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CI: A Dirge for Tucker, Torture, and Dirty Work

January 28, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Criminal Injustice Series, Imperialism, International Law, Military Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

A Dirge for Tucker, Torture, and Dirty Work

by Kay Whitlock

We all have our ghosts, the memories of singular people and events in our lives that changed us forever, in ways we still struggle to define with emotional clarity, and so haunt us still.

For the most part, these ghosts exist in the shadows of our lives, half-remembered more or less as we actually experienced them and half-invoked in service of personal storylines about who we wish we really were, who we think we are, who we hope to be – and, conversely, who we do not want to be.

The ghost I have been visited by most recently is a man, long dissolved into dust, probably tortured to death in Vietnam, having been responsible, in part, for the torture and assassination of countless Vietnamese people. His name is Tucker Gougelmann. He is the 78th person to be commemorated with a star on the Wall of Honor at CIA headquarters.

I knew him briefly, by accident or dumb luck, if you can call it that, in the years between 1972 and 1975, before the repatriation of (at least some of) his broken bones. I knew him not well but vividly. His very presence, by definition, was vivid.

It would be easy to hate him, but I don’t; I never have. My responses are much more complicated and have to do with a furious, searing, and ceaseless grief. He never really goes away. What am I supposed to do with him?

Tucker Gougelmann, on the right”

Tucker Gougelmann, on the right”

I suppose he rises again now from the miasma of the past to disturb my heart and spirit for several reasons. The first is the December 2014 release of the report on the CIA’s post-9/11 use of torture from the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.   The second is the relative placement of two recently-released feature films, Selma and American Sniper, in the contest for primacy in the American imagination – the Academy Award nominations be damned.

The third is the powerful and necessary campaign for reparations for survivors of Chicago police torture.  Next are the seemingly endless pre- and post-Ferguson killings of black people by police, security guards, and vigilantes in the United States.

Finally, there is my personal, apparently never-ending, search to explore the question why the most massive forms of violence are so terribly ordinary and routine, and how and why so many of us refuse to recognize or care about it; why we let it go on and on and on. And the subsequent, essential question: how is it possible to transform such lethal indifference and contempt, which produces systemic violence, into structural manifestations of civic goodness and generosity? (That is a question Michael Bronski and I explore in Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics. )

And finally, it has something to do with my personal, apparently never-ending, exploration of why the most massive forms of violence are so terribly ordinary and routine, and how and why so many of us refuse to recognize or care about it. And the subsequent, essential question: how is it possible to transform such lethal indifference into structural manifestations of civic goodness, generosity, and community wholeness?

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John Lennon (10/9/40 – 12/8/80) ☮ ☮ ☮

December 08, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

“He Was a Holy Fool” ~ UK Guardian

 

The Death and Life of John Lennon, by Pete Hamill

New York Magazine, December 20, 1980

“The news arrived like fragment of some forgotten ritual. First a flash on television, interrupting the tail end of a football game. Then the telephones ringing, back and forth across the city, and then another bulletin, with more details, and then more phone calls from around the country, from friends, from kids with stunned voices, and then the dials being flipped from channel to channel while WINS played on the radio. And yes: It was true. Yes: Somebody had murdered John Lennon.

And because it was John Lennon, and because it was a man with a gun, we fell back into the ritual. If you were there for the sixties, the ritual was part of your life. You went through it for John F. Kennedy and for Martin Luther King, for Malcolm X and for Robert Kennedy. The earth shook, and then grief was slowly handled by plunging into newspapers and television shows. We knew there would be days of cliché-ridden expressions of shock from the politicians; tearful shots of mourning crowds; obscene invasions of the privacy of The Widow; calls for gun control; apocalyptic declarations about the sickness of America; and then, finally, the orgy over, everybody would go on with their lives.

