Tough father and obedient son, stories of American crimes


Mike Taylor, 59, is a tough guy and his son Peter, 26, has always admired him. Gregory McMichael, 64, also has a real macho background, and his son Travis, 34, also grew up in his shadow.

The two pairs of fathers and sons are now at the center of American news and politics and their family sagas animate the election campaign for the White House 2020, the delicate international relations between the United States and the crucial ally Japan, concern US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, mobilizing distant communities, civil rights activists in Georgia, the state where the Nobel Peace Prize Reverend Martin Luther King rests under the finally free free marble memorial stone, and world finance, which follows the case of the Brazilian and Lebanese-born car magnate Renault and Nissan Carlos Ghosn, detained by the Japanese authorities pending trial and fled to Beirut with a daring epic of cases from musical instruments and private planes.

At first glance, nothing unites the two strong fathers and two faithful children, if not a remote chronicle of the American Civil War 1861-1865, when the Boston colonel Robert Gould Shawn, a patriot who believed in the equality between black and white, he barely persuaded the northern army to let him command African American troops. Even among the Unionists, who also fought the slavery South, the blacks were believed to be lazy and cowardly, intended only for ironworks and kitchens, but Gould led the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts, the first multi-ethnic department of the American army, to the assault on Fort Wagner , in South Carolina, falling, at the age of 25, to their head. To disfigure, southern general Hagood did not return Shawn’s body, as was used with officers, but buried him in a mass grave with black soldiers. The colonel’s father, from Boston, reacted nobly “I would not want another grave for my son than among his fellow soldiers, a true guard of honor”.

And here the threads between past and present, invisible at first sight, become dense and bizarre. As a rebellious boy, the future martyr Shawn was uncomfortable even at the classic Harvard university, which remembers him with a plaque in the main hall, and went to work on Staten Island, a popular suburb of New York refuge of many exiles, including the Italians Antonio Meucci, inventor of the telephone, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, who made candles to live. From there the war brings Shawn to Darien, Georgia, a southerner city razed to the ground in retaliation by the Northerners. Darien stands just 10 kilometers from Brunswick, and the two cities have always rivaled nearby Savannah for political and economic power.

Mike Taylor was born on Staten Island, following his stepfather in the ranks of the federal army, heir of Shawn’s troops, eventually ending up living in his city, Boston. Gregory McMichael, however, resides in Brunswick, Georgia, in view of Darien and the Golden Island islands, where the heirs of the slaves Shawn wanted to free still speak the ancestral Gullah dialect. There was filmed “Glory”, the film about the progressive colonel with Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington, there Tom Hanks played the deeds of “Forrest Gump”. The past does not want to die, it seems, and the chronicles of fathers and sons still divide America and the world.

Mike Taylor and Peter Taylor have been arrested in Boston, the city of Colonel Shawn, for organizing Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan to Lebanon, and are now awaiting trial and extradition to Tokyo, where they face up to four years in prison. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael are also in jail and awaiting trial in Brunswick, where Shawn fought, accused of killing 25-year-old black Ahmaud Arbery, guilty of jogging in a white neighborhood. In both cases the father organizes and commands, the son follows him passively, without objecting. And this hierarchy is also recorded in history, because Mike Taylor is a former Green Beret, the US special troops famous for the 1968 film “Green Berets”, with John Wayne and for the ballad of Sergeant Barry Sadler, with his fallen father in battle the green beret passes to his son, while his son Peter had as a dream only to produce bibitoni for athletes, Vitamin1 called them without too much imagination, choosing as testimonial the former New England Patriots football ace Rob Gronkowski. And if Gregory McMichael was really considered a tough guy among the police under the orders of the Brunswick prosecutors, the mastiff detectives that the accusation unleashes against the defendants at the trials, his son Travis, more modestly, was the tourist guide among the beauties of the Golden Islands, taking visitors by boat.

