I believe that nature is cyclical, that history does tend to repeat itself, but I don’t believe that it is inevitable that the same mistakes must be repeated time after time. I believe that, as sentient and rational beings, we ought to be able to recognize and interrupt cycles before their disastrous conclusions. I have no basis for believing that and it almost never happens, but the possibility gives me comfort.
Humanity, or at least the portion of humanity reported by the entertainment press, seems to be passing through an intolerant phase, and that has the potential to go wrong in so many ways in 2016 that I don’t even want to imagine them. Suffice it to say that this cycle is reversible in my opinion, but I hold faint hope that it will be.
First, I want to tell people that all lives matter. It’s not black lives or blue lives because, in the first place, those are artificial distinctions. Human beings are human beings, and our so-called racial characteristics wouldn’t even rate a mention if we were applying them to any other animal on Earth. It has become convenient to categorize and pigeon-hole people along with everything else in our lives, but it is misleading and dangerous, and we need to get over it. I see no happy resolution if we continue to focus on how to separate ourselves instead of how to make room for one another.
Second, we need to talk about the distinctions between black (or white or hispanic or asian, etc.) lives and blue lives. A cop is not a distinct life form; he or she is another human like us who has chosen employment in law enforcement. Now we need to talk about modern law enforcement because I believe that is a reflection of our mood of intolerance.
I grew up in a time when the motto was “To serve and protect” or something along those lines, but those times are in the past. Officers I worked with recently talked openly about their organization as a para-military organization to control the population, and that’s something completely different; that’s an occupation force. That is not intrinsically “bad” but it is threatening to those of us outside their circle. I was pulled over more than once for riding a Harley back in the day, and when one deputy saw my military ID he said, “Oh, you’re one of those.” Law enforcement seems to want us to respect and like them, but they do not seem to respect or like us very much… and they’re armed and organized. That seems to be a very asymmetric relationship, and those are seldom sustainable.
At the very least, and I get how painful this is, Law Enforcement needs to recognize and address that not everyone with a badge and a gun should have a badge or a gun. (I remember Craig Peyer.) It is true in every profession and they do no one any favors by circling to protect the few who misrepresent them in the community.
In our nominally democratic republic, our institutions are or ought to be a reflection of us and our values. If our institutions are not a reflection of us and our values then that’s the problem, and that’s what we need to fix. If we accept our institutions as they are then that’s the problem, and that’s what we need to fix.
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)