I know good cops in Los Angeles. They're good people who risk their lives daily to protect other human beings. That being said, what happened to Eric Garner in New York could have easily taken place in Los Angeles. It could have happened to you as well, in your city, if you didn't "comply" with a police officer's demands. Our society has become one giant Stanford Prison Experiment for a reason.
The issues surrounding Garner's death are so grandiose they overshadow police brutality and the decision of a grand jury. Like Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, we want people on that wall between us and the bad guys, regardless of all the negatives that coincide with protecting society. The delineation between what we regret as a consequence of overzealous policing, and what we'll accept in order to keep society safe, is the blurry demarcation called American justice.
This irony also applies to semantics. One doesn't need a grand jury to define murder. While a certain definition resides in legal statutes, another more relevant definition resides in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. The country we all love is sanctioning the death of its citizens in the name of public safety and the sooner we address this ethical dilemma, the sooner we can protect our own people from our own value system.
Eric Garner's family has every right to disregard an apology from an officer involved in this tragedy, especially since Garner's death was ruled a homicide. The video of officers tackling the unarmed man, placing a knee on his neck, shoving his face into the pavement, and blocking his airway (as he pleaded for his life) is horrifying.
"If only Garner just followed the request of law enforcement officials" is the vantage point of some people. Interestingly, Sean Hannity never advocated Cliven Bundy and his armed ranchers quietly succumb to government law enforcement officials. In addition, the NRA never tells its members to always abide by the government's wishes, or to always acquiesce to the demands of others. I thought that was called tyranny; the view that one could die if he or she doesn't abide by a request fast enough. What's good for some should be good for others, but our world doesn't work in this manner. Hence, the Tea Party is remarkably silent for some reason about the deaths of unarmed black citizens and this reason correlates to the racial divide in America, as well as how race plays a factor in criminal justice.
Thus, to blame the police for Eric Garner's demise ignores the bigger picture. A grand jury apparently couldn't find any laws broken in the death of an American citizen whose last words were the following:
I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
When Americans see a video of another American begging for air under the weight of several police officers, and a grand jury can't find any laws broken, then our society is to blame. The manner in which law enforcement protects this country is a reflection of the values within our society, and everything from "stop-and-frisk" to racial profiling speak volumes of who we are as a nation.
While the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner were linked to the color of their skin, the issue of police brutality affects Americans of all skin colors. Citizens throughout the country have been killed, maimed, and beaten because of resisting arrest or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Even throwing a flash grenade at a toddler isn't against the law in the United States, if it's deemed within the line of police work:
ATLANTA, Oct 6 (Reuters) - A grand jury in Georgia on Monday declined to indict sheriff's deputies who during a drug raid in May set off a stun grenade that severely injured a 19-month-old boy, prosecutors said Monday.
The toddler, Bounkham Phonesavanh, was badly burned when the "flash-bang" device landed in the playpen where he was sleeping during a raid to arrest a suspect police say had sold methamphetamine to an undercover officer in northeastern Georgia.
To see the before and after photos of the Georgia toddler, here's an ABC News article. Naturally, these raids are necessary and keep people safe from drugs. To focus our efforts on reducing the demand for drugs would be un-American. According to the Rand Corporation in 2010, U.S. citizens spent $40.6 billion on marijuana, 28.3 billion on cocaine, 27 billion on heroin, and 13 billion on meth.
Our country says that no laws are broken when burning off a toddler's face and putting him in a coma in the name of public safety, so imagine what could happen to you if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time during a raid?
Of course, that's if you live in an area where a drug raid would take place, and since 27% of African-Americans live in poverty, the chances are that people of color will be the ones on the wrong end of America's drug war and have a higher rate of incarceration than most other communities. Police brutality affects everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, but you're more likely to be brutalized if something about you fits the description of a threat; this includes where you live and how you look walking down the street. Just ask someone who thinks George Zimmerman was justified in tracking down Trayvon Martin, picking a fight with the unarmed young man, and then killing the teen because the concrete sidewalk was deemed a weapon. Zimmerman shot Trayvon to death, but the defense attorney lugs around a concrete block, and a jury views the black teenager as the threat.
