Ahmaud Arbery's broken windows

(doomed by mediocrity)

"They" say a man's home is his castle. Yeah. Perhaps. I have doubts that is true in 2021’s financial ecosystem unless we’re reconciled to the concomitant proclamation that a man's wage slavery and terminal debt is his dignity.

I'll extend it further and suggest that a man's life is his metaphorical home. Namely, the humble edifice that a man has erected over his years, this summation of his life culminating in the here and now, is a compilation of all wise and disastrous moves he’s made during his existence. You are the transitory sum of the pluses and minuses; they define your existential formula. At any singular data point, your life is metaphorically a home, a structure which honestly displays fitness that complements the state of your life.

Are there weeds? Chipped paint? Shingles missing?

Broken windows?

The broken windows are a metaphor for any visible sign of disorder in an environment that goes untended. This may include small crimes, acts of vandalism, drunken or disorderly conduct, etc. Being forced to confront minor problems can heavily influence how people feel about their environment, particularly their sense of safety.  

Do you want to know a man? Look at his metaphorical house.

I have been superficially interested in the Ahmaud Arbery case since it first landed on my radar early last year, during that precious sliver of 2020 that wasn’t consumed by Coronavirus. Those ancient days when the news was Kobe Bryant on a hillside, Nancy Pelosi ripping up paper prior to Trump’s SOTU, Harvey Weinstein in prison; a bunch of really mundane events given what transpired later. Arbery was shot dead in February but the events of his demise simmered in the background, there behind Floyd and COVID for almost 2 years. Now that Arbery’s White killers - Gregory and Travis McMichael, and William Bryan - have been convicted of murder, we all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that tonight a few more buildings will remain intact than would have had the verdict gone the other way.

My cursory impression of Arbery’s killing is that it was “wrongful.” It appeared the precipitating events derailed quickly thanks to knee-jerk vigilantism by some civilians with toy badges.

In reading this piece about Arbery from the Associated Press, I was struck by the media’s simpering apologetics when it comes to covering unspectacular people who have landed on the wrong side of a police, or quasi-police, bullet. In this case, Arbery, truly a nobody of note. He led a normal-ish life, perhaps leaning toward the lackluster, but he didn’t deserve to die like he did. Perhaps he could have handled himself differently during the tense encounter. He might still be alive, even. The situation was a perfect storm of abject stupidity and such scenes have the potential to turn deadly when bullets are present.

The article begins painting a flatteringly neutral portrayal of Arbery who was trying to fix up his metaphorical home.

He was at a crossroads, his life stretching out before him, his troubles largely behind him. He had enrolled at South Georgia Technical College, preparing to become an electrician, just like his uncles. But first, he decided, he would take a break. College could wait until the fall.

In his final months on Earth, Arbery appeared to be someone who felt on the verge of personal and professional breakthroughs, especially because his probation could have ended that year, many of those close to him told The Associated Press.

His mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, accepted that he was a young adult living at home, like so many of his contemporaries, taking a breather to chart how he’d one day support himself.

She had one rule: “If you have the energy to run the roads, you need to be on the job.”

So he worked at his father’s car wash and landscaping business, and previously had held a job at McDonald’s.

Fair enough. Why is it that sensible Black mothers don’t seem to be the most reliable obstacles to unruly behavior by their children which is the impression we get if we read the news at all.

Ahmaud seemed like a clean-cut enough of a fellow but with a slight inability to remain still and answer questions from authorities. Par for the course.

Regardless, the last I heard, hyperactivity is not punishable by death. Arbery was not an angel, but I’d hardly deem him a dangerous “thug.”

If a man’s life is his metaphorical home, Arbery’s had some serious repairs in order.

They also acknowledge the legal troubles that cropped up after high school — five years of probation for carrying a gun onto the high school campus in 2013, a year after graduation, and shoplifting from a Walmart store in 2017, a charge that extended that probation up until the time of his death.

On paper, he was not a prototypical bad guy, but his house verged on disarray. A series of breakdowns in curb appeal spelled a fate which would dangerously drag him into avenues which might lead to unsavory outcomes. In the grand script of life, tempting fate is a practice best avoided in the pursuit of self-sustainability. Common sense and self-preservation are not rocket science and it surely is not illegal to possess neither which is why such victims of society are cloaked in “innocence.”

In theory, Arbery should still be alive. Pragmatically, he’s not. Theorizing is a luxury for the living.