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Chester County Press

Editorial: In the face of despair, we are still standing

07/12/2016 01:38PM ● By Richard Gaw
This past week, our nation took a ferocious punch to the very core of its moral center, a blow so pulverizing to our sense of civility that it may have permanently affected the way many Americans look at police protection and race.
The open and horrific killings of two black men – one in Baton Rouge, La., and the other in Falcon Heights, Minn. -- captured on camera videos and shared on social media, became the talking points of our continued narrative on a subject that has left us punch drunk from repeated shots to the head. Now, we find ourselves dragged into the ring again, adding Alton Sterling and Philando Castile to a roster of other black men whose names have become the hashtags of our collective rage.
Subsequent protests over the last week have poisoned an already toxic strain between police and the communities they serve, culminating in the murder of five white police officers and the wounding of seven others, at the hands of a disturbed and violent criminal, who wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.
The atrocities perpetrated by our law enforcement system – ones that that may or may not be happening in the subtext of racism – are now being met with equal and brutal force, and there is nowhere left to hide.   Welcome to the documentary of our demise; it is now a fully shared one, in living color, and one that no longer spares the red blood of the murdered. 
We have every right now to remain on the canvas, and not hear the bell for the next round, one that we know will ring again when the next black man or person of color in America is gunned down by a white officer. We have every right to accept that our wounds will never heal, to believe in an inevitability that declares that America is permanently crippled, to rationalize that the gulf that separates our police from the communities they serve will grow even wider.
Tell that to Pennsylvania State Trooper Samantha Minnucci, who has helped facilitate the department's Camp Cadet program in Penn Township Park, which brings together young people of all races to exercise side-by-side with police officers.
Tell that to Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt, whose staff have become regular visitors to schools throughout the township.
Tell that to New Garden Police Chief Gerald Simpson, whose department has incorporated community engagement into the fabric of its operations, and is a regular presence in the Hispanic neighborhoods and community centers in southern Chester County.
Tell that to Kennett Borough Police Chief Edward Zunino, whose department has become synonymous with the success of the After-the-Bell school programs, done in conjunction with the Kennett Consolidated School District. 
In the wake of what happened in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas this past week, there is a scene in the film “Raging Bull,” that articulates, in a pugilistic sense, the best of who we are as Americans, and one that invites us to summon up the spirit of who we are. Jake LaMotta, played by Robert DeNiro, is up against the ropes in a fight against “Sugar Ray” Robinson, and he is on the violent end of what has been regarded as one of the most brutal beatings in boxing history. Robinson comes at LaMotta again and again and again, punishing him, and yet, to his astonishing amazement, nothing happens. LaMotta is still there, right in front of him. He is still standing.
“You didn't get me down, Ray,” LaMotta says to his opponent through a bloody mouth guard. “You didn't get me down.”
In the aftermath of these violent killings, no one knows for sure where our best voices will come from to address even the most far-flung of solutions. It is too soon to know if our increasingly vanishing trust in our law enforcement will ever turn upward. It is unknown whether our nation's people of color will ever be able to begin their day identified as a parent, or a worker, or a friend, and not a potential target. It remains to be seen whether we will see more police shaking hands than carrying billy clubs.
Right now, we are in our worst possible place, paused for the next punches, but there are local boxers – police officers who patrol our towns and neighborhoods and homes – who refuse to give in. They refuse to go down. They are the best of who we are.