I, like so many others, am despondent. Innocent black men murdered by police....yet again! Police ambushed and murdered. Guns everywhere. Assault weapons easily obtained by people with mental health problems and by people who aim to be terrorists. We can hardly grieve one tragedy when the next strikes. This is an insane way to conduct ourselves as a society.
I am despondent and would like to go watch something stupid on TV to forget all of it. But the words of the great Elie Wiesel, who died on July 2, won't leave me. He said, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."
Let us not be indifferent. Let us come up with an action agenda and push it until we see change.
For example, why can't we:
1. Insist that each local police department look at their hiring practices and training with the goal of having 100% of police who are in control of themselves and aim always to de-escalate. And of course, murderous cops should be arrested and tried, not just fired.
2. Stop having police departments be revenue generators. A man killed for having a broken taillight! Why? I bet there was a quota to generate tickets behind that stop in the first place. The police can just take a picture of the license plate and send a warning letter for minor infractions like lights out or failure to signal.
3. Have citizen/police town halls regularly, with major outreach to minority communities. Grievances can be voiced and remedies can be sought together.
4. Institute permanent gun buy-back programs. There are way too many guns out there. Where would the money come from? From emptying the prisons of non-violent offenders. Ban assault rifles! Institute better background checks. Close loopholes.
5. Greatly expand mental health services. Have a counselor in every walk-in clinic. Make it as easy to talk to someone as it is to get a strep test. Work to eliminate the stigma of mental illness.
6. Don't chalk up every horrible, outrageous act - whether it is the murder of black men, the murder of policemen, the murder of gay people, the murder of movie-goers, the murder of Bible-studiers, the murder of Muslims, Hispanics, or other minorities, the murder of First Graders etc. etc. etc. - to "evil".
Calling these despicable acts, "evil" lets us off too easily. It implies that some people are evil or gripped by evil and, then to some, the implication is that nothing can be done about evil. I think the term often abrogates the need to discuss how to turn people from "evil" and how to prevent others from becoming "evil". It abrogates the need to figure out how to convince people that all humans have value and deserve respect. It abrogates the need to figure out how people become radicalized to the point of murderous fervor. It abrogates the need to make mental health care a national priority. And it abrogates the need to legislate gun control measures. It is a word, in my view, that is an escape valve from creative thinking and action.
Instead, let each of us do what we can so that together as a society we can turn from violence to peaceful action and evolve to become a country where tranquility and justice are the norm.