Monday, January 21, 2013

The Local Mass Murder

We were in town (Abq) yesterday to take care of an errand for a friend and to check out an exhibit at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (Zuni Map Art Project). We watched the films on Maria Martinez and Pablita Velarde after touring the rest of the exhibits, and when they finished we tried to follow the same path back to our starting point -- only to discover that the place was locked up tight and the lights were out. Oh, oh. We're locked in the museum. What shall we do? We took the elevator back downstairs where we thought we might find an available exit only to be confronted by a very nervous young guard.

"The museum is closed," he said grimly.

"Yes, apparently so. We're locked in."

He seemed confused. "The museum closes at 5:00p,"  he said gruffly.

"That's fine," I said. "We're trying to find a way out and we're not getting very far. Maybe you could help. What time is it now?"

"5:25. The museum closed at 5:00pm."

(Sigh.) "We were watching the videos. I thought I saw something that said the place was open till 5:30. Anyway, we still haven't found a way out."

He shook himself out of his befuddlement for a moment. "Oh. See this brown line on the floor?"

"Yes, of course."

"Just follow that till you reach the end of the room beyond which there is a set of stairs and an elevator. Go up to the first floor, then turn left, go through Governor's Hall and the Rotunda, and you'll see the exit doors."

We smiled.

"Here, I'll go with you to the stairs," he said. And he did. At this point, he actually became rather pleasant, though I thought he was still in a kind of daze at encountering us. No doubt he would have to fill out reams of paperwork...

The strangest thing, though. Or it seemed strange at the time. We had passed through this exhibit room originally, following the brown path on the floor, and there was no set of stairs or elevator or exit that we recalled... one went around in a sort of spiral instead, and came out at the point where one entered. There was no "back way." Except then I recalled the encounter we had with the docent before we began this historical exhibit. After explaining what the exhibit was about, he said, "When you get to the end, you'll come to a wall, and you'll think you can't go any farther, but... you'll see. Have a pleasant journey!"

And sure enough. There must have been a wall, but there wasn't one any more... and we climbed the stairs and emerged from the Underworld in a kind of replay of the Sipapu stories we've heard and were told, and we found our way back to the Upper World, and in some ways I'm kind of stunned at the whole experience. Something unusual happened.

We had dinner at Hazel's (El Bruno's) and then headed out of town, back to our place in the country. It was dark and there seemed to be a heightened amount of police action. Some of it seemed quite strange, but then, what do we know. Cruisers patrolling slowly with their flashing lights on -- sometimes sirens too -- drivers stopped (at random?) and so on. Were they looking for someone in particular?

At the time, we hadn't heard the news, so we didn't know about the murder spree in the South Valley the day or night before (I'm still not sure of the timing.) A pastor (who I believe we have met; his name is familiar, and his picture looks familiar, but I couldn't say we knew him), his wife and three of their children were murdered in their home -- by their surviving son, it would appear, using one of those assault rifles that gun nuts insist are benign and anyway they're not "assault rifles" so stop saying that.

Oh. Right here. Well, in the South Valley, which is part of Albuquerque and is considered a rougher part, [said to be] riven by gangs of young toughs and what have you, drugs and so forth, "the mean streets." [Having Goggled up the Griegos compound, however, I would definitely not characterize the area where they lived as anything but deluxe. It's semi-rural, and quite beautiful.] "Barrio" but not exactly "ghetto," but not the North Valley or Los Ranchos or -- damn -- Corrales, either, the areas of and near Abq where we tend to do the majority of our hanging out it would seem.

A mass murder, here, in Abq during the fury of the National Conversation we're having over Gun Violence, on Gun Appreciation Day, no less. People are seemingly getting shot all the time in Albuquerque, and the Po Po are under Justice Department investigation due to all the Police Involved Shootings that have been happening (a lot). But this was something else again.

The story that is emerging of what happened is very troubling, even in the context of American Mass Murder Culture.

It seems that a fifteen year old pastor's son, Nehemiah Griego, had been involved with some sort of paramilitary make believe -- whether derived from video games, who knows, for there are other sources of the paramilitary lifestyle and belief system, some of them closely related to apocalyptic endtimers. His household had collected an arsenal of weapons (here we go again), and something happened which caused young Nehemiah to go on a shooting rampage Saturday night, slaughtering his parents, his brother and his two young sisters, then calling Emergency Services. (One story says he told a friend what he had done, and his friend called Emergency Services, but whatever.)

It appears that the story wasn't known beyond the crime scene until well into Sunday, and it wasn't reported widely until Sunday afternoon when we were in the Underworld at the Pueblo Cultural Center... so we missed it.

The murdered pastor, Greg Griego, was the brother of Eric Griego, who ran against Michelle Lujan Grisham in the Democratic primary for the Congressional seat being vacated by Martin Heinrich who was running for Senate. Griego was actually my choice, but I couldn't vote in New Mexico at that time. Lujan Grisham won, sadly, and is now the Congressmember from my district. Heinrich won the Senate seat easily.

At this point, it becomes a very small-town kind of story because of all the interrelationships -- everybody knows everybody else, or knows of them, and there is hardly anyone in the region (including our own selves) who isn't touched in some way by this murder spree. It gets worse. Three of the Griego victims were children. One was two years old. Add that to the fact that one of the children killed at Sandy Hook, Emilie Parker,  was a recent Albuquerque resident... the sense of wrenching dislocation is profound.

How much longer can this sort of thing go on?

Too many Americans still see disarming the civilian population as a form of punishment, in part because of the way the right to keep and bear arms has historically been used to arm one segment of the population while disarming another. No matter the firearms bloodshed in this country -- the equivalent of casualties you'd see in a civil war -- we can't even mention civil disarmament because of its punishment factor.

Of course, there's more to it than that, especially since we can't really trust the police or the justice system to operate on behalf of the People.  Relations between the People and the Po Po are not as bad in Albuquerque as they are in Oakland, but I wouldn't say they're good, especially not among communities of color.

The toughs and the gangs and their guns are arrayed against one another for the most part, but then there are the survivalist and apocalyptic believers who've amassed their arsenals to ward off... exactly what? I don't know. If they're raptured, after all, none of it will matter. And if they're not, they're in the same boat with everyone else. They might want to consider cooperation and mutual aid before they turn their weapons on the others who are left behind.

The Griegos may or may not have fit into the "apocalyptic" gun cult, but there are apparently very may more of them than most of us realize. What triggered this mass murder, who can say? We never seem to know enough about them.

And "knowing about them" doesn't seem to stop the bloodshed in any case.

For some reason, all the hundreds of millions of firearms in this country don't seem to be preventing the imposition  of tyranny either. In fact, it sometimes seems as if the guns are the source of tyrannical rule ... how drole.

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