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Tanisha Anderson, Impeachment, and a Hawk

This column could probably have gotten more likes if I'd made it about Trump instead of Tanisha Anderson or a hawk.

37-year-old Tanisha Anderson, who suffered from mental health isues, was killed by police in 2014 after her family members call 911 for assistance. (Photo: Anderson Family)

37-year-old Tanisha Anderson, who suffered from mental health isues, was killed by police in 2014 after her family members call 911 for assistance. (Photo: Anderson Family)

I was thinking about impeachment when a bird fell out of the sky.

I was thinking about quid pro quos and the using of the presidency for personal gain when I rounded a corner and saw a hawk, gray and crumpled. It was a bright blue day, and she seemed to have slammed herself into a window, mistaking it for the sky. Dazed on the sidewalk, she stood perfectly still, protected by gentle cops and generous yards of yellow caution tape.

What if this was always our approach to the precious having a bad day?

It happened to be the same week five years ago that Tanisha Anderson died on the street in front of her home when she was having one of her bad days. That was exactly how her mother, Cassandra Johnson, described it to me when we met in that home in Cleveland, Ohio two years later.

Disoriented and dressed in only a nightgown, she kept wanting to walk out the door, Cassandra said. Her brother called 9-11 for help, but instead of medics, cops came; and instead of caring, she says, they barked instructions, dividing Tanisha from her mom, forcing the family to stay in the house, and eventually slamming the scared 37-year-old African American woman down on her back, and then her stomach, in handcuffs, on the sidewalk.

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That’s where she died, under the horrified gaze of her mom, her brother and their neighbors. 

Officer Scott Aldridge, 49, was suspended for ten days without pay. The other officer involved, Brian Meyers, was issued a written warning.

What if we cared? My thoughts went back to the hawk, which my ornithologist friend Pete says was most likely an immature topper hawk. Immature or not, an hour or so later, she’d flown up to a window sill where she perched for a few hours. Then, having caught her breath, and a break, she flew off. The caution tape is off the block. We’re back to business as usual.

What’s happened in Cleveland? They say the cops get new training now in the wake of Tanisha’s death. I don’t know how that’s panning out. I haven’t been back since the Republican Convention. Did any of the politicians come by to pay their respects, I asked Johnson at that time. Not a one, she replied. No local politicians had ever come by, either.  “We don’t matter to them,” she added. Across town, later that night, I remember Trump seizing the stage in a cloud of smoke like a Nuremberg rally.

This column could probably have gotten more likes if I’d made it about Trump instead of Tanisha Anderson or a hawk. Mercenary, money grubbing, treasonous, only out for himself. He deserves to be impeached. But I can’t help thinking we need to keep impeaching. What would it take to cultivate caring instead of hate? I have a few ideas, but one thing’s for sure: a quid pro quo, who matters and who doesn’t calculus, is no way to run a healthy society.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media. lauraflanders.org

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