Tears, anguish, anger, frustration. As with many others, they are my feelings this morning. Feelings like that can inform thinking, but they are not a substitute for thinking. Thinking requires time for reflection in which feelings can be checked against available evidence, and possible decisions can be evaluated against likely consequences. Thinking is what enables us to deescalate violence, to refrain from acts of revenge, and to consider how the good of others might be served by what we say and do. Thinking is what opens the door to the possibility that the others, whose good we seek, can be, perhaps should be, others who are not like us. Thinking is what enables us to know when it’s time for action, what that action should be, and how it contributes to building up the community in justice.
I’ve been thinking about the assassination of cops in Dallas who were doing their work peacefully among those at a peaceful rally. Yes, as a nation we have a problem with what is called police violence, but too much of the protest has not been about solutions. It’s been about making cops, all cops, the enemy. Making enemies is what leads to what happened in Dallas. It’s an inexcusable outrage. I work with cops. I like cops. Around here they work for the community and with the community, and they do it well in spite of the danger of being in harm’s way at any moment. As our chief said today, “All of us are part of this community, have family and friends who are part of the community, and have well established relationships in the community. It’s not an us vs. them, it’s just us. Now is the time to work at strengthening the relationships we have and making new ones.” — Walla Walla Police Chief Scott Bieber
I’ve been thinking about the killing of black men and women, and whether “Black Lives Matter.” You bet they do, but they haven’t mattered much for a very long time. We have to be honest about that, and there are way too many of us for whom they still don’t matter. We have to be honest about that too. The Civil War ended officially in 1865, but it’s not over, not really. The civil rights acts of the mid 1960s were signs that the end might be near; that was fifty years ago and we’re not there yet. Until we can say Black lives matter, it’s a delusion to say all lives matter. It’s nothing more than a way to avoid hard truths, avoid responsibility. I wrote this a few days ago, but it bears repeating that some of us must be reminded that the nation is not going back to some mythical (whiter) better time. If we are to be true to our American Dream we can only go forward into a future that embraces a more diverse population that is less divided, offering more equitable opportunities, and from which new social values will emerge that will strengthen the fabric of society in new ways. Moreover, we, and and that includes me, whose birthright has given us precedence over all others for access to the rewards of the American Dream can no longer claim it be ours alone. The biggest obstacle confronting us is that we are not inclined to share.
Who’s to blame? Social media was flowing with angry words of blame this morning. Blame is the coward’s way out. Blame is an excuse to avoid responsibility. Blame is a tool for putting our guilt on the heads of others. Blame has been the weapon of choice for self aggrandizement by national leaders who are leading us toward self destruction, the so called Freedom Caucus and friends chief among them. If we want to be a community at peace, each of us must take the responsibility to be honest about how our own beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors contribute toward building up or tearing down. As Jesus said, …”how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”