Two weeks of national political conventions punctuating a long, hot summer of protest-fueled unrest, plague and legislative gridlock offered much rhetoric, most of it provocative, some of it even factual. But the most stirring words for America in late summer 2020 came from neither camp but rather the mother of another African-American man who for reasons we can't imagine justifiable was shot multiple times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he tried to get into his car Sunday. Julia Jackson's remarks to the press Tuesday concerning wounded son Jacob Blake proved more genuine, more relevant and more patriotic than any political theater we witnessed this week or last — and without aid of teleprompters, speechwriters or taxpayer-funded backdrops.
"As I was riding through here, through this city, I noticed a lot of damage," Jackson said after demonstrations in Kenosha exploded in violence. "It doesn't reflect my son or my family. If Jacob knew what was going on as far as that goes, the violence and the destruction, he would be very unpleased. So I am asking and encouraging everyone in Wisconsin and abroad [in the land] to take a moment and examine your hearts. Citizens, police officers, firemen, clergy, politicians, do Jacob justice on this level and examine your hearts. We need healing. As I pray for my son's healing, physically, emotionally and spiritually, I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country. God placed each and every one of us in this country because he wanted us to be here."
She added with a nod to Lincoln: "We are the United States. Have we been united? Do you understand what's going to happen when we fall because a house that is against each other cannot stand?"
There's a searing message here not just for misguided demonstrators who believe they aid the cause of racial justice by torching police cars, burning buildings and instilling fear but also those in positions of authority who allowed summer violence to excuse them from pressing for consensus in police reform. And once again President Trump, as with the pandemic, missed a golden opportunity to demonstrate leadership by bringing all sides to the negotiation table on behalf of a hobbled nation. Hours after Jackson spoke, self-styled, gun-toting white militia members reportedly intent on confronting Black Lives Matter protesters on Kenosha streets, possibly inspired by Mark and Patricia McCloskey's reckless, grab-your-gun, Democrats-are-coming-for-you speech to the Republican National Convention Monday, got their wish: more death, more bloodshed, more strife, more misunderstanding. More of us should heed Jackson's selfless advice in this hour of upheaval and hatred: "Let's use our hearts, our love and our intelligence to work together to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other. America is great when we behave greatly."
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