To Sandra Bland (first letter)

Dear Sandra,
Over a year has gone by and I’m still thinking of your violent, absurd arrest, your detainment, with nobody there for you, no one to save you from your tormentors, your sudden death.  It’s been hard not to slip into a prolonged, misanthropic stupor. I woke up thinking of you again this morning.  Then I wondered about that moral arc of the universe Dr. King talked about.  Why has it remained so long in bending toward Justice, five decades after his assassination (perhaps longer now than ever before)?  Is the idea of it too nebulous to sense or grasp? To hasten a better world?
I could easily see the roundness of the Earth as a kid, lying flat on my back in the middle of a frozen bay near my Dad’s place.  I was dreaming of it again last night:  My head pivots awkwardly upside down, balancing most of my weight.  I stare at the tree-line behind me, easily recognizing the dramatic curvature of the planet (seeming to hover from this position above the vastness of the sky).  It surely reaches back to itself, forming a circle of precarious life.  Now, of course, the shrinking scale and fragility of the planet seem just as visible.
Yes, we’re able (or perhaps allowed?) to perceive such things (some of us anyway — there are those who still insist the Earth is flat and/or indestructible) but the moral arc of the universe seems to persist as a vague abstraction. Some insist it isn’t bent at all.  Others say it’s a semantic illusion.  Conjecture abounds, serving things as they are.  I’m ashamed to say this lack of empathic vision hasn’t changed since your death.
Justice remains hypothetical, an unverifiable possibility.  Perhaps, as a point of return for a unified human family, as an ideal communion, it might eventually be served in a manner that can’t be anticipated, at least not by our current, incomplete selves.  Perhaps the inability to perceive the shape of things to come is what allows for the possibility of Justice in the first place – for any sort of faith in it.  I long for a reckoning that will set us all free.
For now, within the ongoing, plausibly deniable class war of modernity (the relentless, covert attempt to subjugate the many) racism remains an integral weapon.  You grew up with it.  And those last three days — from being pulled over for a minor traffic violation to hanging in a cell — I can’t even imagine.  The evidential materials and their manipulation (mostly uploaded digital video) continue to be subsumed within frenzies of self-interested commentary.  Atomization accelerates.  The ongoing need to publicly declare that Black Lives Matter is both unbearably commonplace and tragic, necessary and violently obfuscated.  Maybe what I long for is part of the problem.
If the moral arc of the universe could easily be seen and then intuited, observable in the everyday (the internet included), reduced to a representation, it might be posited by anyone as anything, spun as it were, into any number of lies, forced through endless mediations, and the promise of a better world would be reduced to a managerial process of competitive marketing strategies, lobbying and profile development, hopelessly entangled within the Death Cult logic and pseudo-events of late/advanced neoliberal capitalist relations.  I believe socially progressive activism has been in danger of this all my life.
No one is assassinated for playing the game.  You refused in good faith and they tried to erase you for it.  I’ll never forget you because of this.   My heart is torn out every time I imagine your last moments alive, but I also believe Justice will one day, always, already be done.  It won’t matter what anyone says or does to deny it in the meantime.
I am trying to follow your example.  One has to keep the faith, no matter the cost.
jeremy