Let's just get that said right at the start.
As some of you know, one of the things I wrote that bore my name got me excused early from a temporary job that had all the trappings and promises of a possibly excellent career. It was that very regrettable incident that might have led me to silence myself forever, for fear of it, or something worse, ever happening again. Ironically, it was that very event that started my blog.
I'm proud of most of the things I've written on this blog, except for maybe one or two things I've said about Meredith Vieira that probably border on slander, if you're a real stickler for that sort of thing. Though I can't say for sure, because I haven't written it yet, I'm pretty sure I won't be prouder of another post than this one.
Why? Because, today, I'm raging against the machine. And that always feels good.
You've probably heard of the band "Rage Against the Machine," right? Morello, etcetera... They're part of a large contingent of folks who support a new trial or the outright release of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Just like Ed Asner, Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and a lot of other famous people who, apparently, are very bored and have already given as much time and money as they can to Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Barack Obama, and Angelina Jolie's Give-Me-More-Children Foundation.
It's kind of funny, actually, that a band calling itself "Rage Against the Machine" is a notable member of what is arguably the most organized, well-coordinated, web-savvy social movement engaged in attempting to gain freedom for a killer in the 20th, 21st, or any century. "Rage Against the Machine," and the thousands and thousands of Mumia supporters all over the globe are, effectively, "The Machine."
They've got the power, they've got the money, they've got the sexy message, the alluring cause, the first-rate legal assistance, the constant web and media exposure. And they've got you Googled. Google "Justice for Mumia" and you get 396,000 hits. Google "Justice for Daniel Faulkner," Mumia's victim, and you get less than half that many.
It sure sounds like the Free Mumia Movement is The Machine to me.
In case you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, let me take you back in time-- 28 years to the day, in fact. It's December 9th, 1981. 3:50am Picture yourself standing in the freezing cold of a Philadelphia night at the intersection of 13th and Locust Streets. It's a pretty seedy block in a seedier time-- it's not the bustling, jovial gayberhood of today. A scuffed up, dented, blue Volkswagen Beetle is traveling the wrong way down the street. It does so a couple times. Officer Daniel Faulkner, with five years on the force at the age of twenty-five, observes this behavior and activates his patrol car's emergency lights, pulling the car over.
He keys his radio and reports the location of the traffic stop: 1234 Locust Street. Moments later, it appears that he is going to effect an arrest, as he calls for back-up, and then changes his mind and requests an EPW (emergency patrol wagon) to come to the scene.
He'll be dead in a minute.
Faulkner moves in to arrest the driver of the Beetle for an unknown reason. As Faulkner is searching the driver, he swings around and punches Officer Faulkner in the face. A scuffle ensues. From a parking lot across the street, a cab-driver named Mumia Abu-Jamal witnesses the fracas and runs over, pulls out a revolver and shoots Daniel Faulkner in the back. Faulkner spins around and shoots his assailant once in the chest. As he lies there on the pavement, looking up, Mumia Abu-Jamal straddles Faulkner and fires a high-velocity bullet into his brain, killing him instantly. Jamal takes a few steps before he collapses, wounded and losing blood, on the pavement as the sirens of an approaching police unit are heard. The first responding officers found their dead comrade, Jamal's brother standing there with his hands up shouting, "I ain't got nothin' to do with it!" and Mumia, bleeding, his gun next to him.
Jamal was immediately arrested, treated at Jefferson University Hospital, and tried for murder at a trial he routinely and obscenely disrupted-- threatening the judge and berating his defense attorney. He was convicted by a racially-mixed jury and was unanimously sentenced to death. That was back in 1982. Since then, the Free Mumia Movement has grown like an aggressive cancer, and it has been just as devastating to Officer Faulkner's widow, his police colleagues, his friends and his family. His conviction has been upheld time and time and time and time again.
It seems, unfortunately, that there just aren't enough people out there raging against this particularly insidious, misguided, ill-informed, often abusive and threatening machine.
28 years later, the Mumia Machine is operating as smoothly and efficiently as ever, organizing parades and protests and misinformation campaigns, conducting benefits and raising money. Jamal speaks and writes from beyond prison walls, though the one thing he steadfastly refuses to speak about at any length and detail are the events of December 9, 1981, and I suppose that is with good reason-- it seems like he has finally decided to start listening to his lawyer.
They call him "The Voice of the Voiceless" which I find kind of ironic, seeing as Mumia supporters don't really seem terribly voiceless to me-- their shouts ring in my ears constantly. Daniel Faulkner is really the one whose voice was silenced, 28 years ago, by a bullet to his brain. If Mumia is the supposed voice of the voiceless, who is being Daniel Faulkner's voice? Sure, he has friends and allies, and they may be strong in numbers, but their voices do not always get the attention they deserve, perhaps because there are precious few celebrities who can claim Justice For Daniel Faulkner on their roster of favored charities. And that's a shame, but I guess supporting an incarcerated African-American "political prisoner" is a lot sexier and does more to boost your star power in Hollwyood than backing a dead 25-year-old policeman and his now middle-aged widow.
I suppose you may be asking yourself right about now, "Well, okay, but, what does he want from ME?" I don't know, really. Maybe I just wanted to let off a little steam. Maybe I just wanted to recognize what went down on that Philadelphia street corner twenty-eight years ago. Maybe I just wanted to rage a very little against a very large machine. Maybe I just want to be David to its Goliath. Or maybe I want to influence you-- to make you care about something I care about, to see it from another perspective. I hope you don't think I'm shoving it down your throat. I don't want to do that to you-- I'm very fond of you after all-- and you have such a nice throat.
Just take a moment today. Send up a quick prayer for Daniel Faulkner, if you do that sort of thing. If you don't, noodle around online and take ten minutes out of your day and educate yourself a little more about this case. Maybe write something. Tell your friends. Join a Facebook group. Learn about it. Talk about it.