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I Watched Them Kill Eric Garner

beliefnet mattew currie astrology eric garnerFirst of all, to my regular readers: there will be precious little astrology in this blog entry. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming next time.

To everyone else: welcome. My name is Matthew. I am a writer and an astrological counselor. It is my job to (among other things) help people understand what has happened in their lives, what will happen, and what they can do about it. Often when we are discussing such things, the subject of “karma” comes up. Like many of you, regardless of your personal beliefs, I have a certain sense that “karma” exists — and yet it’s a remarkably slippery concept to delineate in useful detail.


So, what is “karma,” exactly? The short answer: karma is a metaphysical system by which, ultimately, score is kept on our individual actions and how we act towards others.The longer answer: karma is one of those concepts like “reincarnation” or “God” or “divine will” that I believe in but have a hard time describing. I believe such things are real, and yet in some way they are so large that when I try to describe them or categorize them, I simply can’t.

I believe it’s possible for an earthworm to grasp the general existence of a microwave oven, but I don’t think an earthworm will ever be able to read a microwave oven’s wiring diagram, or understand how one works, or program one. However: should an earthworm find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time with a microwave oven, I do believe that worm will understand there are certain unusual effects happening as a result.


Karma is one of those things I’ve been pondering a lot since I stood there and watched the cops kill Eric Garner last Thursday. It can be used to explain a lot of things… but how much actual meaning does it provide?

I don’t know. All I know is: I was there. I saw it happen.


Karma is (by one definition) the total bonus points and penalties we have accumulated through both past lives and this current one. You could meet and fall in love with and have a relationship with and then break up with pretty much anyone… but the specifics as to the who and why of it is usually where people invoke karma.

The Universe operates according to certain laws, some of which we understand well and some of which we don’t. There are scientific laws, which are testable and well-established… and yet that doesn’t cover everything either. We have had plenty of time to study gravity, and yet apparently it only really works if we invoke “dark matter,” which is an undiscovered invisible something or other that makes up around 90% of the Universe. Ridiculous as that might sound to some, that is the consensus of current scientific thinking.


There are also human laws, which govern how we behave towards each other. These deal with things like which property you can take and which property you can’t, or where you can build your fence, or whether or not it’s okay to drive at a certain speed. Despite being clearly laid out, individual circumstances often require a trial and/or a judge.

Somewhere above (or perhaps beside or below) these laws is “the law of karma.” It is something that I believe most of us instinctively understand, and yet very few of us grasp clearly.

Karma sometimes seems like an attempt to codify something that otherwise would just be considered a wild card. If the bad guy gets away with a dirty deed, we say “the karma will catch up with him later.” We do nice things for others in the hopes that it will generate “good karma” for us, and act like a Get Out Of Jail Free card for something else later.


When something terrible like the death of Eric Garner happens, how much does invoking karma really help? I don’t know. All I can tell you for sure is: I was there. I saw it happen.



Eric Garner ran a convenience store in the neighborhood that I have just moved into. I had never met him, and didn’t know him, but I soon learned from others that everyone called him “Big Eric,” and for good reason. He was huge: six foot three and around 400 pounds. But by all accounts he was a pleasant and gentle person. Big Eric was not the type to use his strength unwisely.

When people see terrible and unexpected things, they’ll often say that it was like “something from a movie.” Watching Eric Garner die wasn’t like that for me. It was more like kabuki. The movements were strangely ritualized: calm, almost rehearsed. I can almost hear a commentary in my head, like a translator explaining the moves and the characters and the subtleties of Japanese culture during a kabuki performance to an uninitiated Westerner.



-Here is Eric, the man from the corner store. He came out to break up a fight, but the men who were fighting left as the police arrived. Eric has done what most would consider to be “the right thing.”

-Note that Eric is a black man. This will affect how many in Eric’s time perceive him.

-The police arrive. They are well armed and white. They know Eric. He has been charged before with the sale of individual un-taxed cigarettes to the people of his neighborhood. This is a common practice in Eric’s time and place.

