Friday, February 09, 2007

Impossible Empathy

Robert Dawson, a 17-year-old New Orleanian pictured above, was shot and killed yesterday. That in and of itself is a horrible tragedy, though nothing too unusual unfortunately, as we are averaging about one homicide every other day here in the murder capital of the U.S. Dawson and his mother had been living in Dallas, but had moved back to their hometown New Orleans for just four hours before Robert was shot. Prior to the shooting, he apparently had a fist fight with this 17-year-old named Clarence Johnson.

After losing the fist fight, Clarence went home. His mother, Vanessa Johnson, reportedly gave him a handgun and told him to go outside and "kill them all." I'm concerned that this part of the story is not accurate. I very much hope and pray that it isn't.

Vanessa Johnson is now in jail facing murder charges. Her son is a fugitive.

We discussed this story at length in class today. I don't think I will ever understand things like this. I want to change society, but I don't know how. Though this murder took place in my city, it represents an experience that is completely foreign to me in every respect. There were plenty of fist fights when I was growing up, but there were no weapons, and no injuries beyond black eyes and battered egos. I never thought to have a picture taken of me with a fistfull of cash in one hand and a gun in the other. We talked about society's emulation of the Gangsta image, and how early rap like Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash used to be about social justice. I asked my students to name a successful hip hop artist who represents social justice, and they said Jay-Z. I then sang "Show me what you got, little lady" and said he's a great role model if you worship money and giant Budweiser boats racing supermodel women. Some students said they were sick of people blaming rap music for our violent society. I said I'm not blaming rap music, I'm blaming people in this country for being stupid, distracted, scared, and apathetic. Society's ignorance and inaction serves the ruling elite. Every American today is talking about Ann Nicole Smith's death. With the media's help, the masses focus on distractions while the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class disappears. I heard an economist yesterday say that the reduction of the middle class can get positive results, in that people will value an education more to climb out of poverty and we'll have a more knowledge-based society. I think that is bullshit. If I truly emulated Jesus and lived my life according to his teachings as represented in the Gospels, I honestly believe that I would have to leave my cosy FEMA trailer in Mid-City and live in the housing projects. I have absolutely no idea what life would be like there. I don't know what it is like to be afraid of a rival gang doing a drive by shooting. I don't know what it is like to be illiterate because society doesn't care enough about me to give me an education. I don't know what it is like to point a gun at someone and end their life. I don't want to ever experience any of those things. But how can we make a society where nobody has to go through that?


Anonymous said...

We can't.

Howie Luvzus.

Anonymous said...

This post brought tears to my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Okay you liberal pussy, you say you want to help, I'll tell you.

1) Keep your fucking mouth shut when you and all of your little budies get together and defend this trash and fight to keep the projects standing and repopulated.

2) You keep your fucking mouth shut and stop whining about that these people deserve to come home and are owed some sort of reparations for their plight. They bring this shit on themselves.

3) While it is tragic that this child was killed, you don't let your children wear baseball caps backwards and gang colors. If your black, oh no, African American, and not a criminal, then don't dress like one. If you dress the part, you will be treated as one. While the Homan School of Liberalism will tell you this defeats "individuality" it keeps your fucking kids alive! Be a fucking parent and give your kids some direction.

4) Call the police everytime you see a banger like this walking down the street. Fuck the ACLU and all of you liberal types that think this type of profiling is illegal. Ask Harry Lee for help.

5) Arm yourself heavily and learn to shoot back.

Do you get my point yet? I could go on?

Take it from one of the rich that you speak of that gets richer everyday. Liberal worms like yourself are as much the problem as the bangers. Get a fucking clue!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow! anonymous sure is an angry one. interesting that he/she also advocates gun ownership. i guess two wrongs do make a right after all, eh anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Anon's a failing student, Michael? My surmise is this was a turf war, the kid just got to town, they weren't expecting to bump and didn't have weapons. Loser kid goes home, mama says, dayum, it's kill or be killed time (if that part is true). Four hours back in town and they knew each other from before, that's a tell right there.

So, "Karl" - should I call you Mr. Rove? nah, clones don't get respect - did you happen to make any money off "their plight"? Friends of the government seem to have. Are they owed reparations? We all are, due the levee BREAKS. We didn't bring this shit on ourselves, and a hurricane we could have survived relatively intact. Them, too.

Do you have kids, Karl? Ever know a kid to turn his cap around or switch clothes out of sight of the homestead? I'd like to keep my kid alive, Lord knows, but I can't impose a directive 24/7 on him. If you can, you're SO less the pussy than I am. Teach me, o glorious one. See, I can swear like you, I must be worthy.

