This was the day after the shock video of the killing of Walter Scott -- the unarmed, black South Carolina man whose death that was captured on a smartphone -- that led to a rare murder arrest of the officer who shot him. And our leaders seemed to grasp for their dictionary of cliches
It was "awfully hard to watch," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest -- a comment that I've heard or read a lot in the last 24 hours. Another one I heard -- from the mayor of North Charleston, S.C., where the shooting occurred, and from others -- was along the lines of, "I watched the video, and what I saw sickened me."
I get it. It is hard to find the right words when you watch a man -- a guy with four kids and a fiancee -- shot in the back and then handcuffed while he bleeds to death. But it would be nice if someone high up the political food chain said something like, "Things need to change in this country. We all need to try to make sure this kind of thing never happens again!"
Here are some things that we know about Walter Scott.
Scott was a 50-year-old black man, pulled over on Saturday in North Charleston, S.C., by a white member of that city's predominantly white police force, for driving with a broken tail light.
He was not armed.
The early days of April have brought the bright hope of spring sunshine, and a bitter cross-current of chilly winds. That's fitting for a time of year that we ponder how hard it is to be an apostle of non-violence in this world. It was noted here last week that a gunman put a premature end to the peace-and-justice activism of Dr. Martin Luther King on the evening of April 4, some 47 years ago. At the same time, Christians around the world celebrated the life, death and resurrection on Easter weekend of Jesus Christ -- a prophet of non-violence who was crucified by an evil empire frightened by his message of love.
One of the hallmarks of Easter Sunday in modern times is the Pope appearing before a large throng in the Vatican and appealing for world peace. And 2015 was no exception. Pope Francis addressed a dizzying array of bloodshed from Kenya to Libya and elsewhere, but this year the pontiff sounded one hopeful note, about fresh hopes that a deal over Iran's nuclear program will prevent a devastating war in the Middle East:
Francis made his first public comments about the recent framework for an accord, reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, and aimed at ensuring Iran doesn't develop a nuclear weapon.
On Saturday, the world will stop once again -- as it should -- to remember arguably the greatest American of the last 100 years, Dr. Martin Luther King. April 4 will mark 47 years since an American sniper gunned down the civil rights leader on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The year that both King and Sen. Robert Kennedy were assassinated, 1968, was not so coincidentally one of the few moments that the nation was able to enact gun regulations. It was a time when the nation, collectively, was desperate to tackle a violent streak that seemed to be threatening the great American experiment.
It's become more than a bit of a cliche to say that an esteemed figure, like Martin Luther King, would be "spinning in his grave" over something that's happening now. But it's indeed hard to imagine what King -- who remained remarkably, stoically committed to the principle of non-violence, despite a lifetime of provocation -- would have thought of the words coming from one of his heirs at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC, the group that he founded and led during the 1960s.
This is what the SCLC chapter head in King's home state of Georgia -- a man named Samuel Mosteller -- told reporters last week. He was responding to a spate of shooting of black suspects by police, including two recent deaths near Atlanta -- one involving a mentally distressed Afghanistan war veteran who was not only unarmed but naked when an officer shot him.
In the Philadelphia mayor's race, to call environmental issues an afterthought would mean giving afterthoughts too much credit. Admittedly, the seven major-party candidates for City Hall have a lot on their minds -- a schools crisis, neverending issues with crime and policing -- so there's not much time left for pondering the fate of the earth.
Environmentalism -- today, as was the case 40 years ago -- tend to get reduced in this blue-collar metropolis to "jobs." All of the candidates are eager to talk about Philadelphia as a high-tech "energy hub" because of the paychecks. Building the city's economy around fossil fuels -- a leading contributor to worldwide climate change -- doesn't strike anyone as much of a thing.
Global warming? That's someone else's problem. Today, that someone else is the governor of California, Jerry Brown.
America is finally having a national conversation about policing in lower-income communities, but it keeps getting interrupted...by stuff like this:
Officials are investigating the death of a man who died while in police custody Tuesday.
The man, identified as Phillip White, was arrested at a home on the 100 block of Grape Street in Vineland, New Jersey around 11 a.m. Tuesday. He died shortly after while in custody. Witnesses told NBC10 officers were extremely physical with White after he was already restrained and unconscious on the street.
Gridlock? That's a Beltway thing. On the state level, where a lot of the real policy action takes place, divided government isn't so much of a problem, and so amazing things are happening. Or nightmarish things are happening. Your results may vary, depending on your political -- and maybe sexual -- orientation.
America is fast becoming two nations. Not rich and poor, or black and white...OK, maybe those things too. But it's also becoming a nation where stone-cold Tea Partiers rule in one town, while the dirty freaking hippies are in control just across the state line. The not-so-United States is a place where a gay couple in Seattle is smoking a joint and planning their wedding on the $15 an hour they make from McDonald's, where down the interstate in Arizona some modern incarnation of Yosemite Sam is chasing immigrants back toward the border with his six-shooter.
But what are we going to do about the formerly purple state known as Indiana, a state that threw America a giant head fake in 2008 by giving its electoral votes to Barack Obama, and then decided it was time to exit modernity, stage right? Just seven short years later, the Hoosier State has enacted arguably the most regressive state law since Sheriff Jim Clark was walking the beat in Selma.
If the probably decisive Democratic primary for the 99th mayor of Philadelphia were being held today, former DA Lynne Abraham would be the winner. And what an historic occasion this will be. After all, Philly's got 98 mayors, but, um...a female has not been among them. It would also represent something of a throwback Tuesday to the law-and-order era in the city's history, a past that comes dressed in a leisure suit and bearing a pet rock. But before that '70s show can premier on the 2nd floor of City Hall, the Abraham administration has to deal with its very first crisis.
The election isn't being held today.
Instead, it take place on May 19, and you can bet your bottom dollar -- or $500,000 a week, if you have much dough that laying around on your dresser -- that the other candidates will devote much of the next several weeks to chipping off huge chunks of the ex-prosecutor's support. And you have to think their chances for success are really, really good.