A Time to Mourn

(system) #1

I have been a Spectrum Blog columnist for 2 years. Through a random occurrence, I am charged with writing the post that will be featured on Thanksgiving. For the past two years, I have tried to stay away from anything contentious on this holiday. However, to put forward that front in the face of so much unrest in our society would be intellectually and emotionally dishonest. My heart breaks today for the six families at the center of a rash of shootings of unarmed African-American men by police officers.[1] So this Thanksgiving, I want to highlight some of those for whom the holiday this year will be especially difficult.

· I wonder how the family of Ezell Ford will spend this Thanksgiving, the first without him. According to reports, Ford was shot three times in the back while laying on the ground in surrender to Los Angeles police. The police say that there was a struggle in which Ford attempted to grab an officer’s gun. No one disputes that Ford was mentally ill and that this fact was known by the local police.

· Eric Garner was killed as a result of an illegal chokehold after a minor dispute with police. His death has been officially deemed a homicide but after almost 5 months, the charges have not been filed. Garner was unarmed, and because of the actions of police, a wife has lost her husband, six children have lost their father, and a mother has lost her son. I wonder what this family will do when they look at the empty space at the head of their Thanksgiving table.

· John Crawford III was probably going to buy that BB gun at Walmart for his son. Instead, as he walked through the store with the gun, another patron called 911 and said that Crawford was waving the gun, pointing it at other customers, and insinuated that he may have loaded it. The patron later changed his story. Unfortunately it was too late for it to do much good. Police responded to the 911 call and shot Crawford when he did not respond to commands to drop the weapon. The videotape, released months later, contradicted the officers’ account that Crawford made a sudden movement towards them that caused them to fear for their safety. Although his death was ruled a homicide, thegrand jury refused to indict. I cannot imagine what Crawford’s two sons will be thankful for tomorrow.

· Akai Gurley’s fatal mistake was that he was in the stairwell. He was shot and killed by two police officers on a routine patrol of the housing project where he lived. Gurley just accepted a job with the city housing authority and was acting and modeling. I wonder if his two-year old daughter will remember anything about him when she gets older.

· Tamir Rice was 12 years old, pointing his BB gun at people in a park. When someone called 911, they told the dispatcher that the gun was probably fake, a fact that the dispatcher failed to relay to the officers responding on the scene. The officers reported that they asked Rice to raise his hands and that in response Rice reached for the weapon. The video released today (albeit with no audio) shows that the police officer who killed Rice shot him within seconds upon arriving at the scene. In a statement the parents said, “The holiday season begins this week. Instead of the love, fellowship and joy the season brings to many families, we will be mourning the loss of Tamir. We looked forward to spending Thanksgiving with Tamir as a family.”

· The country has been embroiled in the case of Michael Brown since he was killed by Officer Darren Wilson in August of this year. While the facts of this case are still shrouded in mystery, what is clear is that Brown was unarmed and approximately 50 yards away from Officer Wilson when Wilson fired the first of several shots that eventually killed Brown. The grand jury in Ferguson this week decided not to return an indictment against Officer Wilson. A family is spending this holiday not only feeling a sense of loss but a sense of injustice.

We may disagree on whether any of these particular cases involve police misconduct or not. We may have very different viewpoints on whether and how this recent spate of unarmed Black men being shot by White police officers fits into the long history of police brutality against African-Americans throughout history. We can debate whether the protests are necessary or of value. We can talk about why it is so difficult to return an indictment against a police officer. However, we cannot debate that these families are feeling a keen sense of loss as they celebrate their first Thanksgiving without their loved one. We should all be able to sympathize and empathize with those who are struggling to grieve the lost of a loved one.

Not only should this be our goal because of our shared humanity, but it is part of our calling as. Not only does God say that the mourning are blessed, but Jesus spent so much of His time on Earth comforting the least among us. We must resist the temptation to be self-serving in our thanks while denigrating others. We must avoid the trap of responding to others the way Pharisses did, with contempt for those on the lower rungs of society. On this Thanksgiving we will all certainly enjoy time with family, friends, and loved ones. But let us also remember that there are people and families to embrace that are working through their pain and their grief today. In the midst of our celebrations today, I hope we take time to not only thank God for all the good things He has blessed us with, but that we would also remember to say a prayer for those who feel the loss of life as they sit down for their first Thanksgiving with their loved one.

[1] In two of these cases, the deceased was in possession of a BB gun. There are differences amongst jurisdictions over whether this is considered being “armed.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6451

(Kevin Paulson) #2

Like so many others, I have spent much of the past few days watching the interviews with the principals in the latest chapter of America’s racial saga. Again this morning I saw the interview with Michael Brown’s parents. What wrenching agony they will experience not only today, but in the holiday season now upon us! Peace and goodwill will likely be distant mirages for many who mourn the continuing injustice of which recent episodes are but conspicuous flash points.

