Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cece McDonald and Kahlil Gibran


I have something very serious to discuss with you. Have you heard about Cece McDonald? I encourage you to read several articles and cross-reference for more complete details. I'm deeply disturbed by what has happened to her. The short version: Cece, a black transgender woman, was walking with a group of friends when she was called "nigger," "faggot," and "chick with a dick" by some people outside of a bar. Words were then exchanged, and one of the female bar patrons broke a glass across Cece's face, cutting through her cheek.

Cece, scared for her life, ran away, but one of the taunting patrons (not the one who assaulted her with the glass) ran her down and grabbed her, pulling her towards him. Cece had produced a pair of scissors for self defense, and when the man pulled her, the scissors went into his chest, killing him. What was he trying to do in running after Cece and grabbing her? We may never know. He could've severely wounded and possibly killed Cece if she hadn't been armed and desperate. Trans people get murdered all the time, not to mention that this was racially motivated as well.

This is clearly a case of self defense. However, Cece was incarcerated, put on trial, and eventually plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter when the pressure from our legal system finally overpowered her. The judge and prosecutor have been notoriously tough on her. She is being sent to a male prison, where she will likely (almost definitely) be raped, possibly murdered by white supremacists seeking atonement. She was sentenced to prison time when house arrest was an option (and the most humane thing to do, considering that she will be bullied relentlessly victimized for being trans in a male prison). She did make the mistake(?) of saying in court that she had built-up rage over the prejudice she experienced in her life. Did her lawyer suggest she say that? God help us.

So, rather than shaking our heads and lamenting her (and our own) perceived powerlessness, I'm asking you to write some letters--to the Minnesota elected officials, to the NAACP, to the ACLU, to anyone who has some power to intervene. Maybe not Obama, but try Hillary Clinton. Seriously. Write to them. And, while you're at it, write a letter to Cece. Send her a book, etc. There are so many injustices happening at once in this case, not the least of which is that she's being sent to prison for defending herself from a hate crime.

Cece, if you have access to this and are reading it, I'd like to share with some poetry by Kahlil Gibran. I'd like to send his book to you, to give you some modicum of comfort. You're in my prayers, and if you don't believe in prayer, no worries. You'll also be in my letters to elected officials.

With love,
Evan J. Peterson

excerpt from "On Crime & Punishment" from The Prophet:

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though [s]he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world. 
      But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you, 
      So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also. 
      And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, 
      So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all. 
      Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self. 
      You are the way and the wayfarers. 
      And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone. 
      Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone. 
      And this also, though the word lie heavy upon your hearts: 
      The murdered is not unaccountable for his own murder, 
      And the robbed is not blameless in being robbed. 
      The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked, 
      And the [clean]-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon. 
      Yea, the guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured, 
      And still more often the condemned is the burden-bearer for the guiltless and unblamed. 
      You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the wicked; 
      For they stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread and the white are woven together. 
      And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also. 
      If any of you would bring judgment the unfaithful wife, 
      Let him also weight the heart of her husband in scales, and measure his soul with measurements. 
      And let him who would lash the offender look unto the spirit of the offended. 
      And if any of you would punish in the name of righteousness and lay the ax unto the evil tree, let him see to its roots; 
      And verily he will find the roots of the good and the bad, the fruitful and the fruitless, all entwined together in the silent heart of the earth. 
      And you judges who would be just, 
      What judgment pronounce you upon him who though honest in the flesh yet is a thief in spirit? 
      What penalty lay you upon him who slays in the flesh yet is himself slain in the spirit? 
      And how prosecute you him who in action is a deceiver and an oppressor, 
      Yet who also is aggrieved and outraged? 
      And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds? 
      Is not remorse the justice which is administered by that very law which you would fain serve? 
      Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty. 
      Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon themselves. 
      And you who would understand justice, how shall you unless you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light? 
      Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of his god-self, 
      And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation. 

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