Lazy Saturday Reads: America the ViolentPosted: July 9, 2016
We’ve arrived at the end of another terrible week in America. When will it end? Never, until we do something about the availability of guns–especially military grade weapons that are designed for the express purpose of killing human beings. People should not own military grade weapons, if you like guns then get yourself airsoft gun, which is safer.
I’m going to begin with an excerpt from an essay at NBC News by Shorky Eldaly II: An America I See in the Distance. Eldaly was likely writing before the massacre in Dallas took place; his piece is mostly about police killings of Black people. Please do read the whole thing at the link.
Hours after the first report of another American, another father, another son, killed without the provocation all I could do was repeat this mantra to myself as I searched my home, for something to remind me of why we must go on; why we’re not allowed to give up on an America that seems, in some ways, now more distant than ever.
Today our nation struggles to find its breath after the loss of Alton Sterling. As we are still grieving the loss of life in Orlando I try, alongside the rest of the world, to make sense of the loss of Philando Castile.
In the barrage of questions being posed by experts on television screens and news feed updates, I whisper back, “Where are our solutions?” And I apologize (to who or what I am unsure) for not having done enough, in the wake of these executions.
Amidst these acts of terrorism, I am left at a loss for not just words, but of an ability to fully comprehend the true amount of loss we’ve suffered. I’m searching for an America I can still believe in.
Eldaly asks the questions all decent Americans are asking–where is the America we once believed in? When can we be proud of our country again? Or did that country never truly exist except in our imaginations?
This week we’ve seen the convergence of our national plague of mass shootings and the disastrous effects of racism on the way laws are enforced. The Dallas shooter Mikah Johnson claimed he was angry about Black people being murdered by police. In Tennesee, Lakeem Keon Scott may also have been motivated by anger at recent police shootings. He killed Jennifer Rooney, a letter carrier and wounded three others, including a police officer. At the same time, many police officers say say they feel under siege from people who are angry at police-involved shootings around the country.
As Eldaly asks, “Where are our solutions?” Not in Congress, as long as Republicans are utterly beholden to the NRA. A bit more from his essay:
I know we must encompass something more than sense of power to create change. We must restore a sense of compassion and freedom that illuminates the rhetoric of America’s founders. Though these notions of compassion and freedom were not applicable to the nation’s current populous, America can be, and has already in many ways been re-founded and re-defined in the 21st century.
It is by the hands of those, like my parents, who sought and chose to be American that America has been redefined. Their sacrifice establishes the vision that, for most of its life, has been America’s fairy tale. It is in their lives, and the lives of their children, that I see the evidence that we can grow, that we will be great.
It is in that same vein that Black Lives mattering is not a negation of the rights of other individuals, but a needed imperative to correct the record for a nation whose Congress once legislated the counting of people as property and now sanctions their death at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve.
Because, in truth, the men and women who live narratives of hate — regardless of race — are no more American, than those who look to divide us and foster hate or fear within us. These individuals are terrorists and nothing short of that.
For each of those who work against equity, of life, of liberty, to those who kill the innocent — for each one of us you kill — you only strengthen our resolve.
You only strengthen the discipline with which we hold ourselves accountable, increasing the heights we dare to dream.
We are the sons and daughters of men and women who against insurmountable odds survived, who in every moment inhabit the American ideals in ways that our forefathers could not have imagined.
We can not allow violence or fear, to shrink us back or lead us to hate or division, because in ways that only love can sustain — we are dreamers, we are doers, and we are, in our resilience and resolve, bravery, selflessness, and love.
During her campaign for president, Hillary Clinton has said repeatedly that we need more love and kindness in this country. This morning I got an email from the Clinton campaign–you probably got it too. I’m going to post the whole thing here:
Like so many people across America, I have been following the news of the past few days with horror and grief.
On Tuesday, Alton Sterling, father of five, was killed in Baton Rouge — approached by the police for selling CDs outside a convenience store. On Wednesday, Philando Castile, 32 years old, was killed outside Minneapolis — pulled over by the police for a broken tail light.
And last night in Dallas, during a peaceful protest related to those killings, a sniper targeted police officers — five have died: Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. Their names, too, will be written on our hearts.
What can one say about events like these? It’s hard to know where to start. For now, let’s focus on what we already know, deep in our hearts: There is something wrong in our country.
There is too much violence, too much hate, too much senseless killing, too many people dead who shouldn’t be. No one has all the answers. We have to find them together. Indeed, that is the only way we can find them.
Let’s begin with something simple but vital: listening to each other.
White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk about seen and unseen barriers faced daily. We need to try, as best we can, to walk in one another’s shoes. To imagine what it would be like if people followed us around stores, or locked their car doors when we walked past, or if every time our children went to play in the park, or just to the store to buy iced tea and Skittles, we said a prayer: “Please God, don’t let anything happen to my baby.”
Let’s also put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to do a dangerous job we need them to do. Remember what those officers in Dallas were doing when they died: They were protecting a peaceful march. When gunfire broke out and everyone ran to safety, the police officers ran the other way — into the gunfire. That’s the kind of courage our police and first responders show all across America.
We need to ask ourselves every single day: What can I do to stop violence and promote justice? How can I show that your life matters — that we have a stake in another’s safety and well-being?
Elie Wiesel once said that “the opposite of love is not hate — it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death — it’s indifference.”
None of us can afford to be indifferent toward each other — not now, not ever. We have a lot of work to do, and we don’t have a moment to lose. People are crying out for criminal justice reform. People are also crying out for relief from gun violence. The families of the lost are trying to tell us. We need to listen. We need to act.
I know that, just by saying all these things together, I may upset some people.
I’m talking about criminal justice reform the day after a horrific attack on police officers. I’m talking about courageous, honorable police officers just a few days after officer-involved killings in Louisiana and Minnesota. I’m bringing up guns in a country where merely talking about comprehensive background checks, limits on assault weapons and the size of ammunition clips gets you demonized.
But all these things can be true at once.
We do need police and criminal justice reforms, to save lives and make sure all Americans are treated as equal in rights and dignity.
We do need to support police departments and stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us.
We do need to reduce gun violence.
We may disagree about how, but surely we can all agree with those basic premises. Surely this week showed us how true they are.
I’ve been thinking today about a passage from Scripture that means a great deal to me — maybe you know it, too:
“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”
There is good work for us to do, to find a path ahead for all God’s children. There are lost lives to redeem and bright futures to claim. We must not lose heart.
May the memory of those we’ve lost light our way toward the future our children deserve.
Now here are some links for you to explore:
New York Times: Suspect in Dallas Attack had Interest in Black Power Groups.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Piedmont Park hanging referred to FBI.
New York Daily News: Trump barred from speaking to NYPD officers; Bratton says Dallas tragedy not a photo op.
The New Republic: The Return of Clinton Derangement Syndrome.
The Washington Post: The math of mass shootings.
The Chicago Tribune: Ex-Illinois Rep. Walsh says Twitter took down Dallas tweet ‘Watch out Obama.’
The Atlantic: The Republican Party’s White Strategy.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?