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.
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.
I have a confession to make. I want my grandchildren to learn how to goatwalk . . . . I’m a survivalist where they’re concerned. Industrial civilization has destabilized the earth’s climate beyond the point of no-return. The fair-weather agriculture on which our civilization depends is doomed. In the course of the next century, much of North America will probably become desert. Even if it doesn’t, annual rainfalls and temperatures will fluctuate too wildly to sustain the agricultural systems on which we now depend. If humankind doesn’t self-destruct, my grandchildren will have to get along without industrial agriculture as it now exists. Maybe a more sustainable industrial adaptation will emerge, but I want them to know enough to survive the old-fashioned, nomad way, in case that’s a viable choice.
This small 2003 collection of essays, now alas out of print, had its origins in two incidents, somewhat related, and which also turned out to be the start of something bigger, at least for me.
In the first, I proposed to the Publications Committee of Friends General Conference (FGC), the “liberal” association of U. S. & Canadian Friends, in 1993 that it sponsor a centennial history of the body and the religious movement it represented, looking toward the centennial of FGC’s founding, set for 2000. The proposal envisioned a team effort, like the one underway in New York Yearly Meeting, which was to produce their fine history, Quaker Cross-Currents (Syracuse University Press), two years later.
The proposal was not simply turned down flat; it was met with general incomprehension: Why, I was asked, would we want to do that? Continue reading Shaggy Locks & Birkenstocks: wandering through recent Quaker history
In the May 30, 2021 New York Times, there’s an Op-Ed on military conscientious objectors, or COs. I’m gratified to see it on the brink of Memorial Day. It shows no disrespect for those who agreed to fight in war and died to recognize that a persistent minority has declined to take the sword.
The piece mentions two military COs, but mostly concentrates on the recent case of Michael Rasmussen. He was training to be a Marine combat pilot, but found his conscience turned against taking part in war. The Times:
One morning as he prepared for a supply flight to Hawaii, Mr. Rasmussen kept returning to the story he’d read in bed the night before in “Path of Compassion,” by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which the Buddha was out begging when he was nearly mugged by a notorious criminal. Instead of robbing the Buddha, the mugger confessed to a life of murder and mayhem and asked him for advice: “What good act could I possibly do?”
“Stop traveling the road of hatred and violence,” the Buddha said. “That would be the greatest act of all.”
Mr. Rasmussen got in his car to drive to the hangar, overwhelmed with what he called an “immense feeling of dread.” The story haunted him: “Am I on the road of hatred and violence?” he wondered. He decided then and there to leave the Marines.
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?
Tom Friedman, longtime NYTimes columnist, treats us to some snippets of diary entries from his first trip to Afghanistan, in early 2002, with then Senator Joe Biden. Friedman opens the piece in the posture of sadder-but-wiser sage:
“I was not surprised that Joe Biden decided to finally pull the plug on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Back in 2002 it was reasonable to hope that our invasion there to topple Osama bin Laden and his Taliban allies could be extended to help make that country a more stable, tolerant and decent place for its citizens — and less likely to host jihadist groups.”
Was that really a “reasonable idea? In what is justly called the “graveyard of empires”, or more properly the graveyards of too many loyal troops sacrificed on the altars of hubris erected by heedless, foolish imperial “statesmen”?
Friedman insists he had doubts even then: Continue reading “Nation Building” on the Moon? Smarter than the U.S. in Afghanistan?
My friend Patrick O’Neill is serving a year in a federal prison, for attacking a replica of a nuclear missile at a south Georgia navy base in April of 2018. (A post with more about that protest is here.) It’s part of his peace witness as a member of the Catholic Worker movement.
Most of us don’t think about the missiles a lot. But there are enough just at that one Georgia base to kill pretty much everyone in the world, on fifteen minutes’ notice.
Yeah, the risk of nuclear Armageddon did not disappear with the fall of Soviet communism.
Patrick and several others did think about the missiles, tho, and it led to Patrick reporting to the federal prison in Elkton, Ohio just about when Joe Biden was being inaugurated.
Doing time is tough. And nobody can do it for him. Patrick has a good deal of jail experience; and one lesson is that it doesn’t get much easier. There are a few ways to be supportive from outside. Mine is to send Patrick reading matter. Reading can dull some moments in the overwhelming tedium of confinement. So I have sent him a few of my books. (Hey — a captive audience; the best kind.)
