Archive for July 22nd, 2010


We hear there is a substance and it is called plutonium. We hear that “they” are somewhere (do you remember the name of the state?) manufacturing it. We don’t know how it is made. We think the substance uranium is used. We know it is radioactive. We have seen the photographs of babies and children deformed from radiation. The substance plutonium becomes interesting to us when we read that certain parts of the building where it is manufactured have leaks. We don’t know really what this means, if it is like the leak in our roofs, or the water pipe in the backyard, or if it is a simple word for a process beyond our comprehension. But we know the word “leak” indicates error and we know that there is no room for error in the handling of this substance. That it has been called the most deadly substance known. That the smallest particle (can one see a particle, smell it?) can cause cancer if breathed in, if ingested. All that we know in the business of living eludes us in this instant. None of our language helps us. Not knowing how to drive, to cook on a gas stove, to soap the diaper pins so that they pass more easily through the diaper, to wash cotton in cold water so that it doesn’t shrink, to repair the water pipes, or dress a wound. No skill helps us. Nor does quickness of mind, nor physical strength. We are like an animal smaller and more vulnerable than any nature has ever created. We have no defense. We try not to remember whatever we may know of plutonium.

—Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature


New Year’s Day

As someone who has been on the inside of jury trials and numerous other criminal proceedings over the past decade, I know that it is most often folly to attempt to pass judgement on a case that one has not been a part of it. But I am going to go ahead and pitch in my two cents on the Johannes Mehserle trial anyway.

Mehserle was convicted July 8 of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Oscar Grant. Mehserle, a transit officer for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), pulled out his firearm and shot Grant once in the back, as Grant lay prone on the ground, mostly under the control of a fellow officer. Mehserle’s defense was that he had meant to fire his taser at Grant, not his .40 caliber handgun.

Grant was one of several celebrants pulled from a BART train at Oakland’s Fruitvale Station on suspicion of fighting and generally acting Wrongly in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. According to witness statements and cell-phone videos, prior to being shot and killed by Mehserle, Grant was assaulted by BART officer Tony Pirone and possibly another officer: punched in the face several times, thrown against a wall, kneed in the face, and condemned as a “bitch-ass nigger.”

After Mehserle fired the shot that killed him, Grant said, “You shot me! I got a four-year-old daughter.” He died seven hours later.


When I Worked

July 2010
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