It’s Thursday already, and I’m just getting this blog out. Once again, the Torah and the news connect, and I wish it would stop. Vayishlach. We read of Dina, who was “taken” by Shechem, son of Hamor who then professes love for her and wants to marry her. Her father Jacob is completely silent in what follows, as is (of course) Dina. The brothers meet with Shechem, put forth the requirement that Dina’s husband must be circumcised and Shechem goes further, convincing the whole town to circumcise themselves. When they are at their weakest, Dina’s brothers attack the town and kill all the men.
No judge, no jury, no system. Vigilante revenge in the name of honor.
This week, again, towns are in flames, lives and property are destroyed, and we try to understand. First (not really first, but recent) the grand jury in Ferguson decides there isn’t enough evidence to indict officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown. Now, the grand jury in Staten Island rules not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, a death even the coroner ruled as a homicide.
No judge, no jury, no system. But plenty of despair, anger, frustration, and vigilante revenge.
Trials are supposed to be held to determine what happened, and who is at fault. Grand juries are convened at the request of prosecutors to determine if there’s enough evidence to go to trial. Instead, grand juries are now determining guilt and innocence, by shutting down the possibility of a trial in the first place. This is not news, perhaps, but its repercussions are getting worse. Prosecutors seem to be convening Grand Juries so that they won’t have to go to trial, and risk losing…what? Losing face, losing points, losing influence, losing authority?
The African-American friends I have know who they are and how much they mean to me. I will not hold them up and say, “See? I am not in the bubble you think I am”, because I really am in that bubble. I cannot know what it’s like to walk down the street, afraid that merely my presence on the street could cost me my life. They do. And the thought that any one, my friend or not, could be at that kind of risk makes me fear for our whole society. Again.
Eric Garner’s attack was captured on video. It seems to be even more of a clear-cut killing of an unarmed black man than Michael Brown’s death. Now, people are pushing for more body cameras on police uniforms. Yet, it doesn’t matter what the film captures. People will watch more and more videos of more and more stops and more and more interactions with police. What matters is whether or not people see the events for what they are, whether or not they tear down the film over their own eyes.
As the President said recently, rioting, looting and vandalism never made for any progress in gaining civil rights, and I agree. But. What does a community do when the “system” is so biased and broken that there is no hope for justice? How long can people cry out and hope to be heard? Martin Luther King Jr said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The grand jury system, beholden to the prosecuting attorneys, is biased and broken, and it’s letting injustice reign. That’s my system, too, and if it can do this to other innocent people, what other acts of arrogant blindness will it display? Black lives matter indeed. So does each of ours. Cry out, cry out. Keep crying out, our voices will rise and be heard.