[Originally posted on Fabrangen e-list, in response to a post, “Certain Unalienable Rights,” by R. Arthur Waskow encouraging “open discussion of what we would today write into such a visionary Declaration of peace, justice, and ecological responsibility, and — perhaps especially poignant in many countries this year what actions we might take to carry out such a Declaration.”]
In considering justice issues of importance in DC (and elsewhere) this year and thinking ahead to the contemplation of sin, I recommend the newly published fable by Walter Mosley, The Tempest Tales, which I just finished reading this a.m. [early July 2008]
In it, Tempest Landry is “accidentally” shot by police who mistake his reaching in his pocket to adjust his music-player as the threat of an armed robbery suspect. When Landry dies and reaches the “pearly gates,” he refuses to accept the heavenly judgment of his life which launches an investigation into the meaning of sin, mortality, good, and evil.
In a succinct expression of a theme that runs through many of Mosley’s books, Landry explains (post-death) what happened to him:
“…Them shootin’ me wasn’t no accident. You don’t take no scared white boys can’t tell the difference between one black man and another, give ’em guns, and let ’em run around the streets of Harlem and then say it was an accident when they one day shoot down an innocent man….I don’t think them cops killed me did it outta spite but it sure wasn’t no accident neither. The accident was me bein’ a black man in the open.”
Mosley dedicates the book to Langston Hughes, and it is too sad to realize how little has changed in some ways from Hughes’ reality to Mosley’s. I think it is important to note that we have situations here, today, where actions by an individual or small group of one description — African American teen with dreads, bearded arab man, etc. — can make an entire group of people suspect in the eyes of police and neighbors, putting them at great risk. This is a major justice issue that needs more — or better? — attention than it gets, IMO.
Tempest Tales. NY: Washington Square Press, 2008.
Newer ebook, Further Tales of Tempest Landry from Knopf.