Saturday, May 30, 2009

To Believe in America, PART 2


"My Weekly Say"
Hard week to believe in America, folks. And yet some people still do.

Omar Edwards did. The African-American police officer, 25, joined the New York Police Department two years ago. On Thursday night, he was working as a plain-clothes patrolman. He was in pursuit of a suspected car thief, gun drawn, when Andrew Dunton, a white officer, took him for a criminal and shot him dead.

The shot to his back – yes, his back – was fatal.

Apparently, being a youthful plain-clothes officer of color is dangerous business, at least in Gotham City. African-American officer Christopher Ridley of Mount Vernon, 23, and Latino NYPD officer Eric Hernandez, 24, met the same fate in recent years.

There’s a troubling irony here.

Despite misleading stereotypes, black men have made an overwhelming contribution to law and order and to upholding and defending the nation. Consider the fact that black men and women are overrepresented in every branch of the military – making up at least 27.5 percent of the Army, for example, while being only 12.5 percent of the U.S. population. Many of America’s police forces reflect this overwhelming sense service and patriotism among blacks. In fact, Officer Edwards' father-in-law joined the NYPD as a young black man - he's been there nearly 20 years.

These young folk believe in America.

Yet far too often (and once is too often) America repays them with unwarranted killings, paltry excuses, and little justice. And like the innocent civilian Sean Bell, 23, shot 50 times last year on the night of has bachelor party, Omar Edwards was betrayed by the status quo of a nation missing the mark.

Philadelphia's 2008 Brave New Voices Team Takes on Sean Bell's Killing

Since we know each other so deeply, family, I'll go ahead and tell you I was a little pissed off this week. I’ll admit that I was tempted to break down into the “ugly cry” and fall, wailing, over what I perceived to be the very casket of justice. Took me a minute to pull myself together.

This week brought forth some difficult questions for many of us. And yet I believe in America, as so many of us do.

I grappled with my disappointment in our many glaring failures this week, but in doing so, I returned to the words of Declaration of Independence. These truths – that all are created equal – represent the best of this country’s ideals.

America can live out its creed. It must, really. And even when Americans get it wrong – the hallowed documents generally get it right. Because really, this journey toward a more perfect union often isn’t about us as individuals: It’s about a country on a mission.

Yes, the journey to justice remains a strange and tangled mystery. But perhaps the forces conspire with the committed faithful to bring our faithful documents closer to truth.

For many folks, that journey begins in the courts.

This week, America tried to figure out what to do with President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Critics couldn’t decide whether she was a racist white man in a Latina’s body or an anti-white “reverse racist” (a term that says more about her critics than Sotomayor herself).

But let’s face it folks, that one’s sewn up. She’ll be confirmed. The rest is theatre.

Perhaps we should look elsewhere.

Take republican Theodore Bevry Olson, who served as G.W. Bush’s United States Solicitor General and who also served on the board of directors for the ultra-conservative American Spectator Magazine. This is the man who – to be frank – won George W. the presidency in Bush v. Gore.

Anyway, he and former Bush v. Gore rival attorney David Boies have decided to join forces.

And they’re suing to overturn Proposition 8 in California. That’s right. Super-duper uber-conservative Olson’s building a case for equal marriage in Cali, in defiance of many gay rights groups who believe the move may be ill-timed. (Have you seen this man’s trial record, by the way?)

It may be of interest to some folks, though I don’t know how relevant it is, that Boies has certainly encountered Sotomayor in the past. Boies represented New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner during the 1994-94 Major League Baseball strike dispute. It was Sotomayor who issued an injunction which, according to the President, might have saved baseball as we know it.

It's also possible Olson and Sotomayor have crossed paths once or twice. In fact, she was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush, not George W., with whom Olson formed such a close professional bond.

But it's kind of cosmic when you think about it.

If, say, this unlikely duo were to find themselves appealing their case to the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future, it would be like one big ol' reunion.

Sotomayor, Boies, and Olson all together again.

Not because this could impact the case – it wouldn’t of course. And not because there is any grand plan in the works…

There I go getting off track. I can get a little dreamy, wishful, and hopeful sometimes, and I don’t see what this has to do with anything.

I appreciate y’all checking out the roundup. Let me just wrap this up. . .

Where was I?

The path to justice and a more perfect union in America remains a strange and tangled mystery.

But I still believe in America, folks. I still believe our country has the capacity to astound us with the sheer force and alchemic power of each progressive leap.

History teaches me that miracle moments happen in this country – moments that couldn’t have been imagined just a decade, a year, a day before.

And I relish those moments.

Because even when so many Americans get it wrong, America can still get it right.

And too, I get these hunches.

Do it again, America. I Believe.

*Photo Credits: Matthew Cavanaugh/EPA

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