Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Jeanne Assam, and Turning the Stampede

Who is Jeanne Assam, you say?  She's a middle-aged cop who was working as a volunteer security guard at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs on December 9, 2007, when a murderous lunatic named Matthew Murray, who was wearing a flak-vest and toting two pistols and a rifle, began shooting up the parishioners as they left the church after services.

He killed two church-goers and wounded three others while the rest of the congregation fled back into the church.  Jeanne Assam moved against the tide to get to the church door just as the lunatic was coming in.  She drew on him and announced herself as a cop.  He fired at her but missed as she ducked into cover.  She fired twice, hitting him in the flak-vest, which knocked him down.  He fired and missed again, she fired at him again -- higher, above the vest -- and took him down.

She was hailed as a hero in the local, county and state (not national, for some reason) media, but that didn't last long.  The police department she worked for subjected her to sexual harassment, then fired her for trivial reasons when she filed a complaint.  The state media then did an 'expose' about Assam losing her police job. An agent supposedly helping her write a book about the shooting 'accidentally' revealed to the New Life Church's pastor that she was a lesbian, whereupon the church she had rescued asked her to leave.  The local media glibly reported that, too.  The book deal dried up, no other police department in the state would hire her, and she wound up on Unemployment.  To all accounts, she's still there.

For some reason, no other church seems to have drawn the obvious conclusion from this story.  On June 17, 2015, a vicious racist named Dylann Roof sneaked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, shot up the church, killed nine people and wounded several others.  He escaped, though he was caught and arrested later.  There was no armed security guard, no Jeanne Assam, at that church to prevent the slaughter.  The mass media never drew the connection between the two incidents, but commentators on the Internet did.  A large and growing number of them spread the story, and there are rumors of churches making  tentative offers to hire Jeanne Assam full time.  Let's hope this is true.

But perhaps this is the reason that the national media haven't quite treated the Charleston church-shooting quite the way they usually cover mass shooting cases.

Oh yes, the papers, TV and radio stations have done the usual -- in fact, downright cliched -- emotion-stirring articles about the Horrendous Tragedy, with thumbnail biographies of the slain, weepy interviews with the survivors, et al.  But this time there's a difference in direction.  Usually, when following up a multiple-shooting story, the media quickly move into editorial demands for "reasonable gun-control", steering all that stirred-up emotion into political support for ill-thought-out and at least partly unconstitutional laws.  This time, instead, the media homed in on Dylann Roof's blatant racism -- then broadened that into decrying modern racism in general, and finally narrowed their aim onto, if you please, public showing of the Confederate flag.

Now just how banning a piece of cloth, which has not commanded any troops nor had any power for more than 150 years, is supposed to reduce racism in America is a really puzzling question.  All that this media campaign has done, really, is provide a target for all the emotion they so thoroughly stirred up.  It has the feel of a stampede that the media started for one purpose, and then suddenly decided they had to turn away to another, harmless, use.    

Could it possibly be that all those stories in the unofficial media -- blogs on the Internet -- about the 2007 shooting and Jeanne Assam, actually made the managers of the media stop and think?  Could they possibly have realized that all recent polls have showed at least 57% of the population opposed to further gun-control laws and instead insisting on arming potential victims?  Could they have guessed that the same old tricks wouldn't work in this case, and would actually make the public distrust them further?  Could it finally have dawned on them that The Fourth Estate doesn't really have power -- the ability to force others to do one's will -- but only influence -- the ability to make others listen seriously to what one has to say -- and that if they continued to lie and manipulate so obviously, in the face of facts that everyone knows, that they just might lose that influence altogether?  It has, after all, been more than a century since Hearst's newspapers were able to manipulate the US into waging a war;  Americans today have a lot more sources of information, and are a lot more jaundiced and cynical, than they were back then.  We'll know if they continue to pull in their horns on their formerly-cherished campaign for disarming the public.

It will also be interesting to follow up the story of Jeanne Assam in the next few weeks and see if she got a job again.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(             


Nikkis Mom said...

Excellent article Leslie! I did not the 'rest of the story' about Jeanne...what a sad state of affairs. Yes, I would love to read a followup on how she is doing now. As to the media, they've become a joke. Not sure how anyone thinks that getting rid of a flag will stop racism either.
Enjoyed your post.

