Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
“O would some power the gift to give us, to see ourselves as others see us,” are the immortal words of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Those words came to mind recently after listening to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s eulogy for officer Rafael Ramos last Saturday in Queens. “We don’t see each other,” Bratton lamented. “The police, the people who are angry at the police, the people who support us but want us to do better, even a madman who assassinated two men because all he could see was two uniforms, even though they were so much more.”
Although we have some strong disagreements with Bratton’s “Broken Windows” policy, a quality of life approach that purports to head off possible felonies by arresting people for minor offenses, his eulogy was fair and instructive with moments of compelling eloquence. His charge that “we don’t see each other” and Burns’ expression “to see ourselves as others see us” are both infused with human decency, the kind of well-wishing that seems so absent in the current tumult of our society.
When we hear the police and a few of their representatives assail Mayor de Blasio, wrongly declaring that there’s “blood on his hands,” they have breached the line of respect, and they failed to see who the mayor is and what he is trying to do.
True, from the inception of his campaign for mayor he spoke passionately about police reform, and he does have a son who could be among the young Black men shot and killed by the police, but that does not make him anymore antipolice than the thousands who have taken to the streets demanding an end to racial profiling and the excessive use of force by some police officers.
On both sides of the human equation, a wrong has been committed when a deranged individual targets a person merely because he is a police officer, and equally wrong is the police officer who targets a person merely because of the color of his skin.
In this case, neither is heeding Bratton’s admonition; neither is seeing the other as they see themselves.
Accountability is a two-way street. Peaceful protesting is as desired as police protection. If we break the law, then there should be punitive measures, and the same should apply to those employed to enforce these laws when they violate them.
Over the past few weeks, our tears have become mutual. The mourning is not exclusive, the grief is not partial. We are, as the mayor said, “all in pain,” and only together can we move toward the healing process.
But far beyond the healing are the good wishes that must be extended as we struggle to build a more perfect society. The human in you must recognize and accept the human in another. Whether you like it or not, ultimately we are all in this thing together and, as the old saying goes, we must be our brother’s and our sister’s keeper.
We may never know the deep demons that possessed Ismaaiyl Brinsley to do what he did, and there is no way to get inside the minds of officers Pantaleo and Wilson to get an understanding of why they acted as they did. What we are left with are tragedies, and the extent to which they could have been prevented is as much too late as they are incomprehensible.
At last, we pray for the victims and perpetrators who are bound eternally in the same way we are linked in our desperation to ward off the next atrocity.
It’s time for all of us to take a good look at ourselves and at each other; to do so should reveal both our worth and human frailties. No citizen, and certainly no police officer, is beyond reproach. We are all imperfect, and the sooner we accept this condition the sooner we can move toward the wishes of Bratton and Burns.