Home After an Adventure: Addressing Injustice   1 comment

I’ve been sidetracked for a month by issues outside of me that absorbed my attention, leaving little time for introspection.

I’d spent two or three years writing my life story.  It was a very dynamic process while it was happening.  I did not choose what to write about; instead, something in the present triggered the memories which were intensely vivid, as if I were back in that other time and place.

Many of the memories had to do with my zig-zagging path, responding to a sense of being called to do battle on behalf of a series of underdogs.  But once the battles were played out and the stories were written, they lost their force for me, and so I just left the stories, unpolished, unedited, in the drawer, to focus instead on the present, both living it and writing about it.

In the past month, however, what has happened is that past and present have fused:  A month ago, a grave injustice was laid on my doorstep — like an infant needing to be taken in. The injustice concerned a worker at the housing complex where I live who, as a very young man, the child of poor farmworker immigrants, had made the mistake of joining a gang, had committed a crime, and had spent some time in jail, unfortunately a very common sequence of events in these parts.

What was unusual was that he came to his senses quickly.  As soon as he got out of jail, he married his high school sweetheart (also a former gang member) and got a job here as an entry level maintenance man.  Over sixteen years, through steady day by day work and faithfulness, he became a model husband and father, and a highly respected and well-loved keystone of this senior community.  But he’s Latino, big, tough-looking, and dogged by stereotypes.  When, last spring, the police rounded up for questioning every one they could find who had ever been part of the particular gang to which he had once belonged and which had recently been engaged in a lot of street activity, he was caught in the dragnet, even though he’d had nothing to do with them for nearly twenty years.

He was the only one of the dozens of suspects to get his photo, handcuffed, being dragged off by the police from his apartment in our Village, splashed all over the front page of the newspaper.  With the photo as all the evidence required to prove his dangerousness, he was summarily fired.  I won’t go into the details, but it felt like rocket thrusters were ignited underneath me and that I had no choice but to get involved in the struggle on his behalf.

A month later, the struggle is over, and, in the short run, we  have lost, completely, and the villains, the white bureaucrats, won.  I am left, as countless times before, disbelieving that truth and justice could be swept aside like so much garbage, although I think I know that the tide of history is on our side.  In my mind, I am marching, again, with the peasants of America Latina: “El pueblo, unido, jamas sera vencido!”

I got very tired doing this, very, very tired.  And I questioned whether it made sense for me, in my circumstances.  But I don’t think I could have done otherwise.  No, once I have exhausted my resources, I can let go.  But not until then.  A grave injustice was committed.  On my doorstep.  To not adopt the case would have been like leaving a foundling in a basket to die on my doorstep.  While there is breath, there is hope.  When there is nothing more to be done, I get to practice the virtue of equanimity.

One response to “Home After an Adventure: Addressing Injustice

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  1. I could just imagine thr rocke

    I think your image of rocket thrusters lifting you off the ground is powerful, the rocket fuel being your deep appreciation of the immigrant experience and your sense of social justice. Obama would appreciate the choice you made as he agonizes over the decisions he is being forced to make in the Middle East. He also made a risky but humanitarian choice in Libya. May blessings rain down on all those in the world who stick their necks out for justice!

    barbara riverwoman

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