Police Brutality

Come And Mourn With Me Awhile

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Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 8.11.50 AMIt’s an old hymn, a melancholy hymn that begins with the line “O come and mourn with me awhile; And tarry here the cross beside; O come, together let us mourn; Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.” (Faber) Jars of Clay dropped it on an album a while back and now I’m caught humming the melody as I read the news and mourn again. Standing at the scene of out-of-control violence, let us tarry and mourn.

For all our wars we’ve fought, our deep national pride and our vaunted founding documents that speak of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… we come here again. A place of violence. Images of jackboot policing that do not come from some history book about regimes we fought in liberty’s name, but from a school in our own country. A school. Mourn with me.

Mourn with me for what we do in our schools. Mourn with me that we create systems of violence and conflict instead of learning and participation. Mourn with me that adults can escalate situations with children to such violent ends, and then we have long discussions on what the child did to precipitate the problem. Mourn with me that we then divide and fight one another over why such violence is needed and who carries the most blame… we are all to blame. We are addicted to violence.

We don’t know how to give one another dignity and respect any more, so we are left fighting for the torn scraps of dominance. We don’t know how to be a community any longer so we violently police schoolrooms and throw children from chairs. We don’t know how to teach any longer, so students are arrested instead. Mourn with me.

Watch again as the student is thrown to the ground. Watch as she is thrown across the floor into a wall. Watch as the officer then pins her to the ground with his knee. Now, this is your daughter. This is your granddaughter. This is your sister. This is your friend. This is your neighbor. This is you. What did you just learn about police officers at the age of seventeen? You learned that they are violent, brutal and just waiting to unleash on you. You just learned to fear.

Watch again as that officer grabs a seventeen year old girl and flips her desk, hitting another student’s desk in the process. Watch the officer take a good hold, plant his feet and with almost a running start fling her bodily from the desk across the floor into a wall. Watch him again leap onto her back and pin her to the floor wrenching her arms behind her back. Mourn with me for this man. Mourn with me for his anger and rage that lashes out at a student. Mourn with me that such misdirection and rage is given a badge and a license to attack. Mourn with me for every single voice that will defend his brutality and blame his victim.

Don’t say, “She should have…” She did absolutely nothing to escalate the situation to that point. She was not physically capable of a fraction of that officer’s violence. The punch with her closed fist that people are taking about is the flailing response of a child grabbed by an adult and physically wrenched around by her neck. Don’t say what she should have done, for nothing she did or didn’t do was deserving of that response from the officer. When you blame the victim for the actions of the brutalizer, you rip away the last shred of dignity and respect from the victim. When you blame the victim you empower the brutalizer and set the stage for the next victim. This man is a monster of our making.

Mourn with me that this is America. Mourn with me that this is policing. Mourn with me that we’ll see the same thing today and probably again tomorrow. Mourn with me until we learn and grow and detox from the adrenaline rush of violence and dominance. Mourn with me until we see a day again when we can teach, live in mutual respect and dignity for one another, and create a community that is not fearfully policed and brutalized.

Mourn with me at the violent spectacle we make of ourselves.

AMDG, Todd

Why We Must Prosecute Abusive Police Officers

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national march on police violenceWhy would we want to prosecute abusive police officers? Because we aren’t talking about whether all police officers are good or bad. They come in both varieties and we must prosecute the bad ones to respect and help the good ones. We need to recognize the difference so we can better appreciate the good and put an end to the bad.

I recently shared a post from Father James Martin S.J. on Facebook in which he points out that holding a bad officer responsible for abusive behavior is not to be against all officers in general, but against abuse. I’ll go a step further and say that’s it’s a necessity to hold bad officers accountable so that we further differentiate between the two. It is disrespectful in the extreme to every good upstanding police officer to let any overzealous, abusive or criminal officer get away with violence, much less with murder.

There are often stories of police officers who are amazing! I revel in those stories and I enjoy seeing and sharing them on my social media streams. I appreciate so much every officer who takes the job of policing our communities seriously and serves us with their best. Thank God for good police officers! Here are a couple of recent inspiring stories, officers who go the extra mile for people: With Food & Mercy and With Simple Courtesy.

I respect police officers so much. But I’m also going to downtown DC on Saturday to march with everyone else who gathers to protest police brutality. I don’t march because all police officers are bad. I march with families who have lost loved ones to bad policing. I march in memory of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, whose lives matter, and whose lives should not have been taken, and whose deaths are real and terrible.

~ I will march because of the lack of indictments for the officers who killed Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner (and so many others). Those missing indictments should scare every single person in this country, black, white, brown, yellow, male, female, etc etc. Can we be so dismissive of gun violence and the brutality of being choked to death that we just go on with our lives? Can two unarmed U.S. citizens be killed on our streets and our justice system simply choose not to address their deaths? Changes are needed.

~ I will march because so many of my friends here in their own country feel disrespected, disenfranchised, targeted and unsafe. Good good people are hurting because we haven’t learned to live together better than this. They carry a burden every day and every time they enter the public arena. I march on Saturday to show my solidarity with them. I march because I love them.

~ I will march because peace and a better tomorrow cannot come from simply ignoring the problems of today. We cannot dismiss this conversation away or ignore the pain and pleas of our neighbors just because it’s more sensational (or self-justifying) to focus on the rioters and looters.

~ And finally, I will march out of hope and a dream of peace, not out of anger or seeking violence. I’m not looking for a fight, but for an honest recognition that we have some real work ahead of us to bring justice to all our people. I will head downtown Saturday with a prayer on my heart and lips that God keeps the violent at bay and holds us all in check, so that voices might be easier heard than dismissed.

You don’t have to march on Saturday, but I sure wish you would. I sure wish you’d raise your voice with all the hurting people who cry for justice, for explanations, for hope for their children. I wish we’d all choose to work harder to speak for one another, seeing ourselves as our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper and the whole human family as our kin and beloved ones. We do not have separate futures in this country, but one shared and connected journey. Our children and grandchildren need us to secure the freedom, equality, safety and justice of that future in every way we can. We’ll only fully realize that hope when we work together.

AMDG, Todd