"That's called justice moron! You don't know all the facts!"
Well, then you should have been very happy about the OJ verdict.
There's no racism in America and I'm a delusional liberal? Just check the comments of my last article advocating that black men utilize the 2nd Amendment (peacefully, like all NRA and gun advocates) to defeat racial profiling. You'll see in the comments section that "black men" were defined as "criminals" in many of the comments. I've even been mentioned in a website that states, "Liberal F***tard H. A. Goodman and his stupidity on n*****s," in relation to the article. Sadly, they used the "N" word in every other sentence, never cited any reputable sources in their various claims trying to refute my article, and don't represent the vast majority of gun advocates who actually agreed with me about encouraging more African-Americans to join the NRA and arm themselves.
We might have a black president, but we still have people like the St. Louis police lieutenant in May who was fired for "targeting blacks" at Wal-Mart. As stated in The Washington Post, we still have departments like the old job Darren Wilson used to have, before it was disbanded because of racial tensions:
The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch.
Gee, you think experiences in Wilson's old job or the fact a St. Louis police lieutenant "targeted blacks" had anything to do with Wilson killing an unarmed black teenager?
But of course, the new "conservative math" states that one black teen's death is cancelled out by thousands of gang murders in Chicago. More blacks die from black on black crime, so why even focus on the death of unarmed citizens? This warped view of race is similar to bringing up the dangers of nuclear proliferation when debating about higher taxes. One has nothing to do with the other, and the African-American community can focus on as many issues simultaneously as any other group of Americans. Nobody tells the Tea Party to stop talking about Obamacare because global warming is a bigger danger.
Then there's the scourge of untaxed cigarettes, a crime apparently punishable by death from chokehold. I wonder how Mark Twain and George Orwell, men who never minced words about what they saw in the world, would have felt about the following video:
Would Mark Twain say that this was an accidental death? Would George Orwell state it was an unfortunate accident?
Eric Garner was killed.
While a grand jury didn't see a crime, the rest of humanity saw an American citizen's murder with the video of Garner's death.
Laws don't always correlate to morality, just ask those who've endured prison sentences for possession of marijuana. The legal system in this country is partly a reflection of our fears; to divorce America's paranoia of terrorism, crime, drugs, and other ills would be circumventing our role in the death of Eric Garner, or the maiming of a toddler. While the Tea Party is courageously vocal about the plague of a healthcare law, and most Americans (including me) hate rioting, the dangers of militarized police barely makes the nightly news.
A grand jury didn't find any criminal behavior, but that says more about America's "just" and "unjust laws." As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail, there are just and unjust laws:
"How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
... It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.
As stated by Dr. King, an injustice doesn't need a grand jury's edict in order to be deemed an injustice. I think Orwell and Twain would agree as well.
Therefore, don't blame the cops for choking an overweight and asthmatic human being who just broke up a fight. The cops will be trained in the manner we train them, and this training will directly correlate to who we are as a people. The police, our military, our foreign policy, our Congress, our laws, our values, and our society are simply a culmination of who we are as a people; the good the bad and the ugly, all wrapped into one nation under God.
Things will remain the same until we work within the system to change the way America views threats. Voting, utilizing the Bill of Rights in the manner the NRA, ACLU and others advocate, and working within the American political system are the only ways real change can be made in our society. If laws aren't altered to reflect a more compassionate and less fearful nation, then more unarmed people will continue to be swallowed up by our desire to eradicate threats to public safety.
If you care about the memory of Eric Garner, then let politicians know that America shouldn't be The Milgram Obedience Experiment wrapped in a cloak of freedom. Vote on this issue and make this issue part of our political discourse. When Congress views this topic with as much importance as taxes or terrorism, then we won't have the next Eric Garner's die a premature death beneath the bodies of human beings meant to protect all citizens.