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Remembering Madgiel Sanchez

Our son Frankie has a fear of police known only to other deaf people. He can’t hear the siren of a pursuing police car, nor can he hear a police officer behind him issuing an order.

The nation better understands Frank’s fear following the killing of Madgiel Sanchez on September 19 by an Oklahoma City police officer. Mr. Sanchez was carrying a pipe, protection from a menacing stray dog that may approach or attack from behind. Mr. Sanchez was walking toward the approaching police officer with the pipe in hand. Neighbors watching feared a confrontation so shouted to the officer that Mr. Sanchez was deaf. But out of fear known only to the officer, he shot and killed the approaching 35 year old Mr. Sanchez.

The Oklahoma City police officer was not adequately trained nor aware that some people encountered are very different, some may be deaf and unable to hear an oral command. Carrying a deadly gun demands far better training than was given this officer.

I do feel sorry for the police officer. I’m sure he faces sleepless nights and a tormented conscience the rest of his life.

Fault lies not with the officer alone, but with all of us who nurture fear of people who are different. Our fear dates to the story of Cain and Abel. Cain feared his brother Abel’s differences. Cain was a farmer, Abel a shepherd. Abel’s offerings, the first born of his flock were better received by the Lord than were Cain’s grain offerings. Cain became enraged. Aware of Cain’s anger, God asks of him, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:6-7). Cain did not master his anger, the sin “lurking at the door,” instead he yielded to the sin and murdered his brother.

Madgiel Sanchez lived in a world different from the police officer’s world, a world nevertheless to be honored, respected and deserving of esteem. May we mourn Mr. Sanchez’s death and bless his memory with efforts to appreciate differences in other people, with efforts at mastering sin that may be “lurking at the door.”

ASL Rochelle asks hearing people to appreciate deaf culture with this list of what not to say to a deaf person: 1) Don’t shout; 2) Don’t over-enunciate; 3) Don’t talk through someone else; 4) Don’t flap your arms around; 5) Don’t keep the lights low; 6) Learn ASL and don’t have crazy designs or bright nail polish on toes or fingers; 7) Don’t wear busy shirt patterns; 8) Don’t talk to a deaf person like he/she is unintelligent – they just speak a different language; 9) Don’t cover your mouth; 10) Don’t ask them to lip read for you; and 10) Don’t interrupt.

“Into your hands O Lord, we commend your servant Madgiel Sanchez, receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and in the glorious company of the saints in light.” (ELW page 283)