Grant's death was a shock to everyone; despite what the frothy-mouthed
protesters who claimed the right to do as they pleased in the wake of
his death say, no police officer in America premeditates the decision
to "execute" an unarmed man in front of hundreds of gawking onlookers.
This is not supposed to happen and the notion of those sworn to
protect society unnecessarily killing people, on video -- for whatever
reason -- is indeed cause for righteous anger and calls for reform.
yet, the idea of a selfish, violent, desperate criminal harming others
-- even police -- is not shocking. If anything, it's expected. What
happened in Oakland became a national story only because of its
It also warrants mentioning that "solving"
the problems that led to Oscar Grant's death are orders of magnitude
easier than even beginning to cope with the myriad factors that left
four policemen dead. In fact, it's hard to claim with a straight face
that the violent street actions of Grant protesters haven't led to many of
their demands being met. Mehserle is on trial for murder and BART is in
the midst of a costly and exacting review of the management and
training of its police officers. If that review is a whitewash, we
should expect to read about it in the Chronicle, as the paper's
coverage has been exquisite. In short, pushing for a criminal trial of
a cop caught on tape shooting a prone, helpless man and instituting a
reorganization of a transit police force is something citizens, the
government, and the media can get done.
But how can you solve
the problems that produced alleged copkiller Lovelle Mixon? The man's
background -- again beautifully covered by the Chron -- reads like a Law and Order rap
sheet of an archtypical product of a corrupted society. Grew up without
parents in a broken home. Lived in a neighborhood more privileged
Americans would appropriately describe as a war zone. Out of school by
ninth grade. Imprisoned for armed robbery by 18. In and out of lockup, on
parole -- and yet he had ready access to (at least) two guns including an
How is wearing an armband on a designated day of
mourning going to solve that? How is a candlelight vigil supposed to
even start? This isn't cleaning up a rotten cop or a even a rotten
police department -- this is nothing short of confronting the very
worst of our society.
It is with the officers' families in mind
that I shudder as I contemplate the painful debates over what, exactly,
it means to die in vain. For I am not confident that even the
senseless, brutal deaths of these four brave men will be enough to jar us out of years of inertia regarding the desperate plight of
the poor, rampant nihilism, glorification of violence and ignorance,
and a thousand other problems.
May the memories of Mark Dunakin, John Hege, Ervin Romans, and Daniel Sakai be a blessing. Society owed you so much more.