I'm not against profiling. I look askance at baggy tees and low slung trousers, so I pretty much do the ten-second profile on everyone. Whites included. Especially Republicans. You know, those square haircuts, tiny glasses, round, full bellies and bad taste in high end fashion. Habit I got into after a home invasion in March 2000, two gunman taking our computer, stuff and car to haul it off in. At least one was hankering to take our lives, too, but I didn't keep my fucking mouth shut then (I shouted out to God and spoke what He gave me) and I'm not going to now: you can't hit Michael. His dignity is MINE. Doubt you'll get my point: I've never met the man. But God is doing a work here in this town, and he's a part of it. Agree or not philosophically, we need his energies; I won't let you diminish them.

It doesn't matter how rich you are when you DIE. It does matter how you got there, what you did or didn't do with your life. I'm guessing heaven ain't on the non-"liberal pussy" agenda? Oh, wait, I'm not liberal. What color is the soul, according to Rovians? Where's the wealth when everything is given? Or is that your contention? If the disbursement is given to all, where's your elite power construct?

Well, the good news for you is, not everyone is worth the kingdom. But you don't get to decide if it's the kids who are kicked out, or you. Your works will decide that for you. And you're not anonymous to God, although you may well be left without a name.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I don't think you'd be violating anyone's rights if you deleted Anon's comments. If, however, he stays on I'd like to opine that he is a weenie who watches too much TV, is cowardly and is not, despite his claims, rich, although I'm sure he grovels at the feet of the rich and whines in gratitude when they deign to spit in his direction. Further, I doubt that he knows anything about violence, although he thinks that he does (too much TV again). I'm sure he's capable of violence (the cowardice thing again).

I don't know that we'll ever make a world where violence is not an option, but we can make a world where other options are available. We need to arm ourselves with some kind of fierce love that is not of this world. Despite all of the horrible things that go on every day, I believe that the world is saved, daily, by the extraordinary kindness and generosity of ordinary people. I'm not being corny here. This is war and you are showing great courage.

Michael Homan said...

I'll leave Anon's comments posted above. He seems to be the same angry Anonymous who commented repeatedly here and left not-so-veiled threats towards me and my familyhere. I always thought I'd wind up dead by being run over from a Walmart truck, but if you read about me being found in my FEMA trailer with several bullets to the head, I'd check first with Anonymous. I am pleased however that he calls the death of Robert Dawson a tragedy. Maybe in the end me and Anonymous would agree on several points, the first of which is that it is easy to say horrible things under the name Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I've posted my depressing take on this story (and Anonymous' response) here.

Howie Luvzus

Anonymous said...

Rove here, and you guys still don't get it. My favorite is the baseball cap retort. I'll tell a little story.

A couple of weeks ago, my 7 sever old tunred his Saints cap sideways and said "What up dog?" Needless to say I immediately told him that we do not where baseball hats like that. I which he replied "but Dad it's cool." I then simply told him that we are the civilized portion of society and that while there were some less desireable characters that might wear their caps like that, we do not. To further enforce my point, I continued to offer him the option to continue to wear his cap like that, but said that the price was that he waould have to go to school with other children that did the same and that I would be happy to save the $14,000 a year tuition that I pay for him to go to his current school if he so elected. I was careful to point out that he would probably be beat up at this "new school" and be subjected to hundreds of undesireable characters.

Needless to say he threw away all of his baseball caps to make sure he didn't sucumb to the temptation.

Future lessons to come later.


Anonymous said...

As for you two references to previous posts. I forgot you needed a road map to figure them out. Clearly there was no threat made toward your family and you know that. The world is way too interesting with all of you in it. I was merely suggesting that if you were so worried about the loss of Iraqi lives, the four of you with your animal farm could move over and help repopulated the countryside.

Second, as for your second challenge to my criticism of Sadaam's execution. Again, Sadaam was a very bad man that killed a lot of people. When you do that, you deserve to die, die publicly and die without dignity in the same manneras those that you killed or were responsible for killing. Twist it any way you want Mikey,no one crossed the line during Sadamm's execution. Just leave the religion in the classroom.


Anonymous said...


I had a dad like you and now I hate the abuse of money and power. You might be disappointed in those future lessons. Does your kid have a locker at school? And couldn't you afford Country Day? If you're not paying $21,000 a year, you ain't in the upper eschelons. For shame. My kid's five, but he's got the Finding Nemo/tap the submarine spark already. I guess he's independent enough to become a leader, while yours will work for the man, subjugated and enslaved to money and bullying. Ah, so glad I coded you Rovian... perhaps your boy can pick some tomatoes for mine.

And this IS the classroom, Karl. No other way to reach brainiacs like you. You do keep returning for a reason, don't you?

kiss, kiss...

Anonymous said...


I keep returning for entertainment, and boy is this a great place. Obviously, you don't know what you're talking about. There isn't a first grade tutition in the City of New Orleans that's $21,000. While you are correct to cite Country Day as the most expensive, it's posted tution cost is only $14,200. While I do currently pay 3 private school tuitions (adding another in a coule of years and I guess meeting your minimum requirement for the "upper eshelons")I only have one child that seemed to like wearing his baseball cap like a gangster or banger.