Aya Katz said...

Great post, Leslie! I've shared it. I am appalled by what they do to skew the news and how every possible prejudice is appealed to in the name of gun control and mind control. As for the banning of the confederate flag, there is so much that is being conflated there -- the civil war was not all about slavery, and even the part that _was_ about slavery was not necessarily about racism.

Leslie Fish said...

Thanks much, you guys. I'm more appalled by the wretched treatment of Jeanne Assam, and I hope that one of those endangered churches hires her as their full-time security guard, without bothering to even ask her about her sexual orientation.

About that flag: wasn't it originally just the flag of one of the southern states? How it got turned into the battle-flag of the whole Confederacy is something I'd like to know. Indeed, the Civil War was not just about slavery; it was about how much control the federal govt. would/should have over the states. Slavery was actually a dying institution by the time the Civil War broke out; fewer than 10% of all southerners owned any slaves at all, and of that 10%, 9% owned six or fewer. Free labor was cheaper than keeping slaves, thanks to the influx of all those starving Irishmen fleeing the Potato Famine. Pure economics would have forced slavery into inevitable death if the North had been a little more patient, or if a few Southern die-hard plantation owners had been a little less stupid. The real tragedy of the Civil War is that it didn't have to be fought at all.

Technomad said...

No, Leslie. What we call "the Confederate flag" (the one on top of the General Lee) was originally one of the proposals for the national flag, but was turned down in favor of what we call "the First National Flag of the Confederacy." However, that turned out to not be so good on the battlefield; it looked _too much_ like the Stars and Stripes, and there were frequent cases of friendly fire and/or being jumped by the other side on account of it. So this flag was hauled out as a substitute. Strictly speaking, it's "the Confederate battle flag." And it was never universally used; there were local variants, and manufacturing it was always a problem for the Confederates due to a shortage of red dye. It became the "field" in the Second and Third National Flags of the Confederacy.

As far as slavery being a dying institution, you wouldn't have known it as of 1860. If Colonel Bighouse owns twelve slaves, his wife (of course) and his kids are not listed as owners, but they are still "Missis" and "Young Massa(s) and Young Missis(es)," and they're not going to be keen on emancipation, if only because slaves were expensive and those slaves' value was a large part of what they expected to inherit.

What was going to eventually kill slavery, albeit not quickly, was running out of land suitable for large-scale cultivation of the staples slaves did: cotton, mainly, but indigo and some other things were mainly plantation products. If the split hadn't come, and the Missouri Compromise had held up, the lands open to slavery were not suitable for these crops. At least not without large-scale irrigation of the sort they could not have easily done.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Nomad. Here are a couple more might-have-been ideas, suitable for alternate-history SciFi stories.

1) What if Eli Whitney had invented a functional hemp-break instead of the cotton gin? Hemp is a wide-application(!), low-maintenance crop that anybody can grow, just about anywhere; small farmers can grow it as well as big plantation owners. There would be no advantage in keeping armies of slaves to raise it, and in fact armies of small farmers could easily crowd less efficient plantation owners out of the market. Economics would have killed slavery a lot faster than religion and politics did.

2) What if the federal govt. had not only allowed but quietly encouraged the southern state militias to go join the war against Mexico in 1847, and let them not only defeat the Mexican govt. but conquer and claim the whole country -- on the quiet understanding that the slave-owners could have all of Mexico if they'd only give up slavery within the United States? Slavery would have died out in the US, and American-style chattel slavery was actually better for its subjects than Mexican peonage! (One of the reasons Santa Ana tried to ban American slavery in Texas was that he and his cohorts didn't want those American slaves walking around, not tied to pieces of land, giving the peons dangerous ideas.) The Civil War could have been avoided, and both countries would have been better off.

Yoo-hoo, Harry Turtledove...

Technomad said...

The whole slavery thing in the thirteen colonies was something they picked up from proximity to the West Indies. Same went for large-scale plantations, which were easier to do south of the Potomac. So you might have large-scale hemp plantations instead of cotton. It was a cultural thing as much as anything else---there were always smaller-scale operations in the OTL South. Even many "plantations" weren't anything like as grand as what we think of---see Huckleberry Finn, the Phelps plantation in particular. The Phelpses were, socially and otherwise, more like prosperous Northern farmers (like the Loomises in Upstate New York, minus their crime syndicate) than like Scarlett O'Hara in the movies.

And taking over all of Mexico was never, ever on. Firstly, most Americans ca. the Mexican War were not anything like as antislavery as we moderns, even many abolitionists. Secondly, the cultural differences between Anglo-Saxon North America and Hispanic Mexico were (and are) deep, wide and hard to bridge. Most of the US would have had porcupines (breech birth without anasthesia) at the thought of bringing in a bunch of mixed-race, Spanish-speaking Catholics. As late as the 1920s, the Klan based a lot of its appeal in the North on anti-Catholicism.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Nomad. Heheheheh. Yeah, even that 1% of southerners who used slave labor to run plantations weren't all Big Rich. So 99.9% of southerners could have given up slavery with no major inconvenience. The Civil War was only marginally about ending slavery; the rest was economic and centralized-power politics.

About Mexico: the deal might have worked if it was made clear that Mexico would remain a separate country -- ruled by former Americans and slaveholders, but a separate country nonetheless.

Hmmm. Indeed, the cultural gap between the US and Mexico is very wide and deep -- and nearly a thousand years old. Nearly 3 centuries before Columbus landed, a really nasty tribe called the Chichimecs (related to the fierce Caribs, who gave their name to the Caribbean islands after wresting them from the peaceful Arawaks) conquered the civilized Toltecs and enslaved them (and worse!), renamed themselves Aztecs, and turned their attention to the Pueblo tribes to the north. The Pueblos (having a *very* interesting history of their own) defeated them, time and time again, until Cortez showed up. After Cortez conquered Mexico and claimed all points north and south, the Pueblos bided their time, observed and learned, for over a century and half before pulling off the Great Pueblo Revolt of 1680. After the Americans showed up (and claimed the Arizona/New Mexico territory as part of the settlement of the Mexican war), Mexicans began the trick of strolling across the border in small harmless-looking groups -- which is exactly how their ancestors had invaded and eventually conquered the Toltecs. The Whites have pretty much fallen for the trick ever since, but the Pueblo tribes haven't. To this day, the Coyotes and drug-cartel smugglers steer clear of the Tohono O'odam lands, for good reason. When clueless media pundits whine about the "racism" of anti-illegal-immigrant tactics like Arizona's SB 1070, they neglect to notice that the backers of that bill were the state's Indian tribes. Some of these old games, as Harlan Ellison put it, go 'way back.

Technomad said...

Part of the Southerners' distaste for emancipation was that a lot of them aspired to big-planter status. Quite a few big planters ca. the 1850s or so were nouveau riche...they'd got in on the ground floor and made it big. And even the small farmers with, at most, two or three slaves (whose status was roughly around that of a hired man on a Northern farm, except that slaves were encouraged to get laid) disliked the idea of emancipation. Slaves cost money, and a slave was a fairly major investment.

Of course, the more rabid Abolitionists' lip-licking eagerness for slave revolts didn't help their cause with Southerners any. If I'd been a Southerner at that time, and a non-slave-owner, being told that having my house burned down and my throat cut was a great idea would, somehow, not go over well.

Leslie Fish said...

*Snort* In other words, John Brown deserved what he got, and did his cause no good getting there. The Civil War was really caused by pride and stupidity, more than anything else. Those *nouveau riche* aspiring planters surely noticed that it was cheaper to hire a starving Irishman, pay him only for the time he was working and otherwise let him fend for himself, than it was to maintain a slave, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whether he was working or not. Economics and level heads could have ended the whole "peculiar institution" without war -- if only a lot more people had kept their heads level. *Sigh* There's a lesson in that.

Technomad said...

I've been to Harpers Ferry, and I agree with George Macdonald Fraser in Flashman and the Angel of the Lord...the place was a damn death trap. During the Civil War, it changed hands eighteen times. It's a very pretty town, with lots and lots of water power (which is why it's one of the oldest industrial establishments in America) but it's also surrounded by precipitous cliffs, and once the enemy is up on those cliffs, it's "Game over, man! Game over!"

And there weren't that many slaves around the Ferry for Brown to free and arm. It has been commented that had he tried his scheme farther south, maybe in the Carolinas, it might have had some chance.