June 10, 2020 545 PM
Must we thank the police?
My name is Gabriela Carballo. I am a white Latina immigrant and I live here in Marfa, your town — my town.
I have the privilege to have white skin and an “ambiguous” sounding name. I have the privilege of being able to call upon the police to aid me if need be. I have ambivalent feelings for law enforcement; I have that privilege. In that, I am able to see firsthand how unprepared police are in the USA.
When I called the police department after a domestic violence incident, the officers responding to the call questioned me on why I had let that person sleep with me the night before, why I hadn’t reached out the night before. In a state of disbelief, I stumbled my words across and explained myself. A day later, another incident occurred and I reported it. There was no follow up.
Recently I called the police, as there were indications that someone had been in my house. Police arrived and looked around, they asked me for identification. As I complied and presented my passport, the officer then inquired about my immigration status. His action made me feel scared. Regardless of my status, the call was for a wellness check, and not to question my migratory paperwork. As a non-resident “alien,” the Constitution does not protect us immigrants.
Black people in America do not have the privilege to call upon the aid of police forces, and if they do, the unknown and often fatal consequences are far too great.
Atatiana Jefferson did not survive a police wellness check, Breonna Taylor was shot dead for foolish police oversight, Michael Ramos died because a police officer “feared” him, George Floyd was suffocated with a knee to his neck by four officers, even as Floyd told them he couldn’t breathe, even as bystanders told them he wasn’t moving anymore. Ahmaud was murdered by racism. All of these lives lost to systemic racism and ill police departments.
It is all rooted in systemic racism, we know this. It is also rooted in poor training in police departments across America.
Marfa, I implore you: if you are going to spend $400,000+ on the police force, you better make sure they are well trained to protect the lives of Marfa residents, to treat the lives of Black and all of the POC residents of the city with utter respect and dignity. To be transparent, to not be racist, and to recognize that violence is never a resource for police, to not make mistakes, to be trained in sensitivity for victims of domestic violence, to de-escalate situations, to protect migrants and those who are more vulnerable, to serve their community and not other interests.
I want to believe that Marfa, being Marfa, has a good police department, that they are good people and part of the community. They have helped me, and us — but they have work to do.
So no, the thanks come later, after they diligently do their work and commit to us.
As I experience the nationwide protest about systemic racism in America following the death of George Floyd, I can’t help but think of a previous time in America when the country appeared to be tearing itself apart: that time over opposition to the war in Vietnam and President Nixon’s conduct of the war. There were peaceful protests nationwide with some occurrence of violence. Although I, like many other Americans, came to oppose the war, I did not protest the war then because I was actively serving in the U.S. Navy.
On May 4, 1970, a few hours before dawn, President Nixon, accompanied by his valet Monolo Sanchez, paid a visit to the college students at the Lincoln Memorial who were protesting the war and Nixon’s order to invade Cambodia. It was a surprise visit that caused the Secret Service deep concern about the president’s safety from physical attack. Nixon went into the crowd of protesters at the memorial to engage them in a discussion about his conduct of the war. He said he understood how they felt about him: an s.o.b., in his words. He said that his aim was the same as theirs: to stop the killing. Nixon was an awkward man who was never comfortable in such encounters with average citizens. But he made the visit despite his discomfort. That to my mind is a demonstration that Nixon understood his role as national leader.
President Trump made a visit to the Lincoln Memorial for a photo op. His was a solitary performance that highlighted his smallness at the feet of Lincoln’s great sculpture.
I was never a fan of President Nixon in those days, but I recognized his courage to make that visit to the Lincoln Memorial that night. The visit indicates to me that Nixon held himself to be president of all the people of the United States, and not just the president of half the nation who supported him. Compare Nixon’s performance of his presidency to what we have today. Like President Trump, President Nixon was a flawed individual that led to his impeachment. Both men exhibited personal insecurity in their public lives. The difference between then and now is that in the 1970s we still had Republican statesmen in the Senate who went to Nixon to tell him he had lost his support in the Senate. Today we have Mitch McConnell and his gang who ran a sham impeachment trial and then found the president not guilty, and as a result the nation suffers for it.
One of the worst episodes of American life, and surely one that will go down in the history books, is President Trump’s cowardly staged photo op in front of the St. John’s Church after peaceful protesters had been dispersed with tear gas by militarized forces. Beyond the point that I found Trump’s performance appalling and lacking in leadership, I am more worried today than ever about the survival of America’s experiment in democracy in the face of what I would call an authoritarian, proto-fascist administration in Washington, D.C. Some of our most senior retired military officers have spoken out. I can only hope that my fellow Americans will come to their senses and run the Trump team out of town in January 2021.
There is another rapidly spreading disease. Its symptoms: lack of commitment to the essence of the rule of law and due process, two bedrock American principles enshrined in the Constitution subsequent to overthrowing British royalism’s oppressive “arbitrary, authoritarian despotism.”
Why return to those ways? Why embrace or condone the personal and political corruption that’s been guarded against, if able to shine light upon the nefarious political oppression of the new royalists? Theirs is an unhealthy cancer preying upon the body politic!
For example, Attorney General William Barr defended the use of black-clad federal law enforcement officers without badges or visible identification assigned to disrupt the constitutionally protected right to protest in Washington, D.C.
There’s been little to no accountability as it is. Note Trump’s unconstitutional disregard for House congressional oversight, dismantling independent inspectors general in the executive department agencies and appointing radical Federalist Society judges to the bench.
The nation needs what conservative commentator George Will, former Secretary of State General James Mattis, several retired military commanders, Reverend Pat Robertson and the Catholic and Episcopal Bishops of Washington, D.C. provided – leadership! They spoke out, enumerating the abominations of Trumpism’s evil toxicity!
Act accordingly to prevent contagion. Be informed. Be engaged for our nation’s well-being. Vote. Legally, eradicate a political pathology (as virulent as COVID-19, which kills vibrant life force) before becoming afflicted and before the Constitution is neutered, rendered inconsequential!
Rev. Barry Abraham Zavah
I write this in reply to Ms. Spurgin’s murky letter of complaint accusing the newspaper of bias and gossipy content. And although her feelings of frustration come across loud and clear, her complaint is oblique. If she feels The Sentinel has indulged in bad journalism, we deserve clarity.
I respectfully request that Ms. Spurgin define her complaint more concisely.