On the wall

The verdict in the George Floyd murder trial was a little hard to hear. Floyd is still dead, and former Officer Derek Chauvin’s family has lost its father and husband.

At almost the same time the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial was being announced, a 15-year-old girl was shot by police in Toledo, Ohio. In the weeks leading to the verdict declaring Officer Chauvin guilty of murder, a young man was killed by an officer who claims to have mistakenly drawn her pistol when she intended using her Taser. And a 13-year-old boy, his empty hands in the air, was killed by an officer who made the “split-second decision.

This week’s offering has been difficult to write. I am haunted by, among other things, the look on Derek Chauvin’s face as, according to the experts, “he killed George Floyd on the street of an American city, while we watched. I  am haunted by the look on his face that seemed unafraid or either his prisoner or the half-dozen people standing on the curb, begging for some recognition of the prisoner’s humanity.

Now, we should hope, the work begins. I well understand the fears of many in our communities that it will not.

“We must change as a country,” a friend wrote in response to the Minneapolis verdict. “Gun violence is another big issue. That one affects me a lot.”

It turned out she had been shot by a street thug. That shooter has not been caught.

I submit the two issues are connected by our communal Wild West DNA. It is DNA largely rooted in fear of “the other.” White folks and non-White folks are mutually scared. History says it’s a common disease.

I grew up on TV westerns. Almost always, the good guys were white and the bad guys either “red-skinned” or Mexican. Almost always, the good guys were armed with Winchester repeating rifles or Colt pistols, often both. And both, at various times, were called “the gun that won the West.”

In a 1955 movie, a movie of that name depicted the nascent government building a wall of forts across territory inhabited by Sioux “Indians,” while our heroes “fought back” against the Indians who objected to their land being stolen. A plethora of new No Trespassing signs along our two-lane roads indicates many current landowners have similar sentiments.

Occasionally, there would be a story in which an aging Indian Chief tried to bring peace to the plains by signing a treaty with the white man. Often, the stories involved a young Indian who thought that was a bad idea. That was about as close as those shows approached the idea that “not all Indians are bad.”

In more recent times, Osama bin Laden was often depicted, even in our media, as an ignorant savage hiding out in caves. Left out of the story was that the “ignorant savage” made excellent use of cellphones, laptop computers and the Internet to wage his destruction on our cities.

We are a shining city on a hill, not because we are better than everyone else, but because we have created a home many who are not us envy. But we are wasting opportunity by thinking that’s the same as being better than everyone else.

Jack Nicholson was right in the movie “A Few Good Men.”

“… deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall – you need me on that wall.”

But most nights, the wall is not that high, And the strangers outside are not barbarians.

I hope you enjoyed the journey. Thanks for coming along. Comments are welcome. Before you go, please tap a button to share.

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