Nine Years After John's Murder
In America justice has evolved from a concept to be held aloft as an ideal enforced by the divine to a kind of mechanism to enforce laws and punish the guilty while protecting the innocent. It is by no means a complete or by a perfect evolution. It is a bureaucratic institution that is as prone to flaws and prejudices as are the people who grind the gears and make it happen. It bears the scars and fallibilities of all of us. A flawed monument to our collective desire for order, it is as has been pointed out before not the best there is, but is rather the best we have right now.
True to its mechanical nature it is in constant need of upkeep and oversight, but most of all what it needs is a kind of indignation of and revulsion towards violence, hatred, murder, and all of the things that create pain and disharmony in society.
But what happens when people stop caring? What happens when those who have been charged with task to protect and serve fail to do just that?
I can tell you. You have a case like that of John Gilbride. Of course, John Gilbride is not a “case”. He is or rather he was a man. The story of what happened to him has been exhaustively told on this blog and in other places. There is no point in my retelling the story again here. If you care to know you will find out what happened you will read this blog and do your own research. I encourage you to do it.
For me, what happened to John is not now so much a cautionary tale of what can happen to you when you involve yourself and your children in an authoritarian enterprise, but is instead something only slightly more tragic. It is a tale of what happens when people stop caring or more likely never cared in the first place.
When I heard the news on September 28th that John Gilbride had been murdered the night before there were two thoughts that screamed out loudly to me. The first of which was that MOVE was responsible. My friends and the people I cared about had murdered another human being. This terrible truth reverberated through my body left me momentarily stunned. The next thought was equally troubling to me. I knew that the police would be coming. I could see it now just as vividly as I could now. I saw the black clad SWAT officers pushing their way into MOVE houses with concussion grenades, armed to the teeth and ready for anything. It would be swift and it would be violent. Anyone who dared to get in their way would be dispatched without hesitation. I simply knew this was going to be the case. I knew this because I was certain that if I knew that MOVE was responsible for John’s death that the authorities knew it as well. I also knew that the first forty eight hours of any police investigation was the most crucial. If no arrest is made within that critical time period the chances of an arrest drop precipitously. Trails go cold quickly. They would come. They had to.
However, as nervous nights turned into fearful days I sat and held vigil with my MOVE comrades and to my complete shock nothing happened. The complete lack of any kind of response on the part of the police was more shocking to me than the murder had been. I had been feeding on a steady of diet of MOVE propaganda for the past several years of my life. And if there ever were a bogey man in the weird and convoluted world of MOVE it was the police officer. The cops were the main instrument of the “system’s” oppression apparatuses. Cops were unfeeling “motherfuckers” who did the bidding of their corporate masters. Jack booted thugs who were all too happy to kick babies out of mothers’ stomachs and drop bombs on people. That they were not kicking in all of our doors, kicking ass and taking names was absolutely unthinkable to those of us who supported MOVE.
There were a few people who seemed genuinely unafraid of a police assault and these were the people whom I would have thought would have been the most fearful. The leaders of MOVE did not seem to be that concerned at all about an imminent invasion. Of course they paid lip service to the fear and talked the talk of paranoid revolutionaries whose time had come. But the reality was slightly different. The barricades that they had erected to protect themselves were made from pine planks and not railroad ties. There were no weapons to be seen. No bull horned threats to kill any cops who would dare to try to force their way into the houses that John Africa had paid for in blood. There was none of that kind of talk to be found. Nothing that was really meaningful anyways. MOVE was always spouting off rhetoric, but I had been around long enough to know when they were serious and when they were on a media manipulation trip and when the cult was deadly serious.
To this day I can’t say for sure how it was that the leadership of MOVE knew not to be too worried. I could speculate, but I don’t think that will do anyone any good. There has been enough of that kind of thing to go around.
What I do know is that MOVE was right to not be particularly fearful of the police. To be sure, the police did come around asking questions. Slowly and cautiously they stumbled forth like a half of a drunk rousted out of a languorous stupor. They came with all kinds of imprecise talk and a complete lack of understanding about the criminal entity that was MOVE. MOVE members and supporters had been told what to say and how to roadblock the baffled cops. Based upon everything I heard the police interrogations went practically nowhere. In the interest of full disclosure I spent hours with the police doing the best I could do to help them. I offered leads and ideas and recounted in as much detail as I could muster my time in MOVE and the ruthless campaign that we waged against John prior to his murder. I did what I could. To this day I know that there are people who think I held back or didn’t give all that I could. They are wrong. I gave all that I could but I was going to no more lie against MOVE anymore than I would lie for them. The police did not turn me against MOVE. I had been turned by MOVE’s own actions. I had become disgusted and so disenchanted with MOVE’s murderous nature and child abusive tendencies that by the time I talked to the police I was willing to tell them all that I knew. I wanted those in MOVE who were responsible for John’s murder to be brought to justice. I really believed that this would happen. Sad to say, but I don’t know that this will ever occur.
I am writing these words not out of obligation, but rather out of a kind of fear. I am afraid that nine years after John’s murder nobody outside of his still grieving family cares about what happened. I want to be wrong and I want desperately for someone to prove me wrong. But I don’t see it happening.
If justice is more than a concept if it really is to be an apparatus and an instrument for good than it needs people of good intentions to work its gears and maintain a direction towards setting things right. But what history shows is that occasionally for some and more often than not for the poor the wheels of justice grind to a halt and along with it hope.
I do believe that there is more to justice than that of our temporal and materialistic conceptions. There is a more cosmic aspect to it. John Gilbrides suffering ended when his heart stopped beating. The suffering of his killers just began. They will hopefully be forever looking over their shoulders. I hope they quake with fear when unexpected visitors knock on their door or when police cars pull up behind them in traffic. I hope that their dreams are haunted by John’s un-avenged apparition. If John’s killer or killers are not complete sociopaths than I am sure they are suffering for what they have done. But for me I do not hold such faith in a cosmic order to completely surrender my desire for justice that is more tangible. Something we all can see and all can feel.
Most of all I want John’s son Zack to know what happened to his father. The truth of it. Not the lies that he has been told by his “mother” and the rest of her MOVE minions since he is old enough to remember. The boy who was lost to the cult is growing into a man needs to know the truth in order for him to be set free.