What's Tony Thinking

A Happy Time of the Year . . . But Not for Everyone


Yesterday there were two year-end granddaughter dance recitals for us to attend and enjoy. En route to the recitals, we ran into a pile of traffic which made no sense until we realized it was graduation day at the University of Washington.

It is that time of the year: graduations, year-end concerts and recitals, class trips to Wild Waves, school camp outs. And, of course, weddings. June weddings.

Last evening, we were at a little beach park near us with our granddaughter, Olive. It was Olive’s turn to spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s condo, which she has dubbed “the castle.”

It was just a gorgeous evening. The water glistened with the setting sun, paddle boarders skimmed along like dancers. Four pre-teen girls packed together on one paddle board, bounced along, giggling wildly. My granddaughter and I made a sand-castle which she decorated with a feather and shells.

Suddenly, and with a flourish, a well-dressed crowd arrived for photos. The proud mother heralded her college graduate son. Everyone at the park applauded the graduate.

As we left the beach three beautiful and happy bridesmaids were posing for photos in the parking lot of the nearby Elks Club.

Everywhere it seemed, joy and beauty burst forth, on an almost summer’s day.

But not everywhere. Not for everyone.

Earlier this week something unspeakably sad and wrong happened at the Seattle’s Garfield High School, the high school from which our daughter Laura had graduated. A student, Amarr Murphy, was shot and killed in the school parking lot as he tried to break up a fight between other students at lunchtime.

This was not the first incident of a shooting this year involving Garfield students or in Seattle Schools. It wasn’t the terror of a New Town or a Uvalde, where a deranged shooter invades a school for a mass shooting. This was another student who was packing. A news report described the reaction of some Garfield parents:

Christle Young told KUOW that her son, a freshman, would not return to Garfield again. “We’re transferring. This is his last day at Garfield,” Young said. “I already talked to my wife and we are already calling other schools today,” she said. “We moved here from New Orleans to have him in a safer environment and give him a better life. So I’m just going to do what I can to protect him.”

Anjali Rao had a similar thought. She too would like more police around the school, though she says that she feels Garfield is safe.

“I don’t have an issue with my son coming to this school,” Rao said. “I do worry about the safety outside of the school, when he’s doing soccer practice in the morning. I don’t let him come on the bus. We always come and pick him up. It’s not the school, it’s the outside of the school that we worry about. And I wish there was more that was happening outside to keep the kids safe in school, on the fields, waiting for the bus.”

The call for more police presence and protection comes in a city where the police department has been significantly understaffed ever since the 2020 movement to “defund the police.” When I spoke with a city official recently he noted that the department has 500 fewer officers than it needs. As a result patrols are seriously reduced and officers on duty often have no backup when facing a violent situation. Moreover, recruiting more police to serve in Seattle has become an uphill battle.

I recalled a David Brooks column “The Sins of the Educated Classes.” In describing what he termed a movement to the left among that elite in recent years he noted the popularity of “defunding the police.” He termed it one of the “luxury beliefs” of the elite. When you live in a safe or privileged world you may not see that the call for reduced police presence is not something everyone can afford. Here’s Brooks:

“The spread of cancel culture and support for decriminalizing illegal immigration and ‘defunding the police’ were among the quintessential luxury beliefs that seemed out of touch to people in less privileged parts of society. Those people often responded by making a sharp counter-shift in the populist direction, contributing to the election of Donald Trump and to his continued political viability today.”

Another issue where we need to be able to hold two truths in tension: police accountability and police support.

In its last election, Seattle voters moved away from the City Council that had unanimously supported “defund the police” in 2020. And a so-called “progressive” City Attorney was replaced by one who promised to be tougher on crime. Meanwhile, the police department has continued to be plagued by internal issues and firings.

Again, this summer the beach park near us, Golden Gardens, will close early in the hope of lessening violence and other problems in the park, and because there aren’t enough police to keep an eye on things.

It is a beautiful time of year full of glorious celebrations. But not for everyone. Not everywhere.








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