Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission releases its report.
May 25, 2006 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission releases its report. On Nov. 3, 1979, in Greensboro, N.C., Klansmen and Nazis fired on Communist Workers Party demonstrators, killing five and wounding 10. The gunmen, though captured on TV-news videotape, were acquitted of all charges in two criminal trials in the early 1980s. Two years ago, a Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission was convened, following the South African model, to look into the case. It posted its report on its Web site earlier tonight, shedding some additional light on an incident that has divided the city for more than a quarter-century.
posted by lexalexander (49 comments total)

 
What is this crapola "truth and reconciliation"? What is this "light to be shed on the incident."? Will the "light shed on the incident" then make it all OK? Whew...I'm glad there is some way of looking at firing on innocent people that makes it all OK.

There isn't even the vaguest justification for those outright murders. Hang 'em high.
posted by Nicholas West at 9:18 PM on May 25, 2006


What he said.
posted by Jimbob at 9:37 PM on May 25, 2006


Hmm, after reading the executive summary, it's not about making it all OK. They make lots of recommendations to move forward. Not all the innocent people who were fired upon were entirely innocent. At least one of those killed was also firing a weapon. The leader of the demonstration was trying to provoke a fight.

While the biggest outrage is the lack of justice, hang 'em high is the kind of attitude that helped feed this incident.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:38 PM on May 25, 2006


'Reconciliation' can also mean comparing stories to find the truth, Nicholas.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:07 PM on May 25, 2006


Er..yes, but by what angle can the truth of some murderous Klansmen firing on some demonstrators (demonstration being a right in this country) be looked at that can justify the bland tolerance of these crimes?

Sorry...while I'm not usually a "hang 'em high" guy, Nazis and Klansmen tend to bring that out in me.
posted by Nicholas West at 10:24 PM on May 25, 2006


Two years ago, a Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission was convened, following the South African model...

See, the "Truth and Reconciliation" model might work for a whole nation that has gone through, essentially, a revolution. After a long, long period of turmoil and violence. When whole groups of people have been fighting and killing each other for decades. Even then, some would argue that it hasn't worked very well.

But I don't see how a "Truth and Reconciliation" system can work for a single crime, captured on camera, where by a single group of people are killed by another. That's what the criminal justice system is for, right?
posted by Jimbob at 10:41 PM on May 25, 2006


The links won't open for me. Hmmmm....
posted by rougy at 10:51 PM on May 25, 2006


There isn't even the vaguest justification for those outright murders. Hang 'em high.

I think what we're missing here is that these guys were tried and found innocent. As in, no more hanging. double jeopardy, etc.?
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:53 PM on May 25, 2006


Fifth Amendment
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:57 PM on May 25, 2006


Wow. too much work.
posted by longsleeves at 11:51 PM on May 25, 2006


to thoroughly explore the site, I mean.
posted by longsleeves at 11:52 PM on May 25, 2006


I hate illinois nazis...
posted by stenseng at 12:05 AM on May 26, 2006


The road to utopia is paved with the bodies of the innocent. Not that they would care, but fascists and communists should take heed. Thanks for the link.
posted by tweak at 12:47 AM on May 26, 2006


Utopia? Why bad-mouth Utopia? Why disparage a greater goal? A higher good?
posted by rougy at 12:59 AM on May 26, 2006


Because it leads to dead people? See: Pol Pot, Hitler, um, nevermind.
posted by tweak at 1:22 AM on May 26, 2006


Yeah, the desire for radical change often provokes violent opposition that results in bloodshed. But for the willingness to shed blood in the service of an ideal, the United States never would have come into being; or it might have become two nations, one slave and one free. When is utopian violence good and when is it bad? When it's sufficiently far in the past, or has been sufficiently glorified, that it no longer seems horrific? When it serves ends we consider worthwhile rather than those we don't? Should we never be willing to accept the possibility of progress backed by violence?

