And on it goes

The Derek Chauvin trial is droning on, and on, and on. I understand the purpose of the defense attorney is to establish reasonable doubt that Derek Chauvin’s actions directly led to George Floyd’s death. I get that. But, my goodness, it’s absurd to be debating whether a fuzzy audio recording contains the words “I ate too many drugs” or “I ain’t do no drugs” in the voice of the dead man. I would say that it lends more credence to the defendant’s guilt if you have to resort to that level of nit-picking. What the guy did was wrong, undeniably. He deserves consequences for that, whether for causing a death or just for very bad behavior. George Floyd is dead regardless, and if he was a drug addict – which is not disputed – he would have had drugs in his system. Had Derek Chauvin not done what he did, in depriving an already compromised body of oxygen, George Floyd would have survived that day of drug use, as he had so many times previously. Derek Chauvin was the deciding factor. And there must be accountability.

That’s neither here nor there, but I’m starting to react viscerally to hearing George Floyd’s agonized voice over and over and over again every day, every hour, begging for water, begging not to be put into the police car, pleading for…mercy. He is not cussing, he is not threatening, he is begging. I am finding it hard to see how he was posing a threat to anyone at that point. Hearing a human being begging for their life is sobering, and slices into my soul like a knife in jell-o. I cannot get past the visceral response this evokes, that when that happens it is about power, and punishment, not about law and order or compliance with societal norms. The man was already restrained with handcuffs. There is no credence to arguments that a knee to the neck added further benefit and lessened any threat of resistance, immediate or subsequent.

While I’m contemplating this ridiculousness, I am also still contemplating the nature of addiction. I was discussing some of that with my therapist earlier today, and how systems become “self aware”. I have been struck with the nature of systems…there are bodily systems (pulmonary, circulatory, respiratory, etc.), and there are man-made systems (economic, justice, industrial, etc.). In both cases, the systems evolve to a point they become consumed with their own survival, independent of the host organism, the collective body. When a human body is deprived of air, the bodily systems will attempt to gain oxygen however it can – gasping, gulping, literally by any means necessary. This is not conscious though – the body is consumed with its own survival.

In the case of addiction, the brain becomes dependent on substances that elicit certain responses, such as feelings of well-being or lessening of anxiety. The addictive system evolves to a point that it will attempt to ensure the survival of the body in any way that it can. The brain is trained to expect the substance that generates the response, like a dog is trained to sit in expectation of a reward. The chemical response controlling the response is so powerful that it overtakes aspects of reason, inhibition, impulse control, even morality and right-wrong determination. But the addiction will attempt to survive, by convincing the body that it cannot survive without it. It’s a parasitic relationship.

Addiction is a funny thing, because is so many cases it risks the death of its host. Cognitively, we all understand that a human body can physically survive without benefit of chemical or naturally occurring substances that are considered mood altering, such as cocaine, peyote, heroin, alcohol. Once the brain chemistry becomes dependent on those substances, however, all bets are off. People will do ANYthing in some cases in order to maintain a level of inebriation with these substances, and will become convinced they willl die without doing so. From an objective viewpoint, that’s delusional, but from the inside of the addict brain, it’s not only real but it’s life threatening.

The brain is a phenomenal organ, and the more we know about it, the more we know that we don’t know. Addiction is no more understood than auto-immune disease. How and why do our brains sometimes get their signals crossed, believing there’s a threat when there is none?

Auto-immune disease is a brain chemistry phenomenon, and we can’t be entirely sure what causes the immune system to misfire. We also can’t be sure of why the brain perceives of certain of our fellows as threats, e.g. people with black skin, e.g. gay people, e.g. people of certain religions or geographic regions. Is that delusion, or is it nurture? Is racism and explicit bias merely irrational learned behavior, or is there a chemical basis for these notions?

That’s a wild leap, but it’s a struggle to believe things like racism and misogyny and homophobia are simply learned behavior. Even if it is entirely learned behavior, how the hell do we get out of it. How do we unlearn what has been normalized for us over centuries, such that it’s now inculturated?

I learned racism the same way everyone else did, even white people. It’s very hard to ‘catch myself’ when I realize that I’m selling myself short because of long-standing internalized racism that says my lack of success is probably because I was too resistant, not obedient enough. That people are correct when they tell me to make less noise, talk softer, not be so assertive, not be so demanding. That it’s merely my own mediocrity that affords me mediocre results. My rational brain says that’s bullshit, but my way-back brain says I should understand and try harder to be perfect.

Some days it’s frustrating to still be engaged in the never-ending discernment of where I stop and start, and where everybody else stops and starts. I understand the basics of that boundary, but when I am plunged into conflict, it becomes a maddening internal contest of whether I was too eager but not quite competent enough, or whether their demands were unreasonable. Am I imagining that others are given more leeway and grace than me, or am I comparing apples to oranges, or lemons to avocados? When I feel put upon or treated unfairly, am I imagining that? Sometimes I really don’t know, and in the time it takes me to figure that out, the opportunity for response has passed. Brining it up again seems punitive and sometimes entirely ineffectual. Urgency, dear. A sense of urgency is best.

I envy people who seem to be in control of themselves all the time. They seem to know immediately the right answers, when they are being wronged, and how to stand up for themselves. Me, I always have to reflect on the situation, make sure I’m seeing things correctly, making sure I understand what has happened, whether or not I’m within my rights to challenge. Ugh. By that time, the fox has eaten a leisurely meal in the hen house, burped, and had a constitutional before taking a contented nap. I’m still talking myself out of making an issue out of anything, because, well, I’m probably wrong and they probably didn’t mean nothin’ by it, and well, hell, if I was more on target it wouldn’t have happened in the first place. By that time, I’m the one who needs a nap, contented or otherwise.

