11 July 2016

Who Matters

by Jan Grape

To say I'm upset and sickened by all the tragic news this week is an understatement. I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm discouraged. I'm afraid. All of those words apply. Yet I'm basically a positive person so a part of me still feels hopeful. I have to feel that way because otherwise is to get caught in the grip of despondency and negativity. I'm just not ready to do that.

First, I'm upset and sick over the two black men who were killed by police officers. Alton Sterling, age 37, in Baton Rouge, La and Philando Castile, age 32, in Falcon Heights, Mn. From watching the videos it looked as if these men were shot for almost no reason. But I will give the police officers the benefit of the doubt since we don't have any recordings of what happened prior to the fatal shots.

Second, I'm upset and sick over the five police officers killed and the other seven officers injured by the sniper in Dallas. One officer killed worked for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit. The other four fatally wounded were Dallas Police Officers. At this point in time, Dallas officials still think the slain sniper was a lone gunman. (I refuse to name him and give him any publicity.)

Our whole country is in a state of shock and awe and unrest from all that has happened. Dallas has worked hard to make their police force better and had attained the highest standard. Actually Dallas had become a model for the whole country for a city of its size and the community policing policies set forth by Police Chief Brown and Mayor Rawlings. Dallas has had a bad reputation since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy along withTexas Republican politicians with some of their pro-gun open carry laws and wild statements by these politicians haven't helped one iota.

In fact, a number of the peaceful protesters carried guns which hindered the police in spotting the good guys from the bad guys. One young man's picture on social media, wearing a cammo T-shirt with a lethal looking weapon slung over his shoulder was thought to be a "bad" guy. Someone the police wanted to question. Turns out his older brother, one of the protesters organizers cautioned the younger man against carrying his weapon. The young man stated he wanted to exercise his second amendment rights to carry a weapon. The young man words are not exactly in the second amendment statement. No part of the SECOND amendment states that you have a right to walk around in public with a rifle or automatic gun slung over your shoulder. For that matter it also doesn't say that you may go out armed. Even in an open-carry state.

This is a bastardization of rights as defined by the Supreme Court combined with the ignorance of GOP Texas law-makers. The open-carry law was heavily opposed by all Texas Law Enforcement for good reasons. We've all heard the NRAs big talking point: and good guys with guns can take care of all the bad guys with guns. There are twelve GOOD GUYS in Dallas who can attest to the stupidity of that statement, proving it WRONG.

I'm all for people having guns in their homes for protection of their home and family if that's what they want. I'm all for people having hunting rifles and shotguns to go hunting. Especially people who actually supplement their food supplies. I've had family and friends all my life who enjoyed hunting and I've eaten many a bird, rabbit, squirrel or deer meal and enjoyed it. I will say that my late husband, Elmer Grape, reached a point in his life where he said he thought he had no desire to hunt deer any more. That maybe he was too old. That looking a the beauty of a buck or doe seemed a little too cruel to him.

My whole point of this essay is to express my horror at what happened in La, in Mn and in Tx. And to worry and wonder if we as a civilized nation in 2016 can bring about more unity between all races? To be united by love and not hate. To ask for solidarity from our police officers and the black and brown communities in our country. To ask for solidarity in our politicians both state and national. The fear and hate and decisiveness need to stop NOW.

To keep saying and actually meaning that you can believe BLACK LIVES MATTER and you can believe  BLUE LIVES MATTER. You don't have to believe that one is right or one is wrong because ALL LIVES MATTER.

The best thing we can do today is to emphasize courtesy and respect for each other. It may seem like elementary school stuff. And it is. Yet if your past experiences with law enforcement may have been bad and you were treated like a criminal, you can change. Or maybe your past experience with a person of color makes your look on that darker skin as a bad person.  It's just that change HAS TO HAPPEN. Why not today and why not time? Your being disrespected before should be in the past. This is today and now.

This is not meant to be preaching, it's just common sense. Treat all people the way you want to be treated. I want our country to be united. I want my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to live in a better USA than it is today .I want to live in a better USA. Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. Most importantly ALL LIVES MATTER.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Didn’t Texas pass a law encouraging open carry on college campuses? For a moment I thought oh, no, one more white person who doesn’t understand but you’re kind and you’re good. You get it and I thank you. A lot of people misunderstand Black Lives Matter. Yes all lives matter but #BMT means please listen to us. Please, really listen. Thank you.

janice law said...

Amen!
Our national combination of racism and militarism has brought nothing good for any of us

Vicki Kennedy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eve Fisher said...

Great essay, Jan - I heard it put really well the other day, "Yes, all lives matter, just as all homes matter: but you address the burning ones first."

Meanwhile, I did an Alternatives to Violence Workshop in the pen all weekend. Our group was racially diverse (black, Native American, Hispanic, white), and I can tell you that the prisoners to a man thought that open-carry was stupid and dangerous; that people on the terrorist watch list shouldn't be allowed to buy guns; and that civilians shouldn't be allowed to own AR-15s and similar weapons because it's just too damned dangerous. Believe it or not, they'd like to live safely, too.