What all of this has to do with the thread is beyond me, but it's an interesting question.
posted by Makoto at 1:44 AM on May 26, 2006


Makoto: I would say when the ideal of utopia is primary, and all other standards are subsumed for that ideal, including things like personhood, human rights, and so on. Basically forcing square pegs into round holes and damn the consequences. Things like no balance between the good of society and the good of the individual.

I don't think utopian violence is ever 'good' if that is the goal.

Historical Examples: French Revolution, Nazi Germany, Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Lenin through Kruschev Russia, and any number of separatist religious cults ala the Jonestown Massacre.

Literary Examples: Utopia, Brave New World, 1984, Homage to Catalonia, Fahrenheit 451, Harrison Bergeron (Vonnegut short story), et al.

The reason for the tangent was that clansmen and communists recalled fascists and marxists in my mind and the ensuing historical results - as well as these right wing nutcases willing to outright murder people for what they thought would be the greater good.

rougy: I have no problem with the idea of hoping for and trying to create a better world, it just needs to be done with your eyes wide open to things like people's humanity, not like puzzle pieces to be moved around at the whims of ideologues.
posted by tweak at 1:59 AM on May 26, 2006


Nicholas and Jimbob, you are entirely missing the point. We cannot "hang them high" because they were already found innocent.

The commission exists to start the process of sorting out what happened, what it means for our city, and try to slowly begin the process of healing. This incident continues to be a dull aching blight on our community and ignoring it just wasn't working anymore. We're rather proud of the fact that this is happening - much to the dismay of the local conservative rags who complain that this is divisive and pointless.

I'm not sure I understand why you are lashing out - it's a righteous pursuit by any measure, and no one is looking to make it "all ok". Quite the fucking opposite, actually. Why don't you try reading the site?
posted by glenwood at 5:32 AM on May 26, 2006


tweak -

"Because it leads to dead people? See: Pol Pot, Hitler, um, nevermind."

Yeah, uh, nevermind because you just don't get it.

Read Buckminster Fuller's "Utopia or Oblivion."

Dream a better world and word towards it.

Or stay on your spinning treadmill and suck your sugared water.
posted by rougy at 6:00 AM on May 26, 2006


"The commission exists to start the process of sorting out what happened, what it means for our city, and try to slowly begin the process of healing. This incident continues to be a dull aching blight on our community and ignoring it just wasn't working anymore. We're rather proud of the fact that this is happening - much to the dismay of the local conservative rags who complain that this is divisive and pointless."

But glenwood...it is divisive and pointless.

Why don't, instead of laws, we just have a truth and reconciliation commission for every murder that takes place in this country? Then we can have endless discussions as to the justifiability of each murder, and corrupt politicians can commission wildly expensive "studies" and "papers" as to the effect of each murder on the surrounding community and families, and siphon a few bucks into their pockets for their "good works".

Either murder is illegal or it isn't. No ideology justifies it. These commissions are just a fog of endless drivel and yak designed to let gross miscarriages of justice become confused and fade out in the public concscience so that those responsible are gently eased off the hook. That's my impression of them anyway....only my .02.

It would have been much healthier for the city IMHO if there had been a clear demonstration that such acts are not tolerated and are not a subject of "discussion".
posted by Nicholas West at 6:15 AM on May 26, 2006


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission cannot stop the War To Re-Subjugate Brown People!

Jesus was a socialist/communist and look what happened to him.
posted by nofundy at 6:34 AM on May 26, 2006


Nicholas West: Why don't, instead of laws, we just have a truth and reconciliation commission for every murder that takes place in this country?

Are the two necessarily in conflict? Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs are growing as part of criminal justice systems and seem to be effective (pdf) at both increasing restitution paid to the victims, and reducing repeat offenses.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:45 AM on May 26, 2006


I can't get any of the links to work, but NPR had some audio about the GTRC report this morning. You can listen here.

"With the truth-seeking part of the process over, the commission says it's now up to the community to begin the reconciliation part..."
posted by BeerFilter at 6:57 AM on May 26, 2006


At least one of the strong arguments for Reconciliation programs is that while criminal justice systems do a good job at enforcing legal accountability to the state, they don't do a good job at enforcing moral accountability to the victims and community. It's not an alternative to traditional CJ approaches, it's an addition.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:07 AM on May 26, 2006


"At least one of the strong arguments for Reconciliation programs is that while criminal justice systems do a good job at enforcing legal accountability to the state, they don't do a good job at enforcing moral accountability to the victims and community. It's not an alternative to traditional CJ approaches, it's an addition."

Yes, that's fine...however, one of the reasons, and I can't imagine this is not true, for the continuing pain and lack of healing concerning this particular incident must be the common underlying knowledge that in this case legal accountability was not enforced, and what ended up happening was an insult to the common sense of the populace, therefore people cannot make peace with it.
posted by Nicholas West at 7:13 AM on May 26, 2006


It would have been much healthier for the city IMHO if there had been a clear demonstration that such acts are not tolerated and are not a subject of "discussion".

what ended up happening was an insult to the common sense of the populace, therefore people cannot make peace with it.

I think you've reversed yourself here. Since the avenues for legal retribution were expended, what sort of 'clear demonstration' could there be except a fact-finding commission whose procedures were transparent and therefore above reproach? (Compare this to the secret deliberations in a jury trial.) It certainly can't have helped that most residents (and the commission itself) believed that the police were complicit in the murders and in the acquital of the murderers.

Truth and Reconciliation works when the facts are in dispute and where retribution is unfeasible either politically or legally. That describes the Greensboro case perfectly: many people wanted official confirmation that something happened. Now they have it.

Jimbob: your South Africa link is about the people who didn't seek amnesty in the TRC. It's misapplied to this case, as in this quote: "This justification for hostility towards the TRC is not borne out empirically..."
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:37 AM on May 26, 2006


Yeah, uh, nevermind because you just don't get it.

Read Buckminster Fuller's "Utopia or Oblivion."

Dream a better world and word towards it.

Or stay on your spinning treadmill and suck your sugared water.


Spoken like a true ideologue, left or right. Nevermind the people, they're just lazy and stupid when they don't agree with you.

Funny that you're defending a search for Utopia, because it's implicit in your defense that you don't even know what the word means.
posted by Snyder at 7:52 AM on May 26, 2006


"I think you've reversed yourself here. Since the avenues for legal retribution were expended, what sort of 'clear demonstration' could there be except a fact-finding commission whose procedures were transparent and therefore above reproach?"

Yes...it's a shame that there now a need for a "fact-finding commission" in the first place. Because the legal system is already supposed to BE the definitive fact-finding commission in such matters, and above approach. The fact that there is now a fact-finding commission after the operation of the legal system in this case is a tacit admission that there was something screwy about the legal handling of this case in the first place, that the verdicts handed down were irrational, which is why no one can make peace with this.

But I guess if that's all you have to work with, you go with it.
posted by Nicholas West at 7:54 AM on May 26, 2006


Snyder: The term has been used different ways by different philosophers and political movements. In the broad sense, you are both right.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:01 AM on May 26, 2006


I, for one, encourage any and all violence between Klansmen, Nazis, and Communists, but I'd prefer that it ran both ways.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:34 AM on May 26, 2006


A lot of people here in town feel the same way, Kwantsar, at least metaphorically. To a lot of people in Greensboro, the city is being blamed because one total stranger murdered another in its back yard. (That doesn't address the outcome of the trials, but it's how they feel nonetheless.)
posted by lexalexander at 8:38 AM on May 26, 2006


The fact that there is now a fact-finding commission after the operation of the legal system in this case is a tacit admission that there was something screwy about the legal handling of this case in the first place, that the verdicts handed down were irrational, which is why no one can make peace with this.

If course it is. That is the point. What is yours? It sounds like you would only be happy with 2 options: 1) Shut up about it or 2) Go back in time 30 years and handle it differently from a legal standpoint.

