Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tookie Execution OK'd by Arnold

So you've heard the controversial news about Tookie Williams. He's to be executed later today in this contraption at San Quentin Prison -->

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided not to commute Tookie's sentence to a life behind bars, opining that the condemned man had not shown sufficient remorse or redemption. I find this utterly predictable, since I've watched a few of Arnold's movies, and I've read interviews with this Conservative Republican man of "values". His entire career has been devoted to a show of brute power, where justice comes from the barrel of a gun or a slashing sword. Might is right -->
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Without any hint of irony, Gov Schwarzenegger official statement says, "that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems." Obviously "he" in this quote refers to Tookie, yet the statement applies to Gov Schwarzenegger as well. In announcing this very same text, the Gov commits an act of fatal violence "as a legitimate means to address societal problems". It relegates the specific problem to a mere footnote added as an afterthought to the corrected edition later:

"Breaking the cycle of hopelessness and gang violence is the responsibility of us all, not just the most affected African-American or inner city communities. It is important to work together with respect, understanding and patience if we are to one day succeed." [footnote 6 on page 4]

This is technically a performative contradiction of the most destructive kind. I would not trust the author of that hypocritical text with my family, nor would I move into the same neighborhood where he rules.

In stark and revealing contrast, here's what Tookie actually wrote for young kids in the ghetto:

"As a teenager, I didn't know the meaning of power. I thought that by using violence to scare people, I was proving that I had a lot of power. But when you use your power to make someone do something they don't want to do, or to hurt someone, you are abusing your power. The people you hurt will someday hurt you. They may call your parents to tell them the bad things you've done. They may call the police and have you arrested. They may even use a weapon on you."

--from Gangs and the Abuse of Power

"Since I had big muscles and a big reputation, I thought no one could hurt me. But my big muscles and big reputation couldn't stop the bullets that a gang member fired at me one day. Doctors said I would never walk again. It took a long time, but I can walk now. I don't want you to get shot too. That's why I'm telling you my story. You can learn from my mistakes."

--from Gangs and Weapons

It is entirely probable that Arnold didn't comprehend that these words are about himself also.


At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd add that the mere fact the Governor could grant clemency indicates that the meting of punishment by death is arbitrary,
and hence erratic, and therefore unjust, and cruel.

My principle is anti-capital punishment, so arguments that support clemency for Tookie based on his redemption through good works are beside the
point--although they present another point altogether: if a man reforms, i.e. changes, why kill that different person for the crimes committed by a previous self?

The Governor's claim that Williams deserves no mercy because he would not admit guilt and display remorse
makes the crimes of the Bush Administration so much more obvious, n'est-ce pas? And reprehensible, non? There may be some lingering doubts about Tookie's murder of four or five individuals, and for such doubts even a death-penalty proponent should hesitate, but what did George W confess to today --something about 30,000 Iraqi people killed? And since no WMDs were ever discovered, George and Co. can't even claim self-defense . . .

At 4:54 PM, Blogger E. Heroux said...

Follow up to an execution: excerpted.

[If Arnold had courageously met face to face with Tookie....] it would have been something of a reunion. In the late 1970s, Arnold and Tookie, about fifty life times ago, admired each other's biceps on Muscle Beach in Venice, California. "Your arms are like thighs!" Arnold grinned. Amazing the difference thirty years makes. In that time, Arnold rode his muscles and Teutonic good looks from Hollywood stardom to the Governor's
mansion. Yes, he had a spotty past including many allegations of sexual assault and drug abuse. But he passed that off as youthful indiscretion, claimed that he had changed, and a pliant media were happy to believe that Arnold was worthy of forgiveness and redemption.

Tookie, like Arnold, also fashioned an unlikely political career. But his began not with Hollywood riches but as the target of the tough-on-crime laws of the Clinton-Bush years which saw the nation's prison population balloon from more than one to two million. He was convicted of murder in a manner that would make Strom Thurmond proud, called a "Bengal tiger" by a prosecutor who engineered an all-white jury to make
sure the "Crip founder" found San Quentin. While Arnold cozied up to the Bush and Kennedy clans, Tookie
read dictionaries in solitary, wrote letters to gang kids in LA, and became that most dangerous of
political beings: a Black leader in racist America.

In one of his final interviews he said, "So, as long as I have breath, I will continue to do what I can to
proliferate a positive message throughout this country and abroad to youths everywhere, of all colors or gender and geographical area, and I will continue to do what I can to help. I want to be a part of the, you know, the solution."

Now another tragedy, along with the murders of Albert Owens, Yen-I Yang, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, and Yu-Chin
Yang Lin, has taken place because Stan Tookie has been put to death. But the tragedy is not theirs to bear alone.

Tonight children are being born to mothers without health insurance, in neighborhoods politicians don"t
enter without SWAT teams, news cameras, and latex gloves. The political class has already branded these kids as human waste. But many of them could have found another path, because Stanley Tookie Williams would have been there to intervene in their lives and show
another way.

Now it's up to those of us who stood with Tookie to keep on pushing. This is Schwarzenegger's "mission accomplished" moment for his right wing, pro-death base. But his "mission" will fail. He is part of a
21st century set of rulers who have repeatedly shown, whether in Baghdad or New Orleans, that they are unfit
to rule. Their brutality will be met with resistance in the tradition of Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis,
Malcolm X, Leonard Peltier, George Jackson... and Stanley Tookie Williams.
[Dave Zirin is the author of "'What's My Name Fool?':
Sports and Resistance in the United States"]


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