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Savannah Injustice Again
Published on May 11, 2004 By 6969jimbo6969 In Current Events

“RACISMUS RIDICULOSITY”: Putrid Paradigms and Random Murder

The ruination we bring on ourselves, by our current unwillingness to be honest and responsible, grows daily more abominable. And, God knows, we all contribute to this tendency. I know I do. None of us is capable of even recognizing perfection, let alone acting perfectly or being perfect. The abomination that results from our dishonesty and irresponsibility affects all humankind, and quite possibly it threatens the viability of complex life on the planet, at least the web of life as we know it. Many observers, perhaps almost everybody, see the current moment as full of difficulty, and possibly of horrible crisis, at least in terms of developments immediately pending.

For understandable reasons, many of us focus---pretty much exclusively---on missions of personal improvement and perfection. After all, for whom can we hope to promote responsible behaviour and consciousness if we cannont do it, on a case by case basis, for ourselves? To argue against such a focus would be absurd and hypocritical at best. On the other hand, to contend that such an orientation---personal improvement only---will provide a satisfactory basis for social transformation is also crazy, at best a laughable foolishness that likely has elements in it of hyper-privileged judgement, ethno-centrism, the endless cycle of victimization and revenge about which I’ve been writing for lo these many decades. Put another way, my point is that personal improvement MUST include creation of social networks that embody the Golden Rule and other primary values that guide us individually.

Several critical inquiries arise from this chain of reasoning. ‘How’ questions---as in “How in hell do we do anything practical with this insight, IF that is what it is?”---’what’ questions---for example, “What in the world should we do first to achieve more responsible and honest ways of acting and thinking?”---probably predominate the responses to what I argue above. Also, of course, “What in the hell is he talking about?” is probably the inclination of some readers. As my ‘country’ friends frequently ask, “Do WHAT?” Ultimately, the material I communicate will apply and respond to to all such queries.

For today, however, the ideas I offer are in answer to an interrogatory like, “so what?” or “why should I care?” The stories I produce have anecdotes---combinations of recollection, observation, conversation, and action---at their core. Not that I abhor or otherwise am unable to handle larger collections of facts, on the contrary, as an expert at several strategy games, as a researcher, and as a performer who has always worked without a net, so to say, I have had to understand and see something of the core of varied big batches of statistics and other informational packages.

The main reasons I select anecdotal content concern my own love of story, the interplay of flesh and family and history and fate in a particular conjunction of momentary meaning and event. Also, though, our evolution is dependant on story. Thus, both story selection, and the “SPIN” we or others put on our narrative choices, are of key import in how we imagine transormation to be possible.

I write, to some extent, to counter the surreal viciousness that predominates in most mediated stories. Neither the news nor the nonsense that emerges from any of our media is primarily statistical and analytical on the surface. Underneath, though, I contend that the vast conformity which shows up---from the vomitous of “reality TV” to the self-censoring of “embedded reporters” to nearly every substantial product of the ‘entertainment’ industry---demonstrates both paradigmatic and practical analysis of data, analysis furthermore that has as its explicit function the furthering of the wealth of family and corporate networks that already own, practically speaking, everything on earth.

MY stories, hypothetically, by the authenticity and honesty of the relationships and ideation that they present, let people see both why they should care and how they should act to counteract the partial and meanspirited assessments of contemporary culture. The overwhelming impact of mass media today is to cause blaming, hopelessness, and righteousness. Any concern that a story elicits thus results in accusation, despondency, and self-justification.

These feeling states are, essentially, useless, except for keeping things the way they are and fulfilling prophecies of terror and doom that the tales blame on the characters who are merely among the cast of victims we collectively produce in numbers almost incalculably voluminous. Inasmuch as terror and disaster are happening, the carnage and tragedy stems not from the subjects the stories depict, but from two sources the tales leave out of the picture.

First of all, actors behind the scenes of the stories, the same actors who pay for the production and distribution of the stories in the form they take, in the first place, play a huge role in determining how the world works today, one story at a time. The other primary ingredient of the status quo is our group gheist, which adds up to a willingness to be willfully ignorant and rely on the actions of hypocritical ‘leaders’ and false prophets to make everything better. Potent tales of real people, with the underlying interconnections exposed and made real, may help demonstrate some of our irresponsibility in a fashion that encourages the opposite.