So. When I look at people who are more or less self-assured, I see privilege. I see people who do not question whether or not they have a right to do whatever it is they are doing, they just do it. If they’ve overstepped, someone or something will stop them, and they’ll deal with the boundary when it’s set. I assume the boundary is there, and that I will have the short end of it. I need to do some work a’plenty on that, because it’s been like this most of my life, and it has never worked for me. Never.

I was talking with these Mormon missionary kids earlier today. They have an apartment in the complex which their church maintains for a rotation of various missionaries. One of them is from Tennessee, the other from Utah, I believe. They are very shiny and clean-shaven young men, all of about 20 or so, if that. Very erstwhile. They initially happened upon me and the dog in the doggie activity area, and struck up a conversation (as best they could over my insane dog’s vociferous and incessant barking). Nice lads.

We got into some conversation about religion, since that’s kind of their business I suppose. I’m usually up for conversations about religion and theology, and what people believe, even if their faith differs from mine. As long as they aren’t pushy or asking for money, I will talk with just about anyone on matters of faith and theology, particularly the history of theologies.

Our first conversation, which was actually day before yesterday, led us down the path of judgementalism and intolerance. There was much nodding and agreement about how those things are in the realm of flawed humanity, and not attributable to the Divine. They left me with a soft-cover copy of The Book of Mormon, with a dog-eared page for my review. They wanted my phone number (um, no) and somewhat of a return engagement to have further discussion. OK, fine.

I read the passage they suggested, and it was fine…Alma:32. (They didn’t explain who Alma was or anything, and I had to look that up myself because I’m a geek like that.) Anyhow, it had to do with people being thrown out of the synagogue because they were poor and dressed shabbily, and that was not looked upon by the text as particularly correct. (good) The text then went on to discuss faith, and how humans will not have perfect faith. Then somehow the author proceeded to discuss seeds growing, which I assume was a metaphor for growing one’s faith, and then spreading it. Or something. It’s written in that archaic biblical style, so hard to follow. But I think I got the point.

I met up with the young dudes again this afternoon, nearly by accident – they had gone out on their bicycles to do whatever it is they do on their missions. Not quite clear on what the point of it all is, other than simply to spread the faith? Like evangelically? Whatever. But we had some further chit chat about … stuff… and I was asking them a lot of questions about the LDS religion, and their mission, and how the mission trip works and where they’ll go next and all that. Their name tags said “Elder” so I wanted to know what that even meant (not sure I understand what they said about that). They answered everything, but I think I wore them out, because one of them did interject “You have a lot of questions!”. Yeah, dude. I do have a lot of questions.

They never brought up the book they’d left with me, so I brought it up and said that I’d read at least a portion of what they’d suggested. My take on the passage was slightly different from theirs, but we most got to the same point. I lost them entirely when I compared the pretense of kicking out the poor from the synagogue with the Gnostic texts (Gospel of Thomas) that attributes to Jesus the same kind of non-pretentiousness. I related to them a part of Thomas’ attribution to Jesus, who said “You don’t need this temple to worship me. Look under any rock or tree, and there you will find me.” The fellas were not particularly moved by that, but nodded politely…then suggested I continue reading the passage in Alma:32.

OK, thanks guys…love ya, mean it, but I think I’ll save my remaining questions about LDS for older Mormons…like explain to me this whole polygamy thing. And that homophobia piece…where’s that in your theology of redemption? Oh, and the misogyny bit…that doesn’t seem quite right. And that whole deal of a council of old white guys who get to decide on every aspect of all your lives and can’t be questioned? ‘Splain that.

But, another time perhaps. I had more of the Chauvin trial to watch and my dog had just about barked herself to a frazzle by that time. I was a little interested in the whole history of the LDS institution, though, and looked up a few general facts about how it got started. The young missionaries’ spiel explains that LDS is a re-framing of the traditional Christian theology, and essentially a reformation. They are non-trinitarian, God the Father and Jesus are two separate entities (there’s no bird). I asked if they believed in Heaven and Hell, and they said they believe that after we die, souls go to two places – one is more or less like Heaven, and the other sounded like “try again”. More research is needed for me to speak intelligently about it all, but as with any religion in modern times, there are a few gaps between theology and human practice. I seriously doubt the original LDS credo dictated polygamy, and golden temples, and casting out young gay boys into the wilderness.

Anyway, it was interesting to have conversation with actual human beings. They were not mean or offensive, so that was decent. I also saw my neighbors who are in love with my dog, and the dog got a big dose of lovin’. Saw my other neighbor and her Chihuahua, and we had a nice talk as well. All told, I was outdoors for a couple of hours, and discovered that I am totally out of practice for all that. It was kind of tiring. When pandemic response is finally relieved and people begin to gather without restriction, we’re going to need to eat our Wheaties. I suspect most of us are going to get on each other’s nerves a great deal. We’ve been on Fantastic Planet for almost a year, in our little meditation bubbles and not having to compete for space or get out of each other’s way. It’s gonna be interesting.

I’m going to resist the urge to watch more of the Chauvin trial, or at least the post-trial analysis and talking-head rodeo. The star of today’s testimony was an expert on oxygen deprivation, and he said – unapologetically, and in no uncertain terms – that George Floyd died of oxygen deprivation, not Fentanyl intoxication. The oxygen deprivation was courtesy of Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck, specifically in the area near his Adam’s apple, for a prolonged period of time. He even pointed to a spot on one of the videos where the victim’s leg jerked upward, and the expert cited that as the specific moment of neurological response where the brain was damaged by the lack of oxygen. Ball is in your court, Mr. Defense Lawyer. Put on your dancing shoes.

This doesn’t seem as though it should exist. Bats are fascinating, though.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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