stuff”—is itself a mark of tremendous privilege.
Here’s a Washington news story from Friday night about a girl named Nyiah Courtney:
And here is a local news interview of an 8-year-old girl who had been at the Saturday game:
Sober reminder of what far too many kids in DC face daily. When I asked this 8 y/o girl – who was w/ her family at last night’s game – how she felt when they heard shots, she said, “It was my second shooting, so I was kind of prepared.” This should not be normal.
Listen to this sweet girl. Listen to her:
Going to see Fernando Tatis Jr. play baseball is a privilege. But so is being able to get your kid into his teen years without him experiencing a shooting. I am deeply aware that there are kids across America who grow up hearing shots fired in anger as part of their daily lives. This has been true for coming on two generations. And the fact that this is a long-running part of our culture does not diminish our national shame. It increases it.
It’s one thing for a society to fail. It’s another for a society to stop caring about its failures.
Jonathan V. Last is a writer for thebulwark.com. This post is from his daily newsletter; he says it was free to share.
Dowd: At 79, Bernie Sanders is a man on a mission, laser-focused on a list that represents trillions of dollars in government spending that he deems essential. When I stray into other subjects, the senator jabs his finger at his piece of paper or waves it in my face, like Van Helsing warding off Dracula with a cross.
When I ask Sanders if he thinks A.O.C. could be president someday, out comes the list.
“That’s not what I want to get into,” he barks. “I want to get into what this legislation is about.”
“You don’t want to discuss ‘Free Britney’?” I ask.
— NYTimes, July 11, 2021
After all, for this chance Bernie put up with 30 years of ridicule & condescension from the likes of HRC.
Now he has the opportunity to get more done than she did.
It likely won’t come again, and he will not be distracted by media malarkey, liberal sectarianism, or even his own ego.
Two emissaries from America’s future came to visit and delivered a stern warning:
“Grandpa, Nana — y’all & your friends gotta fix up the mess this country’s in!
I started to answer, then they added, “But can we go to the park first?”
(After that we distracted them with blueberries & whipped cream . . . . A narrow escape.)
So: I went in for a thorough cardio checkup, a long overnight at Duke Med. As the capstone of the process they stuck me in this MRI machine for a long hour of lying stock still on my back, eyes closed and hands slowly going numb under the barrage of whanging and zapping aimed at discovering what if anything functional was left in my upper torso.
In cardio terms, the MRI was a success: they said my heart was pretty much okay for a guy my age: go home, take the pills, and keep in touch.
But an hour later, when I clicked the news on the iPad, I got an eerie sinking feeling: maybe there had been more to that big machine than just a very noisy electronic stethoscope. What if it was also a reverse time machine, doubtless part of the CIA’s vast secret UFO research: when they rolled me in, it was 2021. When I came back out into the light, in much of America it was 1964, or maybe 1953.
Not that I was younger, or anything good was back from those days (big Hershey bars for a nickel, Cokes for a dime, and Elvis on the juke box). Instead, 56 years of civil rights history was gone. While I was in that light beige reverse birth canal, the Voting Rights Act disappeared. Continue reading For A Hearty Holiday: Our Democracy Is Approaching Cardiac Arrest
The passing of Donald Rumsfeld this week brings many atrocities to mind, especially the long list associated with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There isn’t time to recount those here; but if there is an afterlife with any justice, they likely followed his shade into one of the lowest of the nether regions, like a screeching cloud of endlessly circling buzzards, talons extended.
But here I pass with bowed head the vast expanse of mass graves and torture black sites which are his more visible monuments, to linger briefly instead over one of his more abstract, but not meaningless crimes. This offense was not against flesh & blood, but did violence to language.
Because it was Donald Rumsfeld, and his claque, who while utterly failing to banish terror and bloodshed from the world they claim, did manage to definitively demolish all credibility and drain the value from the word & notion of “transformation.” Continue reading “Transformation” Is Dead. Donald Rumsfeld Killed It.
[Details on a live performance of “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman” 0n June 27 are below. Spread the word!]
