Any ideology that lessens the value of life from “priceless” to “worthless” therein allows people to be treated not as neighbors, but as commodities.
At no other point in my life has the harsh, cruel, oppressive, and perverse order in which we all live become so palpable and obvious and hits so close to home. This recognition comes after the nonindictment of Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the murder of Eric Garner, a decision passed down merely a week after the nonindictment of Officer Darren Wilson in the murder of Michael Brown. The former case is particularly troubling because the entire episode was filmed on camera and it is clear that Mr. Garner never harmed any police officer in any way. He simply asked to be left alone, and in his request for his person not to be molested by an aggressive police force, he lost his life after being put in a banned NYPD maneuver: the choke hold. Even the NYC medical examiner had determined that Mr. Garner’s death was a homicide, eliminating any other secondary causes as the immediate reason for death.
Yet despite all of this, the grand jury still decided not to indict Officer Pantaleo, who by the way had already been charged in two other instances of racially motivated police misconduct. How could any reasonable person look at all the facts and decide not to indict was the just course of action? After all, an indictment means that there’s enough evidence to warrant Officer Pantaleo to be put on trial with a proper defense and prosecuting team. If ever the officer didn’t intend to kill Mr. Garner, he still used aggressive force against a nonviolent citizen for a nonviolent crime using a violent and murderous tactic. Just like the grand jury for Michael Brown, the jury in Mr. Garner’s case was given evidence in favor of Pantaleo, with the same convenience of the offended being deceased and therefore unable to provide any arguments. These two unfortunate cases have proven that the grand jury system is not meant to foster justice and uphold the law but rather to protect those allegedly enforcing the law.
Andrew Napolitano recently wrote in an article for Reason that “the grand jury . . . was subjected to the type of evidence that only trial juries hear, including a soliloquy from the cop himself and all the exculpatory evidence the prosecutor could find. The powers didn’t take any chances in that case—they didn’t want one of their enforcers seriously inconvenienced . . . Prosecutors often loathe and sometimes even hide exculpatory evidence, but this county prosecutor must have been afraid to seek an indictment, and so he shrewdly manipulated this grand jury out of its role of determining whether the state had probable cause to try the cop and into the role of a trial jury, which is to judge whether the state has proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
When NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio recently said, “The law is the law,” what he really meant is that those who work to enforce the law are really above the law and the law will be used to pervert justice in favor of those select few chosen to be separate from the law. I specifically chose the word separate because it is now clear that there are separate and unequal versions of the law: one for the police and one for the citizens.
Some police officers are willing to kill unnecessarily and excessively, and it appears those in positions of power who don’t do anything about it are impotent to act, numb to sin, immune to injustice, and scoff at the inherent value of life.
Race most certainly plays a part in these scenarios, but an out-of-control police force that has no boundaries or accountability poses a threat to society at large, no matter what they look like.
Indeed, in the theology of liberation, God is a God who is not neutral. He always sides with the oppressed—the Israelites in Egyptian bondage, the meek, the poor, the afflicted, and the heavy-burdened—and never with the oppressors. Accordingly, it behooves any rational mind to contemplate the grim reality that those who side with the oppressors have therefore aligned themselves against God. If that is an argument that does not move your spirit and arouse the dormant fire inside you, then I’m afraid nothing will. The perverse system in which we all live survives not because of our active participation but because of our passive inaction.
There are many channels to combat the growing surge of injustice in this world, some being local and others being national. Nationally, for those who would like information on what steps they can take, Google #ThisStopsToday or #JusticeForEricGarner to find links, for example, to the Ferguson National Response Network and ChangetheNYPD.org, and discover local events in which you can contribute.
In particular, #ThisStopsToday seeks (1) full accountability from all officers responsible for Eric’s death and all officers who brutalize innocent people and abuse their power in our communities, (2) an end to NYPD’s discriminatory “broken windows” policing, (3) a Department of Justice investigation into the use of force policies and practices of the NYPD and a full investigation into the killing of Eric Garner, and (4) New York Governor Cuomo to veto Law S7801/A9853 so the police are not the only ones responsible for policing themselves.
Whatever you do, make it count.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal