In Georgia, the men already convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery are on trial for federal hate crimes, with social media posts and more allegedly documenting that hate.
It’s indifference rather than hate that’s at issue in Minnesota, where three police officers are in court, charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights for assisting or assisting as a former officer and convicted murderer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck and caused his death. That Chauvin was a trained officer will surely be part of the defense, although the “I was just following orders” excuse is as rancid now as it was during the post-WWII trials in Germany.
These writing classes, however, two of which I led this week, provide a contrast – leaders taking responsibility and already making a difference. They are representatives of communities, countries and continents facing a multitude of challenges; Yet they are already changing laws, and changing hearts and minds, and they have not been deterred by the backlash, whether from their governments or their neighbors.
Empathy and respect are key, I teach in these OpEd Project programs. Put yourself in the shoes of those you disagree with and offer them grace and the benefit of the doubt that they are moral and intelligent.
Easier said than done, I think, knowing that in my other life, politicians and citizens deny what is before their eyes, wonder whether, for example, a democratically elected American president really deserved his place in the White House, and, across the American border, whether a duly elected Canadian Prime Minister should be overthrown because a minority of truckers blocking streets and closing bridges want it to happen.