To See Fellows Crying

The Department of Justice is investigating the Memphis Police Department, two months after police beat up Tyre Nichols. The fatal incident unfolded in front of anyone with a screen, anyone with Twitter. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, souvenir pictures of lynchings became postcards. Mailings of the physical images, an early form of social media, served as extensions of the lynching spectacle.

“He cried out for me,” said Tyre’s mother.

George Floyd, ground into the street by a Minneapolis cop, died calling out “Mama!”

Mama was Cissy Floyd, who suffered chronic strokes and left this Earthly life two years earlier. Back in the day, in Cissy’s Houston home, the two would dance to Al Green’s Love and Happiness.

The Imperial War Museums know how World War I soldiers felt in the midst of shelling. “It would make you feel ill yourself to see fellows crying,” recalled Royal Fusilier William Holbrook, “calling out for their mother and all the things like that.”

Irreplaceable minds, silenced by the fear of their dominators in action. Love and happiness, in the siphon of the collective sociopathy. I drink your milkshake. Your milkshake, somebody’s mother’s bodily fluid mixed with sugar, taken from a Desolation Row of calves for whom the mothers bellow.

Who listens? Who listens as the mothers and the fathers cry out for their murdered children, systematically “treated like animals” and sacrificed in a vile roulette run by a police state, a military-industrial machine? Who hears the killing-floor worker who’s expelled from a job, and what’s next? The street? The smug immigration judge? Detention? Deportation…or the laughably cruel “voluntary departure”?

In this vulgar Anthropocene story, in our self-styled supreme species, empathy has been shelled, shot, stomped, interrogated, lynched, detained, depleted, betrayed, clubbed, bulldozed, slaughtered, unheeded and unheard. The inflictors of such harm will crumble in their time. Their child, or their child’s child, will be stranded.

In this world riddled with the strange, empty casings of the supreme ones’ self-domesticated angst, a vague, lifelong murmur from deep in my mind calls out to the universal mother, calls out to the gentle grandfather who walked me to the post office with a typewritten letter to a friend. It calls for a time when my living soul was clutched tightly, by all the love in the world.

Lee Hall holds an LL.M. in environmental law with a focus on climate change, and has taught law as an adjunct at Rutgers–Newark and at Widener–Delaware Law. Lee is an author, public speaker, and creator of the Studio for the Art of Animal Liberation on Patreon.