Neither of those options were possible to the people in this community. Why does this irk you so? I'm confused.
posted by glenwood at 8:39 AM on May 26, 2006


Snyder should have done a little research before he said: it's implicit in your defense that you don't even know what the word means.

Actually, contrary to popular belief, "utopia" means 'good place'. The whole 'no-place' thing is a mildly amusing Greek pun.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:28 AM on May 26, 2006


I think the problem is forcing a "perfect" vision of utopia on imperfect people. Working towards a better world... that's awesome, but "better" isn't perfect.

The Pol Pots , Hitlers etc they are trying to create a type of perfect from which their vision is the ONLY template and they have exclude everything that doesn't fit. I don't think that is really "utopian."

Bucky Fuller was not trying to create a world that doesn't exist he wa trying to shape the world we have into something better.

Any way these these links were a little hard to follow. But a good post. I was living over seas when this took place and never knew about it. So thanks lexalexander.

I think he South African T&R justice model has worked well so far and may be a good one to emulate.
posted by tkchrist at 9:49 AM on May 26, 2006


This might constitute a violation of the rules, in which case I'll be happy to withdraw it if the powers that be want to get in touch, but my employer is now mirroring the report on this page (separate installments; *.pdf files), which might make it easier for those who wish to read and/or download. I think the TRC site probably was a little overwhelmed by the traffic it got.
posted by lexalexander at 10:10 AM on May 26, 2006


lexalexander: I see no harm in pointing to a mirror to help ease network traffic. Thanks for the link.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:23 AM on May 26, 2006


A lot of people here in town feel the same way, Kwantsar, at least metaphorically. To a lot of people in Greensboro, the city is being blamed because one total stranger murdered another in its back yard.

So the good people in Greensboro know how many in the US feels about GWB and the view the rest of the world now has towards us?
posted by nofundy at 11:25 AM on May 26, 2006


nofundy writes "So the good people in Greensboro know how many in the US feels about GWB and the view the rest of the world now has towards us?"

What the fuck? Does every thread have to be about that?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:56 AM on May 26, 2006


nofundy, I believe people in Greensboro have known for a while. Kerry carried the city and Guilford County, within which it's located. (Dukakis carried the city in '88, even.)
posted by lexalexander at 11:57 AM on May 26, 2006



So the good people in Greensboro know how many in the US feels about GWB and the view the rest of the world now has towards us?

I again fail to see your point, other than the fact that you apparently enjoy the sound of your own fingers typing and quite possibly the smell of your own farts - but for what it's worth Greensboro is in a "blue" county.
posted by glenwood at 12:12 PM on May 26, 2006


anotherpanacea, I did not know that, thank you for the info and link.

I still stand by my larger point that those who persue a perfect world with perfect people, like he Klan, Nazis, Communists and other assorted utopians are dangerous. Usually not individually, but utopian ideologies have a "you agree with me or you are a fool" mentality that is itching to turn into a "agree with me or die/be re-edecuated/be sent east."
posted by Snyder at 12:42 PM on May 26, 2006


snyder -

"Funny that you're defending a search for Utopia, because it's implicit in your defense that you don't even know what the word means."

I know exactly what it means. You and others have the illustrated the gross misunderstanding of using it as a synonym for totalitarianism.

I don't mock Utopia. And I don't see it as something that should or would be forced upon anybody. I see it as a goal.
posted by rougy at 12:50 PM on May 26, 2006


Of utopia, we should say that the Constitution's framers envisaged an ideal of plurality, which we stuggle to follow. Not so different from the ideal of justice to which our legal system aspires. Both are utopian (in the impossible-but-good sense) but both are still worthy regulative ideals.

This is drastically different from Stalinists and Nazis, who imagined a force (History or Nature) which was inexorable. the totalitarians of the mid-twentieth century seemed to believe that no force could stop their cause, and thus tried not to get in the way. This isn't utopian at all; many Nazis, like Adolph Eichmann, might even have felt sorry for the racially impure whose sacrifice Nature demanded. It's simply the fatalism that results from an overarching narrative of unfettable progress.

