He’s being charged with five counts of attempted murder of a police officer. Law enforcement and government officials suspect him of planting bombs in New York and New Jersey, one of which injured more than two dozen people. The cops he tried to kill shot him in the leg. He’s alive and in the hospital.
Meanwhile, Sandra Bland’s traffic offense, Eric Garner’s loose cigarettes, Michael Brown’s hands up, Tamir Rice’s toy gun, Philando Castile’s wallet, Walter Scott’s child support, Terence Crutcher’s stalled truck and The book Keith Lamont Scott read as he waited to pick his child up from school, got them killed by police. What’s the difference?
The police didn’t kill Ahmad Rahami because he was valuable. More specifically, he had valuable intelligence. Was he part of a terrorist cell? Who were his accomplices? He had traveled to Pakistan within the last year. Who did he meet with? Is he connected to ISIS or some other important terrorist organization? He had intel. He was valuable. He wasn’t killed or subjected to lethal force. He was valuable.
Damnit, all of those people who died at the hands of the police were valuable. Their value stemmed from their being made by the Creator who values all life. The system may not recognize it, but they had value–they still have value as we reflect on their memory to energize communities and a nation to stop the unjust killings and devaluation of human life.
You have value. And it comes from your Creator. It doesn’t matter how many bids you have done, how long your jacket is, how much time you have before you get off paper (I have 166 more days before I get off paper and out of the system for the first time in ten years). But also, you have value because you have valuable intelligence. There are things you know that the world needs, your community needs, your family needs. You have valuable intel–only you have the intel that a father or mother can give the children they brought into the world. Only you have the intel that present future and grandchildren need to know the joy of sitting in Mom Mom’s lap or on Pop Pop’s knee. Only you have the intel to share your story with young people who need to know how to avoid the mistakes you made. Only you have the intel to take your story and pool it with other stories, and become part of a movement that commands respect from community, government and law enforcement.
Is it any wonder some of us can’t vote? Those of us who have made the changes and embraced our valuable intel could provide a meaningful voting bloc against the forces that don’t value what we know, and therefore do not value our lives as well. That’s one reason you should vote this November, if you can, and motivate others to vote if you can’t. Valuable intel says that you are a person of worth and dignity “endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights,” even if the author of those words didn’t believe them himself.
But it starts with believing it yourself. I have a young relative who has struggled with mental illness and the system. He’s currently on paper in the same county as I am. He confided in me his self doubts a few days ago, citing the system’s failure to take him seriously, despite his intelligence, his writing ability and his degree from a good college. I tried to talk with him about our inherent self-worth, and not letting the system’s devaluation of us define him. Then I saw what happened in Elizabeth. I hope he reads this column. He has valuable intel.