Friday, December 9, 2005

Quo Vadis, Tookie Williams?

All through the course of American history political leaders have made decisions based on factors other than vox populi. Presently, the only vox populi getting any kind of a hearing is vox Midas. Many a leader has swept into office on promises and many a promise has died on the vine for want of water. One can’t know what the message of vox populi is any more because that message is fashioned by vox media without any actual reference to vox populi. In any rare instance where vox populi is resourced, the words are imbedded beforehand and then shaped to fit in the way the questions are fashioned. Anyone unaware of this is watching too much vox news.

Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams stands accused of shot-gunning a convenience store clerk for the princely sum of $120.00 and then a series of 3 Asian motel owners for a grand total of $100.00. Tookie was at the same time one of the founders, along with Raymond Washington and (according to vox media) head of The Crips; a blue headscarf wearing gang who was the counterpoint to The Bloods; a red headscarf wearing gang. The Crips were formed to combat random neighborhood violence. So far as I know, shot-gunning convenience store workers and motel owners wasn’t in the charter.

The question you have to ask yourself is, “Would the head of what came to be the largest, most organized gang in the United States really go out and small time murder for chump change?” It doesn’t make sense does it? Tookie says he didn’t do it and I believe him. I believe him because my common sense tells me it’s just completely out of character for his role. Tookie isn’t a stupid man; anything but. Does this make any kind of sense? Can you say LA Confidential? I thought you could.

Was Tookie Williams a bad man? According to our imaginary yardstick, which has Charles Manson at one end and a Bambi-faced soccer mom at the other, the answer would have to be yes. Would it be fair to say that, using your logic and objective reasoning capacity; Tookie was probably responsible for murder and mayhem along his way to San Quentin? I’d have to say, “No doubt” If you asked me if he was responsible for the murders he is accused of I would have to say, “It’s unlikely.” If you asked me, "Did the LA police department set him up based on the rational that he’s guilty of it somewhere?" I would have to say; “That seems the most likely scenario.”

Our prison system was developed by Benjamin Franklin and The Quakers. The idea was to put a man in a cell with a Bible and hope that repentance and rehabilitation would be the result. Essentially this means that the idea of redemption is a basic ingredient in the process of incarceration. What is the point of parole I might ask? What is justice?

Murder is against the law right? Well Dick Cheney and George Bush and their band of neo-cons have murdered tens of thousands of people recently but they are not in jail. Why are they not in jail? We know that they murdered tens of thousands of people under false pretenses and as the result of known lies. We know this. How are they any different that Tookie Williams? They are much worse. We know that numerous business associates and political cronies of Bush and Cheney have been indicted for massive theft and fraud. How is this behavior any different than that of any gang members; they didn’t use a shot-gun? Okay.

While he has been in prison these past 20 odd years Tookie has been doing a lot of work. Tookie has worked to reform himself and the gang system he helped to bring into being. He has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace prize. I will not here list his many accomplishments. These are things you can ‘choose’ to learn for yourself. Tookie came up on the rough streets of LA. God only knows what he went through as a kid. I’m not surprised at what happened to him. George Bush and Dick Cheney were given the finest of educations and pampered every step of their lives. They wound up murdering many thousands of times more than Tookie Williams. This is a fact and there is no getting around it. Of course you can attempt to justify it. Would you say that Bush and Cheney have since woven something as great out of their disordered past as has Tookie Williams? No you could not say this.

I’ve been to prison. I knew men like Tookie Williams. I’ve got a blue bandanna I still wear today. It doesn’t make me a Crip, even if one gave it to me. I know something about gangs and the men in them. I know how these gangs come about and the circumstances that give birth to them. Are gangs a good thing? No. Not on the streets of LA and not in the corridor of power in Washington D.C. The only difference in these two gangs is the size of the take.

A man’s life is not the sum of a few moments. The sum of a life is in the totality of the life. It is in what the life comes to. Tookie Williams is an odyssey of redemption. One might say he, “once was lost but now is found.” George Bush will never accomplish as much good as Tookie Williams.

