A time marked by sorrow, regret, unending shame

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

They say the United States of America is the land of the free and home of the brave. That is true in many ways. But perhaps they forgot to say it is also the land of the bizarre, lots of racism and the horrible.

During the past few months, we’ve been following with shock a number of developments that can only be described as mind blowing and extremely disturbing. 

The impact of these incidents have become especially apparent during the past few days. On Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation into the fatal shooting of a black man by the Baton Rouge, La., Police. 

According to The New York Times, two white officers were arresting Alton B. Sterling, 37, after responding to a call about an armed man. The officers had Mr. Sterling pinned to the ground when at least one of them shot him.

Now, video footage of the shooting has brought the case to international attention, reminding about a string of other police shootings involving black men before. And there have been plenty. The Washington Post compiled a list and it’s shocking. It’s worth having a look:

1. Gregory Gunn: Montgomery, Alabama, police officer Aaron Smith, who is white, was charged with murder after shooting 58-year-old Gregory Gunn. Gunn was unarmed and steps from his home when he was shot 

2. Akiel Denkins: A North Carolina prosecutor concluded that a white officer acted in self-defence when he shot a black man he was trying to arrest in Raleigh. 

3. Freddie Gray: Six Baltimore police officers faced charges ranging from misconduct to second-degree murder in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray, who was 25 and black, died when his neck was broken in the back of a police van. He had been restrained with handcuffs and leg irons, but not a seat belt. The death set off riots in Baltimore. 

4. Walter Scott: Michael Slager faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of murder in the death of Walter Scott, who was shot and killed fleeing a traffic stop in South Carolina in April 2015. Scott was unarmed. 

5. Laquan McDonald: Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder in the 2014 death of black teen Laquan McDonald. An explosive dash cam video showed McDonald being shot 16 times. 

6. Samuel Dubose: Ray Tensing, a former University of Cincinnati police officer, is awaiting an October trial on murder and voluntary manslaughter charges in the fatal shooting of Samuel DuBose, 43, who was unarmed when he was pulled over for a missing licence plate. 

7. Akai Gurley: Peter Liang, a rookie New York City police officer of Chinese descent, was patrolling a public housing high-rise with his gun drawn in 2014 when he fired and a bullet ricocheted off a wall, hitting 28-year-old Akai Gurley, who was black. 

8. Jamar Clark: The November 15 shooting death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark sparked weeks of protests in Minneapolis. Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze were trying to arrest Clark when he was shot once in the head. 

9. Brendon Glenn: Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck in January recommended criminal charges be brought against Officer Clifford Proctor, who fatally shot an unarmed black man, 29-year-old Brendon Glenn, in the back. 

10. Christian Taylor: An unarmed black university football player was shot and killed during a suspected burglary at an Arlington car dealership. Christian Taylor, 19, was shot after police officer Brad Miller, who is white, was called to the dealership. Miller was fired from the department. A grand jury decided to take no action against the officer. 

There is no doubt there is a pattern in all these cases. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work it out. Judging from some of these developments, don’t you agree that the land of the free and the home of the brave has somehow become anything but? 

The truth is that for some time now, most of us who follow the developments in the U.S. have been concerned, We’ve been wondering when the deaths of these black men will all come back haunt the Police.

Well two days ago, a black Army veteran who was upset about the police shootings of two black men and had therefore wanted to exterminate whites, “especially white officers” struck. He shot at 12 officers, killing five of them in what has been described as the “deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Indeed, this latest incident has sent out a shockwave being felt by the rest of the world with the fear that perhaps the U.S is at risk of a civil war.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama condemned the attack as “a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.”

“There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement,” said Obama. “Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.”

That out of the way, the President did make some other very telling comments.

“If communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement offers who are doing a great job, who are doing the right thing, that makes their lives harder,” Obama said.

“When people say ‘black lives matter,’ it doesn’t mean that blue lives don’t matter,” Obama said, referring to police officers. 

“But right now, the data shows that black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. There is a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens.”

Talk about speaking the obvious. There is without a doubt the sickness called racism in the U.S. mentality alright! Where is justice? What about fairness? What happened to the land of the free?

Which brings us to this paradise we call Samoa. Is there justice and fairness on these shores? Can these bizarre and horrible incidents happening in America possibly occur here?

While our problems pale in comparison to incidents in the United States we’ve highlighted above, we’ve got plenty of bizarre problems ourselves. Stories like that of Suitupe Misa on the front page of the paper you are reading worries the mind. 

But that’s not all. Inside that impressive-looking Ministry of Justice building at Mulinu’u, men, women and children are being sent to jail every day for all sorts of heinous crimes.

Whereas the number of thefts and robbery cases are spreading like an uncontrollable disease, rape and sexual offenses of all sorts have become so commonplace it’s disgraceful. Incest has also been rising. Young girls are being sexually molested by their own fathers or grown relatives.

Then there is the violence against women and vulnerable children. And of course suicide continues to be a major issue in Samoa.

So what’s going on in this country “Founded on God”? What triggers a man to commit a violent act in blind fury, or another to take advantage of his young daughter and messes her up for the rest of her life? 

What moves a young person to commit the ultimate act of ending his/her life?

Has society become too harsh a place to cope for some people?

Where is the church? What about village leaderships, what are they doing about what’s happening today? 

And where is the government? Does it care at all? When is it ever going to wake up and make the connection between poverty, unemployment, hardship and many of these social problems?

Let’s be reminded here that three weeks ago, a member of this community was found dead and hanging from a church hall in town? An investigation is pending on whether the person committed suicide or was murdered and strung up there.

In another part of Samoa, a drunken man carried out the unthinkable act of shooting someone in the mouth, point blank. What is going on and what message are these incidents trying to communicate to us?

As we rest this Sunday, they are questions and issues worth thinking about. Spare a thought for the families affected, and whisper a prayer for peace in Samoa and all over the world.

So what do the incidents in the United States of America and Samoa have in common? Well, they are incidents happening at a time we will remember for the sorrows they brought, regrets and unending shame.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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