During much of the 1850s, Harriet Tubman, felt almost like a prisoner. She lived in Canada, just a few miles west of the U. S. border at Niagara Falls. She was safe there, but itchy to help more enslaved people to escape.
And today, Diane Faison of Winston-Salem, NC, knows something of how Harriet felt.
Tubman, the Ace of the Underground Railroad, was a hunted woman. Southern slavecatchers wanted her dead or alive. She had secretly returned to the state to aid others several more times.
Diane Faison’s journey with Harriet started 140 years later, when she knocked a book off a library shelf. Continue reading The “Spirit of Harriet Tubman” is Ready to speak Again
George Moses Horton: A Biographical Sketch & several poems; from local sources
George Moses Horton
George Moses Horton (1797-1893) could rightly be called North Carolina’s first professional poet.
Born enslaved by Chatham County yeoman farmer William Horton, young George Moses Horton loved the rhyming sounds of hymns, and yearned to be able to read. As teaching slaves to read was illegal, Horton secretly taught himself, hiding in fields on Sundays. He used an old speller, a copy of the Methodist hymnal, and stray pages from the Bible, although he was grown before he learned to write. Especially fascinated with poetry, he was soon composing psalm-meter verses in his head and committing them to memory.
Young Horton was often sent to Chapel Hill by his then-master, James Horton, to sell produce at the farmer’s market. There his unusually sophisticated vocabulary soon caught the attention of the university students, who encouraged his orations, and ultimately, the recitation of his own verse.
His reputation spread, and by the 1820s, he began to sell poems for students to send to their sweethearts, charging extra for including acrostics in them based on the young ladies’ names. Continue reading A Carolina Poet for Juneteenth: George Moses Horton
Bob McGahey, the Clerk of SAYMA (Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting & Association), saw what was coming at last week’s 2021 annual sessions.
What did he see? Trouble & woe.
How do I know?
Because he said so, in a Clerk’s letter sent out as the group was gathering (mostly in Zoom) last week.
The key passage:
Unfortunately, as we approach SAYMA yearly sessions, there are those among us who would enforce their deeply held convictions through pressuring, judging, and threatening behavior. One plenary speaker and two workshops have been challenged and threatened with disruption. One of those workshops has been cancelled, and the leader of the second feels genuinely threatened by escalating attacks, asking for protection. As an open religious society, our protection comes from the divine, which resides deep within each of us, acting from within the body, not from a hierarchy of leaders.
He was mistaken about that last item: protection, especially in SAYMA, comes from leaders and staunch Friends with resolve to uphold good Quaker order, or it will not come at all.
Both were essentially absent from SAYMA’s annual sessions. Continue reading SAYMA 2021: The Post-Mortem
From “Happy Valley” to Supermax?
Graham Spanier is going to jail.
Spanier was the longtime president of Penn State University (PSU), who was toppled in the notorious Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal in 2011 and 2012.
Sandusky was a veteran PSU assistant football coach, and in 2012 he was convicted of 45 counts of sexually abusing young boys, whom he lured into the campus under the cover of a youth charity he had started. Sandusky is now doing life in a supermax prison. Continue reading Penn State Ex-Pres Headed to Jail: Was PSU’s Secrecy Also a Perp There?
Are we ready for the canonization of St. Liz, of Cheney, Martyr?
Lifetime Catholic MoDo isn’t buying it: columnist Maureen Dowd bats away the shiny new blond miraculous medal. She won’t kneel, or even lean, to light the votive candle.
Her trouble is, mea culpa, Dowd remembers. And talks.
How uncouth, and inconvenient:
Maureen Dowd, New York Times, WASHINGTON — May 9, 2021
Dowd: I miss torturing Liz Cheney. . . .
How naïve I was to think that Republicans would be eager to change the channel after Trump cost them the Senate and the White House and unleashed a mob on them.
I thought the Donald would evaporate in a poof of orange smoke, ending a supremely screwed-up period of history. But the loudest mouth is not shutting up. And Republicans continue to listen, clinging to the idea that the dinosaur is the future. “We can’t grow without him,” Lindsey Graham said.
