Monday, October 10, 2005

Death on the Fourth of July

Had the day off today, it being Indigenous People's Day. (Eat your heart out, Columbus.)

Lovely day so I sat outside awhile, ate some leftover pizza I'd toasted and read a few pages from books in my current stack. The one I've spent much of the day reading is David Neiwert's Death on the Fourth of July. Neiwert covered the trial of a young Vietnamese-American man who was being prosecuted for stabbing to death a burly white man 6 inches taller than him. Even the white man's most ardent supporters emphasized the man was spoiling for a fight that night. He had draped a Confederate flag over his shoulders (even though this was in the state of Washington) and swaggered around the convenience store parking lot with his bored buddies shouting racial epithets. The prosecutor brought the law down on one of the victims of a hate crime because he defended himself excessively -- that is, he actually killed the white racist who sought to terrorize him and his companions.

Author Neiwert keeps a blog that I read now & then. This is the first of his books I've read. I find it compelling. In Death on the Fourth of July Neiwert puts the crime in the context of America's history of hate crime, from lynchings in the late 19th Century through the mid-20th to the ongoing anti-gay campaigns of the religious-ideological heirs of the slaveholders. Demonize the Other so you have someone to blame for your own failures.

1 comment:

Rummy said...

That was in my old neck of the woods. I lived in Ocean Shores for about 4 years until I was almost 12. While there weren't any blatant racial happenings while I lived there (or at least nothing that registered with me as a kid) I remember lots of snide comments, especially against the Indians up in Quinault and Tahola and the "Japanese", which was used indiscriminately (uh...I swear I didn't do that on purpose) to include all Asians.