Be proud of the country on July 4

By JUDGE GERALD A. WILLIAMS
North Valley Justic Court

If your only frame of reference for how you view our country was the last two months of cable news coverage, you would likely conclude that the United States of America is a horrible place to live.  If you turn off your television, ignore the negative on social media, look out your window and actually talk to people, you would likely reach an opposite conclusion.

Everyone has to acknowledge that our nation has a history that includes sanctioned racism, but no local, state or federal agency (or private business) seeks to oppress any minority group. All have diversity programs with stated goals of doing the opposite. Yet, somehow there are still racists. There are even white supremacists. Neither prevent our country from remaining a land that is full of opportunity.    

Facts are frequently stubborn things. Nevertheless, some people have an incentive to hype tragic events into a narrative. When investigations conclude otherwise, what actually happened becomes irrelevant. For example, all of the investigations concluded that there was not a factual basis to file either criminal charges or even civil rights charges for events in Ferguson, Missouri. But those conclusions based on forensic evidence do not seem to matter. Perception has become reality.

Leaders of state and local governments, the faith community, and anyone who wants to participate need to come together and, instead of trying to fit cases into a “this is yet another (fill in the blank),” focus instead on why specific cases happened at all. We must be willing to have uncomfortable discussions.    

So why are members of minority groups disproportionately subject to the use of lethal and nonlethal force by law enforcement agents? I don’t know. I know that the answer is likely more complicated than the constant claims of omnipotent racism. I know that the fear and frustration of minority communities cannot be ignored. Such positions have value. And I know that we need to have honest and objective data-driven conversations that seek solutions rather than confirmation of a predetermined conclusion.

So how do we move forward?  By valuing individual responsibility and by returning to the path provided in our founding documents. Our constitutional protections are protections of structure, notably the restraints imposed by federalism and by separation of powers. Additional personal freedoms that the government cannot take away are listed in the provisions of the Bill of Rights and in the Civil War amendments.

These concepts are what makes the United States of America exceptional. We are not exceptional, because we have better food, people or weather than other countries. Because citizens cannot be identified by race or by national origin, Americans have always had to rely on ideas and ideals to hold ourselves together and to think of ourselves as a single people. In short, we are exceptional because our country was founded on a set of exceptional ideas. That’s something worth celebrating. Happy Fourth of July!   

   Judge Gerald A. Williams is the Justice of the Peace for the North Valley Justice Court.  The court’s jurisdiction includes Anthem and Desert Hills.