Margins #6: The Ghosts in a Haunted House Divided

LI.  As a kid, the week following the United States birthday gave me anxiety. It symbolized the inevitable march toward the start of school. This year, the week following Independence Day has been heart breaking for a more serious reason.

Margins will focus on the terrible events of the past week. These tragedies bleed into all margins of society. Orlando was only a month ago. The political conventions still lie ahead. Whatever fears I had for this summer were surpassed.

LII. In light of the tragedies, independent journalist Scot Carrier will interview protestors outside both conventions. Carrier, an NPR veteran, embarked on similar projects for his Home of the Brave podcast. I do not agree with all of Carrier’s ideas, but admire his work. Last year, he explored churches burned following the Charleston shooting. He’s completely donation funded and I recommend following his project. He wants to understand America.

LIII. I had the thought that I am more American than I have ever been. In the last year, I lived in major cities in all four time zones—Denver, New York, Chicago and Seattle.

This week proved me arrogant. I have only explored an idealized version of America. My journey is devoid of chokeholds on Coney Island or gun battles on the South Side of Chicago. I had the privilege of waking up to a gunshot in Seattle, only to realize it was a firework.

I do not know hate. I do not know injustice. I do not know what we do from here. I just know that Americans died in Dallas, Baton Rogue and Minnesota.

LIV. Five hundred people were killed by police before Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota this year.  Neither man deserved to die, but what about the 500 other stories? From the Washington Post’s study, it appears in the majority of cases, police killed for good reason. We must ask, when is deadly force necessary? How are we training officers?

LV. A thin blue line of police separates the public from anarchy.

The line is from the Errol Morris 1988 documentary A Thin Blue Line. It was the Making of a Murderer of its time. It is taught in film class because it was the first documentary to use reenactment on that scale.

Police are that thin blue line in society. Most police work every day to build trust within their communities. Without trust in the police, our society cannot function. Many police officers work to build trust within their communities. However, the actions of a few police officers have violated that trust. The thin blue line can only be strengthened through a recommitment to trust.

LVI.The Dallas Police force leads the way in building trust between the police and its citizens. Since Chief David O. Brown took over in 2010, the department has been open and cooperative with citizens’ questions around police shootings, an approach that has paid dividends. Chief Brown questioned police tactics and tried to integrate officers into the community. He is even willing to fire officers who do not fit into the mold. I have been impressed by Brown’s poise throughout the week. He is trying to change Dallas for the better and it’s hard to watch one crazy person halt that progress.

LVII. The Dallas Morning News elegant editorial on Sunday began by pointing out the ties between the John F. Kennedy Assassination and last week’s events, “another kind of lightning flashed across our horizon and plunged our city into a new kind of grief — and brought fear back to the place we call home.”

The piece went on to make a case for unity: “Today our country seems capable of pulling apart in ways that have not seemed possible in many decades. Dallas, again, has been bathed in blood and grief. How we respond will help show a path forward to a divided, reeling nation.”

LVIII. Carmelo Anthony expressed his own views about the divided nation on Instagram this weekend. Anthony was largely criticized for forcing a trade from Denver to New York for selfish reasons years ago. He wanted to get paid as much as he could by sponsors.

In his comments this weekend, Anthony called for athletes to speak out against injustice even if it meant losing sponsors. I have been indifferent to this former childhood hero these last few years, but his stance was mature and moving. Denver may have a change of heart toward Anthony’s legacy.

LIX. What change comes through Facebook? I did a thought exercise with a friend. Think about every Facebook post that you can remember from more than two weeks ago.

We both came up with very little—maybe a few pictures and links.

Facebook seems devoid of long-term memories that add value.

LX. We must not abandon our values. We must rise above hateful rhetoric and seek the higher ground. We must push for solutions and unity. We must be thought weak when we walk away from a raised fist to focus on winning this battle down the road. I want to stamp hate out of the world. I know that hateful people are fearful people. We must not fear standing up for what is right. We must fight for the rights of all people. We must use tact and not fall into the sludge of partisanship. We must ignore the people spewing hate and find a way to continue on our path. The universe bends towards justice—and with that knowledge on our side, let us continue on our mission to unite Americans.