De-escalate Not Denigrate


It’s a thing. A practice in deep listening. Check it out. Listen as you take in the words.
William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gathering
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears
William Zanzinger, who at twenty-four years
Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres
With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him
And high office relations in the politics of Maryland
Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders
And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was snarling
In a matter of minutes, on bail was out walking
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears
Hattie Carroll was a maid in the kitchen
She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
And never sat once at the head of the table
And didn’t even talk to the people at the table
Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level
Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane
That sailed through the air and came down through the room
Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle
And she never done nothing to William Zanzinger
And you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears
In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears

 Truth is Stranger Than Can Possibly Be Imagined

The truth well told, as in this story of Hattie Carroll’s lonesome death, has a spotlight quality that reveals all, like the lightbox showing the organs and bones in an x-ray. The contrast between the two characters–haven’t we met these two but on more amiable terms in the fable about the householder and wife who switched roles for a day?
Did we not meet these two in the parable of Lazarus and Dives?
De-escalate: put out the fires. No time for blame-shifting

No Time to Weep

“On a whole other level.”

The cry of Hattie is still calling. Hattie, I presume, is in a better place now, which according to the song and to Bob Dylan she always was anyway “on a whole other level.” Her integrity is what calls out–“she never done nothing to William Zanzinger.” Her victimization is a sign that we continue crucifying the innocent after all these years of Christianity and endorsing murder and believing this is a civil, not even to mention righteous, society. Even today on the youtube comments on (different captures of) this song there is exculpatory whitewashing, like Hattie’s physical vulnerability meant she was just a little too prone to dying, for heaven’s sake, when you clobber her with your diamonds, your strength, your power. See you on the other side, Dives. She always was a Lazarus–who knew!–best friends with Abraham! Not the type that is prone to rolling over like a baby, the mother of 10. This is a true story.
Here is what is so confusing about this parable from the front pages. Behind the material, there is the spiritual.
This recreation of the crucifixion is a terrible thing to behold but what is more insidious is our blithe indifference as if this is just a thing that happens, so deal with it. It is not acceptable, yet this year the failure of humankind to get this kind of role-playing out of their system–while at the same time fighting over the juicier roles–has contributed in many ways and repeatedly in great loss, devastation and intensification of critical thresholds being crossed–too many too stunning to name if you do not have any idea already.
Personally, I’m appalled to find that the challenge before us could be reduced to such clarity that I could ask a friend contemplating the Need Not Want grassroots campaign, to choose:
  • a seat at the Zanzinger table or
  • a place for Hattie Carroll at the table.

We hold this balance, Team Zanzinger, Team Hattie, like some kind of brinksmanship. Waiting for a last-minute rescue? Or are we trying to shoot ourselves in the foot, and is that actually one of many methods to at least de-escalate: to shoot yourself in the hand rather than to take another’s life–yes! That is an improvement, human civilization. How about correcting back to self-interest now? Now would be good.