Wednesday, 17 July 2013

You can get killed just for living in your American skin

The Trayvon Martin murder verdict left me as flabbergasted and puzzled as I am by the absurd gun control laws in the USA.

In the same weekend that George Zimmerman was acquitted of his vigilante armed attack on a teenager a black woman from Florida was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot in the air to keep his violent partner away. It seems the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida is a very fluid thing

Throughout the case members of the media, none shouting louder than FOX News, have maintained that this was not a race issue, that Zimmerman was merely profiling along the lines with reported criminal gangs that had been seen in the area. This seems to be their justification for Zimmerman's actions. From this distance they seem to be saying that he was asking for it by being in the area and being black. It reminds me of the classic 'Not The Nine O'clock News' sketch where a policeman is pulled into his superiors office for arresting the same man over 100 times



yes, a little heavy handed satire maybe but you get the point. Plus the legals to-ing and fro-ing justification on both sides isn't the point here. Let's face it. I am less like Trayvon Martin than its possible for a white British bloke to be. Admittedly I have often feared for my life when walking home at night but that's more due to my belief in the Candyman and Langoliers than any human threat.

Its the message that this gives the rest of the world about the US justice system, that its far from colourblind. Lessons are never learned from these events. In 1991 Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by 4 plain clothed policemen who mistook him for a violent rapist that they were searching for. When Amadou stood outside his front door he pulled out his wallet from his pocket to prove his ID, Thinking it was a gun the police shot at his 41 times, 19 of those hitting him.

Bruce Springsteen, in the old tradition of Dylan, Woody and singers back into history who wrote songs and ballads ripped from the newspapers, wrote "41 Shots (American Skin) in response to the tragedy and when it came to the 10 night NYC run at Madison Square Garden in 2000, police groups encouraged officers to refuse to police the events. He was even encouraged not to perform the song. He did, of course

It seems only artists are really given the power to speak out when injustices like this happen and really get under the skin of those who support those who did wrong. A newspaper article or opinion piece is all very well but it seems that a song has that extra energy to cut through and touch people.

last night in Limerick, Ireland, Springsteen performed the song again 

"During the sign collecting Bruce had noticed another sign on the side of the stage and asked for it to be passed up to him, then displayed it for the crowd. It was “American Skin (41 Shots).” An immediate hush settled as we all recognized the significance of this request on the heels of the Travyon Martin trial verdict just days before. “We’ll send this as a letter back home for justice for Trayvon Martin,” Bruce said before launching into what was surely the emotional centerpiece of the show.  The audience and the band both appeared to be choked with tears at points in the song; rarely had the lyric “You can get killed just for living in your American skin” sounded more tragic or true. As it wound to its end and Bruce stood alone at the mike staring straight ahead with as much tension and anger as I’ve ever seen him display during a song, just chanting “you can get killed just for living in…” over and over, it was a moment never to be forgotten and a beautiful tribute to a young life sadly wasted for no good reason." - Notes From the Road @ BruceSpringsteen.com

It's also noteworthy that he opened and closed the show with the old civil rights spiritual 'The Little Light Of Mine'. That these sentiments still have to be expressed in song now is heartbreaking. 

George Zimmerman's brother said in a TV interview that he feared that his brother could be attacked by gun wielding vigilantes - got irony?






41 shots....
and we'll take that ride
'cross this bloody river
to the other side
41 shots... cut through the night
You're kneeling over his body in the vestibule
Praying for his life
Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain't no secret
It ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
In your American skin

41 shots
Lena gets her son ready for school
She says "on these streets, Charles
You've got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you
Promise you'll always be polite,
that you'll never ever run away
Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight"
Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain't no secret
It ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
In your American skin

41 shots... got my boots caked in this mud
We're baptized in these waters and in each other's blood
Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain't no secret
It ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
In your American skin

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