The way our imaginations fill in the gaps of what is unknown
The much beloved and staggeringly talented author Hilary Mantel has died. I read this interview that she gave shortly before she passed and these two answers have stuck with me me.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
Yes. I can’t imagine how it might work. However, the universe is not limited by what I can imagine.
Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence?
Neither puzzles me. Human beings are such miracles, yet so defectively assembled: angels and beasts, murdering and redeeming in the same breath.
The second is easy for me to believe but I wish I could say the same about the first. I really wish I could believe that and say that.
The powerhouse Barbara Ehrenreich died earlier this month as well and I kept wanting to say something more substantial in here but for now here is this quote from her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America that changed the way many of us think. In a better world it would have changed the way all of us in this country think but in a world like that the book wouldn't have needed to be written in the first place.
When someone works for less pay than she can live on — when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently — then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The 'working poor,' as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.
Ok now here's some stuff to get pissed off about on a Saturday afternoon.
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I'll often write about something terrible that has happened with the cops at fault and I wonder if it usually seems somehow more fucked up when there isn't a video. The way our imaginations fill in the gaps of what is unknown. The old movie trope about not directly showing the monster.
Sometimes a video is available soon after though and the answer becomes obvious. Oh shit yes this is way worse than I was picturing. That's the case with this story I wrote about the other day in which a woman was arrested by police in Colorado who handcuffed her in the back of a patrol car parked directly on top of active train tracks. I guess for some stupid reason I had extended some tiny kernel of the benefit of the doubt to police here before watching it happen as opposed to merely reading about it. That they couldn't have been this oblivious and negligent. Not sure why I did that based on everything that has ever happened regarding cops but nonetheless.
Since I last wrote the Fort Lupton Police Department has released a heavily edited eight minutes of footage from the cops' body cams that shows the initial traffic stop and the arrest of Maria Rios-Gonzalez. Most of it shows them searching her car. They seem very intent on the idea that she might have tossed something out of her window before she pulled over. Then at around 5:08 in the video you can hear something in the distance. We can hear it anyway the cops don't seem to hear it. The fin in the water.
Next comes the train's horn louder and much closer now and even still it takes them a moment to register what is about to happen. Around 5:36 the perspective shifts to a different camera and we see a cop holding a rifle seeing the train coming then looking back to the car on the tracks perhaps briefly considering doing something to save the woman inside. He doesn't do that but it seems like he thought about it. A second or two later the cop car and the woman inside of it get absolutely smoked.
From there the footage shows them running to the car which has been dragged a decent distance away then there's another cut to when an ambulance has arrived at which point they amazingly are still searching the woman's car to find a gun which was ostensibly the whole point of pulling her over in the first place. They want there to be a gun in there so badly. To have made this all worth it.
This doesn't have anything to do with anything but for some reason this still from the footage is sticking out to me. The cop with her lovely flower tattoos and the woman she's about to send into a meat grinder with her long manicured nails.
This other story about cops is worse than all of that above I think. It isn't about a huge albeit one time fuck up it's about years of abuse.
The Stoughton Massachusetts police recently announced the results of a lengthy internal investigation into three former officers. They found that Matthew Farwell and his brother William and Robert Devine had all had "inappropriate relationships" with a young woman over the course of many years. 23 year old Sandra Birchmore had met them a decade ago while taking part in a police youth outreach program.
Birchmore told friends that she was pregnant with Matthew Farwell's baby before she died by suicide last year.
Police Chief Donna McNamara said Matthew Farwell had "embarked on an inappropriate relationship with Birchmore when she was 15 and he was 27, but declined to reveal specifics," according to the Boston Globe. "However, three of Birchmore’s friends have told the Globe in a story that was published in April that Matthew Farwell began having sex with Birchmore when she was 15."
Farwell was the last person to see her alive.
In his State Police interview, Matthew Farwell acknowledged visiting Birchmore’s apartment shortly before her death, saying he went there to end their relationship and deleted all his communications with her after he left. He told troopers he met Birchmore when she was a participant in the explorers program and he was an instructor, and knew about the challenges she faced at home.
Two other unnamed men are also being investigated including a cop from nearby Abington and a military recruiter.
"She was failed by, manipulated by and used by people of authority that she admired and trusted right until her final days," McNamara said. "Birchmore was a vulnerable person. One constant in her life since childhood: her unwavering admiration of police officers, of those serving military, people in uniform, people with oaths and duties to protect and serve. The admiration led her to form relationships with men who were willing to take advantage of her."
