By Senator Lena C. Taylor
This week has left me reeling. Story after story, socially and politically, locally and nationally, has challenged everything I have in me. As a legislator, attorney and former public defender, I have seen a lot. But this week…has been one gut punch after another.
As a city, Milwaukee continues to grapple with increased incidents of violence. While we wait prayerfully for news of the fate of a missing 3-year-old toddler, Major Harris, we openly mourn the horrific loss of Sunita Balogun, a 47-year-old woman, who was killed while attempting to stop a car theft. In disbelief, we are required to deal with the eighth-grade student responsible for her death. And now, I am forced to make a correction. While writing this column, I learned that 3-year-old Major Harris’ body had been found. Major now joins his mother, Mallery Muenzenberger, who are the latest victims of homicide in our state. The senseless spate of crimes begs the question: Who Are We?
Who are we as a nation, as a people, and more jarringly, what are we becoming? While it might sound alarmist, a recent situation in Philadelphia heightened my fears. After listening to media reports that a woman was raped in the “City of Brotherly Love,” while on a train this week, I was stunned. Sadly, it wasn’t that act of violence that shook my faith in who we are as a country.
I wasn’t prepared to learn that this viciousness occurred over the course of 12 train stops, with passengers aboard and watching the assault. No one used their phones to call 911, but instead used them to record the horrendous attack. Again, I was forced to ask: Who Are We?
We are a nation that is flirting with civil strife. Dancing around the edges of racial and social unrest, we are stroking old fires. Unwilling to learn from our past, we seemed determined to burn it all down. The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, dismantling of voting rights, attacks on women’s reproductive freedom, and the deliberate seeds of distrust around our elections are the kindling.
Elected leaders willing to steal voting power from already disenfranchised groups, disgruntled people working to rewrite history and squash discussions of diversity, equity and race, white supremacy comfortably emerging from the shadows, and the manipulation of a nation through algorithms are the sparks that ignite discontent.
In the blaze and haze of unchecked behavior, there is little light between the localized crime and assaults on humanity, physical violence about a mask or vaccine mandate and the political dysfunction that is pervading the ethics of good and fair government. All of it is harmful and many of our people are struggling. America was formed on the “idea” that all men (people) were created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Even though that wasn’t true, at the time of its county’s inception, we’ve had 245 years to get this right. It is time we stop struggling with who we are and decide to be what we say we are: An indivisible nation, where liberty and justice are afforded to us all.