This has been a difficult week for America. I don’t think I’m telling you anything you don’t already know. What began with a celebration of our nation’s independence has quickly turned to one of the darkest few days in recent memory, with the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the massacre of multiple Dallas police officers last night. And my god, am I fucking tired of it.
Right about now, I’m sure someone’s yelling “stick to sports” because, apparently, people who enjoy writing about sports, or television, or movies, or music, or whatever else, are incapable of having opinions on anything else. Right now, I think what is becoming abundantly clear is that occasionally you receive stark reminders that there are vastly more important things than sports. The continued escalation of violence and a widening racial divide is right at the top of that list.
I was outraged when I watched the video of what happened to Alton Sterling. I was outraged when I saw what happened to Phil Castile, in particular upon reading after the fact that here was a law-abiding citizen, who was murdered in front of a four year old child as well as his fiancee, despite complying with police, for an alleged broken taillight.
And I’m equally outraged at the violence witnessed last night. I’ve lived in Texas for the last 11 years, and I’ve been to the area where the Black Lives Matter protest was taking place numerous times. It’s a sad irony that these killings took place in virtually the same place where John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and a reminder that for all of the progress we’ve made as a nation since that fateful November day, we still have a very long way to go.
I despise when people attempt to politicize tragedy, and quickly assign blame, because it only serves to fan the flames that are already growing at an alarming rate in this country. We’re on a precipice right now, and pointing at this person or that person or this group or that group and saying “That’s who is to blame” serves no immediate purpose except to feed our rage.
And we should be feeling rage. Rage that this violence continues to happen. Rage that we continue to be divided, rather than united, because of the actions of so few.
Last night’s demonstration was peaceful. There were numerous pictures of protesters and police posing together, smiling together, and respecting one another. And then as the protest began to break up, and people were headed home, chaos and violence took hold because someone – and at this point, it’s unclear whether it was one gunman or a few, though at present it’s starting to look more and more like a single individual (identified as Micah Johnson, a former US Army reservist, which explains the precision with which he operated) – opened fire.
That one man, the police have said, acted because he was angry about black lives being taken by police. That doesn’t, and never should, justify the actions he took. This was a clearly deranged individual, who not only killed those officers, but put every peaceful protester’s life at risk.
There have been millions of Americans who have participated in Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and nothing like this has happened. There are thousands of police officers who are good and decent people, and work to help and truly serve and protect their communities. Last night, the reports are that the police and the protesters worked together in an effort to protect each other when the violence began.
I guess what my point here is, is that the actions of the few should never, ever be taken as representative of the whole. The shooter – or shooters – from last night don’t represent the millions of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters. The officers who exert excessive force and kill men like Alton Sterling and Phil Castile don’t represent the thousands of police out there doing their best to make us safe on a daily basis.
To suggest otherwise is to assign blanket blame and play into our fears, and unfortunately some have been doing exactly that throughout the course of this week. A monstrous former congressman named Joe Walsh took to Twitter last night and literally threatened the president before quickly deleting the tweet since, you know, it’s highly illegal to threaten the president. What purpose did this serve other than to incite further violence?
Violence is not the answer. There have only been a few extraordinarily rare cases throughout history in which violence was the answer, and then only as a last resort (World War II, for example). Right now, America is a powder keg and there are people on all sides holding torches, ready to set it off. But murder, and violence, does not justify further murder and violence.
We don’t need further division in our nation. We need unification. Saying that black lives – or any other lives – matter doesn’t mean other lives don’t. The fact that people are so quick to forget or overlook this is baffling and appalling to me. Healing is achieved through peace, not violence. We need to be better than this. We’re the most intelligent species on the planet, yet we remain ignorant and self destructive in so many ways.
An unfortunate side effect to last night’s killings is that people will ignore the dozens of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests that were held across the country. Violence and fear have become the narrative, and that needs to change.
At this point, I’ve begun to ramble, I know. I needed to get this off of my chest, and I hope that at least a few people out there will agree with me that the only way we can move forward is if we do it together. Black, white, blue, and every other color. We need to stand together and decide that enough is enough.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.