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Time for change, indeed

June 17, 2020
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Time for change, indeed

To the editor:

You are to be commended on the editorial regarding the (alleged) murder of George Floyd, who certainly died in police custody. According to the medical examiners, it was a homicidal murder. The four police officers who responded to the allegation that he passed a fake $20 bill have been fired and arrested. But they were not held to account until the taxpayers had to watch the man die in the gutter every night on TV for a week, and a precinct burned to the ground at the hands of citizens in revolt. A week passed before Keith Ellison, the state attorney general, stepped in while local officials dithered. Why do we as Americans continue to demand unrest on the streets before we accede to the demand for change? Particularly when we are challenged to nothing more than to change towards common decency in public affairs?

What is needed in this moment, particularly this COVID-19 moment is NOT dithering by county officials. I hope all the protestors, now convinced that they cannot rest, will get tested for COVID-19. I hope those over 18 will register and vote.

I also hope our county officials and the city council of Fort Myers will stop the race baiting of Americans.

The Lee statue commemorating the racist insurrection of the Confederacy has been taken off of the pedestal in Fort Myers. The city should keep that statute out of public view. Put it in the cemetery, in a museum. Put it where the sun don't shine. But it is time to stop race baiting our fellow citizens into a dichotomy of public humiliation or conflict when they go about their daily business, and then demand law enforcement officers put themselves at risk to keep the peace.

Outlawing the choke hold is a good idea. I am OK with cops not physically arresting in misdemeanor crimes where the citizen is so adamant about resisting that violence will be required to secure an arrest. Hand out tickets. I get it that is a free pass for the guy who stole my purse. But he got away anyway. Only 5% of the police involvement is about violent crime. For the rest, I don't know of any grown adult people who believe that a police officer adds to the moment once you have been victimized by a criminal. But we file charges, and hope that we have prevented some next criminal act by alerting the authorities. Consider this my alert to our public authorities: Lose the stupid statues. We already know the insurrection to preserve slavery historically failed militarily and morally. The pretext that there is some historical lesson being served by these cheap plaster tributes to tyranny is beyond disingenuous; it is insulting. Now is when the County of LEE should remove all Confederate statues set up during the 1950s and '60s as an affront to the civil rights unrest.

We cannot use our slender public resources to goad others and then click our tongues when the young people act up. We need to stop putting the police at risk, and grow up and face the changes that need to be made. We use the police to nibble around the edges of the ugliness of inequality we haven't had the courage to face as a nation. We have the police sweeping up the homeless (the budget for housing is inadequate) taxi servicing drug addicts back and forth to jail between outbursts of disruption (there's inadequate funding for drug rehabilitation) and wellness checks on the mentally ill who have gone off their meds (you guessed it -- no money for the much cheaper case managers who could keep the sally racket down a notch).

We as citizens use the police for all the behavioral acting out; but we are stingy with using tax funds wisely to address the underlying causes. Police, like the teachers, have been underpaid, abused and scorned for our collective refusal to pay up to address old inequities. It is time to stop using professionals as surrogates, to keep the collective knee on the collective neck of our fellow citizens. Let us start with grown up behavior from our officials, from ourselves, and start to be accountable to each other. We can change, with compassion and courage. We have seen this country display those qualities in our better moments.

Ellen Starbird

Cape Coral



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