from: Counting Thyme
by Melanie Conklin
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group, 2016
e-edition read on Libby at www.libraryvisit.org
No doubt about it. Ours is a violent society. We allow pretty much anyone who wants one to have a gun. Police have guns. Hunters have guns. People who are fearful have guns. Can we have a less violent society with less guns? Yes, I think so.
But guns are not the only way to kill someone.
A man is dead, strangled by a police officer, again. Three others stood near. At least one person filmed the horror on a cell-phone camera. Many people were close enough to hear the futile plea for air.
I think the most horrible piece of the entire tragedy is that no one helped. No one. Not the person with the camera. Not the police officer with his knee pushed into a dying man’s neck. Not the other police officers. Not one person from the crowd. Why not? Did anyone even call for help? Those are questions I can’t find an answers to. Is police violence so common that decent people, us, have thrown up our hands, helpless?
Once, someone explained to me that the opposite of love is not hate. It is apathy. I believe apathy must be the opposite of hate, too.
According to the Human Systems Dynamics Institute, there are three main reasons why people hate each other.
1. “We seek a specific and identifiable outlet for our generalized feelings of anger.” Unfocused anger is very uncomfortable. We need a focus to ease the discomfort. The easiest way to do that is to find a scapegoat, someone (or some group) we can blame.
2. “Hate is a simplified method for the difficult task of managing difference.” Everyone is a little different and a little the same. When our differences are called shameful, when they collide with trauma, violence, and/or humiliation, both the shamer and the one being shamed nurture their hate, and feed it with fear.
Those who feel threatened define different as either good or bad. Hate is a manifestation of the fear of someone’s differences, turning a person or a group into other.
3. “Because hatred is energizing.” When we feel helpless, frustrated, or disempowered, hating another becomes a way to climb out of those difficult feelings and do something, even if it is destructive, maybe especially if it is destructive.
Police officers are authority figures. Most take their jobs very seriously. It is in the nature of the job to exert control, make sure laws are followed. Not all police officers are racists. That’s a convenient label. (See #1, above.)
I’m sure, probably, the reasons police officers kill unarmed civilians are many and complex, maybe. But, I *am* sure there has to be a way to keep us all safe and law-abiding without shooting us or snuffing out our lives, willy-nilly, purposefully, or accidentally. Most of us want to believe that a uniform is not an excuse for murder. Most of the time it is not. But not always.
Officers must be held accountable for their decisions, just like the rest of us. Accidents happen. Misjudgments happen. Purposeful and wrongful death happens. It is up to the justice system to see that police officers accused of a crime be held to the same justice as the rest of us. Too often that does not happen. Between 2013 and 2019, 99% of killings by police have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime. https://mappingpoliceviolence.org
I don’t expect this little piece will solve the problem of racism, inequity, or the culture of the Manifest Destiny that has been nurtured in our great land since we got here as Pilgrims. I have a small voice.
I want to find similarities and common purpose. Only then will we be able to hear each other. Then, maybe some of us will be brave enough to listen. Maybe we will even work together. We can only move forward if we are courageous enough to take the first step, and patient enough to take that step over and over again.
We have traveled many paths to arrive in this wonderful land full of possibilities. Some came for opportunity or our ancestors fled for their lives. Some of us were kidnapped and brought here against our will. We are descended from sturdy people who (mostly) did not speak English. Each one of us wears a particular color skin, and we each sport our own belief system: wonder, curiosity, acceptance, focus, fear, generosity, courage, righteousness, animosity, compassion, anger.
Martin Luther King’s days were full of violence exploding all around him, yet he preached non-violence, understanding, courage, and righteous indignation.
May our protests be non-violent and productive.
May our understanding grow with our willingness to listen to each other.
May we have the courage to celebrate each other’s differences.
May we have the courage to love ourselves.
-—stay curious! (and love fearlessly)