The example I am presenting today---in order to revivify compassion, relationship, and democratic action for social transformation---confronts multiple massive manifestations of social disintegration and personal problems. One of these is the so-called “deadbeat dad” whom many thinkers now acccuse of singlehandedly causing the most-pressing concerns of American families. Another is our propensity to use and sell drugs, AN INEVITABLE AND UTTERLY INTRINSIC TENDENCY, which catches most of the blame for violence and dysfunction, especially in urban settings and wherever else poverty prevails. The final one of these is the mental illness that seems to bloom everywhere we look, instead of any semblance of emotional health, let alone personal empowerment and social healing.

The Chatham County jail is the setting for this horrifying imbroglio, which culminated recently in the bloody murder of one actor and the potential for permanent incapacitation of another, both of whom are our cousins---and neither of whom is culpable in any way in which we are not all blameworthy, again and again, in the normal course of our lives. None of us do as we say we will without fail, we all occasionally take advantage, we all relate to ourselves and others in a pathological manner. Call it original sin, or something else---we’re all human.

The final performer in this story, a man so damaged that conceiving of him as ‘a monster’ is easy, presents us with an easy out, a chance to look away and say, “that doesn’t apply to me, for Christ’s sake!” I ask the reader to look deeper, to reach deeper for both empathy and duty, for the sake of survival. Otherwise, this drama of death without redemption could soon apply to a brother, a father, to any reader capable of simple transgression or momentary incapacity.

Joseph Williams is the ‘monster’s’ name. His mother, a supremely damaged woman herself, came to pieces when Joseph was a toddler. Over the course of the next eight years, the litany of loathesome abuse that occurred to the young man reads like a recipe for developing a remorseless killer.

His stepmother merely discriminated against and neglected him, and she encouraged and occasionally insisted on the more draconian corporal outrages perpetrated by Joseph’s angry father, who believed fundamentally in the salutary effects of beatings. Many times a week, from age four or five, the young boy endured savage fury from his father’s belt. More times than any of his siblings could recall, as well, Joseph received the “hung-to-dry” treatment, which his dad, for some reason, felt much more inclined to apply to his youngest child than to any of his others.

This torture started with being stripped to his underpants and suspended from an outdoor clothesline. Depending on the severity of Joseph’s ‘crime,’ his dad then used the belt or switches and sticks to whip and flay the youngster. Predictably, by surviving this treatment, the young man became ferociously tough, developed a hair-trigger temper, and came to see violence as the first choice to deal with any situation of conflict.

Joseph spent all but a couple years of his life, after age eleven, in institutional settings that have proven perfect for honing and refining viciousness, cruelty, and violent expressions of misanthropy. In 1999, he murdered two women in his neighborhood whom he believed were disprespectful toward him and conspiring to return him to jail by telling of his probation violations. His conviction for this crime, in spite of all the violence and vengeful anger so obviously embedded in his person, never happened due to backlogs on all criminal dockets in South Georgia. Thus, Williams was not serving a sentence at a maximum security facility; he waited for ‘justice’ at the Chatham County Jail.

The County Lock-up was the venue in part because of prison overcrowding, of course, Georgia’s fifty thousand men behind bars the leading proportion of prisoners in the nation. The main issue, however, was the long waiting list to come to trial for crimes alleged against anyone not a VIP or otherwise able to move to the head of the line. To compound this situation’s stupidity, Williams ended up being the third person in a two person cell. In this environment, of overcrowded and overheated rapacity, as a couple of groups of inmates with Williams at their center plotted an escape, the twenty seven year old man came to believe that one of his cellmates had discovered the plots and was planning to tell the guards.

He struck quickly against the man, Michael Kelly Deal, strangling him and then hanging him from the neck to make the murder appear self-inflicted. Suddenly a place opened up at Reidsville, one of Georgia’s maximum security jails. Williams murdered a fellow inmate there in 2003. All of my cousins who inherit their moral fiber from Pontius Pilate will celebrate the jury decision last month to inflict the death penalty on Williams.

Certainly, no question exists as to Williams’ culpability in all these killings. If ever there were a poster-boy contest for capital punishment, Joseph Williams would have to be a prime contender. This stance is only persuasive, though, when the proponent of legalized murder is willing to suspend any sense of collective responsibility or basic compassion. Since these notions are at the heart of my work, the plan to make Joseph Williams disappear seems at best disingenuous and irresponsible.

Neither Michael Deal’s ashes, nor his memory, will benefit from Williams’ execution. Deal could have been any divorced man in America without the family or personal fortune to guarantee support for his children. A former police officer, Deal apparently had a bit of a problem with drink and bureacracy. In any case, he didn’t find a steady job after losing his position as traffic cop, working occasionally for PI firms as a security detail, on a contract basis, and intermittently picking up shifts as a rent-a-cop security guard.

Fate blessed Deal with many children, stretching in age from adults to infants, and after losing his regular job and divorcing his wife, he had a hefty child support tab every month, that, in the normal course of things---no regular work except as a sub-living-wage security guard---he did not maintain. The arrears eventually led his ex-wife to consider a ‘wake-up-call,’ the application of Georgia’s “dead-beat-dad” statute to her ex-husband.

A couple of warnings later, after promises to pay did not materialize with adequate celerity, she invoked the law, and Deal found himself in Chatham County Jail in a cell he shared with Leon McKinney, an ebullient young Black man who, but for color, might have been Deal’s son, or even grandson. This tiny cave became an improbable home for these two men, from such disparate backgrounds, who were trying to sort out their lives and figure out how to live in the USA of this modern day.

Sixty days into the old Irishman’s ninety day sentence, routine cell shuffling sent Williams into the twelve-by-twelve, two-man room, with one bunk bed. McKinnedy and Deal began taking turns sleeping on the fetid cot provided as bedding for the shoe-horned third inmate. Each person in this setting received forty eight square feet of space, an open toilet part of the picture.

Williams, predictably, hated cops and didn’t feel any particular disposition of affection for White people. He also, purportedly, was part of two schemes to chisel out of Chatham County’s brig using improvised tools such as silverware stolen from the cafeteria. Inevitably, Deal heard of these plots, and Williams suspected he would squeal about them.

The killing occurred in front of half a dozen people, Williams only slowly overpowering the burly Mick and subduing him with a chokehold. When Deal had no fight left in him, his face already purple from lack of oxygen, Williams put his boot on Deal’s neck and finished the process of asphyxiation. He then hauled the dead man to the shower and hung him from a spigot with a sheet, where guards soon discovered him and ruled the death a suicide.

One of Williams’ co-conspirators, in spite of threats against all witnesses of an equally gruesome end if anyone talked, alerted his jailers to the ruse. “Deal kept coming to me in my dreams,” the confessor said. Williams quickly admitted his crime and accused each of the witnesses of taking part in the act.

The only alleged accesory who now faces charges, however, is Leon McKinney, whose story continues the compounding of this tragedy in which EVERY FUCKING ONE OF US SHARES CULPABILITY, by our failure to fundamentally reform the penal system that operates in our name and with our taxes. McKinney has plenty of pecadillos. The human condition nearly always necessitates that. He likes to smoke pot a lot, for one thing. And he’s more easily distracted than is good for him.

Thus, in spite of five years of college and 90th percentile scores on standardized tests, he had neither degree nor job to buy marijuana, and when he tried to provide enough for his habit by selling it, he tended to give it away or sell it on credit, with predicable results. Thus, he took to stealing, from friends of the family and in the neighborhood, little odds and ends of value, loose cash, those sorts of things.

Not a brilliant planner, Leon found himself collared and cuffed in the back of a Savannah squad car. Shortly thereafter, he faced three years---to serve---for a first burglary offense for which anyone of means---who can afford a fine attorney, in other words---would expect at most thirty days in jail and a period of probation, combined with modest restitution and hefty community service.

Chatham County Jail is a rite of passage for Black South Georgian men. Survey results vary, but at least half of Savannah City Black men serve time before they are thirty. These people do not commit noticeably more crimes than young folks in suburbs, small towns, and big cities, but their families lack jobs and political connections, Joyce Griggs is practically the only private attorney who serves this community---and her law license is suspended---and indigent defense is at best a shambles throughout the South, and especially in coastal Georgia. The bigotry and White supremacy of the city establishment also contribute something to this situation, though such arguments are better to develop in a separate posting.

One small sample of such former prisoners yielded this data: no one in for armed robbery, no one in for aggravated assault, no one in for attempted murder or any homicide; four went to jail for the ubiquitous “failure to appear(as always for traffic violations, insurance and valid licenses difficult to maintain in an environment of forty per cent unemployment and sub-minimum wages as SOP),” three served time for possession(one crack and two pot), four went down for possession with intent to distribute(two crack and two pot), one each found himself behind bars due to child support arrears, simple assault, DUI, theft-by-taking, and burglary. Ten of these fifteen men were first time offenders.

