And a mother cries. She cries for a child that is no more. It does not matter if that child is five or fifty-five. It does not matter if that child lives on the forgotten and broken streets where dreams have gone to die, or in one of the conspicuous houses built on false illusions lining mediocre middle-class boulevards. A mother cries and she cannot be consoled. She cries for her crucified child nailed onto the cross of ignorance and intolerance, and it does not matter if her child is black or white, rich or poor, police or citizen. A mother cries.
All lives reflect the image of the Creator of the universe. All lives are sacred. All lives have infinite worth. All lives are interconnected. All lives matter. Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. Yellow lives matter. Red lives matter. White lives matter.
But how does one respond to a society that commoditizes lives, where the lives of some matter more than the lives of others? Where the poor, who disproportionately occupy bodies that lack whiteness, can be sold for a pair of slippers. The devaluing of certain lives starts early. In our education system, the lives of some children matter less, spending an average of $908 fewer per student than in mostly white school districts. Poorly educated communities of color develop an under-skilled and under-employed work force designed to suppress wages for the sake of the retirement portfolios horded by the lives whom society christen as mattering. Attempting to escape streets where the thickness of hopelessness chokes ones lungs becomes a futile act. But for the few who manage to break loose, they are rewarded by being placed on golden pedestals like the fatted calf for all to admire, and also to serve as a rebuke to the many who fall short.
Trapped in the nightmarish ghettos and barrios where no American Dream can penetrate, where no bootstraps exist by which to pull oneself up, where despair becomes a constant companion, apathy reins supreme. The crocodile tears from those for whom society is structured become vulgar. And the real tears of mothers for their lost children are so numerous that many of us have become numb to the tragedy. Those privileged live in fear of the physical violence that might one day explode upon their well-manicured streets as the consequence to the institutionalized violence of the everyday. Clinging to the second amendment provides a false sense of security while obscuring injustices. The law-and-order platform of the last generation haunts us today, providing consent to make no more the lives that we are told do not, apparently, matter.
Because we have determined that some lives matter more, we turn a blind eye to the bodies of color that litter barren streets and a deaf ear to the cries of certain mothers – so many mothers. More than we can count. We know how many police officers were killed this past year – 126. We know of the 126 mothers who cried for their horrible loss, cried of the evil that cut the lives of their children short. We do not know how many black bodies were extinguished by the police, nor how many brown bodies, nor how many civilians regardless of color. We can neither confirm nor deny the silent genocide of U.S. citizens taking place in our cities by the hands of those commissioned to maintain law and order. Law and order gets to be defined by those who can buy politicians to legislate the upward flow of power and privilege. We do not know how many were killed on our streets because we believe that some lives do not matter.
And mothers cry for their children that are no more, one mother’s child who took an oath to serve and protect and another’s mother child who was neither served nor protected. Police and civilians share in a common humanity in where all of their lives do matter. The death of two police officers is as tragic as the death of a cigarette seller. The death of two police officers is as tragic as the death of a large teenager strutting down the center of the street. The death of two police officers is as tragic as a boy playing with a toy gun. All lives have equal value, all lives are priceless, all lives matter. And all who succumbed to the lie that any of these lives lack worth and took action as if any of these lives did not matter, should and must be held accountable, regardless as to what side of the blue line they stand.
Nevertheless, some lives are dismissed as thuggish thanks to centuries of shaping ignorant minds with racial stereotypes, while other lives that carry shields can depend upon the very structures of society to shield them, regardless of guilt or innocence. Some lives get funeral possessions and parades while others are ignored and only heard from if they take to the streets howling against the absurdity of a system that places a price tag on human life. Some lives make it to the evening news while others are only noticeable if cellphone images go viral. Some lives are glorified while others demonized. And of course, there are always some politicians and television pundits who get to advance their careers thanks to the shedding of tears by mothers.
If indeed, all are precious in God’s sight, if all lives have and deserve dignity and respect, then the violent, senseless death of one life, regardless of color, regardless of tax-bracket, regardless as to being a police officer or civilian, is – in the final analysis, an affront to all that is moral, and just, and holy, and right. When our social structures refuse, thanks to centuries of conditioning, to hold those responsible as answerable for the taking of lives, then all of us, regardless of color, regardless of tax-bracket, regardless if we are police or civilian, must take to the streets demanding with risen hands that all lives matter.