The year 2015 is behind us and a new one has just started and I am baffled by the continuing contradictions evident in what we believe, how we live and how we treat one another in the name of religion, security and cultural values. As a mother whose child has died, my heart aches for others whose loved ones have been buried too young. The stories of those who die violently from war, from abuse and hatred linger as troubling reminders of a world detached from the reasonable standards of fairness and justice.
In Cleveland a grand jury decided not to charge police officers in the shooting death of 12-year old Tamir Rice. In Chicago, police officer Jason Van Dyke pleads not guilty in the death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year old who was killed last October. And the recent death of 19-year old Northern Illinois college student Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, 55, a mother of five who were both killed the day after Christmas by a Chicago officer responding to a domestic disturbance call. Officials have admitted that Jones was killed accidentally, but she was a mother who is already missed by her children. The family of both victims has filed lawsuits in Chicago.
At 70 years old, my life is more over than not. Yet I live another day baffled by the mystery of my long life in the face of the death of the young. Someone wrote to me during this difficult time that, “I know you like me, would give your life for your child.” What parent wouldn’t? Imagine your loved is a 12 year-old boy in the park like Tamir, or on a street at night in the lights of a police car like Laquan or on the other side of an apartment door like Quintonio. Public debate about these cases dominate the local and national news and casual discussions among friends and neighbors. Lots of people are baffled about how these horrific instances continue.
In the absence of Congressional legislative action, today President Obama has exercised his executive powers to tighten access to guns and to address the nation’s deficiency in mental health care access and funding. This is a positive development. In Georgia we have witnessed decades of denial and underfunding for mental health care. The Department of Justice (DOJ) forced the state and the Governor to invest in mental health reform and care a couple of years ago. Georgia had spent decades underfunding and ignoring the needs hundreds of mentally fragile residents. It is yet to be seen whether the state’s DOJ approved plan has reached the majority of those in need of mental health services.
Solutions are possible. They always are in a country as resourceful and wealthy as America. Mayors, governors and other elected officials must own the actions of police and government to better understand the challenges the officers face, the demands of the public for safety and the rights of everyday folks including those they distrust or fear.
Elected officials must adopt a fearless position to honor their commitment to transparency even in when its unpopular to be honest about what might have happened. The cover up of information is never acceptable. Citizen Review Boards can exercise their full authority to investigate…….States, cities and counties can adopt the DOJ standard ………..And all of us must question the use of force, especially deadly force in every case.
Or let’s try other ideas… But the status quo has got to go!!!!!