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What Happened to James Chasse: I'll be at Jim Jim's memorial tonight

Friday, October 27, 2006

I'll be at Jim Jim's memorial tonight

from Mary's Great Ideas

Jim Jim was a member of the same loose-knit community of young people as me in the early 1980s, a lot of us creative, many of us smart, some of us more punk rock than others, a few of us a little messed up. What do you expect from an alternative school? (and an alternative era)?

(As an aside, I must confess that it was only when I was working in the field of education that I learned that "alternative" can mean "bad" -- I just thought we were different and weird and edgy ... you know, in a good way. And actually, I still think we were.)

But that's not why I'm going. I didn't know Jim Jim that well. He was older than me by a few years and, truth be told, a lot cooler. I was still focused on things like horses and fantasy books, didn't care very much about music, let alone local music, and certainly wasn't very fashionable. Jim Jim was a part of a crowd that was in bands (or at least knew a lot about them), wore cool clothes, and did crazy adventurous shit that, in retrospect, some of which was actually crazy. And I certainly wasn't in touch over the last twenty plus years. If Jim Jim had died peacefully, I probably never would have heard about it. Violent circumstances increase the impact of a death exponentially.

I asked my mother last night if she was going and she said, "I thought it was just people who knew him," and I said, no, I don't think so. I think that we are invited to attend Jim Jim's memorial for reasons beyond our individual connection to him, or even our connection to a particular cultural moment, and it's for those broader reasons that I'm going.

I'll be there to honor Jim Jim's memory, and to hear more about him from his friends and family. I remember Jim Jim as gentle and vulnerable and interesting. He wasn't a boring person. He wasn't a violent person. He didn't deserve to be killed, and he does deserve to be remembered.

I'll be there to show my respect and support to his family. I witnessed how my family, particularly my grandmother, worked to support and sustain my schizophrenic father. My grandmother lived to bury him, and although his death was peaceful, it broke her heart, and I think particularly so because he had remained dependent on her in his adulthood. I can only imagine what Jim Jim's mother and father must feel. I hope it's some comfort to his family to know that the people of Portland empathize and support them.

I'll be there to show solidarity with my community. In the face of an outrage, it's one thing to read newspaper stories and blogs and write letters -- there is some value to these. But for me, there's something organically compelling and, yes, empowering about standing together in a crowd.

I'll be there to show quiet outrage. I'm not naive; I come from a political, multi-racial family. (I've said it before, and it's true: I'm pretty much the whitest person in my family, if you don't count the Mormon branch.) I've always known that there are police who abuse their power, but even with my background, it wasn't something that was, I don't know, of pressing importance. Jim Jim's death has narrated this reality for me in a way that is immediate, real, and personal. I'm sorry now that I never showed up at a vigil for Kendra James, or any of the others who the police have abused or killed. Jim Jim's memorial gives me the chance to reflect on a broader injustice and show my opposition to it in a way that, for me, feels comfortable and appropriate (I'm not so excited about participating in rowdy spectacles these days). I'm grateful that his family has given us this opportunity to be together in a peaceful, respectful setting.

I'll be there to listen. The Portland Mental Health Association has given a tentative list of people who might be speaking at the memorial. Looking at the range of organizations and individuals, I'm looking forward to learning more about Jim Jim, the problems his death highlights, and possible solutions.

* Rev. Dr. Patricia Ross, First Congregational
* Rev. Paul Davis, First Congregational
* Jim and Pamela Chasse - family
* Mark Chasse - family
* Rev. Catherine Nelson, Trinity Episcopal
* Rev. Chuck Currie, Parkrose United Church of Christ
* Mike Lastra - friend
* Debbie Coppinger, Operation Nightwatch
* Kt and Kim Kincaid - friends
* Beckie Child, Mental Health Association of Oregon
* Martin Gonzalez, Justice for Jose Mejia Poot Committee
* Jason Renaud, Mental Health Association of Portland
* X J Elliott - friend
* Avel Gordly, Oregon State Senator
* Dr. T Allen Bethel, Maranatha Church of God
* Eva Lake - friend
* Steve Doughton - friend

Maybe I'll see you there tonight.

Friday, October 27, 2006 7:00 PM
First Congregational Church
1126 SW Park Ave

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