Among the Green Berets Taylor had the toughest assignment, for which he practiced for a long time: in the event of an open war with the Soviet Union his department would have launched from a very high altitude, to escape the radars, on the Fulda Gate, the area of ​​Hesse from where the tanks of the Red Army would have flowed to Europe, opening the parachutes only a short distance from the ground. Here they would detonate tactical atomic warheads against enemies, in a nutshell Taylor father was studying as a suicide bomber. And the spirit of adventure remains inside him for life, forged by the experience of military adviser of Maronite Christians in Beirut against the Hezbollah militias, in the fierce climate of 1982, with the Israeli invasion. In 1983 Taylor left the army and put the fabulous green beret back on the bulletin board. Become a mercenary, warrior at work for those who pay him the money of the day. Study Arabic and meet George Zayek, a Lebanese adventurer who will be involved in Ghosn’s escape.
Taylor lives with his wife Lamia Abboud in Harvard, Colonel Shawn’s university, trains the Lawrence high school football team, where, obedient to his father’s screams from the bench, his son Peter plays. But war and intrigue of the souks in Beirut are not a school of sports, an ex athlete remembers “Mr. Taylor pushed us like we were in battle” and soon the authorities cancel two Lawrence badges, apparently obtained by Taylor with illicit methods, ” footballopoli “at school. She gets into trouble by hiding marijuana in a lady’s car, helping her ex-husband, her client, engaged in a difficult divorce. He has her arrested, but is discovered and sentenced. He prefers to remember the successes obtained with the liberation of the family of Lucy Kolb Zantout, who tried to flee Lebanon, where she was oppressed by her husband Manesco, and return to North Carolina. A first attempt ends in Damascus, Lucy and her three children risk death or repatriation to Beirut. Taylor arrives, with a $ 155,000 parcel in his pocket in 1999, 250,000 euros today, speaks, threatens, treats, sits with heavily armed guerrillas and secret agents who have sold everything, gets a fine for the woman and the children only $ 4 and a flight to America. Another fellow citizen is freed as a hero and Taylor is preening himself: wasn’t it he who was even hired by the New York Times when special envoy David Rohde was kidnapped in Afghanistan?

Kabul and Baghdad, Iraq, the capitals of the war on terrorism, the longest in American history, become home for Taylor, between one problem and another, accusations of racketeering, corruption, always managed with head held high, hard. Until the bargain of life arrives, try to free Carlos Ghosn, who has become a convict from car king, under house arrest in Tokyo, pending a humiliating trial and perhaps a harsh sentence, from the mahogany board of directors at the jail table. And who calls Taylor father on the team? As if they were still on the green fields of football in Lawrence, Peter summons, he is the one who gives Ghosn the key to a hotel room, the first leg of the great escape, then 360 kilometers of high speed to Osaka, Ghosn, without too many ceremonies, loaded in a case usually used for musical instruments such as pianos, a private plane to Turkey, then finally Beirut and freedom, the cost of the company perhaps 50 million euros.

And Mike Taylor, a true John Wayne-style Green Cap, does not hesitate to brag with fellow soldiers of the Connecting Vets site: ”I can’t comment on the Ghosn case, but the truth is that the guy was a hostage, that’s all. If it had jumped out of North Korea or China it would be a whole other story, wouldn’t it? ” True, but the businessman “jumped out” from Japan and therefore Taylor father and son were arrested in Boston, apparently just as they were preparing to escape in turn to Beirut. A photo shows Mike Taylor, straight as the commando he was, bibs in sight under the polo shirt, at Istanbul airport, just on the day of Ghosn’s transit inside the cash desk and the trial will be heavy trial. Trump must resist the pressing requests of extradition of the Japanese, investors from many countries are attentive to the causes for compensation, poor Peter Taylor sees the dreams of sports drinks folded by his father’s craving for adventures.

