Here in Vermont, many of us are troubled by the shocking decision not to indict the police officer whose chokehold killed Eric Garner in New York City. Also in the news this week we heard another, more local story of a person who could not breath: a 27 day-old baby named Saunder.
Saunder's mother had a blood alcohol level of 0.132 ("gross motor impairment and lack of physical control"). She fell asleep on the couch, holding her baby, who, like Eric Garner, was crushed, could not breath, and died.
I know it's a stretch to see similarities beyond this, but I also consider the baby's death to be like to Garner's in another way: he was killed by someone whose basic duty was to protect him.
Our police and other state institutions, at their core, should work like extensions of family institutions. As a public school principal, I think about this a lot. The family raises and educates a child, and this work is extended by what we do in schools. Likewise our police force should extend a basic family function to protect us from danger and harm.
When the bodies of family and state that are supposed to care for us instead crush us in their arms, something is very wrong, very broken. And our institutions are even more broken when there is no punishment for such crimes. This isn't the case with Saunder's death. His mother faces up to 15 years for criminally negligent homicide. The lack of indictment in the Garner case is wrong. The protesters are right to keep marching.