To the Editor:
Plato had it right when he described our reality as not the ideal form. He was an ancient philosopher who was a student of Socrates. Plato articulated that what we conceive in our mind is the perfect structure or configuration and a copy of it exists here on earth in our reality when we try to act on it and create it. Learning that Officer Van Dyke would only serve a sentence of nearly 7 years or 3-1/2 for good behavior, my ideal sentence for that disgraced cop was a mere shadow of what he actually received for the killing of Laquan McDonald.
Justice in my mind would be that Van Dyke serves a term of no less than twenty years concurrently. That amount of time would provide a lesson for him, his family and the wider community as to what a prison term should look like for the brutal murder of young man. The pain of the officer’s family longing to see their loved one and the officer himself feeling the ache of a lonely life inside the inflexible and concrete walls that are a barrier to his children’s future should act and feel like a parallel story of what it might be like for the family of Laquan McDonald. Nothing will ever completely match the anguish of their grief but justice needs to try and undertake the commensurate distress and sorrow in order to teach an offender a powerful message and example of the penalty for taking someone’s life.
In three years, while the officer sits and awaits freedom, there are a few things one can do including: plan for a wedding; prepare to graduate; learn a language; realize a dream; discover how to love someone
This list above is about growing and maturing, and that is what we must do to humanize our culture and our city in order to demonstrate that all life, in its beautiful colors, are not just meant to serve one race but to serve each other in love.
Humanizing people means to provide worthy and valuable work for women/men who are unemployed but seeking dignity for themselves and their families.
It translates to purposely mixing races in neighborhoods and desegregating the most segregated city in the United States. It is converting citizens to the idea that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Working together means struggling to understand each other’s culture. It means having humility first and knowledge second. Culture is not the apex but cooperation is. It’s admitting our faults and resolving to repent behaviors that encourage racism, sexism and the other unmentionables.
It’s the idea that the mosque, the synagogue and the church rally together to bring solace and aid to the city rather than allowing the secular government to find the answers.
It’s about seeking justice and compassion in our state’s prisons by offering health, educational and work-related programs to our current inmates who will one day leave the prison cell and find themselves ill-equipped to deal with life on the outside. Humanizing people means volunteering at Cook County Jail and mentoring our young people and showing them consideration regardless of their affiliations, their looks or their past. Your involvement, your sacrifice, and your commitment to them will result in positive displays of courage of hope and of love.
Perhaps in the future the police term ‘serve and protect’ will not only mean defending the law-abiding citizen, but it will be synonymous with helping the wayward teen who needs the community’s help in restoring them to their future potential.
That was Plato’s and ultimately Socrates’ vision of true justice – doing no harm to the individual or offender, at any cost. Only then will freedom mean what it claims to represent.
Paul E. Brush
Social Studies Teacher