Perhaps the greatest comfort we can offer in this painful, tragic hour—we who cherish God’s Word and the ultimate measure of human conduct it offers—is the Bible’s promise of a final day of judgment in which all choices, all capricious acts, all deeds of injustice, will be arraigned before the bar of the Almighty. Injustice may at times appear triumphant, but the following assurances still shout from the Sacred Pages:

“God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:14).

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the deeds done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10).

To all whose hearts are convulsed with pain on this day when gratitude and the giving of thanks find common expression, we can say with confidence that the God of Scripture—the sole Source of true love, peace, and justice—will one day right every wrong. Till then, may we grasp the hand of omnipotent Power and claim His grace for understanding and reconciliation.

(Tim Teichman) #3

I believe that when we pray, most of the time we should be praying for the well being of others. Seems appropriate here.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #4

seems like building a case against police rather a cause for .mourning.

the black on black crimes including murder rank first on the police blotter in Augusta, Ga. I am sure one will hind the same statistic in any major American City. the city of Augusta had to demolish a housing development because of the crime rate. Mourn, the inhumanity to man. Tom Z

(Ron Corson) #5

Really. Debate that? Rioters destroy numerous black owned businesses and we can debate whether that is necessary or of value. Sadly that kind of politically correct foolishness goes on far to much. It seems that for political goals to be met, whatever they may even be, so many are unwilling to condemn foolish and destructive actions. well if people can’t even be honest to themselves then they are not likely to be honest to others. No problems will ever be solved that way. But for some problems being solved is not the goal and that is equally sad.

(Ron Corson) #6

Hey Kevin I have wanted to ask this of people of your opinion so much this last week. Upon what evidence do you claim there was injustice in the Michael Brown case? I Realize the Jason sees the case as shrouded in mystery even after the Grand Jury released the evidence they viewed but what is the evidence for the alleged injustice?

Grand Jury evidence: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2014/11/25/prosecutors-release-ferguson-grand-jury-evidence/

(Sirje) #7

Let’s not forget:


(Kevin Paulson) #8

Ron, too much of this case is deeply troubling, other than the fact that it demonstrates yet another skein in a tapestry of injustice and suspicion of the African-American community that has sadly been endemic to much of American society.

First, too many features of the case offer evidence, at least to me, that a trial was in order. For the district attorney to punt the case to a grand jury deliberating in secret, bothers me considerably. A public trial would certainly not have guaranteed conviction; the bar is considerably high in such a proceeding. But at least it would have meant a public and comprehensive airing of evidence, including the many witnesses who claim Michael had his hands in the air when the officer confronted him.

The Bible speaks of how only two or three witnesses are needed to establish matters (Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 1 Cor. 14:29; II Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28). It seems many more than that were available to confirm that Michael was openly surrendering to the officer. Yes, I am aware of the conflicting witnesses. But that’s why a public trial would clearly have been best.

And no one has answered for me one simple question, though some in the media have alluded to it. Why didn’t the officer use a taser to subdue Michael Brown, if in fact Michael was close enough to grab for his gun and slug him in the face? One blast of a taser would have sent Michael flying, giving the officer time—if in fact he was threatened—to catch up with him and cuff him. But Michael would not likely have been killed by such an action.

Why use deadly force as one’s first resort? It seems more could have been done short of killing this young man.

The violence in the streets is inexcusable for any reason. But this is part of a pattern we have seen, and continue to see, throughout our land. Black lives seem less valuable than white lives. Numerous examples of this can be cited. It is deeply disturbing.

(Andreas Bochmann) #9

Sobering indeed… More than 2000 victims a year in Chicago alone???

Hard to swallow from a European perspective.

The issues are complex and systemic. To demonize police isn’t helpful, to make it a black & white issue is simplifying matters, to excuse the NRA from their responsibility isn’t helpful, to blame enraged rioters for the exploding violence messes with cause and effect…

For me the question remains: What might be helpful? How can we bring healing and hope?

Perhaps indeed - if WE are willing to mourn. Just a thought.

(Ron Corson) #10

So your evidence is suspicion and distrust. That, you should know is not evidence of anything. Now of course you would not use a Taser if the person was assaulting you through the driver’s side window because you would not be able to get to it. The officer has his gun on the right side, many departments indicate that the taser be holstered on the left side, (see http://www.nymir.org/word/less-lethal-sample-policy-3.doc ) So in the car you would not tas someone at the window reaching in. Also on very large people and Brown was large Tasers may not be that effective (see http://www.komonews.com/news/local/TASERS-INEFFECTIVE-IN-4-OFFICER-INVOLVED-SHOOTINGS-269299881.html ). Now it may be that in that split second pulling out the gun that close to a suspect was not the best choice but it is a reasonable choice if one fears that another punch could knock you out.

Second even Jury trials don’t provide comprehensive airing of evidence. So that idea does not work. If the Grand jury cannot find enough evidence to indict on anything what is the point of going to a trial, the prosecutor will most certainly lose.