Except . . . this time there was a difference. Somebody murdered John Lennon. Not a politician. Not a man whose abstract ideas could send people to wars, or bring them home; not someone who could marshal millions of human beings in the name of justice; not some actor on the stage of history. This time, someone had crawled out of a dark place, lifted a gun, and killed an artist. This was something new. The ritual was the same, the liturgy as stale as ever, but the object of attack was a man who had made art. This time the ruined body belonged to someone who had made us laugh, who had taught young people how to feel, who had helped change and shape an entire generation, from inside out. This time someone had murdered a song. “

black line Capture

Revelations: “Peace Begins in a Single Chair…”

August 03, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Eco-Justice, Education, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

Ode to the chair

Pablo Neruda (from Odes to Common Things)

vineA chair in the jungle:
under the severe lianas
a sacred tree trunk creaks,
tangles of vines press high,
in the shadows
bloody beasts cry out,
majestic leaves descend from the green sky,
the rattles of snakes
quiver like bells.
A bird spanned the sprawling greenness,
like an arrow shot through a flag,
and branches hoisted high their violins.
Insects
pray in stillness,
seated on their wild bouquets.
Feet sink into
the black sargasso
of the watery jungle,
into the rainforest’s tumbled clouds.
I only request one thing
for the stranger,
for the desperate
explorer,
a chair in the tree of chairs,
a throne,
disheveled and plush,
the velvet of a deep easy chair,
eaten away by creepers.
Yes,
a chair, 
loving the universe, 
for the walkabout man, 
the sure 
foundation, 
the supreme 
dignity 
of rest!

Behind thirsty tigers,
bands of bloodthirsty flies,
behind the black expanse
of ghost-ridden leaves,
behind the low waters,
the thicket like iron,
perpetual snakes,
in the middle
of the thunder,
a chair,
a chair 
for me, 
for everyone,
a chair not 
only for the weary body’s 
rescue, 
but also for everything, 
and for everybody, 
to renew lost strength, 
and for meditation. 

War is wide like the light-starved jungle.
Peace 
begins 
in 

single 
chair.

Revelations: Bed Peace ☮ ☮ ☮

July 27, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Education, Immigration, International Law, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Spirituality, What People are Doing to Change the World

BED PEACE ☮ ☮ ☮

Directed by Yoko Ono & John Lennon
Starring John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Bag Productions
Copyright © 1969 Yoko Ono Lennon.

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Revelations: For Peace

July 13, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Education, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Spirituality, What People are Doing to Change the World

Nobel Symphony

Performed by Philip Brunelle and the VocalEssence Chorus with the Minnesota Boychoir and Gustavus Adolphus College Symphony Orchestra. Charles Lazarus, solo trumpet.

Graphics credits: Creative Directors Piotr Szyhalski and Jan Jancourt with students of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design with support from MCAD Design works (c) 2004

(c) 2001 Steve Heitzeg / Stone Circle Music
All rights reserved.

stone circle

Revelations: The Defiance of Flowers

May 25, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Education, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Spirituality

“War kills people and destroys human creation; but as though mocking war’s devastation, flowers inevitably bloom through its ruins.”

~ from “The First Decoration Day” by David W. Blight, 2011.
The People’s History of Memorial Day,
Zinn Education Project.

Revelations: Imagine

December 08, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Education, Intersectionality, Spirituality, What People are Doing to Change the World

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”
         ― John Lennon ( October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980)

The Death and Life of John Lennon, by Pete Hamill

New York Magazine, December 20, 1980

“The news arrived like fragment of some forgotten ritual. First a flash on television, interrupting the tail end of a football game. Then the telephones ringing, back and forth across the city, and then another bulletin, with more details, and then more phone calls from around the country, from friends, from kids with stunned voices, and then the dials being flipped from channel to channel while WINS played on the radio. And yes: It was true. Yes: Somebody had murdered John Lennon.

And because it was John Lennon, and because it was a man with a gun, we fell back into the ritual. If you were there for the sixties, the ritual was part of your life. You went through it for John F. Kennedy and for Martin Luther King, for Malcolm X and for Robert Kennedy. The earth shook, and then grief was slowly handled by plunging into newspapers and television shows. We knew there would be days of cliché-ridden expressions of shock from the politicians; tearful shots of mourning crowds; obscene invasions of the privacy of The Widow; calls for gun control; apocalyptic declarations about the sickness of America; and then, finally, the orgy over, everybody would go on with their lives.

Except . . . this time there was a difference. Somebody murdered John Lennon. Not a politician. Not a man whose abstract ideas could send people to wars, or bring them home; not someone who could marshal millions of human beings in the name of justice; not some actor on the stage of history. This time, someone had crawled out of a dark place, lifted a gun, and killed an artist. This was something new. The ritual was the same, the liturgy as stale as ever, but the object of attack was a man who had made art. This time the ruined body belonged to someone who had made us laugh, who had taught young people how to feel, who had helped change and shape an entire generation, from inside out. This time someone had murdered a song. “

black line Capture

Honesty

November 11, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Gun Culture, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World