-Now Eric has become upset. He is tired of being arrested.

-The men the police originally came for are long gone, so the police decide to arrest Eric. Notice how they encircle him. Eric becomes upset at this, waving his hands — not menacingly, but in frustration.


-Four policemen bring Eric down. One of the police officers — a plainclothesman who is dressed like a common citizen — wraps his arm around Eric’s neck. Eric is a large man and it takes four policemen to take him down.

-Although the policemen of this time have been instructed to not use the choke hold, it still happens. These policemen seem unaware that Eric is asthmatic.

-Eric protests that he cannot breathe. After a short time with the plainclothes officer pushing Eric’s face into the sidewalk, Eric’s protests stop. He twitches a little and then moves no more.

-The police officers do not render medical assistance. They try to shoo away the bystanders who are recording all this.


-The police stand around Eric’s motionless body as they wait for the ambulance. Eric does not move When the EMT crew arrives, none of them give Eric CPR. They show Eric approximately the same amount of medical care and attention that porters would show the luggage they were picking up for a trip to the airport.

-The ambulance takes Eric away.


This is what I saw, and this is what still plays in my head. It is Killing Kabuki.


So, karmically, and as an astrologer… what can I say about all this? I don’t have Eric Garner’s birth chart. But knowing my own birth chart, and knowing all the transits to my Mercury that day, I’m going to hazard a guess that as a professional communicator, it is my “karma” to communicate what I saw that day to you now.


Yes. Perhaps it was my karma to move to my new neighborhood last week, and perhaps it was karma that I was across the street with a clear view of Eric Garner as he died. And maybe it’s your karma to be here now to read my words as I relate the tale, so we can all feel better about it.

There. Does that help? I know that, for me, thinking about it that way is a lot easier than dwelling on the knowledge that, at the time, I felt compelled to step in and stop it yet I did nothing… just like everyone else there at the time.

Frankly though: I’d much rather live in a world where Eric Garner was still alive, he remained a complete stranger to me, and I had nothing to say to you about this. I would prefer to live in a world where I didn’t have to notice that one man of one particular skin tone was brought down and killed by other men of a different skin tone over the finer points of tobacco taxation.


Or, who knows? Maybe those cops were just having a bad day, and it was hot, and things got out of hand, and race had nothing to do with it, and mistakes were made.


As much as I want to believe that, I can’t. And neither should you.

And if you feel the least bit differently about this matter… if you want to just take it that way and move on with your busy life… may I kindly suggest you investigate the concept of “karma” a little further yourself?

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  • Soldier

    The government will get away with murdering Eric Garner because the people fear the Police and this corrupt government. We all know what we seen in that video and it was a man surrendering with his hands up, only to be jumped and assaulted by police officers. It was visually disturbing and when he kept pleading to them to leave him alone they didn’t. I heard he wasn’t even selling looses that day, yet he was being harassed by the cops for what?

  • Chad

    I was watching jon stewart tonight and he was unable to say anything funny about a particular jury decision where race was involved. I was struck by his tone, which is normally somewhat detached, but he seemed personally distraught. So i went to npr to find out what had happened. Then something in my brain clicked, and i remembered i had read this a few months ago. I remember being a little disturbed by it at the time, almost preferring not to have read it. I didnt know if it was the same guy until i got here, and reading this again was chilling.

  • Antonia

    Karma… Will karma catch up with the person who shot my cousin 4 times in the chest and escaped? Will karma catch up with the witness who claims to have seen the killer hop into a black suv after hearing four gun shots? Or the simple fact that he died around midnight but police didn’t appear until just after 3 am when his body was discovered in somebody’s front lawn. I don’t know how a person could see the getaway car 3 hours before the police were called. A “black” man, according to articles (half black if it makes a difference) is killed in the “hood” of Cincinnati and the articles are kind enough to inform us that he wasn’t a student at the nearby university. As if he was somehow more deserving of death for being a black person walking the street near a university that he wasn’t attending. To some people it’s just another “black death”, just another black guy who was killed out of nowhere. Will they even try to find the person responsible for this? I’m not sure what to take from this entire thing. I remember his warmth and gentle words back in June at our grandmother’s funeral, him joining me for a cigarette and the comfortable silence that we shared. This moment of respite is my last memory of him and I can’t imagine why he needed to be removed from the world.

