Features — 12 January 2019
Musings by the Curious Non-Conformist

A Reflection on What Could Have Been And The “More” We Could Have Done.

“I am nineteen.

“Nineteen with the cold soul of a 91-year-old decorated with bed sores. My eyes have seen it all… Black roses tucked inside caskets and mailed to funerals. But life goes on. Life goes on like a run-on sentence. There are no punctuations, no full stops. Just gunshots and prison sentences. This is it for most. So I hang out on basketball courts with friends turned into ghosts. Because only on ‘b-ball’ courts can young men win. When the score becomes the judge, the bleachers the jury, and the opposing team, the victim…”
“Nineteen” by Micah Goodin, Circa 2013

These words read with background music of Damian Marley’s ‘Gunman World’ actually make me anxious, angry, and heartbroken because I know this is true for many of US who walk in brown bodies. The basketball court for us, whether made of red clay or gray concrete, is where we are oftentimes socialized. We see conflicts start and resolved, we celebrate when men like “Bynum” dunk and have hang time on these metal rims, and we see humanity shared when there are just enough coins with the Queen’s head to buy water for those at play. It’s a place where some of our first lessons are learned, even for those like me who aren’t that athletic. For others, my brothers, classmates, childhood friends, it’s where they learn their last lesson, oftentimes at the sound of gunshots ringing out or as the pastor tries to impart upon the grieving family some words of comfort and inspiration. The basketball court is an embattled confluence of the life of an ‘Eastern Division 1″ youth.

I have never liked funerals; although people say it’s a celebration of the passed person’s life, it never really is. Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” doesn’t apply to the shooting death of any human, especially that of a 21-year-old man. Someone that could’ve been me, if I’d happen to just have a few more variables, in common with him. Joseph Babb’s death threw me into deep thought because he was a familiar face and because we used to play together way before he was given and claimed his final title that was in one of his final public narratives. The narrative of being the leader of the BLC gang. We might never know his true narrative; after all, it ended abruptly; the guy didn’t write a book about his 2 decades on earth, but I’d like to think that he saw himself as doing what he needed, to survive, to provide, to be a man. There is no debate to be had on whether or not he was a leader, he was, but it’s just the way that that great talent of his was channeled.

His story is all too common but no less complex, so I won’t pretend to know every nuance of his life, because I don’t. I, however, cannot help but think his story could have had a better ending for not only him but all of us as we continue to live in the duality of being victims and perpetrators of violence. Are we being forced to live and build institutions on the ideology of Thanatos?

I end this week with a reflection on a string of words I heard as a child in a video game storyline, another childhood pastime that I was horrible at. “Curiosity is dangerous. If I have to persecute a man because he has done a horrible thing, do I need to know that he is a devoted father?”

Stay Curious.

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Deshawn Swasey

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