The failure of the Staten Island grand jury to offer some semblance of fairness regarding the death of Eric Garner is an outrageous act of incompetence if not just outright criminal.
The notion that there is some unbending legal structure that prevents grand juries from at least proceeding with a trial of police officers has a demoralizing effect on society. If police officers are exempt from the laws they have been hired to enforce then justice is lost and the whole purpose of obedience to the laws of our nation is meaningless.
Grand juries that refuse to hold those in law enforcement accountable, including state prosecutors, reveal a level of misconduct that is simply unacceptable.
Street protests, shutting down traffic and commerce peaceably, and other responsible acts of demonstration are all protected by our Constitution. In a free society citizens have the right to express their exasperation over what they believe to be injustice. And I support all responsible efforts of protesting the Staten Island grand juries’ decision.
But street protests can only go on for so long. What has to happen in this country is for there to be a serious and determined conversation among politicians, the clergy, and police officials about racial injustice and the overly aggressive, often thoughtlessly brutal and militaristic conduct of law enforcement in America, especially toward minorities.
And the conversation must move toward action. You cannot have a just society with an unjust legal system. You cannot have peaceful cities if you have bullying police tactics toward any segment of people in those cities.
Beyond that you can’t have a fair society if your elected officials are unfair. Congresspersons, Governors, Mayors, Police Commissioners, State Prosecutors, Sheriffs, these individuals are elected by the people. If we keep putting into places of authority and leadership unqualified candidates, intractable partisans and racists, bullies and psychos, burnouts and amateurs, then we’re going to keep having what we have seen in Ferguson, Missouri; Cleveland, Ohio; Staten Island; and elsewhere, where unarmed individuals are killed by police and hapless grand juries let them go.
If we do not vote at all or if we do vote but not for responsible, intelligent, gifted, fair minded officials then our legal system deteriorates into chaos and we get a society where as physician and writer John Hartung says, “Evil is bad sold as good, wrong sold as right, injustice sold as justice.”
Express your opinion on social media platforms, protest responsibly in the street if you want, but whatever you do, vote. And vote for those individuals who truly care about our communities, our cities, and our country. Elect officials who by their actions demonstrate they care about human life and not just a salary or some high position or the power they can hold.
What is being done to blacks and other minorities in America is treacherous and inexcusable. When those enforcing our laws, or any of us, disregard human life, cheapen it with bigotry and ignorance, dismiss it as without value or meaning, whether out of racism or just plain callousness, then we all are vulnerable to an inhumanity that eventually minimizes, invalidates, runs over, and silences every one of us.
© 2014 Timothy Moody