Archive for April 2015
You’ll have to trust me when I tell you that I didn’t intend to think of The Simpsons when I first saw the video of Michael Slager murdering Walter Scott. I take the issue of police brutality, excessive force, corruption, and downright murder far too seriously than to initially compare it to something as irreverent as The Simpsons. However, I can’t help but see the grim reality in something that happened on The Simpsons more than twenty years ago and what happened to poor Walter Scott on April 4.
What came to mind was episode 9 of season 6 of The Simpsons, “Homer Badman.” It originally aired November 27, 1994. In it, Homer stole a priceless Gummy Bear from a candy trade show. Before he could consume it, it ended up on the backside of the babysitter hired to watch the kids while Homer and Marge were at the trade show—she inadvertently sat on the Gummy Bear in the car when Homer drove her home. When Homer attempted to reach for it, the babysitter interpreted his grasping for sexual harassment. When she made her complaint public, Homer was vilified and the intimate details of his life were put on display.
Fast forward to April 4, and North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager justified his shooting of Walter Scott by claiming that Scott posed a threat to his safety, if not his life, by seizing his stun gun. The story came unraveled when an unexpected video surfaced that showed Slager murdering Scott and then planting what appears to be the stun gun in question on him to legitimize his claim that Scott had taken control of it. The unexpected video has some air of divine intervention to it, too. Not only did it reveal the facts of the fatal encounter, but it was able to draw attention to an accusation of excessive force filed against Slager two years ago—an accusation that was never fully investigated, but of which Slager was somehow miraculously cleared. The North Charleston police department is suddenly breaking land speed records back peddling in an attempt to look at the accusation again and “properly” investigate it. It’s reasonable to assume that had the video of Slager murdering Scott not surfaced, all of this would have been covered up and swept away. That’s what we can expect all too often when the police are left to police themselves.
At the end of “Homer Badman,” an unknown video surfaced that exonerated Homer. It was shot by Groundskeeper Willie, who said he secretly videotaped couples in their cars. Marge summed up the ordeal by remarking on the idea of constant video surveillance, a phenomenon that was just rising in the social conscience of Americans at the time of the episode, but has since become a normal part of everyday life. The truth her remark captured is now far too realistic and far too grim for me to appreciate the humor originally intended. She said, “You know, the courts might not work anymore, but as long as everyone is videotaping everyone else, justice will be served.”
I subscribe to “The Time is Now,” a service through Poets & Writers that delivers a set of prompts to my inbox each Thursday; one prompt for poetry, another for fiction, and a third for creative nonfiction. The prompts have been underwhelming for the most part, but it hasn’t hurt to look at them and print them off for my students. A few have caught my attention; in particular, a creative nonfiction prompt from a few weeks ago: Write 100 words on a subject that’s been on your mind lately. The catch was that it had to be exactly 100 words. Baseball has been on my mind ever since pitchers and catchers reported, so I gave it a rip. In the least, it helped me create the year’s first blog post on baseball.
What day will you get away to the yard and settle in with a beer and a scorecard? It won’t be soon enough. The smell of grass won’t be thick enough in the air. The snap of 95 MPH cheese in the catcher’s mitt won’t be crisp enough. The crack of hardwood on horsehide won’t echo across the park just right. The 6-4-3 won’t be acrobatic enough; the take-out slide won’t be hard enough. Nine innings just won’t do for that day peaking over the horizon just now. You’ll have to return again and again until you don’t know when.