The tragedies of this week are too much to take in. A young white man consumed by racial hatred kills nine African-Americans in a historic church in Charleston on Wednesday night. Here in Cincinnati on Friday morning, a veteran police officer with an exemplary record is shot and killed in a residential neighborhood by a young man who intentionally lured officers to the scene through a fake 911 call. I am heartsick. These terrible events feel surprisingly personal to me, I realized, because of my experiences as a council member in Amberley Village.
Jon Stewart struck a chord with these words in his non-comedic monologue the night after the attack: “The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals, and the white guy’s the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him.” Amberley has a significant number of Jewish residents of all denominations, as well as several synagogues and temples and a Jewish community center open to everyone. As a local official and as a person interested in religion, my awareness of anti-Semitism past and present is well developed through many encounters and relationships that mean a great deal to me. How would it feel to have the Nazi flag flying in front of our municipal building? I raised this question with a Jewish friend last night, and he was nodding his head in understanding before I even finished speaking it. Extremely uncomfortable, threatening even, is how it would feel.
The killing of a police officer in our area hits even harder. Amberley is unique in the friendship that many residents have with our police officers, who also comprise our fire department, but as a council member and chair of the Police/Fire committee I have an even closer appreciation of them individually and of how they work. Though small in size, the department deals with the same issues affecting law enforcement everywhere such as use of force and officer safety. The past two years while attending National Police Week ceremonies, I’ve witnessed the bond among officers across jurisdictions during this annual commemoration of the fallen. Yesterday on Facebook, our police/fire chief posted that he had been at the hospital all day, among those providing support to fellow officers and the family. Of course, I thought. He is a person who goes toward that which is upsetting or challenging or dangerous, motivated by concern for others. Just like Officer Kim on Friday morning, and like every officer on every shift. That’s what it means to work in public safety.