But the real problem here is that you have no real reason to disbelieve the officer or the witnesses that back up the officer.

As for the false witnesses. those were the same ones that said Mr. Brown was shot in the Back (shown to not be true by autopsy). So the biblical admonition is maintained with the Grand Jury. Not all witnesses are credible and particularly not one that was just involved with Brown in the strong armed theft at the convenience store

(Weiers Coetser) #11

In addition to it being Thanksgiving in the United States, this weekend also marks the beginning of the season of Advent on the Liturgical calendar. The lectionary readings for the weekend have a very advent feel to it and I think they speak very strongly to the systemic nature of the present situation:

Isaiah 64:1-9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil–
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people.

Other readings in the lectionary for the first Sunday of Advent:
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

(David P R) #12

I just read that the officer did not have a taser.

Just my opinion - The gradn jury documents are available and that would explain why Michael Brown was killed. Overal - I think we should really stay out of the details as Seventh-day Adventists. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in “feelings” on either side of the story. It is a shame that someone has died and I feel for the parents and their loss but let’s face it there is a huge problem within the African American community of kids growing up without father and mother figures in their lives, and I don’t think it’s any different in this case. One thing I think can be agreed upon is it is very clear that Michael Brown is a hardened criminal with no respect for his community. When you watch the video of him walking into a convenience store, grabbing a box of cigars (and not even trying to hide it), and walking out, and then confronting/intimidating the little lady who worked at the store - it sure doesn’t look good for his character.

These are just signs of the times. Jesus said “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12). The word “iniquity” is the Greek word “anomia” which means to transgress the law or to have contempt and violation of the law. This is much of society today in general.

David R.

(Sirje) #13

Europe has its own racial issues, somewhat distinct from those in the US. In the US racial tension has become an industry, and definitely political. As sad and as maddening as the samples given in the article might be, there is far more black-on-black death happening than white police killing black youth - a sample being Chicago alone; add to that Atlanta, LA, Detroit, Philadelphia - and on and on, the percentage of white on black violence is miniscule - which doesn’t excuse anything of course. Gun control isn’t the issue in Chicago since they have gun control laws - which only work for law-abiding people. The gang-bangers don’t care about any gun control laws anyway.

This is a social issue as much as a cultural problem. Over 70% of black babies are born into single mom families, and therein lies much of the problem which spreads into lack of education and respect for law. When the adults think it makes sense to burn down black business neighborhoods to show dis-satisfaction, or even outrage, then what can you expect from the youth.

Race issues are complicated, no matter where they cause division. It doesn’t help when there are vocal people around who benefit from keeping them alive.

(Ron Corson) #14

That was actually a man not a woman. I am sure he would like that clarified. Video at: http://video.foxnews.com/v/3736886850001/store-owners-in-fear-after-michael-brown-video/#sp=show-clips

(Randle Patrick) #15

Physical Evidence:

Is Irrelevant:

How’s about the SdA church in Ferguson steps up for temporary facility arrangements?


“Sent Michael flying”? Michael Brown was 6 foot 4 weighing at almost 300 pounds. Tasers are not always reliable, especially against larger people. Here’s a short clip of not one, but two officers arresting a man (or trying to). They use a taser on him…does he fly?

Its not so black or white, or easy as people make it out to be. When your adrenalin is pumping, things happen very quickly, your mind is going a million miles an hour, and sometimes the situation goes from bad to worse. Anyone who has gotten into a serious fight will understand this. And unless you have been in one, you cannot possibly know what its like. Especially if there’s a gun involved. And therefore, I reserve my judgement. This case is a difficult one.

I only post this video to show that sometimes our police officers have to deal with things that we thankfully do not have to. You or I could have ran away from this situation, an officer cannot, he must deal with it, and pray it ends well, for him and others nearby.

(Interested Friend) #17

And that can well incite more and more confrontations with law enforcement agencies which is not at all helpful. Unfortunately the race hustlers get far too much media attention. In fact, I wonder what the effect would have been in Ferguson had all the news media suddenly disappeared.

I have empathy for peaceful business owners who may have had their livelihoods destroyed permanently by mindless stealing.
In The Grip of truth and Peace

(Interested Friend) #18

Are you trying to convict the police officer, Kevin Paulson. I find this “after the fact” questioning as tending more to condemnation of the police officer; that I find sad for one who aspires to the ministry.

Until convincing evidence is adduced (and it hasn’t been so far) that the officer was not engaged in self defense the officer should be given the benefit of the doubt. Just place yourself in a situation where your life is endangered and quick action is required.
In The Grip of Truth and Peace

(George Tichy) #19

Hiding the facts to cover up for racism may have worked well in the past, but it’s no longer a viable tactic.

It may frustrate some people when the facts are exposed to the public, but this is the way it is nowadays. The media does not cause the crime, it only reports the crime. Which some people may not like.

(Elmer Cupino) #20

Even you have recognized the pattern? Isn’t this sine qua non of LGT? :smile: