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“What It Means To ‘Love America'”: To Believe We Should Evolve And Change Toward Becoming A More Diverse And Just Society

On May 30, 2013, Kalief Browder was finally released after more than three years in Rikers Island. His crime? There wasn’t one. He was accused of stealing a backpack and the backlog in the courts meant that Browder, who refused to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, stayed behind bars until the prosecutor finally dropped the case. He attempted suicide while in prison.

Meanwhile, it was announced today that Maureen McDonnell, wife of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, has been sentenced to one year and a day. The former governor received just a two year sentence. That means that after being convicted in federal court on fourteen counts of corruption, both McDonnells will likely serve less time in jail than a black teenager who was never convicted and never even went to trial.

This is what FBI Director James Comey meant in his speech last week, titled “Hard Truths About Law Enforcement and Race” when he said, “there is a disconnect between police agencies and many citizens – predominantly in communities of color.” Comey went on to say that bridging that divide is a two-way street that requires law enforcement and communities of color seeing each other more fairly and equally.

But as Jonathan Capehart has pointed out, unlike when President Barack Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder discusses race, the right and its organs like Fox News paid Comey no attention. Because when a white male Republican law enforcement official points out the racial imbalance in America’s justice system, the right wing noise machine suddenly goes silent.

And that goes to the heart of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s ghoulish, repulsive, race-baiting assertion that President Obama doesn’t “love America.” The fact is that Giuliani’s view of America and its history privileges the powerful, so any acknowledgment of the Kalief Browders of the world must be a sign that someone doesn’t “love America.” This has also been manifested in the growing national fight over AP History classes, which conservatives now complain are insufficiently patriotic. Last fall, thousands of students fought back against the right wing ideologues on the Jefferson County School Board here in Colorado a valuable lesson in civil disobedience; and more recently an proposal by Republicans in the Oklahoma state legislature to defund AP history classes gained national attention.

Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe its judicial system should hold the powerful as much to account as the powerless. Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe access to health care shouldn’t depend on your income, that a poor kid with asthma deserves a doctor as much as a rich one. Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe that sacrificing our soldiers to war shouldn’t be done out of dishonesty or caprice.

Maybe some us love our country enough to believe that Dr. Marting King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a profoundly patriotic document. Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe that we should embrace and correct its flaws, not turn a cruel and blind eye to them. Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe it should evolve and change toward becoming a more diverse and just society, not remain calcified by class.

And maybe some of us love our country enough to believe that it is the Rudy Giulianis of the world, and his cowardly enablers like Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker, who betray what we stand for and who we aspire to be as a nation.

 

By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, February 20, 2015

February 22, 2015 Posted by | American History, Criminal Justice System, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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