Attorneys are notorious for pleading their cases before the jury by using so-called expert witnesses. Common sense means nothing. It’s all about scientific probabilities and gloves that don’t fit.
Sometimes when writing this column, I wish I could phone one of these experts who would in turn put one of life’s imponderables in a tidy pop-psychology package, which I could then share with you. This desire for such a lifeline stems from my greatest fear as a writer: that somehow I will expose my lack of intelligence by stating the obvious.
Imagine if I dedicated an entire column to informing you on how rainy our fair city is in the month of March. Not only would it possibly be the last column I would write, the community’s response to it would resemble my daughter’s reply to me the other day when I told her that I loved her.
My expression of affection was met with a hearty “duh.”
In keeping with this word that seems to say it all, at least by 6-year-old standards, I’m taking this opportunity to share my dismay that hate is indeed thriving in our culture; that even though we stand on the other side of history far removed from segregation and lynch mobs, hate has slithered its way into our communities and into the minds and hearts of our policymakers, politicians and neighbors.
And even though my fellow South Sounders take understandable pride in our progressive way of thinking and our warm embrace for social justice, Arizona does not have the corner market on hate. In fact, just recently, racial epithets were etched on bathroom walls at Olympic College; and closer to home, in Shelton, a Native American man awoke to nooses and a cross in his front yard.
When events such as these occur, our need to rationalize the seemingly unexplainable takes over and talking heads obligingly bombard our consciousness offering answers to the ultimate question of “Why?”
I, on the other hand, have found increasing futility in searching for what comes after “Why?”
Perhaps this is because as a child in a wheelchair, while I had an austere scientific explanation for my inability to walk, I was never offered a satisfactory answer as to “why” such a lot was bestowed on me. As I grew older and became more comfortable with my reality, my “why’s” faded away only to be replaced with the more meaningful question of “How?”
“Why” is, for me, shrouded in mystery. “How,” on the other hand, is teeming with possibilities. “How” moves me forward while “why” is like that DVD that is scratched and offers only distorted or frozen images.
Like any other human condition, scholars from all heights of the ivory tower have offered manifestos as to why one engages in hateful acts.
For purposes of meeting this column’s length requirement, I’ll save the why’s for those who are more qualified. For me, however, just like my disability, the central question isn’t why does one perpetrate acts of hate; rather it’s how as a community are we going to respond to it.
Truly, our biggest impediment to a meaningful response lies in our “not in our neighborhood” mentality. Arizona is not some planet in a far off galaxy. The events at Olympic College and in Shelton happened in our own backyard. What started out as the myopic and radical viewpoint of extremists found its way to inexplicable lawfulness in Arizona.
The inescapable and difficult truth of all of this is that hate continues to flourish even in an environment which nurtures civil rights and social justice; and with it comes an opportunity to blaze a path beyond why leading us to how.
Shawn Murinko is the state Department of Transportation’s ADA compliance officer and serves as a commissioner on the state Human Rights Commission. A member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, Murinko, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, can be reached at email@example.com.