I'll take utopians any day. Like (some of) the inhabitants of Greensboro, they're willing to accept the difference between what is and what ought to be, and to work, peacefully, to bring the 'is' and the 'ought' closer together.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:28 PM on May 26, 2006


unfettERable. As in, unstoppable, (not unpartyable.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:29 PM on May 26, 2006


rougy, you worry me. My point was that the attempt at utopia often leads to disaster, and that many incredibly tragic events in human history started out with the intentions of making the world a 'better' place (according to their definition of better). This happens for many reasons, to name one: many Utopian or proto-Utopian idealists ignore a simple truth about human nature, that is, greed. Another one is being blind to their own arrogance.

Utopia is not a synonym for totalitarianism. When Sir (or Saint) Thomas More coined the phrase, it was a pun - the intention being that it ends up meaning 'no place' - something that can't happen on Earth. My point was that "the road to it" as I previously mentioned, that is attempts by humans to reach it, often end in tragedy. (I felt that Greensboro reminded me of this theme just a little bit). I don't think humans can make it. The closest thing we'll ever have to perfection is dolphins.

My other point is (might help if you read some of the literature I cited earlier) that people often get ignored in the face of exciting, grand plans about 'society' and the end result is something like the Holocaust or the ironically named Great Leap Forward. The reason the Holocaust stands out to me compared to Darfur, the killing fields of Cambodia, or even the Ukraine, is that one the most scientific, modern countries in the world could commit such atrocities, with calm, cool efficiency. The humanity of individuals was no longer a priority. People were just pieces moved around to make the machine work. The machine was the most important thing.

Please understand I am not mocking Utopia as an interesting concept - everyone has their dream of what the world could be like, I'm just saying the devil is in the details, praxis is far different from theory.

Unfortunately, if you still disagree with everything I've said, and still want to be one of the visionary leaders taking us into the next Age of Humanity at any cost, I'll pass, and ask you to leave me out of it.
posted by tweak at 2:52 PM on May 26, 2006


But I'll ask nicely :)
posted by tweak at 2:53 PM on May 26, 2006


Tweak -

"rougy, you worry me. My point was that the attempt at utopia often leads to disaster, and that many incredibly tragic events in human history started out with the intentions of making the world a 'better' place...."

Would you think about what you just said?

You make it sound like trying to improve the world is a bad idea.

Believe it or not, I am listening to you, but you do not seem to be listening to me.

Utopia is not Utopia if you have to ram it down peoples' throats.

I'm not forcing anything on you - I want you recognize your reactionary reasoning.

Don't associate the concept of Utoipia with people like Hitler and Pol Pot or Stalin - that is, in whole, the fallacy of your argument.
posted by rougy at 3:11 PM on May 26, 2006


I don't think it's a fallacy because I was trying to make a distinction between the notion of a Utopia and the actual practice throughout history of trying to make it happen.

I think I get what you're saying now. For example, I grant that in Looking Backward, or Utopia, or The New Atlantis and The Great Instauration, the achievements of those societies happen rather peacefully and are pretty successful. I am sorry for the comments that ventured into ad hominem, they were not appropriate.

I'm all for improving the world, I think it should be done carefully and with history in mind, because I don't think perfection can be acheived (probably a remnant of my religious upbringing).
posted by tweak at 4:22 PM on May 26, 2006


tweak -

Hey - forget about it - no offense taken. I get a little salty myself sometimes.

Full disclosure: Utopia is one of my little maniacal pet projects: Halfway to Utopia.

"The first step towards Utopia is for people to realize that it might be possible...."

Cheers. See you around the boards.
posted by rougy at 9:08 PM on May 26, 2006


« Older Reggae and ska legend Desmond Dekker died today in...  |  A Fly Wearing Glasses... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments