My Weekend With Bernie (Goetz)


“That sounds like something Bernie would do. This is Bernie,” I’d said to Charles, years ago. He shook his head no.

Before we met, Charles lived in NYC, where he got his PhD. That’s how he knew Bernie, both at NYU in the department of nuclear engineering. My husband collected characters, and Bernie was one. Charles had plenty of Bernie stories but disagreed with my realization, couldn’t fathom that one of his friends could do what struck me as obvious.

A few years after Charles and I married and were living in Kentucky, Bernie visited. He drove a rental car from Manhattan to Lexington, on his way somewhere. He stayed a few hours and had dinner with us.

When Charles joined the staff at Johns Hopkins, we moved to Baltimore. Bernie rented a car and drove down from Manhattan. He did this twice, staying several hours each time. First trip, he related a story—that he’d been mugged and injured by three teens in a subway station. Only one of the kids was apprehended. Bernie was angry his assailant was charged with criminal mischief, not for the attack and attempted robbery, but for tearing Bernie’s clothing. Said he’d bought a gun. Then he told me about another attempted robbery, when a Black teenager suddenly was in his face, demanding money. He pulled out the gun and pointed it at the kid, who dropped to his knees and begged for his life. Bernie described him, the pleading. He let the young man go.

Bernie tried to convince me to purchase a gun. He said I needed to be armed when I ran. And he suggested a specific gun, one so small it would fit in an eyeglass case. I told him I wasn’t interested. I have a visual right now of Bernie and me, just the two of us, standing in the kitchen of the first Baltimore residence, a rental, having the conversation. This was the early ‘80s. Son J was about eight, and H was a possibility, a hope.

Not long after this visit, the Subway Vigilante story was THE NEWS. That’s when I told Charles Bernie was the man who’d shot four teenagers. Days later, Bernie turned himself in, and his photograph was front-page at our door.

I don’t remember exactly when Bernie visited again but son H was far more than a maybe, five or six years old by then. And Bernie had served a prison sentence for illegal possession of a firearm. He arrived with a woman. She was a police officer, very pretty and nice. We sat on our row house’s balcony. I remember not wanting to talk about the shooting in H’s presence.

Bernie never came to our place in Nashville, where we lived for eight years. Then we moved to Manhattan. On a hot Saturday morning, Charles and I saw Bernie at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. We chatted briefly. Bernie mentioned his aspiration to be mayor. That was the last time we saw or spoke with him.

The Zimmerman acquittal delivered Bernie memories.

And triggered another: I was in a children’s clothing store in Baltimore’s Roland Park area, shopping for H. When I was at the counter, paying for my purchase, I saw alarm on the cashier’s face. I turned to see a Black couple entering with a child. The man wore a full-length fur and held the little boy’s hand. “We have to watch them. They’re here to steal,” the cashier said to another.

I spoke up, “Because they’re Black? Probably, most of your shoplifters are women like me. White and privileged.”

She began to apologize. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

This is the way so many perceive anyone outside their set—anyone not among the group with whom they identify. And it’s one of the reasons we’re not in the streets, obstructing traffic, blocking commerce, to end the murder of those we dehumanize, those whose countries are in chaos courtesy of US Empire. Another name for our superiority complex is white exceptionalism.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation