AS PART of my continuing mission this summer to see as many Sand Gnats games as possible before the team moves to Columbia next season, I caught a couple of games this past weekend at Grayson Stadium.
It was a great weekend of baseball, beer, and brats, complete with an outstanding fireworks show.
It was also a bit melancholy thinking of some of the great players who’ve swung a bat and worn a glove within the park’s confines over the years: Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron.
Literally the greatest names in the sport, right there at Victory and Bee.
What a shame to not have pro ball in that shabby-chic little old park anymore. And what a shame that those immortal legends and their time in Savannah will probably vanish down the old memory hole forever. Not so immortal after all.
Billed as a Subway Series down South—the teams are Mets and Yankees affiliates respectively—the Sand Gnats played the Charleston Riverdogs all weekend.
It was in fact the first meeting between the teams since the Emanuel AME murders.
So it was a bit ironic walking up to the stadium and noticing the American flag in front of the stadium flying at full staff for the first time since those murders.
And then I thought: Huh.
Just 24 hours before, five U.S. servicemen were assassinated on domestic soil. And the flag wasn’t at half-staff for them.
Look, I don’t want to get too Fox & Friends here, or God forbid start channeling Donald Trump. But in this time when people do seem very concerned about flags and what they stand for, it didn’t add up.
I realize that we can’t fly the flag at half-staff every single time a U.S. serviceman or servicewoman dies in the line of duty, otherwise the flag would pretty much always be at half-staff.
But this wasn’t a Blackhawk going down in a training accident or a firefight outside Kabul. This attack would certainly seem to any objective observer to be a premeditated terroristic targeting of recruiting offices.
Other countries might consider it an act of war. In much of the U.S., it’s an afterthought.
One of the murdered servicemen was Skip Wells, a Georgia native and former Georgia Southern student who joined the Marines. He’d only been in Chattanooga for two weeks, his girlfriend remaining in Savannah until they could be together again.
Chattanooga is feeling the tragedy very keenly. And I can tell you that those in the armed forces community directly see the attack as a dramatic expansion of terrorism targeting the homeland. They wonder why more isn’t being made of it.
But the rest of the country seems to view it as more of an inconvenience. The president so far has taken it in stride, even attending a Broadway show in New York over the weekend.
In the end, it took five days for the White House to finally bow to public pressure to order flags lowered at the federal level. (There were two Georgia natives killed in Chattanooga, and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has ordered flags flown at half-staff statewide on the days of their funerals.)
I understand life has to go on, and I’m not sure what exactly this all says. But it can’t be good.
It would be such a shame if this incident and these deaths, like so many others before, also went down the memory hole.
LATE THAT Friday afternoon before the Gnats game, some very unusual breaking news came out of a Savannah courtroom.
The news was understandably overshadowed by Chattanooga, but is still very important and shouldn’t be overlooked.
A mistrial was declared in the case of former Savannah Metro police officer Malik Khaalis, in court for violating his oath and making false statements.
You might recognize the name from the saga of disgraced and imprisoned former police chief Willie Lovett.
Like an episode of The Wire, an investigation in 2010 revealed that Khaalis, then on the Counter Narcotics Team (CNT), seemed to be a mole, actively disrupting the team’s efforts to target drug dealers.
One example, brought up during the trial, was when Khaalis initiated an unauthorized traffic stop for the apparent purpose of tipping off a drug dealer who was the subject of a major operation.
A CNT supervisor at the time, Rusty Smith, immediately demanded that Khaalis be removed, but to no avail.
“I want him out today. I don’t want him in my unit,” Smith said he told CNT head Roy Harris. “I begged, I begged and begged and asked for some clarification.”
But Chief Lovett—who made personnel calls for CNT—only doubled-down on gutting the Team as much as possible.
I’ve written this before, but I guess I’ll have to keep writing it over and over again:
The same people who hired and supported Willie Lovett are the exact same people asking you to return them to office this November. The drug trade and corruption they abetted without question led directly to much of the gun violence on Savannah streets today.
And now... there’s a mistrial in a key case. The key case which could theoretically lead us further up the money trail.
To the real heart of the problem?
The judge, however, found that the prosecution was sitting on evidence and ordered a new trial, which will begin a couple of weeks before the election. I’m not sure whether that helps or hurts incumbents running for office, but it almost assuredly won’t conclude in time for the voting.
A few years have gone by since the Lovett/Khaalis debacle. We have a new chief who seems to be moving in the right direction. As part of the new police merger agreement, Chatham County made sure to take CNT away from sole City control.
In any case, incumbent City politicians are now asking you to forget all that happened before. Just stay the course.
They’re hoping the improved national economy and the new police chief will make you forget what already happened on their watch, and their accountability for it.
By all means, vote as your own mind and conscience dictate. But please—don’t let the memory hole take any more from us than it already has.
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