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Listening to the unheard

The news cycle is loud, but we need to hear those who can’t shout

Listening to the unheard

A supporters of China’s Muslim Uighur minority holds a placard reading “Save Uighur” as a boy waves the flag of East Turkestan and an Islamic black flag (Ozan KOSE/AFP)

A bill that Republicans and Democrats barter for in the U.S. Capitol will always have a limited reach in local police departments: Mayors and state governments have far more influence on police procedure. But when representatives and senators in Washington, D.C., deadlocked on police reform in late June, legislators communicated one thing to the majority of Americans who want change: They’re not listening.

On June 24, Senate Democrats blocked the body from debating Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s reform bill on the Senate floor. Scott said Republicans, who control the Senate, would have entertained amendments to the bill, but Democrats refused to interact. The next day, the House of Representatives passed the Democrats’ more aggressive reform bill along party lines and asked Republicans to debate it in Senate committees. Republican senators called the bill a nonstarter and indicated they may not take it up in committee.

Most Americans agree that the May 25 death of handcuffed George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer was unjust. Politicians in both parties cried for change. But Republicans and Democrats didn’t meet to forge consensus. They raced to write their own bills (that still ended up agreeing on at least four policy points). It’s as if Republicans and Democrats were speaking two different languages. So Americans who want leaders to work side by side for reform go unheard.

Much of WORLD’s coverage focuses on the unheard and other “uns”: the unborn, the uncared-for, the unemployed, the unappreciated. This issue of WORLD especially emphasizes that. Mindy Belz takes us an ocean away from Washington, to Belgium. There, many of the unheard living in nursing homes died of COVID-19 in part because of the failure of leaders who literally speak two different languages: French and Dutch. “The main problem we have had is with politicians who chose to sacrifice nursing home residents for this crisis,” one researcher said.

Belgium was not alone: In New York, Michigan, and other U.S. states, leaders similarly decided to make nursing home residents with COVID-19 stay in their facilities, and sometimes moved in others. The virus spread, and so did death. 

As COVID-19 forced shutdowns and shut in millions, a mostly unconsidered group of people waited for lifesaving treatments: those who need new organs to live. Daniel James Devine and Charissa Koh spent weeks analyzing data for a Caleb Team investigative report.

Other than the unborn, China’s Uighur population may be the most vulnerable group of “uns” in the world right now. President Donald Trump’s tiff with former national security adviser John Bolton has brought new attention to the Uighurs’ plight. But long before Bolton accused Trump of supporting China’s creation of concentration camps, June Cheng was interviewing Uighurs whose family members in China had disappeared. They hope the world hears them.

On March 12, 1990, weeks before Congress passed and President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), more than 1,000 people with disabilities threw off crutches, climbed out of wheelchairs, and crawled up the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington: They didn’t want to go unheard. The ADA isn’t perfect legislation, but as Kim Henderson notes in this issue, it helped another group of “uns.” And it showed Americans can work together, despite our differences.

Michael Reneau

Michael Reneau

Michael Reneau is editor of WORLD Magazine. He is a World Journalism Institute and Bryan College graduate. He was editor of The Greeneville Sun newspaper before joining WORLD. Michael resides with his wife and four children in Greeneville, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelReneau.


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  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 07/04/2020 11:33 am

    “But when representatives and senators in Washington, D.C., deadlocked on police reform in late June, legislators communicated one thing to the majority of Americans who want change: They’re not listening.”


    Oftentimes our Congress write new laws out of shear reaction without much thought. This rush to write new laws is more attributed to appeasing the rioting revolutionaries than it is in seeing real justice is administered. No one supports the injustice committed against George Floyd and our present laws will work in seeing justice done even if not everyone will be happy - there will be many unhappy even with a just sentence. So exactly why do we need to change our whole system when only a handful of these incidences happen each year? It is done out of a hyper PC environment that even Christians and Republicans refuse to stand up against. 


    The analysis also failed to address the political jockeying that the Democrats are playing to win the next election. They know that by keeping the racial divide going that they can get more black Democrats out to vote. Essentially, they don’t care about the blacks and creating racial harmony, but want to use the present situation as a wedge to win an election. They put forward radical new legislation taking away the protections needed for police and seek to transform policing into a very negative PC environment. Although I am critical of passing new legislation, I recognize that Tim Scott has good intentions in passing this legislation and has met resistance because Democrats are so anti-police and really don’t want compromise. This implied notion that the Democrats are morally equivalent to the Republicans is the greatest fiction.

    The Uighurs have been a Muslim people who have in many cases pushed a radical ideology and have killed US troops in Afghanistan. Some have aligned with ISIS and have fought for the caliphate state. Although many are "peaceful" Muslims, as peaceful as Muslims can be, still the ideology has many negatives.  In assessing the geopolitical landscape related with China and the Uighurs one has to assess many factors and political capital exerted to benefit the Uighurs has to be weighed against pushing other good outcomes with China. I am not saying we shouldn't cease to bring up the issue with the Chinese, but the weight we put on it has to be modified based on the other potentially good and just outcomes.  It takes the wisdom of Solomon to make these decisions so we should pray for the President and have less criticism.

  • lewinkler
    Posted: Mon, 08/17/2020 08:27 pm

    You mention the unheard, the unborn, the uncared-for, the unemployed, the unappreciated, but what about the undocumented?  The deportations of good people, snatched from families by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and often delivered to their death, is our national shame.  Sadly, Christians are largely silent on this.  I believe we have blood on our hands.