This Week In Sadness: Community After Tragedy
The Most Important Thing
Writing is, in a way, an exercise in ego. As a writer, I have to believe I can say something cool enough to motivate other people to read what I have to say. Not so sure I have much ego involvement today. I have been quiet mostly out of respect for the victims.
First, after the events of last week, I mostly just feel terribly sad. I am writing this paragraph with no ego, only sadness. I am only writing the rest of this because I have written about this so much before.
Second, I will share some opinions below. But, and much more important than anything I might say, is that I want to send my condolences to the families and friends of:
Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarippa, Brent Thomspon, Philando Castle, and Alton Sterling.
I include them ALL here on purpose here because they were all human beings and not one of them deserved to be shot. All have friends and family members that love them and many of them have children who will miss them for the rest of their lives. Just imagine that any one of them was your family.
I think it is very important to say the names and keep them in our prayers (I am a person of faith). If I misrepresented a name please let me know (I have never met any of these people but I want to get this right).
I also want to send my condolences to all of the Dallas Police who were injured and to the entire Dallas Police family (I lived in the greater Dallas area for a long period of my life) none of you asked for this.
Nothing else I write below this matters as much as this. My prayers are with all of you.
Simple Hero and Villain Narratives
First, in my opinion, all of the officers in Dallas were (and always will be) heroes. They did NOTHING to deserve what happened to them and they each died in the line of duty trying to protect the citizens of Dallas from a terrorist (and I do not use that language loosely).
Killing innocent people is not a way to get revenge for the death of other innocent people.
Extrajudicial killing is never the way to get revenge for the death of other innocent people. I personally do not believe that killing anyone ever evens the scales of justice.
Unfortunately, there has been a massive effort underway to justify the extra-judicial killings of Philando Castle and Alton Sterling for a variety of reasons.
For civil society to work, police have to protect not only the people with the most in society but also the people with the least. To function properly, Civil Society has to be just.
There was nothing just about what happened to Mr. Castle or Mr. Sterling. There was nothing just about what happened to Eric Garner. And there was clearly no justice found in what happened to Tamir Rice.
Selling loose cigarettes should not come with a death sentence, selling CD's on the street should not come with a death sentence, having 52 parking tickets should not come with a death sentence, and most certainly playing with a toy gun in a playground should not come with a death sentence.
And, I cannot say this strongly enough, protecting the citizens of Dallas at a protest march should absolutely not come with a death sentence.
Before I continue, I want to make it very clear that I believe in the rule of law (despite having felt the full weight of the law on my own shoulders before). Even if you (as I do) believe in the police and in the rule of law, you cannot watch those videos and believe justice was served.
I wish we would all step away from all the political spin and newsroom rhetoric for a second and imagine ourselves as one of the family members of the slain DPD officers. I want us all to forget about all the political agendas and imagine for a second that we are Tamir Rice's parents.
Regardless of if the officers involved in any of the officer-involved shootings I have mentioned were legally at fault (and in fairness, the legislation governing this question overwhelmingly protects officers) can you really say justice was done for any of the victims or families?
Yes, Mr. Castle had 52 parking tickets and was legally carrying a gun but should he have been executed through deadly-force for that?
Yes, Mr. Sterling has a long rap sheet and was carrying an illegal firearm (in his pocket) but no judge sentenced Mr. Sterling to death for any part of his rap sheet, he apparently served his time and was loved by his family. The officer would have been 100% correct to arrest him and the justice system to prosecute him for having a weapon as a felon.
I have been in a hold like the one Mr. Sterling was in when he was shot, I have a really hard time believing he posed more than an annoyance risk to either officer at that point. He certainly could not have drawn his weapons and shot anyone.
It should not be okay to kill someone because they had a history of felonies. Yes, I have felonies in my background as well, I am self-interested. But do people really think we should kill people for being felons?
I have no idea if the officers who used deadly force were racists. I do believe these officers did not need to kill Mr. Castle or Mr. Sterling.
My point is, it doesn't matter if you like Mr. Sterling or Mr. Castle, what happened to them was not just. What happened to them was not appropriate in a just and civil society of laws.
Human Compassion + Community
I believe we all should be engaged in a project of trying to live in a just society where all human beings (even imperfect ones) are afforded dignity.
I believe we should, first and foremost, care about each other as human beings. We should care about each other as human beings enough that we would care more about protecting a child playing in a park with a toy gun more than we care about the politics of the moment.
I believe that no caring person would be okay with what happened to the Dallas Police.
I believe that no caring person would be okay with what happened to Philando Castle or what happened to Alton Sterling.
I believe that no caring person would be okay with a status quo that included what happened to Tamir Rice.
I believe that anyone in the chorus of folks who endlessly parrot the MLK snippet about people being judged not by the color of their skin should extend the same compassion and benefit of the doubt to the people of color killed by deadly force as they extend to the Officer's shooting them.
I believe that anyone in the chorus of folks who endlessly parrot the MLK snippet about people being judged not by the color of their skin should at least mourn the people of color killed after the application of deadly force.
I think the "racial divide" might be less explosive right now if it didn't seem like the pro-police, Fox News, #AllLives folks seemed to share any feeling for the deaths of people of color. Communities are defined by who has skin in the game and who participates in mourning. It takes approximately four seconds after a deadly force incident now to hear:
* The victim was a terrible person (and should not be cared about)
* The Victim was to blame
* The police have a tough job (apparently this makes extra-judicial killings okay).
* Protests are inappropriate
It is hard to build community with people who are denying your fundamental right to grieve. When Jesse Williams gave his BET Awards speech that is what he was talking about when he asked people to show their caring credentials before criticizing.
I do believe in the statement of #BlackLivesMatter but I believe that statement is made in defiance of a system that frequently does not value Black Lives as it does all other lives.
The whole point of BLM is to point out that it often appears as if Black Lives are the only ones that seem like they don't matter to the agents of power.
I believe that no caring person would be okay with the continuation of a system that does not value Black Lives as much as it does all other lives.
And I absolutely believe that the use of deadly force should always be used only as a last resort.
I will be praying for everyone who died.
I wish everyone peace.
Thanks for listening, feel free to leave any civil comments