Sunday, May 03, 2015
Originally, my maternal empathy zeroed in on her obvious panic and fear for her teenaged son's safety, but eventually -- upon seeing her talk show interviews -- the original feelings of compassion began to fade and a nagging feeling began to surface that suggested that the real issues were being diverted at a time when the nation can least afford it. Not now. We can't afford to be sidetracked at this point. Next steps will determine whether progress will continue to be made, or whether the regression being experienced in some parts of the country will be deepened.
Had that young mother not been sitting in her living room watching the chaos on television instead of participating along with her community the outcome might have been quite different. Had she chosen this as a teaching moment to share with her children by being out there among the protesters, her six kids would have had a model for how one deals peaceably with the infringement of their First Amendment rights, and her son might not have had to pick up that rock at all. She would have added to the much-needed toolkit they will need in the ongoing struggle that lies ahead for us all.
We might be talking now about the obvious brutality of a predominantly black bullying over-armed police force (who were raised by mothers who loved them enough to beat the hell out of them when she felt it was needed in order to survive) rather than whether or not she had the right to publicly humiliate her teenager by physically attacking him before the world. She may have done us all a disservice by the displaying of the much-heralded destructive behavior that passes under the guise of "my mother loved me enough to beat the hell out of me when she felt I needed it in order to survive!" When and how do we ever begin to break the cycle of violence?
This was surely true in the day of Emmitt Till, or even earlier -- at the time that my parents had to relocate our family from New Orleans to Detroit because Dad chose to call a white man by his first name (yes!). We must not allow the country to regress back to those eras, but we've got to continue building on past gains in the continuing struggle for equality. Our children are growing up in a far more enlightened country than the one we so recently lived through. Old ways need to give way to new ways of parenting. Non-violence is the legacy left to us by Dr. King that must be acknowledged and honored in these times of continuing civil strife.
Maybe it's time we gave up that old school strategy that leads nowhere except to more violence, and begin to teach our kids about how one defends their First Amendment rights by giving them models by how we ourselves live out these years as evolving people in a still-evolving nation. We need to be out there in the streets as families along with other families of every race and ethnicity in this current revival of the ongoing struggle for equality and justice. One might well wonder if -- confronted by parents and children on those lines -- might this not have a calming effect on law enforcement?
I remember back in the early Seventies the day that I returned home from a day spent at the Oakland Induction Center demonstrations against the Vietnam War to find that my son, Bob, had cut school to join the protest. When I asked if this were true (having been notified by the vice principal's office of his high school that he'd been absent) his response was, "I'm 17 years-old facing the probability of being drafted, and there are decisions to be made for which the answers were not in the classroom but on the streets." Right on!
A lot of our youngsters are facing the same questions now in relation to a broken justice system, and how we, ourselves, respond will guide their actions. We must not allow their only response to be a rock in a bare fist!
The ball's in our court.