Denied Twitter, Trump is focusing on his other favorite blood sport: hunting down dynasties. “Whether it’s the Cheneys, the Bushes or the lesser bloodlines — such as the Romneys or the Murkowskis — Trump has been relentless in his efforts to force them to bend the knee,” David Siders wrote in Politico.
Yet an unbowed Liz Cheney didn’t mince words when, in a Washington Post op-ed a few days ago, she implored the stooges in her caucus to “steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”
That trademark Cheney bluntness made Liz the toast of MSNBC and CNN, where chatterers praised her as an avatar of the venerable “fact-based” Republican Party decimated by Trump.”
So far, so good, or at least so au courant. And then comes the legendary Dowd dagger:
“But if Liz Cheney wants to be in the business of speaking truth to power, she’s going to have to dig a little deeper.
Let’s acknowledge who created the template for Trump’s Big Lie.
It was her father, Dick Cheney, whose Big Lie about the Iraq war led to the worst mistake in the history of American foreign policy. Liz, who was the captain of her high school cheerleading team and titled her college thesis “The Evolution of Presidential War Powers,” cheered on her dad as he spread fear, propaganda and warped intelligence.
From her patronage perch in the State Department during the Bush-Cheney years, she bolstered her father’s trumped-up case for an invasion of Iraq. Even after no W.M.D.s were found, she continued to believe the invasion was the right thing to do.
“She almost thrives in an atmosphere where the overall philosophy is discredited and she is a lonely voice,” a State Department official who worked with Liz told Joe Hagan for a 2010 New York magazine profile of the younger Cheney on her way up.
She was a staunch defender of the torture program. “Well, it wasn’t torture, Norah, so that’s not the right way to lay out the argument,” she instructed Norah O’Donnell in 2009, looking on the bright side of waterboarding.
She backed the futile, 20-year occupation of the feudal Afghanistan. (Even Bob Gates thinks we should have left in 2002.) Last month, when President Biden announced plans to pull out, Liz Cheney — who wrote a book with her father that accused Barack Obama of abandoning Iraq and making America weaker — slapped back: “We know that this kind of pullback is reckless. It’s dangerous.”
Dowd remembers more:
For many years, [Cheney] had no trouble swimming in Fox News bile. Given the chance to denounce the Obama birther conspiracy, she demurred, interpreting it live on air as people being “uncomfortable with having for the first time ever, I think, a president who seems so reluctant to defend the nation overseas.”
Thanks to that kind of reasoning, we ended up with a president who fomented an attack on the nation at home.
In her Post piece, Cheney wrote that her party is at a “turning point” and that Republicans “must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”
Sage prose from someone who was a lieutenant to her father when he assaulted checks and balances, shredding America’s Constitution even as he imposed one on Iraq.
Because of 9/11, Dick Cheney thought he could suspend the Constitution, attack nations preemptively and trample civil liberties in the name of the war on terror. (And for his own political survival.)
Keeping Americans afraid was a small price to pay for engorging executive power, which the former Nixon and Ford aide thought had been watered down too much after Watergate.
By his second term, W. had come around to his parents’ opinion that Cheney had overreached, and the vice president became increasingly isolated.
Liberals responded to Trump’s derangements by bathing the Bush-Cheney crowd in a flattering nostalgic light.
So, shockingly, the Republicans who eroded America’s moral authority — selling us the Iraq war, torture, a prolonged Afghanistan occupation and Sarah Palin — became the new guardians of America’s moral authority. Complete with bloated TV and book contracts.
Trump built a movement based on lies. The Cheneys showed him how it’s done.
Thanks, MoDo. Like the nun’s rap on my knuckles with her thick wooden ruler, back in parochial school an eon ago, (or more like a whack upside the head), I can see I needed that. I won’t buy the miraculous medal either.
But I admit I might be tempted to light her a candle one of these days.
At the same time, I’ve lately been reading about & listening to some of St. Liz’s ex- Republican admirers. I’m thinking of the agonized public conversation going on among some of the most cogent anti-Trumpers, now recovering and at least somewhat repentant ex-Republicans. I’m thinking particularly those associated with The Lincoln Project & The Bulwark. Continue reading A Tale of Two Conservatives: Liz & Longwell