The Republicans exploiting the grief of Patricia Smith, the mother of a young man slain in the 2012 Benghazi attack, by putting her on the party’s convention program was irresponsible and ethically revolting, especially from a party that (correctly) labelled Cindy Sheehan a grief-addled nuisance when she was protesting the Iraq War. Smith’s emotional rant against Hillary Clinton was pure grief porn, and expanded the sensationalist trend in the news media (and legislative hearings) to use the most conflicted and biased figures imaginable—the loved ones of victims of tragedy—to frame a controversial issue in complex events.
Naturally, the Democratic Party’s allies in the media returned the hypocrisy many-fold. Maureen Dowd of the Times, who had pronounced Sheehan as someone with “absolute moral authority”—because having one’s son killed instantly makes you an authority on foreign affairs, at least when a Republican President is in office—was silent about Smith’s moral authority as she was attacked by critics, including the Washington Post, Chris Matthews, and a GQ writer who wrote that he wanted to “beat her to death.”
Foolishly, I took these attacks as a hopeful sign that the Democrats and progressives were maturing ethically, and had rendered the proper ethics judgment that by prioritizing emotion over reason, it was unfair, misleading, exploitive and irresponsible to use grieving mothers this way. No, it wasn’t hypocrisy. It was ethical growth. Democrats, unlike Republicans, now knew this was a cheap and tawdry tactic, and they would no longer stoop so low.
Boy, am I gullible.
It was hypocrisy, and the Democrats wouldn’t stoop as low as Republicans, they would stoop much, much, much lower.
Among those who appeared on the Hillary Clinton coronation stage last night were members of Mothers of the Movement, an offshoot of Black Lives Matter. Though the message spoken by these women appeared to be about police brutality, unjustly killed black men and the need to ban guns, their commonality was only this: all of them were mothers of African Americans who died violently, and all of them blame whites, police, guns, the justice system or the United States of America, regardless of evidence, the findings of juries, and investigations. That is a fair description.
Let’s look at the women who appeared on stage:
- Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, who did not die in a confrontation with police, but in a fight with George Zimmerman, an over-zealous neighborhood watch jerk, after Martin confronted him. Zimmerman, who shot Martin, was tried for murder and acquitted on self-defense grounds, in part because the prosecution, responding to race-based lobbying, overcharged. There is no evidence that race was involved, other than the fact that Martin was black.
- Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontré Hamilton, a schizophrenic man who panicked out when he awoke on a Milwaukee park bench to find a police officer checking him for weapons, started fighting the officer, got the officer’s club away from him, and was shot to death by the cop. No charges were brought, though the officer involved, who clearly used excessive force, was fired. There is no evidence that race was involved, other than the fact that Hamilton was black.
- Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, who was shot by non-cop Michael Dunn, a white man, in a dispute over the volume of the music in the van Davis was riding in. Dunn was charged, tried, and is serving a sentence of life plus 90 years, with no chance of parole.
- Lezley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, who was shot resisting arrest, after trying to take a gun away from the officer and then charging him. A Justice Department (headed by then Attorney General Eric Holder, an African American and one who would have loved to be able to please his boss’s core constituency) found that the officer was blameless. A grand jury brought no charges after reviewing all the evidence. There is no evidence that race was involved, other than the fact that Brown was black.
- Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley, mother of Hadiya Pendleton, a teen who was mistakenly shot by two African American gang members. There is no evidence that race was involved, other than the fact that the victim and her killers were black.
- Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, who was not killed, was not the victim of police brutality, and there were no guns involved in her death. She committed suicide in her jail cell, and the family’s claims that she was murdered (they were not present, you know) are completely unsubstantiated. She had been arrested after a traffic stop for a minor violation escalated and the officer claimed she had assaulted him. Video evidence shows that the officer overreacted, and he lied to investigators. There is no evidence that race was involved, other than the fact that Bland was black.
What did these women have in common to justify their celebrity status on the stage of a major party convention and on national television? Three things: they are all African American mothers, their children are dead, and they are angry about it. That’s it…wait, no, no, that’s not right: they were packaged like a toxic Wall Street derivative to declare fealty to Hillary Clinton.
Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, whose mother wouldn’t have been on the stage if she hadn’t killed herself, said,
“I’m here with Hillary Clinton because she is a leader and a mother who will say our children’s names. Hillary knows that when a young black life is cut short, it’s not just a personal loss. It is a national loss. It is a loss that diminishes all of us.”
Authentic Frontier Gibberish, and racist frontier gibberish at that. When any life is cut short, it’s a national loss. What’s the point here? What does it have to do with her daughter, or the other mothers? Bland hanged herself and it was national news. Is every white suicide, or even every white jail cell suicide national news? No, they aren’t. Why was Reed-Veal on the stage? The awful answer is that she was there to send the signal to African Americans that the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton endorse her belief that her daughter was the victim of a racist law enforcement system that targets blacks, and the she was really murdered, as her family claims, without any evidence.
Lucy McBath, whose son was murdered and whose murderer was duly punished, said:
“Hillary Clinton isn’t afraid to say that black lives matter. She isn’t afraid to sit at a table with grieving mothers and bear the full force of our anguish. She doesn’t build walls around her heart.”
More emotional, inflammatory nonsense. What does this have to do with the Presidency? What does her son’s death have to do with the police-bashing, race-baiting Black Lives Matter movement? The justice system proved that black lives do matter: her son’s killer is in prison for good. What’s her point?
Her point, like Pendleton-Cowley’s, is that guns must be banned in the U.S. It mist be, because that is the only policy change that would have saved her son’s life. The Democratic Party , and Clinton, were pandering to anti-gun extremists by placing her and her grief on the stage.
Then the most irrelevant of all, Sybrina Fulton, whose son was not killed by police, and was not the victim of racism, and who was complicit in his own death, said that Clinton had “the courage to lead the fight for common sense gun legislation”—you know, like banning them, since only banning them would have changed the fates of Trayvon, McBath’s son, and Pendleton-Cowley’s daughter—-as well as had “a plan to repair the divide that so often exists between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
What’s that plan…to constantly bolster the racist claims of Black Lives Matter, demonizing whites, the police and the justice system? If the appearance of the Mothers of The Movement is part of Clinton’s plan, it would seem so.
What possible connection does Fulton have with the racial divide issue? The answer is none, but again, she was packaged. I looked up the news stories behind these women; few who saw this shameless display did, and most of the news reports didn’t explicate them either. To the typical low-information voter, these were all women whose children were killed by white racist cops with guns, and the killers got off because the racist justice system refused to hold them accountable. Yet that narrative, and most of the component narratives on that stage, were false. Two of the mothers’ children were murdered, and their killers were duly prosecuted and punished. One mother’s child was killed by police negligence, using no weapons at all. One was shot in self-defense by a man who was not a police officer. Another’s child’s police killer was exonerated by a federal investigation and a mixed-race grand jury. One of the victims killed herself--no guns, no police violence. If this was about guns, why weren’t any white mothers on the stage? If it was about racism, where was the evidence that any of the deaths were based on race? If it was about cop killings, why was Bland’s mother there? If it was about an unsympathetic justice system, what was the purpose of the mothers of two victims whose murderers were tried and convicted?
Details, details. The convention crowd began chanting, “Black Lives Matter, ” completing the Democratic Party’s endorsement of a group that has created an environment causing police to be less vigilant in protecting the public, and feeding the hate of unhinged police assassins.
The spectacle was cynical, because it used parental grief as tool of persuasion. It was dishonest, because it suggested racism in cases where there was none, and ratified false narratives by giving their messengers and beneficiaries a place of honor. It was racist, because the group only included black victims of shootings, though there are more white shooting victims, who apparently don’t matter, at least to this group. It was irresponsible, because the display misled the public while encouraging division, distrust, and racism, all to ensure that African-Americans are sufficiently fearful and angry to go to the polls.
Parental grief has never been so shamelessly exploited to inflame and deceive.