  • Debra

    I’m so weary of all of the little things ignored until it turns into a BIG thing; like murder. You witnessed and shared another instance of a very old pattern. I do really appreciate how you refrained from stating the obvious – giving others the choice to perceive their own values as priority v. an uncomfortable facing of the common indifference to a historical and current issue of inhumanity towards a certain class of people.
    Your account of the display of Eric’s life being snuffed out by license of an occupation, stunned me for days. I hope people stop to appreciate their lot in life because certain traits can translate to “open season” and I’m not exaggerating.
    My mother was beat to the point of retardation and left with a spinal injury that required her to wear a metal halo that was screwed into her skull for over a year. I’m a drug, crime, record free, educated (2 degrees from the U of W) woman and I was physically attacked by 3 police officers because I “…resembled T-Bone’s girlfriend”, one day while walking to the bank. The only thing that saved me was that I made a weird choice to ‘go limp’ which is impossible to be interpreted as ‘resisting’. They let me go after running my id. No one stopped to watch the violation. Everyone seemed as if it was business as usual. Because it is.
    Three years later, my mom wasn’t so lucky. She died a different woman than the bright, courageous, and generous woman who raised a whole neighborhood’s children by founding a social service for underprivileged kids. One police officer beat her to a pulp, while others watched because she asked for her keys back with an attitude, after being stopped for being “suspicious”. They tried to hide it by taking her to the hospital and getting her cleaned up, then took her to a booking cell for 3 days to “sleep it off”, while my family was searching for her and wondering where she was. An anonymous caller alerted me to where she was and they tried to deny she was there when I went to pick her up.
    I could share more personal accounts of what happened to my brother, niece, and son but the point is…you don’t have to be a thug to be considered “killable”. All it takes is an ignorant person with unchallenged views of superiority with given authority, an acceptable group to scapegoat, and societal denial, to render certain lives as “negotiable”.
    Thank you for refusing to ignore what you saw Matthew Currie and for giving me an opportunity to get this off of my chest. People need to know why it keeps happening. Karma sometimes boils down to inescapable circumstances born before you were.

  • Ann Clark

    Thanks from me too, Matthew – I had somehow missed this in news online, and have stopped watching all TV news.

    I’m a “don’t know” on the issue of karma, so hope that the US justice system works properly in this instance, and that those responsible will get their just deserts for this deliberate cold-blooded murder – just in case there is no such thing as karma pay-back in the by and by.

  • pam

    Thank you for writing this. I think you should testify against the policr officers who murdered Eric.

  • Holly

    I’m glad you shared this. You have a gift for putting a recognizable face on things. And yes, be extra gentle with yourself right now…

  • cindylee04

    It is a well documented and tested sociological phenomena that the more people there are witnessing an event like this, the less likely any one person will intervene. Some people call this the Genovese Syndrome named after the Kitty Genevese murder in New York where a dozen people heard her crying out for help and no one called the police for at least half an hour.

  • Leslie

    Such a distressing event for you to witness in your new neighborhood. I felt so sorry for his wife and kids.

  • Matthew Currie

    Fear of cops/trust that cops are somehow doing the right thing, partly the knowledge that no one else is doing anything either. Both very human responses, and neither helpful in hindsight.

  • brett

    i thank you for sharing, as i have done with your written account – why do you think you and all the people filming the tragedy on their phones didnt help or do cpr?

  • Cameron Webb

    Sometimes I think we, through nothing to do with ourselves or our own past or actions, get caught in other people’s karma, as it comes back on them, or as they create it. I do not know necessarily that it was Eric’s Karma, or your Karma in play in that moment. Just a thought. Be gentle and care for yourself, after witnessing such a thing.

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