Our Century’s Emmett Till

stand your groundTrayvon Martin and Emmett Till never met each other. They never will either – or at least not in this world. When Trayvon on was born on February 5, 1995, Emmett had been dead for almost forty years. He would have turned seventy-one this July 25th.

He was a native of Chicago, Illinois who was visiting relatives in the Mississippi Delta region in the summer of 1955. Early one afternoon he had an exchange of words with a twenty-one year old white woman named Carolyn Bryant. To this day it is not certain what was said between them.

What is certain is that several nights later on August 28, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, dragged Emmett from his cousin’s home and took him to a deserted barn. There they beat him, gouged out one of his eyes, and shot him in the head. Once finished with him, they dumped his body – like so much trash – in the Tallahatchie River.

He was 14 years old.

Three days later, his bloated, unrecognizable body was retrieved from the river. When his remains were returned to Chicago for burial, and in spite of the horrible mutilation of his facial features, his mother insisted on an open coffin funeral. She wanted the world to see what hate had done to her child.

No one ever went to prison for the murder of Emmett Till.

Well now! We’ve certainly progressed since then - I guess. But the recent murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has got me thinking about things I’d rather put out of my mind. Unfortunately, I haven’t that luxury. We all need to come face to face with some ugly realities about America.

Have we really progressed all that much since 1954? I’m almost certain that Trayvon Martin’s mother and father would beg to differ. He was shot and killed for no good reason on the night of February 26. The boy (and remember, he was merely a boy) was a native of Miami. Like Emmett Till, he was visiting family in a town where he was unaccustomed to the local….”etiquette of behavior” shall we say? In Trayvon’s case the family he was visiting was his father’s. This time the town was Sanford, Florida, which (according to the nice folks over at Mapquest) is exactly 250 miles due north of Miami.

In 1954, Emmett Till learned - the hard way - that while engaging a white woman in conversation might have been perfectly acceptable for a black kid in Chicago, it was considered (to put it as mildly as possible) “bad form” in Mississippi.

In 2012, Trayvon Martin learned - the hard way - that while wearing a “hoodie” was no big deal for a black kid in Miami, it could cost him his life in Sanford.

Ah, progress!

As in the case of Emmett Till, we’re still not certain of the chain of events that led to the murder of Trayvon Martin. As might be expected, some eye-witnesses have started to contradict one another.

Whatever the disputed accounts, this much is beyond a shadow of a doubt: Super-cop-wannabe George Zimmerman saw the hoodie-wearing kid and perceived him to be an imminent threat to the peace and security of his neighborhood. Trayvon was guilty of WWB – Walking While Black.

That was enough for George. When he told a 911 dispatcher that he was trailing the boy, he was informed in no uncertain terms that he shouldn’t. And here is something else which is also beyond despute: George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

When a woman called 911 to report the altercation, on the tape someone can be heard in the background pleading for his life. Trayvon Martin’s parents claim that it is the voice of their son that can be heard. George Zimmerman says that it is his voice. Maybe he is telling the truth. Or could it be that he is unaware of the science of audio forensics? That, too, is a possibility. It will be crystal-clear whose voice it is soon enough.

The Al Sharptons and the Jesse Jacksons of this world are trying to make this case all about race. They shouldn’t. I know in my heart that if Trayvon Martin had killed George Zimmerman - under the exact same circumstances - he would be walking free on this fine Sunday morn.

I’m sorry. I just made a twenty dollar bet with myself that I could write that last paragraph and keep a straight face. I lost. TEE-HEE-HEE! Please excuse me while I recover.

Stand Your Ground, Bubbah

Here’s something else that cannot be debated: Murder is legal in this doomed nation. I am referring to the nutty “Stand Your Ground” laws that have been enacted in 23 states. That’s right, boys and girls! If you even “perceive” someone as being a threat to your physical well being, you can off the bastard right there on the spot! Just shoot ‘im in cold blood and walk away free as a homicidal birdie! Ain’t that a scream? And you wonder why some European tourism agencies give their clients a list of warnings about visiting this country? I need a drink.

tom deganThe Stand Your Ground laws came into existence for no other reason than the fact that the National Rifle Association was able to bribe and threaten enough legislators in enough states to get them passed. It’s almost as if these hideous bastards just can’t get enough blood to spill on our streets.

To make matters worse, the American people (the white ones anyway) have yet to stand up in mass outrage at what is happening. As long as the victims are disproportionately poor and (like Trayvon) black, why get oneself in a nasty snit over the carnage? Maybe what is needed to wake people up is an epidemic of middle class white kids being slaughtered. That’ll change things pretty damned quick - you’d better believe it.

The NRA types love to jabber on about “freedom”. Let me explain something to you: A people who live in paralyzed, mortal terror wondering when and where the next massacre of innocents will occur may be many things – no argument there. “Free” they are not. Let’s just stop kidding ourselves here and now, okay?

Almost on cue, the right-wing scream machine went into overdrive, trying to besmirch the character of Trayvon. The kid was a no-good troublemaker, they say. The proof? He was once caught with an empty bag of marijuana. Really? Would someone please explain to me what constitutes an “empty” bag of grass?

In the room across the hall from where I now sit there is an “empty” bag of hand grenades. My bank account is “empty” of $14 million. Please! They need to conjure up something a little more sinister than that in order to get my attention – as if anything could justify the cold-blooded murder of a 17-year-old boy.

Back in the day, Geraldo Rivera was known as a “liberal”. That was before FOX Noise began signing his paychecks a decade ago. Since then, he has climbed onboard their weird train of propaganda and deception. He appears to be right at home there, too!

Geraldo says that Trayvon was killed because of his attire. He’s probably right. His solution? Black parents should should forbid their children to wear hoodies. Forget the fact that they do serve a useful function by protecting kids from the cold and rain. Geraldo Rivera thinks that only white kids should wear them.

At this moment, John Lennon must be doing somersaults in his grave for no other reason than the fact that he used to associate with this jackass. Forget the drink, I could use some heroin right about now - in an empty bag of course.

tom deganThe sales of “Skittles” have recently gone through the roof, according to the New York Times. That’s the brand of candy that Trayvon Martin had just purchased when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. In fact, he left his father’s home that night for no other purpose than to buy the stuff at the convenience store around the corner.

I plan on buying a bag of Skittles today. I need to know its quality. It would weigh on my mind a bit less if a loved one of mine died for an Almond Joy bar (which I love) than for a box of Good ‘n’ Plenty (which I can’t stand). I hope for Trayvon’s sake that it is the most delicious candy I’ve ever tasted.

Tom Degan
The Rant

Published by the LA Progressive on April 2, 2012
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About Tom Degan

Tom Degan is a fifty-four-year old video artist who in 2006 became so thoroughly disgusted at the state of America's national political dialogue, he decided to take time off to become a freaking civics teacher. He was born in Goshen, NY in 1958 and, after living all over the United States and Canada, moved back there in 1992. He is a high school dropout who in 1977 received an equivalency diploma (HEY, IT'S LEGAL!) He attended SUNY in Middletown, NY and in 1986 studied journalism at the New School in New York City. He is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has worked as a truck driver, a radio DJ, and a metal worker... OK, he didn't ACTUALLY receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but he DID get some kind of ribbon of sorts when he was in the Cub Scouts. He is the inventor of Cheez Whiz and lives off the royalties on the sales of that fine product. He loves children and little baby duckies. FULL DISCLOSURE: He didn't really invent Cheez Whiz. His address is: 2590 Rte 17M (PO BOX 611) Goshen, NY 10924 (845) 294-5714