The prospect of criminal charges against any of the men have been referred to the Norfolk District Attorney's Office. Here's hoping that the police here – and more specifically the ones behind the abuse – "do the right thing."
As I'm sure you're aware if you read this newsletter police love sexually assaulting and abusing people almost as much as they love killing them.
I've shared this old Hell World a couple of times since I wrote it but I think it always bears repeating:
In 2015 the Associated Press counted almost one thousand officers between 2009 and 2014 “who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse.”
That number was likely to be a vast understatement they said because it only counted officers who actually lost their jobs and many states including California and New York where there are quite a fair few number of cops didn’t have records about such things because why would they. In some states where they reported no firings for sexual misconduct they found cases through news reports or court records that it had actually happened so those states were lying or negligent or both.
“It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida who studied the issue told the AP. “It’s so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.”
What’s more a significant percentage of these incidents involve particularly vulnerable people like minors or women of color or sex workers or addicts or in other words people who the police perceive as having even less power than the average person and are therefore less likely to make a whole thing about it.
As the Washington Post reported last year a study from the National Institute of Justice looked at over 6,700 officer arrests throughout the country over a seven year period and found half of the arrests were for sexual misconduct involving minors.
This part is even worse than all of that which is that cops often prey on women who are victims of domestic violence who call the police for protection.
“As one officer quoted in an investigative report by the Philadelphia Inquirer said, ‘I would see women that were vulnerable where I could appear as a knight in shining armor,’” the Post reported.
“He explained, ‘I'm going to help this woman who's being abused by her boyfriend, and then I'll ask for sexual favors.’ Another bragged that getting dates with such victims was like ‘shooting fish in a barrel.’”
Sandra Birchmore was a vulnerable person like that. Her mother and grandmother who had raised her died when she was just a teenager. She had no one else to look up to besides these fucking cops.
Haha I can't stop thinking about it either Netflix that's an Epic True Crime Moment. The way the cops handed the bloodied young boy who had managed to escape back to the infamous serial killer despite bystanders begging them not to. How that actually happened in real life and the cops went on to have long careers in law enforcement anyway. I love to not stop thinking about that.
Quick update on this story from a couple years back. The DOJ has dismissed charges against a Massachusetts judge who had helped a migrant evade capture by an ICE agent waiting for him in her court.
I wrote about this case and its parallels to the the fugitive slave act and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and why undocumented people deserve access to the courts in this piece.
The idea behind preventing the new federal slave catchers from parking their fat asses in the courts today isn’t just about spiting the Trump administration’s immigration laws. It’s about affording everyone in the country regardless of immigration status the protections of the Constitution that they are owed.
Naturally when a class of people decline to avail themselves of the court system and its protections or become fearful of interacting with local law enforcement there are all manner of fucked up consequences.
Arguing strongly in opposition to the decision to arrest a sitting Massachusetts judge this week the Boston Bar Association reiterated their stance that “the federal government’s decision to send ICE officers to Massachusetts courthouses significantly interferes with the ability to secure justice for all in cases where immigrants—documented and undocumented—are victims, witnesses, or defendants.”
That's about all for today. I refuse to believe that summer is over and that I am going to at long last one of these coming mornings have to crawl out of a cold bed and put on something different than the never-nude jorts I've worn everyday for four months now. Not today but soon. I'll shiver through it for now.
Here are a couple of poems about autumn.
For the Chipmunk in My Yard
by Robert Gibb
I think he knows I’m alive, having come down
The three steps of the back porch
And given me a good once over. All afternoon
He’s been moving back and forth,
Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs,
While all about him the great fields tumble
To the blades of the thresher. He’s lucky
To be where he is, wild with all that happens.
He’s lucky he’s not one of the shadows
Living in the blond heart of the wheat.
This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires
Of starlight, he’ll curl among their roots,
Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter
On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.
by James Wright
The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.
The dark wheat listens.
There they are, the moon's young, trying
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.
And here's a nice song that makes me think of autumn. I highly recommend having a fucked up cheap ass weed pen that always gets clogged so you have to suck on it so long and hard until the hugest hit you've ever taken chokes you out and you're stuck there on your back on the couch wanting to talk to people so badly about the sound of the drums trying to count in your head to the time signature and not being able to figure out if it's slightly off or if you are or if maybe that's the whole point.