Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Justice (Finally?) For the Memphis Three?

Coming from where I come from, I know a thing or two about injustice. In one of Jamaica's most notorious cases, a man was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime that happened after he was arrested.

I also know a thing or two about Heavy Metal. To this day I tell anybody who would listen that Guns and Roses saved my life. After Hurricane Gilbert pulled a Hiroshima on Jamaica, light went, water seemingly evaporated, food quintupled in price and the radio stations played Don't Worry, Be Happy all day long. I was nearly going postal and my mom was a cop who probably had a gun in the house.

I still remember the night I came home, turned on the radio and heard, not Sweet Chile O Mine, but the end of it. There I was hapless and hopeless and the first thing I heard in the dark was Where do we go? Where do we go now? I didn't know where I was going. I felt as if I'd never go anywhere, ever. I was trapped and stuck and losing my mind. I think I fell to my knees. I know I cried. A year later my school, in order to make sure we grew into morally upstanding young men, showed us the documentary Highway to Hell —you know the one—the one that backmasked Led Zeppelin and told you that even Madonna was a servant of Satan. Some people found Jesus after that documentary. I found ACDC, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and 999.

Also, coming from a country whose churches are out numbered only by bars I also know a thing or two about satanic panic. Hell, I wrote my first novel about it. Christanity whipped into a frenzy of justified bigotry and distrust of the other. So when the West Memphis Three, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, Damien W. Echols, [picture] were convicted on a grisly triple murder that even third world detective work could have proven false, I knew it was heavy metal that was being convicted. Satanic panic given free reign to fill in the awfully wide gaps in a preposterously implausible story. I could go on about the details of the case, but the New York times, in a story that broke today about new DNA evidence does it much better.

Granted, Heavy Metal has never exactly been a banner music for racial equality. Some branches like a lot of European Black Metal seem to not like negroes very much and think Hitler was a right smashing fellow. Ultimately my allegiance is with Punk because it tore down racial and sexual boundaries as quickly as you could say 1234! (well it used to). The racial and sexual boundaries that some heavy metal still adheres to.

But something about being an outcast even among outcasts makes the story of the West Memphis Three resonate. It's not the first time Heavy metal and youth was put on trial. It's not the the first time nor will it be the last the church will launch a jihad on people who do not fit in. And it's not the first nor will it be the last time that people profit from the lingering miseries and petty fears of others.