Young. Gifted. Black. Gone.

Hadiya Pendleton performed for the president’s inauguration. A week later she was dead.

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was an honor student who according to her father hated and avoided violence.

But violence is relentless in how it methodically seeks out and destroys even those who want no part of it.

A 15-year-old girl who performed at President Obama’s inauguration last week was shot dead Tuesday while hanging out with friends after school in bullet-scarred Chicago.

Hadiya Pendleton — described by family as a “walking angel” — was standing under a canopy in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park when a gunman ran down an alley, opened fire and fled in a white car, police said.

Pendleton was shot in the back but managed to run about a block before she collapsed, officer Laura Kubiak said. She died at the hospital.

 A 16-year-old boy was wounded in the 2:20 p.m. incident. Police said Pendleton, who had no criminal record, was probably not the intended target.

 “Never in a million years did I think I would get a call that my own baby had been gunned down,” Pendleton’s mother, Cleo Cowley, said through tears from her Chicago home.

“As usual, the bad guy aims, but he never hits the other bad guy . . . He hits the one that hurts the most to lose,” the victim’s godfather, Damon Stewart, 36, who is a police officer, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I changed her diapers, I played with her growing up. My heart is broken.”

A sophomore at selective King College Prep High School, Pendleton had traveled to Washington to perform with the band at inaugural events.

“It was the highlight of her young 15-year-old life,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday at a Senate hearing on gun violence.

“Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she’s gone.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney called the shooting a “terrible tragedy” and said the Obamas were praying for Pendleton’s family.

Cousin Shatira Wilks said the inauguration trip was the talk of a family gathering around New Year’s, but the young majorette was even more excited about something else: plans to travel to Europe this spring with the band.

“She was an honor student all her life,” Wilks said. “Honestly, she was a walking angel. She never once gave her mom any problems ever.”

Young. Gifted. Black. Gone.

Young. Gifted. Black. Gone.

The day after Hadiya died, another gun victim, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords went before a Senate committee to ask Congress to actually make a tough call instead of talking a problem to death.

“Speaking is difficult,” Giffords said slowly and haltingly, “But I need to say something important. Violence is a problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something.”

Also speaking was NRA Executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre running his usual rap about how more laws and background checks won’t stop criminals and only impede the rights of law-abiding citizens. It’s subject to debate whether LaPierre was there to testify or check on how the NRA’s money is being spent. Eight of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have received campaign contributions from the NRA including all eight Republicans and Democratic chairman Patrick Leahy.

There is no reason to believe “something” will be done by anyone on Capitol Hill.  Stand up to the gun lobby?  Question the priorities of the NRA?  Not from a  Congress populated by dopes like Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) who doesn’t believe the proliferation of guns is any sort of big deal.

“I’m going to wait and see on all of these bills,” Alexander said. “I think video games is a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people. But the First Amendment limits what we can do about video games, and the Second Amendment to the Constitution limits what we can do about guns.”  Alexander, who is up for reelection in 2014 owns a 92 percent lifetime rating from the NRA.

Politicians that aren’t moved to action by White children killed in an elementary school,  aren’t about to do anything for Black children killed on the streets of Chicago.

The day Hadiya died she was one of three to be gunned down in broad daylight in the Windy City.

In 2012, while crime fell in most major cities, over 500 people were murdered in Chicago.

Thus far in 2013, over 42 people have been killed, the most violent January since 2002. Seven people were slain on one bloody Saturday.   Chicago is so segregated if you avoid the battle zones and stay in the nice neighborhoods and the tourist areas, you probably wouldn’t even notice they’re pulling bodies off the pavement two or three at a time.   If this isn’t war in the streets, it sure is claiming a body count like one.

It’s one thing to live in a war zone in Syria or Afghanistan. It’s another to live and die in a war zone in a major American city.   “This guy, whoever he was, the gunman…you took the life of my life, Nathaniel Pendleton said of his daughter, ” Just look at yourself and just know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a non-violent person.”

As young Black people are murdered by other young Black people, I wonder if there might be more of an outpouring of outrage if there were thousands of racist Klansmen behind the mass spilling of blood across the  streets of America.

But I recall there is no law, no agency, no Constitutional right that can make someone respect human life. Self-hatred leads to self-destruction.   I could paper the walls of my house with all the editorials, essays and columns I’ve written about young people like Hadiya.   Apparently, I was writing those words for the wrong audience.

A petition has been created on the White House website requesting the president attend Hadiya’s funeral.   He really should.  She was there to commemorate his second term.    Obama should be there to commemorate her premature demise.   It’s not the most, but it’s certainly the least he can do.

I never knew you Hadiya, but I cried for you little sister.   I’m crying for you now.  Tears of pain.  Tears of anger.   Tears of bitterness.  Tears of rage.

“You know, it’s not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.”

~ James Baldwin

Look familiar?  It should.

Look familiar? It should.

Sarah Palin: Graceless Under Pressure

Sarah Palin finally made a public statement over the Arizona shootings and the criticism directed at her over her part in creating an atmosphere of incivility and outright hostility in the American political discourse.

It wasn’t her finest moment. She included an obscure anti-Semitic referral to “blood libel” in her meandering, nearly eight minutes in length video.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

Poor Palin. Even when she tries to get right, she’s STILL wrong. She focused more on defending herself than conveying true sympathy for Rep. Giffords and the other victims. Graceless under pressure.

Writing in the Huffington Post Rabbi Brent Hirschfield explained the meaning behind a “blood libel” and why Jews took offense to Palin’s usage of the phrase.  First let’s be clear about what a blood libel is. In the briefest terms, it is the charge that Jews use the blood of non-Jews, typically that of children, for ritual purposes, especially the making of Passover matzah.

The charge, which originated among medieval Catholics, has also been used by Protestants and more recently by Muslims too, to provoke rage at Jews — rage which on many occasions resulted in violence against Jews, and even their murders. That’s what makes Palin’s use of the term so interesting — for the analogy to work, she must be the Jew!

Palin channeled the Great Communicator when she said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker.”

That’s groovy and hip and a sentiment I think most would agree with. Where she gets in trouble with me is in the following line: ” It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

Where is Palin’s taking responsibility for the gun sights trained on the districts of Democratic representatives including that of Gabrielle Giffords? Where was Palin’s concession that perhaps “Don’t Retreat–instead RELOAD” might not have been the best way to get her point across?

There was none of that. Just her usual lashing out against her enemies in the press.  When she should rise above the fray once again she gets dragged down by her inability to never overlook a slight. How sadly predictable. How typically Palinesque.

Palin uses loaded words and images and then tries to act surprised when they go off. No, she didn’t pull the trigger in Arizona and I wasn’t expecting her to issue any half-assed apologies, but she could have expressed a little less of the “why is everybody picking on ME?” whining and a lot more of the “let’s set aside our differences and come together as Americans to help the victims and start the healing.”

She could have done that, but she decided to stick to her guns. As usual, it’s all about Sarah. Graceless under pressure.

Somewhere in those eight minutes she and her speechwriters should have referenced an even greater communicator than Reagan and that’s Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

This was a missed opportunity by the ex-governor. She could have used this moment to grow in stature and look as though she had it within her to lead a nation instead of a conservative movement. She chose instead to toss aside the opportunity for statesmanship and lashed out bitterly while throwing red meat to the her base.

In the always churning and swirling political waves, prominent figures both ride the wave and are swept under. But Palin’s arrogance, sense of entitlement and narcissism was on full display in her video message. She wants to be president and she’s shown she can be plenty tough and unyielding in her principles. What she has always shown in her reflexive swagger is a complete lack of humility.

Barack Obama has a swagger. George W. Bush had a swagger and a smirk to go along with it. You have to if you’re going to take the incoming flak from your opponents, but it seems playing defense and issuing smackdowns is all Sarah Palin is about.

These are not qualities I want from someone who would be making critical decisions that weigh on all Americans.

Palin fires back at her detractors

Hold Your Fire

The dead aren’t even buried yet and already blame is being assigned and the ass-covering has begun.

What a surprise. Only it’s not.

In this 24-hr news cycle where getting it fast often means getting it wrong (Rep. Giffords was shot dead. Oh, wait! She’s still alive! Nevermind) the sound and the fury and the visuals mean more than the facts.

There is no evidence Jared Loughner was a conservative, a right-winger, a Tea Partier, a Palinista or anything other than a twisted little fuck playing out the role of a movie in his own diseased head. None. No FBI and no police reports that he had squirreled away in his home a wank-stained copy of Going Rogue under his bed and the SarahPac “crosshairs” poster of Democrats targeted for defeat last November.

Anyone that knows me knows I’ve got about as much use for Palin as a used Kleenex. But do I really want her political Waterloo to be brought about because one evil bastard with a headful of bad wiring might have misinterpreted a stupidly intemperate remark to, “Don’t Retreat–Instead RELOAD” as a command to shoot a nine-year-old girl in the chest?

I hope Palin has a lot of sleepless nights in her future wondering if there’s any cause-and-effect at work here, but it takes a special kind of hatred to hope there’s a link between her and Loughner.

Soon enough the facts about Loughner will come out in revolting detail. The motivations that are blurry now will come into sharp focus. We will know more about him than we ever wanted or needed to.

Not that there’s any need to wait for that stuff as we choose up sides and trip over each other rushing to be first to say “I told you so.” Why be right when you can be self-righteous?

For anyone hoping for a mea culpa from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter to cool it with the “violent metaphors” you can hope in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first.

It ain’t gonna happen, so why look for an apology they are never going to give and you wouldn’t accept?

For anyone expecting an admission from Nancy Pelosi, Keith Olbermman, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow or Michael Moore that they too have poisoned the well of civility, comity and common decency as much as any right-winger they rail against, you’re waiting for a letter that was never written and even if it had been they lost your address.

No apologies will be forthcoming from any of the usual suspects because they don’t think they owe you one.

Do the people we can’t stand know they are the villains of our private mortality plays? Do they know there’s not enough white hats to go around and they’re gonna have to wear a black one?

Why it’s so important they acknowledge we are right and they are wrong? Who’s keeping score? Who’s ahead on points and what do we have for the winners, Johnny?

Why does it matter so goddamn much? Will knowing who’s to bless and who’s to blame give Judge John Roll, Christina Green, Gabe Zimmerman, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, and Dorothy Morris one more breath?

One side believes they are on the side of the angels and the other side knows they are.

The only side that matters is the one that cares about neither.

That’s Jared Lee Loughner’s side and he’s the biggest man in America today. And we made him that way. We focus on what keeps us fighting and squabbling among ourselves. We give away our power to him and the weaker we make ourselves the stronger we make the insane little monsters like him.

Sooner rather than later, we will repeat this all over again. Someone will get shot. Experts will pontificate. The wise will speak and write words that will be heard and read, but probably go largely unheeded.

Then we can dance this dance all over again. New steps. Same old music.

This is Jared Lee Loughner.

And he’s laughing at you.

Bullets, Blood and Poisoned Politics

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords: victim

This is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic representative from Arizona whom last week began her third term in the House.   She  narrowly won reelection in November.   She was considered an up-and-comer in Democratic politics who might be a future challenger for Republican Senator Jon Kyl or Governor Jan Brewer in 2014.

Christina Greene: victim

This is Carolyn Taylor Greene.   She was nine-years-old and she attended a town hall meeting Rep. Giffords was holding at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. Carolyn was born on September 11, 2001 and was included in Faces of Hope, a photo album of 50 babies that were born on that otherwise grim day.

Carolyn was on the student government of her elementary school and was said to be “excited about the political process.”

Jared Loughner: murder suspect

This is Jared Loughner.  Jared is a 22-year-old resident of Tucson who said in You Tube video, “I can’t trust the current government” and in November he legally purchased a Glock from a Sportsman’s Warehouse.  In another video he says, “You could call me a terrorist.” 

A killer's weapon of choice

This is a 9mm Glock.  It is a semi-automatic pistol  This is the type of gun Loughner used to shoot Rep. Giffords in the head and kill six others including Carolyn Greene and John M. Roll,  the chief U.S. District judge in Arizona who happened to be visiting Giffords at the time.  Loughner shot Giffords at close range and then opened fire on the small crowd that had gathered at the supermarket. 

The Washington Post reported Loughner’s Glock 19 found with a fully loaded magazine that held about 30 bullets.  He had another magazine holding another 30 bullets and two more that held about 15 bullets. Loughner was also carrying a knife.

Catie Parker, a woman in Arizona said on her Twitter feed she attended high school and college with Loughner and was in a band with him.  Parker described his politics as “left-wing, quite liberal and obsessed with the 2012 prophecy.”  She added that Loughner had met Giffords before and described Giffords as “stupid and unintelligent.”

Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik said they were seeking a second man as a “person of interest.”  He is not viewed as a suspect in the actual shooting.  Dupnik said in a news conference, “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital.  We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

President Obama denounced the shooting and urged prayers for Giffords and the other victims.  The president sent FBI Director Robert Mueller to Tucson to personally direct the federal end of the investigation since a member of Congress and a federal judge were involved in the shooting.

SarahPAC's hit list of Democrats in the crosshairs included Giffords

This is a map from Sarah Palin’s SarahPAC website that used an illustration of ten Democratic representatives in the crosshairs to be defeated for their support of health care reform.  Giffords was one of only two Democrats to keep their seats after the Republican victories in November. 

Palin urged her supporters to “take a stand” and as part of that stand to “Don’t Retreat, Instead—RELOAD.”

In an MSNBC interview Giffords spoke about her inclusion on the list and said, “Sarah Palin  has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district and when people do that they’ve gotta realize there are consequences to that action.” 

The image has been removed from the website. 

On Facebook after the shooting, Palin posted, “My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona.  On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims, and for peace and justice.”

I’m going to take a deep breath, exhale, and pray for the dead, the wounded, and the soul of this country which can be a very sick place at times.  There will be plenty of time to decide where blame should be placed besides Loughner himself.  However, if anywhere in his home or on his computer there is anything that has political implications that politician, party or potential presidential candidate will never be taken seriously again.

If reports of Loughner’s political leanings are true he would seem to be an unlikely supporter of Palin’s conservative beliefs.   It’s best at times like this not to presume too much.    The best thing about the Internet is its immediacy.   The worst thing about the Internet is how it enables people to speculate wildly without possessing all or even most of the facts. 

I’m kind of hoping Sarah Palin had nothing do to with what triggered Jared Laughner’s rampage.  I’m also kind of hoping she sleeps very poorly tonight wondering that same thing herself.