Even Travis McMichael’s dreams end up ruined by his fatherly enthusiasm, even the McMichael family sees themselves dragged into the big and terrible world. Other than sailing on a boat along the winding coasts of the Golden Islands, maybe towing a European tourist, tacking, watching sunsets and sunrises on the green shore. Everything eclipsed on February 23, when America begins to mirror itself in the coronavirus tragedy. Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man, a former football player just like Travis Taylor, Nike shoes on his feet, a few previous penalties behind him, trains like every day. This time, however, he enters the white district of Satilla Shores, where in every house there is a weapon and at dinner one often talks about the “citizen’s arrest”, the arcane local law that allows citizens, in the absence of the police, to turn into agents and stop anyone they think is guilty of a crime. A remote practice, inaugurated by King Edward I in England in the thirteenth century, but which still bloody the South of the United States.

In 2012, teenage Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida by white vigilante George Zimmerman, just because he was running home with the hood of his sweatshirt raised, “if I had a son, he would be like Trayvon,” President Obama said with a broken heart. And in Georgia, in Fayetteville, in 2019 it’s up to a woman, Hannah R. Payne, 22, white, to make herself a violent arm of the law. Hannah witnesses a banal traffic accident, a bent mudguard, but gets upset to see that the motorist she holds responsible, Kenneth E. Herring, a 62-year-old mechanic who loves going to mass on Sunday with a tie decorated with the words “BIBLE” ”, He walks away quietly. She reaches him, blocks him with the car, opens the door and punches him in the face “I am armed son of … get out now” and while from a police car, immediately rushed, an agent begs her, “Stop!”, Hannah cold pitiless poor Kenneth and is now in jail, awaiting trial.

On February 23rd Ahmaud Arbery runs through the suburb of Brunswick, the South that Colonel Shawn wanted to free and that is not yet completely free. To a close eye Ahmoud seems too interested in an empty house, everyone is nervous about the mysterious petty thefts of the last period, attributed by the whites just to a black boy, like Ahmaud. Suspicion is enough for the hard father, Gregory McMichael, in his detective life he has sentenced legions of black kids, some are still inside, arrest first, then the evidence is sought. He calls his son Travis, they arm themselves with a 357 magnum revolver and a sawed-off shotgun, jump on a pickup truck, shout at Ahmaud “Stop, stop”. But Ahmaud’s generation grew up with Zimmerman’s nightmare killing Trayvon Martin out of a misunderstanding desire for justice that conceals racism, and he saw protests from the Black Lives Matter movement on every newscast: the ex-footballer does not stop. The following goes viral in a video collected by another Satilla Shores resident, who in turn ended up in jail, with the McMichael accused of murder, Travis McMichael fighting for a moment with Ahmaud, then the fatal blow.

As in the Taylor-Ghosn case, the process will be long and difficult. Jason Vaughn, Ahmoud’s coach at the public high school in Brunswick, complains “With this damned virus we cannot make demonstrations, pickets, protests, the police do not leave us. We have opened a Facebook page but it is not enough ”. And friends and colleagues, all white, of McMichael father, when he worked with the prosecutor’s office, lined up without restraint. A scoop by Richard Fausset, of the New York Times, reveals that George E. Barnhill, district attorney to whom the murder was entrusted Ahmaud Arbery asked for the acquittal for the McMichael just in the name of the “citizen arrest”, the law of King Edward I imported into the old colonies.
The scandal is immediate, an investigating magistrate who acquits the ex-police officer, excessive conflict of interest even in Georgia and the case is reassigned, with the new arrest of the author of the video as an accomplice. Now the death of Ahmaud Arbery enters the 2020 presidential campaign, Trump’s Republicans talking about minority crimes and a constitutional right to have guns and rifles, Joe Biden’s Democrats to defend civil rights and ask for a more severe arms license.

The martyrdom of Colonel Shawn and his black fighters from 54th Massachusetts, from Boston of Taylor to Georgia of McMichael, therefore does not yet guarantee justice for everyone. And the story of two families, hard Father and obedient Son to follow him, becomes History.

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