I am not a person who cries a lot. But last night, around 12:30am, I started watching the recently-released surveillance video of the Kelly Thomas beating, and I started crying, alone in my room. This incident, which has become sort of an abstract political discussion, suddenly got intensely real.
Hearing Kelly plead for his life, shouting, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I can't breathe, dude! I can't breathe!" rattled me to the core. It overwhelmed and disturbed me. I went to bed feeling sort of powerless and alone. Faced with such injustice, what can I do? What can I do?
In the morning, I was still really sad and depressed, but I had an idea. I showed my English classes at Fullerton College part of the video, we talked about it for a while, and then we took a field trip to the site at the Fullerton Transportation Center where Kelly was killed, which has become a kind of community memorial. I asked my students to sit down near the site and write down their thoughts and reflections. Some of them left their writings on a small basket at the memorial for other people to read.
In the wake of such a tragedy, we, as a community, are not powerless. We have each other, we have our voices and hearts and hands, and perhaps we might begin to heal together, and work to make this a better place to live, a place where the homeless are not feared and threatened, but served. We can no longer be apathetic about our leaders and those with power. We must be more vigilant, more watchful, more involved with local politics and local social problems. We must be better citizens, neighbors, and friends. That, I believe, is Kelly's legacy.