Language and Crime
Brandon Goldsmith's Viewpoint ("Language as Crime Scene," May 19th issue) concerned itself with Jim Adkisson and his murder of two people and the wounding of seven others in a Knoxville Unitarian Church in July 2008. Goldsmith's focus was on the effect of incendiary political rhetoric on susceptible individuals like Adkisson (mostly male, white, and middle-aged) who are furious that we can't return to the 19th century when concepts like diversity, equal rights, and tolerance for beliefs different from theirs were unknown.
Almost a year later, in 2009, I had a conversation with Adkisson at the Northwest Correctional Center in Tiptonville. He had just arrived at that penitentiary, where I assume he still resides. I found him to be articulate, confident, and frightening.
He was frightening because there was absolutely nothing in the man's demeanor or appearance that would signal that he was capable of the horrific act for which he was convicted. He portrayed himself as a mechanical engineer who had a special interest in motorcycles and, of course, all kinds of guns. He didn't find it at all contradictory that he was also a member of the Aryan Nations, a white supremacy group that flourishes in the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
I find it ironic that the Flyer published this piece the same week that CBS' 60 Minutes featured a segment on the Sovereign Citizens Movement. The two men who killed the police officers in West Memphis a year ago were members of this movement, as are, according to CBS, approximately 300,000 Americans. I think if Adkisson were still a free man, he would be a member, probably an influential one.
These people are angry, irrational, frustrated, and plain fed up with having to share this country with folks who don't believe in rule by violence. They might live on your street. Depending on where you attend church, they might be a member of your congregation.
I'm forced to wonder how many of these people are also politically active, belonging to the one organization that increasingly seems to reflect their beliefs: the Tea Party Brotherhood. Keep a watchful eye.
In President Barack Obama' s commencement address (Politics, May 19th issue), he delivered a clear message to Booker T. Washington graduates: You will compete with students in Beijing in the future.
The president reminded everyone about the progress of developing countries and their hard-working students. A large number of international students attend the University of Memphis, Rhodes College, and other local schools. They are almost always the hardest-working students on campus. They are not only competitive with American students. They will soon help their home countries become great developing powers in science, technology, and education.
What should Booker T. Washington (and all) graduates do? The president's answer was clear: Keep pushing yourself! Pushing yourself will help you become a success. It also will help the United States stay on the top of the world. That is a great message to the next generation of Americans: Keep pushing yourself.
God Hates the South?
About those religious nuts who demonstrate at funerals of soldiers, saying that God hates and punishes America because of gays: I'm wondering if they think (I could just put a period right there) the Great Flood of 2011 is God punishing the Bible Belt for prejudice and bigotry. Just asking ...
End of the World
Family Radio president Harold Camping predicted that the end of the world would begin on May 21st at precisely 6 p.m. in each time zone. He wrote:
"A great earthquake will occur. The Bible describes it as 'such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.' This earthquake will be so powerful it will throw open all graves. The remains of all the believers who have ever lived will be instantly transformed into glorified spiritual bodies to be forever with God."
When I woke up Sunday morning, not knowing if I was alive or dead, I wandered outside. "Oh no," I cried, "I'm in hell!" I'd always thought that I was generally a good person, so where did I go wrong? Then, I realized, with some relief, I was alive, just in Memphis. Enough said.
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Which leads me to put on my Dr. Phil face and say what has to be said: It's time for Memphis and Shelby County to start seeing other people. We've tried for years to patch things up, to come to some sort of mutual understanding, but we need to admit that we have irreconcilable differences. We don't even know each other any more ...