...When I read Seamus Heaney's "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing."
Heaney - one of the finest poets of all time - died today in Dublin, Ireland (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13930435). The Republic was his nominal home, although he was from Northern Ireland's second-largest city, Londonderry (be warned: drop the "London" if you're ever hanging around republicans).
He wrote "Whatever You Say" about his country's mid-to-later-20th-century Troubles, but each new case that comes across my desk that involves a shooting in Oakland because one young man from 83rd Avenue was walking on another young man's block on 85th Avenue, and all of the gleefully sensationalistic Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle articles or editorials I read about new policing "strategies" being implemented to curb hard violence in "problem" areas of my hometown, and every fresh, much-too-common complaint of law enforcement brutality that petrifies an entire community's distrust and disdain for the officers and administration that ostensibly exist to protect it from crime bring me back to Heaney's searing words about the insidious quietness that is born of extreme violence and deprivation among people who, at base, are the same and in the same miserable situation.
The title of the poem could also be a stand-in for my most repeated refrain to those very clients accused of perpetrating criminal acts against their brethren from down the street: Whatever you say, say nothing...about your case, to anyone.
Heaney's physical presence on this planet will be missed by many, but his legacy of words should be embraced by all of us who seek to understand and say something - anything - of worth to each other.