Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 135- Wait.

Dear Mr. President,

It's the end of a sunny Seattle day. High school students are celebrating Prom; tourists are coming out droves, and the cheerful good weather so uncharacteristic of our part of the world is getting eerily persistent. The last few letters that I've written you have been angry and bitter and sad. I don't say this by way of an apology; I feel that this week has had example after example of the kind of mystifying ignorance, ill will and horrifying abuses of power that stir such emotions in me. There are moments when I feel overwhelmed by all of this, and escaping it through distraction, a narrow focus on my own life and the incredibly small sphere of influence I have, seems the only sane course of action. But we take the good with the bad, much like the tourists and the sunny weather that brings them. They may be annoying and slow moving and indifferent to those of us with the audacity to try and live our lives in their vacation destination, but they stimulate our economy, they keep our city thriving and enable companies to employ us. And so we roll our eyes at the city's "be nicer to tourists" ad campaign, and we try to share the city and keep our sanity. (Your motorcade likely protects you from the worst of this in Washington, but I realize that city has it even worse than Seattle.)

You recently spoke at the fallen officers memorial, to the families of those police officers killed in the line of duty. (Of the 126 officers killed in 2009, 7 came from Washington state. 6 of those 7 were shot.) One of the officers I chat with every day at work is attending the ceremony. This is how I think of police officers; they're my parents and my neighbors and my regular customers; they're heroes who risk their lives to serve their communities. But with the good, comes incidents like this recent example of brutality by a Seattle PD officer. I've witnessed this kind of thing in my own neighborhood; one of our first nights in this apartment, we called 911 in the middle of a night for a woman who had collapsed in the street. The responding officers did not call medical services, instead they roughly searched the woman and degraded her verbally, before releasing her, barely able to stand, to a man who angrily berated her for leaving the car he'd left her in. I believe that officers like this, who, by their hostility, increase tensions between the community and law enforcement, and, by doing so, put other cops in danger. And there will be no end to them. All we can do then, is to hope that things will get better. That people will respect one another, and trust one another, and that, together, we will move forward.

Which is to say, Mr. President, in a convoluted way, that, like the perfectly innocent and the very grave, everything is a mix of good and bad that is made bearable only through respect and hope. That we can all do better, we can all work harder. I may write you angry letters, some days, but I still have tremendous respect for you as a person, for the enormity of the decisions you have to make, and for the office that you hold. Alexandre Dumas said that "all human wisdom is contained in these two words--"Wait and Hope." Neither of these are easy things to do. I just want you to know that I'm trying.

Respectfully yours,


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