Will Tookie get the chance to go on with his compelling efforts? It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t look good in a country where another governor once mocked an inmate on her way to execution. That governor was George Bush. He laughed and made fun of her on her way to die. Her name was Karla Faye Tucker and her story is a lot like Tookie’s. She made a big mistake when she was young and she spent the next fourteen years on death row repenting and seeking redemption. She went off to die with the governor’s laughter ringing in her ears.

We all die. It has been said that we do not all die but that we are all changed. I won’t address the varieties of meaning there. I will submit that Tookie has already died and been reborn but I suspect that means nothing to those who do not understand the meaning of, “there but for fortune go you and I.” The only difference between Tookie and you and I is that Tookie knows the date. As Samuel Johnson said "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

The issue here is not what Tookie did or did not do once; it is what he has done since. Either redemption is a part of our system or it is not. Special circumstance should be a two way street. Sometimes the example of a person’s life begins to live in many lives. They stand for possibilities. They remind us of the possible. Killing Tookie Williams does not kill the man accused of particular crimes. It kills the man he has become. We effectively kill the example of hope and transformation that he presently stands for.

What sort of a terrible irony is it that permits the wholesale murders of men like George Bush and Dick Cheney? These swine in human form laugh at their deeds and their victims while dining in the high tower. Their crimes against their own nation and other nations exceed the crimes of Tookie Williams to an immeasurable degree.

When and if Tookie dies he will have paid his bills. He will have done something wonderful with his life; made all the more wonderful given his background and his circumstances. When George Bush and Dick Cheney die, hard laughter will accompany and greet them and God have mercy on their souls.

Vox populi... who knows? Yet in our history many a leader has made many a decision that did not reflect vox populi. Many a leader has made a decision of conscience. Many a leader has acted upon advice and acted against advice. Sometimes a leader finds the unspoken hope in a vox populi that does not know the sound of it’s own voice until someone speaks for them. The job of a leader is not to follow it is to lead. How often have we not known what we felt until it touched our hearts? Hopefully something touches Governor Schwarzenegger’s heart.

Visible sings: 911 was an Inside Job by Les Visible♫ The Mocking of Karla Faye Tucker ♫
'The Mocking of Karla Faye Tucker' is track no. 3 of 10 on Visible's 2002 album
'911 was an Inside Job'

About this song (pops up)

911 was an Inside Job by Les Visible


Anonymous said...

That is a wonderful piece of writing Les. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Where can I find a good analysis of the evidence used to convict him?

Visible said...

Here are a couple of links-

These might prove helpful and you can get loads off of Google.

Visible said...

this link doesn't want to go on the page, you'll have to join it all together. Sorry but I'm very busy at something right now otherwise I'd do the links. I'll try to get to that later

Anonymous said...

First let me say that I'm no fan of gangs: I was carjacked outside my house, fought the carjackers without a weapon (I used my car), escaped with a damaged car (they rammed mine with theirs) and my life.

This was the night before the second Rodney King verdict. It took the police officers 45 minutes to get to me though the neighbors had called 9/11 immediately.

Here's an irony: the responding officers were Hispanic. They didn't even bother asking the race or sex when I said gang, they said, "Hispanic males, how tall?" -- Guess that was the gang running the neighborhood at the time.

One week later they broke into my house while I was out and ran when I opened the front door. The police said it was likely the same gang as they'd been pulling the same types of carjackings/break-ins in the neighborhood.

That night they broke into my car and stole a xerox machine in the trunk that our production had rented for a music video shoot -- it was worth a lot but production insurance covered it, otherwise I'd have been even more pissed.

I am only glad that I didn't have a gun during the car jacking otherwise I would have shot a couple of 14 year olds at point blank range.

During the LA riots I was living off of Vermont, i.e., the path the rioters took from South Central north. I watched on TV as the strip mall 100 yards away was looted and set on fire. At that point I did want a gun -- it was a very scary time.

All to confirm that I'm no fan of gangs, but yesterday I called Der Guvernator's office and asked that Tookie's life be spared.

It was in a way a selfish act -- if Tookie can keep one child from joining the young thugs running loose in LA he deserves to live.

There's a time for a community to take responsibility for their youth. I'm with Bill Cosby, and Tookie -- it's come time for some portions of the African American community (and by this I mean the dead-beat dads and crack moms, not the loving caring families struggling to raise their kids in a very tough environment) to challenge racism by proving racists wrong.

I know that firsthand as well -- I taught in *ghetto* schools right after college. We weren't allowed to tell kids not to have kids so watched in frustration as a 15 year old came in pregnant for the second time without even learning the basics of surviving economically.

I had to go to my students' homes and I can't tell you how eye-opening it was to see four generations of women, living in third-world type poverty, with one really nice TV tuned to soaps. I always felt like screaming STOP HAVING CHILDREN UNTIL YOU CAN AFFORD THEM! GET AN EDUCATION -- IF YOU GET AN EDUCATION YOU CAN GET OUT OF HERE!

I remember one family, the great-grandmother was about 56,the grandmother, 42, the mother 28 or so, and the child 13 AND PREGNANT. Each of these women had many children. There were no male adults present but hordes of children.

It's an endless vicious cycle, and I do believe that gangsta rap, bling, and the veneration/ degredation of hoochie mamas in the entertainment industry adds to it.

Anyway, that's OT. Hope Tookie lives to do good work for those kids at risk who need him!

Anonymous said...

You've got a lot of Jimmy Breslin in you, even if you do write like Herman Hesse. I think you are one of the outstanding writers on the internet today.

E. Trudeau

Anonymous said...

good work. i hope it works out for Tookie Williams. he's done a lot in the last twenty years in prison. he's done a lot more than most people outside of prison.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous carjacked ...
and you don't feel any responsibility that these gangs exist!!

Anonymous said...

Blogs rule!

Anonymous said...

You really nail Bush with that song. I've just finished listening to the whole 911 album. You'll be getting my order for the CD soon.

Alan Petrie
Portland, ME.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, the Final Call - a bastion of unbiased journalism!

Maybe ask the families of the people he killed in cold blood what they think?

And speaking of victims (warning - VERY graphic pics):

(The links are being truncated. If you care.)

Oh well. Come Wed. we'll have one less murderer to feed...

qrswave said...

"The only difference between Tookie and you and I is that Tookie knows the date."

So true.

I wonder what will pass through Cheney's and Bush's mind when their time comes around.

I hope they experience the terror that they've visited on others with their bombs, their barrels of oil, and their monopoly money.

Anonymous said...

I'm anonymous 5:57 PM

I don't feel one bit of responsibility that these gangs exist. I went to a tough school in Phoenix and then I taught in tough schools in Phoenix, around the time that the Crips and Bloods came to Phoenix.

Believe me, it wasn't pleasant to teach kids around nine who knew the Crips song and brought knives to school.

My parents were dirt poor, but they took us to the library every week and sat with us as we did our homework, despite that they were both bone tired from working so hard.

I went to an Ivy League on a partial scholarship which meant I had to work 20 hours a week while attending one of the hardest universities in the US.

And my parents were immigrants. They taught us responsibility, and every parent needs to be responsible and teach their child that. I have other friends whose immigrant parents didn't even speak English who are now doctors, professors and, lawyers, etc.

So, rather than whine about your lot in life, change it. For the better. There is a tremendous amount of racism in this country but it is an endless cycle because of the culture of victimhood.

African-American males got the vote before women did, so it's time for them to stop making excuses and take responsibility for their own lives.

Christian Prophet said...

The Holy Spirit's message on The Christian Prophet blog today says that as long as Tookie lives on earth he pays the price for his mistakes, but when no longer living on earth he is totally forgiven and free.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see an American with the courage to speak the truth. It is understandable that you have left your country as I am sure you would be in jail by now if you had not.

This is a sad time in your history. It will pass but not without much grief.

Continue your good work. I am a great fan of your clear, precise and inspired writing.

Anonymous said...

Should the Governor's refusal to spare Mr. Williams' life in fact bring an end/beginning to this variously-layered public spectacle this event has become what shall be accomplished save heaping tradegy upon tradegy and irony upon irony upon irony? And in this your article, so titled, serves an apt yellow-brick road spiraling out of the center of munchkinland. - Everthemore apropo if reports of Mr. Williams refusing to choose the method of execution and a "last meal" are true. California has a death penalty. And so "Tookie" Williams will die for crimes for which he was so-sentenced more than two decades ago and spent the better part of challenging in court to no success. Since being in prison, Mr. Williams has done a number of honorable and laudable things. But the death penalty is not intended for one to "rehabilitate". And true redemption can only be granted in the next world. If all those who took up Tookie's cause (and I am not here refering to all the members of the gang he co-founded, rather - all of the politicans, hollywood stars, community and civil rights leaders) would likewise come together and invest such energy and effort into Tookie's jail-house message -- they could accomplish a great deal more than just that one man. And there-in may lie the civil 'redemption', and legacy, of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Still, somehow, I am skeptical....

Anonymous said...

I like my tookie well done. At least tookie will get to see the rest of his friends in hell.
bye bye, tookie

Anonymous said...

"And my parents were immigrants."

Congratulations! Another warm and cozy Horatio Alger story. Did your parents come over in slave ships, in chains, with scars on their backs from whippings and beatings?

Tookie Williams is the product of a corrupt, corporate controlled system, that purposefully promotes racism and divisiveness.

In the Owens trial, Tookie, who cops wanted off of the streets due to his gang involvement, was convicted by the bought and paid for testimony of a plea bargaining Canadian criminal.

A plea bargain is payment by the state for testimony that is used to kill or put someone in prison. In this case it was problem Crip gang leader, Tookie Williams. I don't know about Kookie's other trial, but this is enough for me to say RAW FUCKING DEAL, and I seriously doubt that justice is really being served here!

Plea bargaining, kiss my ass!

Here is an excerpt from an article about the Canadian who pled Tookie onto death row;

"But it's what Mr. Coward says he didn't do during that botched robbery 26 years ago that may ultimately define his place in history. Though he confessed to participating in the crime -- enough to be convicted of capital murder -- Mr. Coward claimed it was an accomplice named Stanley "Tookie" Williams who pulled the trigger that night.
The deal Mr. Coward struck with prosecutors to implicate Mr. Williams in the killing put the Canadian-born criminal -- despite a subsequent string of serious run-ins with the law -- on a remarkably smooth journey through the California justice system and, eventually, on a fateful trip back to his native country."

Here is the web address of the article;

Anonymous said...

In a weird bit of synchronicity I accidently watched a program called Medium the other night.
The story was about a black man who kidnapped and killed a little girl. He was stopped by a policeman while driving with the girl for a broken taillight. He convinced him nothing untoward was going on and he let him go. Later the policeman found out about the kidnapping and therefore knew who the guilty party was. However, because of habeus corpus (I presume) he could not be charged.

Later he was called to an incident of shots being fired and discovered a suicide. Seeing an opportunity to send a guilty man to prison he takes the gun and plants it in the other mans car to make it look like a murder. Black man goes to prison for the crime he didnt commit rather than the one he did.

In the course of her work the psychic star of the show finds video evidence exonerating the man of the crime he was convicted for. She confronts the policeman and has the dilemma of releasing a guilty man if she discloses the evidence. Fortunately she uses her powers to locate the body of the dead girl and he is arrested for the real crime after he is released from prison.

Im with les on this one. I would be very surprised if he actually was guilty of what he was accused of.

Anonymous said...

Look gangs weren't always like this. Back in the 1950's up until the late 1960's on the West Coast and in the 1950's through the 1970's on the East Coast. Back then it was all about defending you turf and those guys in your gang were your brothers your family. Back then gangs mostly used their fists in fights. If some of them used a gun back then it hardly happened. Tookie Williams, Truck Washington, and the Crips ruined the gangs. But it's not to late. If there are any gang members out there reading this listen to me. The gangs changed once they can change again. If you want to see what gangs should be like watch the movies the Warriors, Rumble Fish, and the Outsiders. Read the books the Warriors, Rumble Fish, and the Outsiders. Play the videogame the Warriors. If you do that you will see what gangs should be like. If we gang members try we can get gangs back to the way they should be.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I remember when gangs were like that. Those were the days. What happened though? Gangs have changed a lot since my day.

Anonymous said...

Tell me about it. A lot of the gang members of today are a bunch of pussies. Using guns instead of being a man and using their fists. I'm fucking glad someone remembers the good old days.



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