Thoughts on the death of Phi­lando Castile

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Com­mu­nity Voice DANA CHATELLIER

Bear, Del.

I never met Phi­lando Castile. But I cried for him to­day. I am a Cau­casian Amer­i­can man in his late 50s. I have en­joyed a happy, com­fort­able, rel­a­tively peace­ful life. I have had the priv­i­lege of teach­ing chem­istry at uni­ver­si­ties in Ore­gon and Delaware dur­ing the last 32 years. My life would seem to have very lit­tle to do with Mr. Castile’s life. But I cried. Here’s why. The news this morn­ing was grim. Five po­lice of­fi­cers killed by a sniper in Dal­las. The con­nec­tion to the po­lice-in­volved shoot­ings in Louisiana and Min­nesota was ob­vi­ous.

How many sim­i­lar news sto­ries have we Amer­i­cans seen or heard in re­cent years? I’m as numb to the hor­ror as any­one else is by now. So why did I cry this time? Be­cause as I lis­tened to “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica”, I learned some of the details of Mr. Castile’s life. I learned that he worked at a Montes­sori school, help­ing to pro­vide meals for the chil­dren there. I was told that he knew the names of all 500 chil­dren who at­tend that school. And their food al­ler­gies.

And that’s when it hit me, and I cried.

Be­cause Phi­lando Castile was me.

Some peo­ple have called me a good teacher. Maybe part of that is due to the fact that in the course of work­ing with ap­prox­i­mately 400 stu­dents each se­mes­ter, I try to get to the point where I can call as many of them as pos­si­ble by their first names. Now that I’m push­ing 60, I’m not as good at this as I once was. But I try.

This is merely a pleas­antry for me, part of be­ing cor­dial. Lu­bri­ca­tion in the ma­chin­ery of life.

What Phi­lando Castile did was vi­tal.

What would hap­pen if the wrong child got the wrong lunch? Per­haps a sit­u­a­tion in­volv­ing a res­cue in­haler. Maybe ana­phy­lac­tic shock. Pos­si­bly even the death of a child.

Phi­lando Castile knew that. And he cared enough to make sure that that wouldn’t hap­pen.

I care about my stu­dents. All good teach­ers do.

Phi­lando Castile cared about the stu­dents at the school where he worked.

And now he is gone, and with him went his knowl­edge of the stu­dents. And those kids are the worse for it.

Did I say “Phi­lando Castile was me?”

Scratch that. Phi­lando Castile was whom I as­pire to be. Black lives mat­ter. So do blue lives. All lives mat­ter. We’ve heard all the slo­gans.

You know whose mat­ter?

Black po­lice of­fi­cers. I can’t imag­ine how torn they must be by all this.

My next-door neigh­bor for 18 years was an AfricanAmer­i­can woman who was a mem­ber of the county po­lice force. She helped my wife and me on sev­eral oc­ca­sions when “sit­u­a­tions” in­volv­ing our teenage daugh­ter arose. And on the night my wife died, my neigh­bor stayed with me in the hos­pi­tal.

My neigh­bor’s life mat­ters. It mat­ters to me.

Phi­lando Castile’s mat­tered.

It mat­ters more to me now, since I’ve fig­ured out that Mr. Castile and I had lives life car­ing in com­mon. Once Mr. Castile and I be­came “we” in my mind, his life mat­tered to me.

You know whose mat­ter? We The Peo­ple. Amer­i­cans be­come so pas­sion­ate dur­ing elec­tion years. But this is far more im­por­tant than any elec­tion re­sult.

Democrats or GOP — we are noth­ing if not “We.” And to­gether we must put our weapons down.

(Are you lis­ten­ing, NRA? I didn’t think so.)

Af­ter the mas­sacre at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School, I thought, “Surely this will make us do some­thing about gun vi­o­lence.”

It hasn’t hap­pened. I’ve lost hope.

But it’s good to know that oth­ers haven’t. Oth­ers like Phi­lando Castile, who worked ev­ery day to make life better for kids.

I’m will­ing to wa­ger that the stu­dents at the Montes- lives sori school in Min­nesota rep­re­sent a di­verse pop­u­la­tion.

Red and yel­low, black and white. All were pre­cious in his sight.

This is why I cried for Phi­lando Castile to­day.

I’m a lib­eral, and proud of it. I like the way my heart bleeds.

And I don’t think I’m done cry­ing yet.

I hope the day will come when none of us has to cry.

Be­cause the shoot­ings will have stopped.

Be­cause we will have fi­nally re­al­ized that we can­not judge the con­tent of some­one’s char­ac­ter by the color of his skin. Or her skin.

But un­til that day ar­rives, I will cry. Unashamedly. For some­one I never met. I never met Phi­lando Castile. But I cried for him to­day. And if I have to do the same again, I will, my friend Phi­lando.

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