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The MOVE fire of 1985 killed 11, including five children, and destroyed 61 homes.

The MOVE fire of 1985 killed 11, including five children, and destroyed 61 homes.

I had a lot of rage after I watched Let the Fire Burn, a 2013 documentary about the March 13, 1985 bombing of the MOVE organization in Philadelphia. That tends to happen when I watch something overwhelming wrong, as was the case with the MOVE bombing. When that happens, I just spew my outrage out; it’s a form of catharsis. I’ve said it before and I”ll say it again, however: moral outrage is not a good moral compass. Moral outrage is just the baseball bat to our moral conscious and our empathy. What we do after that awakening is what’s important once the outrage has receded.

It’s another documentary that effectively courts moral outrage using predominately archival footage.

After the bomb, after they “let the fire burn,” five children and six adults were dead and 65 homes were burned, leaving 250 people homeless. The police fired over 10,000 rounds into the house; no working firearms were found inside the wreckage of the MOVE house.

Even though a city commission would later find that the city and police department officials had acted “negligently,” nobody would face any consequences for what occurred that day.

I thought my outrage had been exhausted by the time of the Epilogue of the documentary, but then police officer James Berghaier spoke about saving the only child survivor of the fire, Michael Africa. Compared to his other fellow officers that gave testimony to the commission, Berghaier actually sounded like a human being.

After his testimony, “nigger love,” was written on his locker and he retired two years later with PTSD. Gah. Grrr. Ahhh.

There are people that have this perverted notion that we ought to not look back on the past, just keep looking forward. You see that evoked a lot right now and will more as the ’16 election rolls along, regarding the Iraq War. And that was only 12 years ago and formally ended four years ago.

We should reject such distorted notions. It’s important to know history to guide the present. It’s important to know history to prevent negative future outcomes. It’s important to know history for history’s own sake.

As long as I’m inhaling my morally indignant breath, I’m going to keep reminding people of the day the Philly PD dropped a bomb on an American city, the day America engaged in the worst modern foreign policy blunder (and blunder is putting it mildly) by invading Iraq and many other significant events in our history. Maybe most times I’ll be doing so to rolled eyes, apathetic eyes or disagreeable eyes and maybe there’s a shade of fatalism to it, but at least I’ll go into the ground saying a hardy, “Fuck you,” to injustice as I saw it.

Throughout the '70s and '80s, the radical African-American MOVE organization had several dramatic encounters with police.

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, the radical African-American MOVE organization had several dramatic encounters with police.

One thought on ““Let the Fire Burn” A Review…Sort Of

  1. The let the fire burn documentary is an eye opening riveting piece of Philadelphia history that seems to have been swept under the rug? My first encounter with thus docudrama left me speechless. I was so intrigued that I did some self education concerning the entire topic from the MOVE members to the Osage Avenue residents who were not MOVE members. My findings were extraordinary. I hope your findings were as informative as mines

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