Thursday, December 4, 2014

I Can't Breathe! M-E-T-A-P-H-O-R

The blow that knocks the wind right out of you and makes you gasp.
The asthma attack when your lungs just don't work right.
Choking when you swallow wrong.
Pneumonia, Emphysema, lung cancer that leave your lungs incapable of functioning properly.

Being choked.
Being thrown to the ground and held down.
"I Can't Breathe!"

How does one watch the video of Eric Garner's pleading and death without finding it difficult to breathe, to get choked up in fear and anxiety. 
Suffocation, drowning, these are two of our greatest human fears.
We watched a man grasped around the neck, put into what appears to be a choke-hold, and held down while he proclaimed time after time, "I can't breathe." Until, he stopped speaking because there was no more air for him.

I don't know why any officer moved to take him down to the ground. I don't know why anyone decided that a physical altercation was needed to stop a man selling individual cigarettes to homeless people who couldn't afford them any other way.

Being choked. M-E-T-A-P-H-O-R.
Being thrown to the ground and held down. M-E-T-A-P-H-O-R.
"I Can't Breathe!" M-E-T-A-P-H-O-R.

This was a father of six children. He'd had a troubled life. He'd been arrested 31 times. Now he was selling "loosies" to make a few bucks from people who were themselves struggling to breathe, to live.

I didn't sit on the Grand Jury. I have no idea what they saw and heard. I don't know if the officer who decided to take Eric Garner to the ground is entirely responsible for his death or even if he's the only one of the officers present who might be somewhat responsible.

I do know that I saw a man who was not violent thrown to the ground as if he was. 

I do know that he died at least in part because he was grasped around the neck and held down on the ground as he struggled to breathe.

I do know that he told the police officers that he couldn't breathe eleven times.

I do know he had been standing there on that sidewalk, assuming he was selling individual cigarettes, in order to make a few dollars because the government put so much tax on packs that poor people can't afford to buy a whole one.

I do know there are those in this country who feel like they're being choked and held down, perhaps by their own past mistakes, perhaps by those of their parents, perhaps by discrimination and racism, perhaps by a system that simply makes it difficult to rise.

I do know that there are far too many people in this country who wake up in the morning and long to be able to breathe: to have enough money, enough food, enough health, a roof over their head, enough love, enough hope for a better tomorrow.

But day after day, they wake up and say, "I can't breathe!"

I do know that we hear them. Sometimes they yell so loudly that we cover our ears. Sometimes they protest. Sometimes they riot. We see it on TV  and all over the internet. Sometimes we tune them out. Sometimes we change the channel. Then we stop hearing the voice. Quiet at last! Until the ambulance comes and we wake up momentarily and notice what we've done or not done.

Didn't mean it. Oh, there were opportunities. It wasn't all our fault. There were other factors involved. He was overweight. He didn't take care of himself. Not our fault. No officer's fault either according to the Grand Jury. No True Bill.

We heard but we didn't listen. Haunted:
  • I'm minding my business, officer.
  • I'm minding my business.
  • Please just leave me alone.
  • I told you the last time, 
  • Please just leave me alone.
  • Please, please don't touch me.
  • Do not touch me...
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.
  • I can't breathe.