Elizabeth said...

I loved this essay. I learned a lot! Actually until I read it I thought "open carry" pertained to alcohol - not firearms. Your late husband was also a good, kind person, I know.

Leigh Lundin said...

My friend Sharon sent me a couple of opinion pieces about the Dallas shooting including gaspingly insane commentary by Rudy Giuliani.

Then she sent another insight by a Texas sportscaster. As I clicked on the link, I was thinking like Anon above that this was going to be another crap opinion… and to my surprise, it was one of the most thoughtful essays I’ve read:
“A white man in America doesn’t die for selling cigarettes on a street corner, he gets a ticket. A white man in America doesn’t die for driving with a broken taillight, he gets a ticket, too.

As you point out, Jan, innocent men paid the price. What have we come to when the Bahamian government warns its citizens about traveling in America?

Jan Grape said...

Anon: There is still a lot of controversy but I looked it up and this is what I believe regarding Campus Carry. Gov Abbott signed a bill in June of 2015 to allow persons with concealed handguns who have a licensed permit to carry a concealed handgun on Tx campuses. The law goes into effect on August 1, 2016...this year. Colleges and Universities have some wiggle room at their own campus. In TX you must be 21 to obtain a licensed permit. And must pass some training to get the permit. And I'm not sure about frat or sorority houses because they are not on campus owned land. I assume the laws of the state apply there.

A bunch of harmonal underage or even 21yo youngsters with or without permits are going to carry guns concealed or otherwise, handguns or AK-47s slung over their shoulders. WHAT CAN GO WRONG?

I just hope all the good guys immediately know who the bad guys are, especially at football games and such where alcohol is in the mix. Or in a class room where a student might be mad at their significent other and...well, again, WHAT CAN GO WRONG.

Jan Grape said...

I'm not sure how well thought out this essay is, i just know that I'm very disturbed for our country and felt I wanted to say something. Yes, Leigh, the OpEd in the Dallas paper by the sport's reporter was an excellent one. I read it yesterday before posting.
A 12 year old white boy playing with a toy pistol in America wouldn't be shot by an officer who jumped out of his patrol car TWO SECONDS EARLIER. Nor would he lay there who knows how long before anyone tried to save him.
A young white man in Ametica shot by police would not have laid on the street for over 4 hours.

That said, I have one remark to make about the shooting in Mn. Once the man had told the officer that he had a gun and a permit what would have happened if he'd kept his hands up and asked if the officer wanted him to hand over his gun or his ID first. Then said, I'm slowly going to reach for my ID or my gun with two fingers or with my left hand and hand it to you slowly. That's a scenario played out in EVERY POLICE TV SHOW when even tne plain clothes law enforcement officers are being held at gun point by an officer of another agency. They say, "I'm slowly reaching for my badge or MY ID in my left pocket." Or something along those lines.
Since men of color know they will be stopped more often than white skinned people and they have a gun permit, I think it would be a simple thing. And to ask permit instructors to teach ALL permit holders the proper way to respond to a police stop and the reveal that they have a gun.

Jan Grape said...

Also for police officer training. Why couldn't the officer in MN ask the man to keep his hands up, then slowly with your left hand or two fingers slowly take you gun out and hand it to me. Or say something like your wife and daughter are here in the car. I want you to put your right hand on your head and open the car door with your left hand and slowly get out. Then once the man is out, work out the ID and the gun or whatever. And the officer can say, I'm holding my gun on you until you get out and if you do anything besides what I tell you, I will shoot you.

I know these things seem so simple in hindsight and I'm not a person of color so I don't know the fear that most black people and especially black men have experienced. I do know we have to come together and talk and really listen to each other. I have police officer friends and I have always supported the police. But I also have always had close friends of people with many skin colors. I just don't understand people who can hate other people because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, rich or poor, educated or not. We are all human beings. Some we're going to like and some we won't like as much. But the ones I don't like so much are the haters. The intolerant.The negative. The dividers. The ones who treat us badly.

Jan Grape said...

Also for police officer training. Why couldn't the officer in MN ask the man to keep his hands up, then slowly with your left hand or two fingers slowly take you gun out and hand it to me. Or say something like your wife and daughter are here in the car. I want you to put your right hand on your head and open the car door with your left hand and slowly get out. Then once the man is out, work out the ID and the gun or whatever. And the officer can say, I'm holding my gun on you until you get out and if you do anything besides what I tell you, I will shoot you.

I know these things seem so simple in hindsight and I'm not a person of color so I don't know the fear that most black people and especially black men have experienced. I do know we have to come together and talk and really listen to each other. I have police officer friends and I have always supported the police. But I also have always had close friends of people with many skin colors. I just don't understand people who can hate other people because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, rich or poor, educated or not. We are all human beings. Some we're going to like and some we won't like as much. But the ones I don't like so much are the haters. The intolerant.The negative. The dividers. The ones who treat us badly.

Melissa Yi said...

Jan, I was just about to put up my own post about this. Thanks for speaking out!