Mourning in America

It has been a tough week for justice.

From my seat of privilege halfway around the world, I watched as police gunned down an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, for the crime of being black.  I awoke to Washington Post updates in my inbox: Ferguson police had militarized, and met the outpouring of grief and outrage with tear gas and combat gear.  They drove over citizens’ First Amendment rights with armored vehicles and assaulted free expression and assembly with rubber bullets and flash grenades.  A few days later a cell phone video cropped up in my Facebook feed of police in St. Louis murdering a man for stealing two energy drinks from a convenience store.

And then another video.  This time, of an American journalist–who risked his life to expose truth, to bring the suffering of oppressed and marginalized people from around the world to the forefront of the attention of those whose daily crises revolve around choosing an Instagram filter–being humiliated, then brutally attacked, and murdered in the worst imaginable way in the name of some archaic ideology.

My heart is heavy.

It seems unreasonable, even callous, to experience this visceral response to the deaths of three when thousands of innocent women and children are being murdered with abandon, in cold blood, by the same offenders.  Though maybe there is something to be said for a country whose citizens can possess diametrically opposed views, and even live abroad, but still feel the same pain and grief watching their countrymen suffer.

I wonder what it might have been like to be expatriated on the September 11 attacks.  I am heartbroken and helpless in the face of abject horror.

And yet I am hopeful.  “Your country is falling apart at the seams,” a Brit informed me yesterday, casually, in a thick, Irish accent, in that laugh-as-the-world-burns style that’s so attractive to my disillusioned generation.  But I insisted it wasn’t true.

Police brutality and racism have permeated American society basically since its inception; it is only now that persecuted communities have access to technology to record evidence to support their cases.  Social networks allow for democratic and instantaneous news reporting.  Memes draw publicity to issues of inequality and injustice.  There is public discourse!  This is a good thing.  I’m proud of the protesters in Ferguson.

Meanwhile, our appetite for war has decreased, in contrast with even average citizens’ improved understanding of geopolitics in the middle east.  Just as there are ignorant bigots, there are people striving for understanding.  There are people in America strategizing on how to make society better for everyone.  Just a couple of days ago, two people who had contracted one of the deadliest diseases known to man walked out of an Atlanta hospital, healed.  Separating us from the ISIS terrorists is a love of life, compassion, and tolerance.  What they didn’t realize when they killed Jim Foley is that they would make a martyr for our shared values of hope and courage and brazenness to follow truth where it may lead, and to expose injustice where it metastasizes.

Since moving to Hong Kong, my relationship with America has evolved.  I am simultaneously more critical of US foreign and domestic policy, and more appreciative of certain freedoms, luxuries, and attitudes afforded to me there.  But I still mourn with the nation from 8,000 miles away.  And from 8,000 miles away, I can see that we are still resilient.

RIP Michael Brown and James Foley





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