Tag: Barack Obama

We still can’t handle the truth: Chris Kyle and the religion of Empire

By Alan Bean

25KYLE-sub-articleLargeThe jury didn’t buy Eddie Ray Routh’s insanity defense and the legal experts weren’t surprised.  To win at trial, Routh’s attorneys had to prove that the ex-marine didn’t understand that shooting Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield in the back was morally wrong.

It is difficult to know what was going on in Eddie Routh’s mind the day he gunned down two innocent men at an upscale firing range in suburban Dallas.  Nicholas Schimdle’s “In the Crosshairs”, a carefully researched New Yorker  piece written shortly after the murders, makes a strong case that Routh not only suffered from PTSD but was deeply depressed and delusional in the months leading up to the murders.  But that wasn’t sufficient.  As state witnesses repeatedly emphasized, a defendant can suffer from mental illness and still distinguish right from wrong.

It is likely, in fact, that Eddie Ray Routh killed Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield because he had taken a fancy to Kyle’s spanking new Ford F-350.  Would a sane individual believe he could get away with a crime this brazen? Probably not.  But even if Routh was too detached from reality to appreciate the consequences of his action, that wasn’t enough to convince the jury.

Moments after his arrest, Routh undermined an insanity defense by answering affirmatively when a state trooper asked him if he knew what he did was wrong.

american-sniper_612x380_1Chris Kyle is widely regarded as a war hero in Stephenville, Texas and several jurors had recently seen American Sniper a Clint Eastwood biopic featured in packed theaters as the trial unfolded.  Kyle’s widow attended the Academy Awards (where American Sniper lost the best-picture competition to Birdman) short days before testifying in Routh’s trial. (more…)

What would King make of Obama?

By Alan Bean

Casey Sigal is an unsentimental Englishman who worked the civil rights beat in the early 1960s.  This piece in The Guardian touches on themes often ignored in mainstream reporting of this  week’s commemoration of the March on Washington.

The march, Sigal reminds us, unfolded against a backdrop of fear bordering on dread.   Prisons had been emptied to make room for the scores of people sure to be arrested.  This is the way official Washington still looked at Negroes in the summer of 1963.

Moreover, the movement itself was sadly divided over tactics.  If Martin Luther King Jr. is the man most of us associate with the March on Washington it was probably because of his unique ability to maintain dialogue with the old civil rights establishment, the young firebrands associated with SNCC, and the incendiary leadership of Malcolm X.  All sides grudgingly agreed to let King take center stage because they knew he understood where they were coming from even if he couldn’t always agree with their conclusions.

King was a feared man in 1963.  He came preaching peace and forgiveness, but John and Bobby Kennedy knew they couldn’t embrace King’s message without kissing the Dixiecrat South goodbye.  John Kennedy died a few weeks later because his heart, if not his head, was with the civil rights movement and everyone in the South knew it.   King was willing to whittle down white fear to a manageable size, but he made no attempt to placate it altogether.  White racism was, and remains, an irrational, some would say demonic reality that must be rejected without reservation.

It is the question that introduces and concludes this piece that really intrigues me: what would MLK make of president Barack Obama?  Sigal doesn’t think the civil rights giant would be too impressed.  What do you think?

Remembering my time at the 1963 March on Washington

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary, we must ask: what would the Rev Martin Luther King think of Obama’s presidency?

By Casey Sigal

Saturday 24 August 2013 07.00 EDT

March on Washington

Crowds in front of the Washington Monument at the March on Washington. Photograph: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

In 1963, a teenage woman civil rights worker in Albany, Georgia, said, “If you’re not prepared to die here then you’re not facing reality”.

Any of us who participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a combination of sweet nostalgia and mixed feelings about its “legacy”. For me, and so many others, the event itself was redemptive and personally transforming. It had been a terrible year for African Americans and civil rights activists, a blood-drenched inventory of violence that included the jail beating of Fannie Lou Hamer and assassination of Medgar Evers. So on that Wednesday, 28 August, when 300,000 Americans from right across what I call the “decency spectrum” descended on an almost deserted Washington, it was as if a Norman Rockwell painting had come alive. (more…)

Why Obama lost the debate

By Alan Bean

My guess is that Mitt Romney will soon be neck-and-neck with the president in most swing states.  Nationally, the GOP candidate may soon move a point or two ahead.  Debates don’t always such deep impact, of course, but this one was different.  Barack Obama’s lead in the polls was based on two factors: a Democratic convention where everyone stayed on message, and an infamous video that made Romney look like a heartless, out of touch, let-them-eat-cake plutocrat.  Romney sank in the polls because he looked like a jerk.

Last night, Romney redefined himself. (more…)