I digress. Leon was roughly halfway through his sentence when he found himself billeted with Michael Deal, with whom the young man had an immediate affinity and in whom he discovered a role model who had important things to offer about discipline and focus and avoiding damaging proclivities to get high. Less than a month after prison authorities squeezed Williams into the tiny cell, Deal was dead, strangled in front of Leon by a leering, cold hearted behemoth who threatened anyone who squeaked a word with an equally remorseless extinction.

Leon was in the room when the fight between Deal and Williams broke out. The other witnesses wandered in to watch a few minutes or a few seconds or the denouement, a body suspended from a shower head by a massively powerful psychopathic ‘Jo-Jo Williams.’ Savannah police saw fit to believe said psychopath about his allegations of involvemnet against only one of those who watched that day.

Leon Williams has a profile 180 degrees opposite of a killer. His sister, his preacher, and Joyce Griggs talked to me about this. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” said attorney Griggs, who has known him his entire life, drawing forth an “Amen” from his preacher and a knowing “Uh huh!” from his sister. “He’s a goofy, nerdy boy, who never got the guidance he needed,” says his older sister. “He’s no more a killer than you are.”

Joseph Williams called Leon’s mother from jail just before his own capital conviction for Deal’s demise. “I hold your son’s life in my hands.” She says she wailed at this announcement, Williams remaining silent while she wept. Finally, she managed a “PLEASE!!” in response, to which he laughed heartily and said, “there’s nothin’ you can do about it.”

There are, however, many things we can do about this sort of situation. We have only to choose to be honest and responsible, and most situations that mirror this horror show would be relics of history, like regular sacrifice of virgins and execution of unpopular old women as witches. Of what would honesty consist here?

Dozens of components are identifiable in a complex social stew such as this. However, four are particularly noteworthy. 1)”Monsters” are a matter of social devlopment, not individual will, and thus we can have a profound impact on the likelihood of their creation by being socially and politically involved; 2)The best thing that we can say about putting fathers in prison for failling to pay child support is that it is an infantile and stupid policy; 3)The ‘War on Drugs’ and the drug laws generally are complete failures that promote carnage and promise only more violence and waste; 4)Criminal Procedure is Criminal Injustice, and any tendency to ignore such a situation guarantees that the viciousness and craziness will increase. The key is that many of us see the sense of such ideas, but we don’t want to be too loud, we are willing to let liars and thugs continue to dominate conversations about policy. Part of being honest is therefore being vocal.

How could we characterize a ‘responsible’ response to such cases as this? Really, this consists of only one thing. Many people will disagree vociferously with everything written here, and, of course, there are matters about which reasonable people may differ. So be it. The majority of citizens, though, will find themselves at least inclined to find out more, to see the hideous future ahead---as a result of such idiotic and irresponsible social insanity---as something they would rather inhibit than support. Thus the “vocal” aspect of honesty is the initial condition of responsibility.

In such a situation, the only responsible course is to begin to act, to become political in a way that almost all Americans avoid like the plague. This is not about voting or watching CNN but actually and actively and regularly ACTING like citizens who come from a revolutionary tradition. Showing up at meetings, calling our own meetings, taking back the media to force the telling of real stories, marching, sitting in, standing up, speaking out and never staying silent in the face of lies: these are some of the results likely from a responsible stance.

The question with which I always end is to wonder why the important stories continue to appear in such distorted and maliciously false fashion. The honest presentation of people’s lives---Joseph Williams, Michael Deal, Leon McKinney,,,, nearly ad infinitum---is infinitely more interesting, more satisfying, and more useful than the present mass of lies and half truths that show up in between commercial breaks, celebrity celebrations, and surreal depictions of inhuman “reality.” Why do we continue to put up with this? I’m through with playing along passively, that’s for certain.


on May 12, 2004
I applaud loudly! The stories need to be told. The whole stories. One of the things I like best about your articles! You could write a book just about my nephew. I'll tell you anout him sometime. I'll be writing you in the morning. Another great one! And thank you for the comments! Will you be my campaign manager?
on May 13, 2004
I'll be your speech editor/writer, and I'll find you the best manager possible, and I'll be part of the braintrust(or brainless trust, as the case may be). !! I've got some incredible items in the queue to post soon. I look forward to our next exchange.