I completely missed your reference/question as to whether my son has a locker at school? Please explain. I do know that as a first grader, he has a "cubby" in his classroom, but again have no idea where the question comes from. In the future, when he is older, I hope that the school inspects it regularly and verifies that he doesn't keep anything in it that may harm him or other students.

And by the way, as a family, we love to pick tomotoes. We actually grow them on the family farm/weekend get away an hour and a half out of town.

Please keep singing the praises of Finding Nemo. It hels the price of my Disney stock.

I've got to go now, with Carnival and all of its activities upon us, I've got a lot to do.


Michael Homan said...

Formerly Anonymous, I didn't "know that." My wife and I, as well as others, took it as a threat when you wrote:
"As far as the losses of the Iraqis, all I can offer as a consolation is a family of 4 living on S. Alexander Street in New Orleans, Louisiana." So I'm of course glad that it wasn't intended that way. But do your trumpeted parenting lessons include posting anonymous comments with such vulgar language? Once Sonny fixes his hat so the bill faces forward, do the two of you seek out misguided bloggers like me and set us straight by calling us "liberal pussies" and "pillow biters," and by telling us to fuck ourselves? Good family fun, and that sort of makes you a 21st century Super Hero, at least in your mind. I'd love to meet you for lunch some day. I'd buy. My children go to free public schools so we've got tons of cash.

Anonymous said...

Michael, Howie, Bart,

Comments back to Carmen aside, my frustration with you all is not personal, but sincerely frustrated in the fact that you all participated in and Bart passionately spoke at the Crime March a few weeks ago which has been the single most polarizing event in the City in history (Saints aside), and what do we have today? NOTHING. While all of you did the best that you could and did it in a very respectful, legal and organized manner, it just didn't work. And while it served a very important purpose of venting some anger and mourning and memorializing the senseless loss of all of our fallen citizens, what's happening today? Criminals are still stealing, robbing, shooting, etc. with wreckless abandon and total disregard for society.

If that didn't work, what else can we do in the short term (agreeing violence is not the answer in the long run)?

On Thursday and Friday of this week, some Uptown New Orleans wives and mothers you know the Junior League types) started to circulate e-mails with calls to storm City Hall and start demanding progress and further calling all to return to their Katrina evacuation cities with their kids, leaving the men at home to put the City back together. While as you can imagine, this is unrealistic, it is a good example of where we are headed.

My criticism of your posts is merely in the frustration that you all haven't gotten to this same point yet and the realization that your government has completely abandoned you in most aspects of normal life.

A few hundred years ago, some pretty smart guys got together and scribbled some notes declaring "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them . . ."

Guys, please realize, if we're not already to this point, we're pretty damned close. Dire circumstances call for drastic measures. We might have taken "personal freedom" to its breaking point. Simply posting on blogs, while therapeutic, isn't going to solve these problems.


Anonymous said...


I really don't wan't to spar with you. While my language at times is vulgar, its like adding an exclamation point. I am assuming that responsible parents have internet controls and monitor what their children read on the internet so that they are not subjected to my language.

In retrospect, I now see that this line of thiking might be too republican for your gang and so I will now assume that your and other kids are reading your blog and will curb my language.

As for lunch, lets get through Carnival and then I'd love to meet with you.


Michael Homan said...

Trust me Anonymous when I say we are doing much more than posting to a blog. The blog is simply cathartic, and let's my friends and family know what I'm up to. And I believe that the march on city hall, and Bart's speech, did quite a bit of good. It certainly let our elected officials know that we expect more. The T-P today has a great article about Nagin, and a superb editorial about Robin Jarvis, both of which appear because the public is outraged and vocal about their discontent. I think we'd all agree that government at all levels has abandoned us. But besides the blog, and my regular job, I'm working hard to improve society through education. I've worked to get a public library in Mid-City, and we're set to open in early April. I'm the president of a non-profit group called Mid-City Charter Schools trying to charter a public school. We hear back in a couple days about the school. And then today, hell, I'm trying to make society better by marching in Barkus. Let's indeed meet after Carnival.

Anonymous said...

I know you are working hard Michael and I sincerely applaud your efforts. I might have siad this before, but I don't know how any of you in the wet areas do it. After a long day of work I'm too tired to change lightbulbs, so I know I couldn't gut and repair my home.

I just think we're past the point where marches and editorials and the such can do any good.

I'm sure you saw this morning's (Monday)newspaper. The 2 pictures below the fold on the front age are quite telling. A picture of the National Guard patrolling our neighborhood and a picture of a very similarly dressed soldier in Iraq investigating a car bombing in Iraq. While I'm glad this is happening, why are we at this point?

As for education, given what I pay for it, naturally I undestand its importance. You should post any areas that you need assistance in getting Dibert, or whatever other school you are working on off the ground. I know some people who are pretty good at moving matters such as this one to completion.

Lunch in Dutch treat. Talk to you in a couple of weeks.