“Where there is hatred, let me sow love”, the supplicant pleads in the Prayer of Saint Francis, “where there is despair, hope”. When faced with an onslaught of murders last week, people took to social media and to the streets to express their sorrow, outrage and the unhappiness with the status quo. An instant, human response is fear and distrust of the perpetrators and people who look like them. We are collectively mourning and wondering why the shooting deaths of so many people happened, and demanding change.
One of the most radical things you can do today to effect this change is to seek to understand rather than to be understood. Cultures such as the fraternity of police, a military family, or a protestor in a movement: when these people have the audacity to share what it’s like to be them, believe them.
The Fraternal Order of Police’s mission is to improve the working conditions of law enforcement officers and the safety of those they serve “through education, legislation, information, community involvement, and employee representation”. When five police officers are killed in the line of duty, there is outrage, an outpouring of support, and a community woken up in anger. “That’s what lives mattering looks like.”
The Black Lives Matter movement is founded not because black lives are more important than, say, blue ones. Black Lives Matter is about addressing a second civil rights movement, one in which the hundreds of years of slavery, lynchings, injustice and shootings are acknowledged. Black Lives Matter means treating that history with respect, and treating black people with dignity.
America is our own complex, mixed-up democracy, a proud country in which most people are decent. The consequences and responsibility for our freedom and right to bear arms, though, means that disturbed, angry people have also access to guns. And yet: the Dallas Police Department laid down their lives for protestors, and protestors helped capture the shooter. The DPD shuttled protestors to safety.
No reasonable person wants to see innocent people die. So, what does effective change look like? More uncomfortable conversations about freedom, race, guns, and privilege. Putting the United back in the United States. The protestors in the movement can better express that the full sentence is “black lives matter, too”. New police recruits need more training to not be so skittish around guns and other perceived notions of danger. We can demand one nation with freedom and justice for all.
At last night’s vigil in Dallas, the partner of fallen Dallas Police Department officer Sgt. Michael Smith spoke up. She said that the attack had left the city sad, grieving, and also angry. She then called on the city and country to channel that anger into building hope.
“Instead, we choose to continue Mike’s fight for good and not let the evil prevail,” she said.
Originally published in the Glasgow Courier, I wrote this while living in Trump Country.