It can help a little. Patrick said so, in a note that arrived this week:
‘Let all you do be done in love’— St. Paul
Good Friday [04/02/2021] Day 18 in the SHU (solitary)
Hi Chuck— My Lenten Journey will take me past Easter — I’ve done a lot of time (20+ jails, 6 prisons), but this has been the worst. Before the SHU [NOTE: SHU = Special Housing Unit] I spent 4 days in a hospital with 2 armed guards with me at all times who kept me in leg irons, and my left hand attached by chains to the bed, one chain attaching my leg irons to the bed . . . .
I had to pee in a plastic bottle while chained.
When I asked one guard to use the bathroom he said, “Do you have to do Number Two?” He would not have unchained me otherwise. And the leg irons never came off except for 15 minutes when I took a stress test on a treadmill. And now I’m in the hole for Covid quarantine.
[Note: It’s no surprise that Patrick came down with Covid. Since March 2020, The New York Times has tracked every known coronavirus case in every correctional setting in the United States. . . .
A year later, reporters found that one in three inmates in state prisons are known to have had the virus. In federal facilities, at least 39 percent of prisoners are known to have been infected. The true count is most likely higher because of a dearth of testing, but the findings align with reports from The Marshall Project, The Associated Press, U.C.L.A. Law and The Covid Prison Project that track Covid-19 in prisons.
The virus has killed prisoners at higher rates than the general population, the data shows, and at least 2,700 people have died in custody, where access to quality health care is poor.
The deaths, and many of the more than 525,000 reported infections so far among the incarcerated, could have been prevented, public health and criminal justice experts say.] Back to Patrick:
I was reading your book and really enjoying it (Eating Dr. King’s Dinner) before I got sick. I hope the book is still there when I get back to my unit. We’ll see. . . . Continue reading Patrick O’Neill – A Letter from the Hole
Besides his work and example, Friend David Zarembka also left a valuable and underestimated resource of writings for Friends and others. We’ll sample that legacy here, and point to where more can be found.
Besides some personal contact, I learned most about Dave from his book A Peace of Africa. Here’s part of that context from my review: Continue reading David Zarembka’s Memorable Writings: A Sampler
This is a developing story. Watch for Updates.
I just learned that David Zarembka, aged 77, a very distinguished Friend from Baltimore Yearly meeting, who lived for more than a decade among Friends in Kenya, and his wife Gladys Kamonya, 73 have both succumbed to Covid. Both passed in Eldoret Kenya. Gladys Kamonya died on March 23, 2021; David died on April 1.
Below is his autobiographical sketch published in the book Passing The Torch. More to follow:
David Zarembka, in his own words: From Passing the Torch
I find the world an extremely interesting place and I participate in as many aspects of it that I can. Conversely, I don’t find myself very interesting at all and therefore don’t often write much about my life’s 76 year journey. This article therefore is a major exception.
In order to understand where I ended up, I have to explain where I came from. Although it might seem that my life has been unconventional, it really hasn’t been when one considers where I came from and how I grew up.
My paternal great-grandfather, Mathias Zarembka, came from then Russian-occupied Poland to the United States to work. Those were the good, ole days in the late 19th century when people could just come and go. He stayed in the US for seven years and then went back. He had seven children, six of whom immigrated to the US, while only one remained in Poland. My grandfather, Frank Zarembka, immigrated to the US in March/April 1914.
If he had waited a few months longer, the guns of August which started World War I would have begun, and he probably would have been drafted into the Russian army where the ill-equipped and untrained Polish soldiers were mowed down by the Germans. He left behind my grandmother, Lotti Wilant (notice the German name although she knew of no connection to Germany), and my one-year old father, Richard Zarembka. They were not able to immigrate to the US until 1921 when the family reunification act was passed in the United States. They lived in St. Louis in the Polish section of town. My grandfather worked for St. Louis Coal and Ice and pulled ice from the ground to be cut up in blocks to be put in iceboxes. Even when I knew him as a child, he was physically very strong.
My maternal grandfather was Ernest Elmer Colvin. He was a newspaper man. My Mom, Helen Jane Colvin Zarembka, was a great family storyteller so I have lots of old stories. My grandmother was so worried about my grandfather when the Associated Press in St. Louis assigned him to cover the 1919 so-called “race riots” in East St. Louis – it was actually just a massacre of what were then called Negroes. When he retired around 1954, he was copy editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. My maternal grandmother, Flora Scott Colvin, died even before my parents were married. She had grown up in Kansas City where my grandparents met. She and her sister, Fanny, started the first kindergarten in Kansas City. Each morning they would hitch up the horse and pick up the kids for school – something that women were not supposed in those old days. So, my roots run deep. Continue reading Breaking! OMG — Friends David Zarembka & Wife Gladys Kamonya Dead of Covid