These shootings. This violence. How do we make it stop?
Every single time I hear a news story about a black man being shot by the police I am stunned. Like a jab to my solar plexus it pains me, it takes my breath away. I am left doubled over in fear, then shame, and with a sorrow that radiates through the whole of me.
Then, as though we’re living in some sick dystopian story, filmed in black and white and red, the media jumps in with gleeful headlines that may as well read, LET THE BLAME GAMES BEGIN!!! This violence and the the strife that comes with it means dollar signs to the media. And I am disgusted even more.
Our behavior – that of the black folks who get themselves shot, or the cops doing the shooting, or the gunmen demonstrating their sociopathic rage by targeting whatever group they hate most while armed to the teeth with firepower meant for the battlefield – none of that behavior can be explained in a 2.2 minute news segment. Never mind that, the media isn’t much interested in helping us gain a deeper understanding of the problems or the people involved. It doesn’t translate well to “the general public.” Nobody’s paying attention to the news ticker streaming across the bottom of the screen long enough to list the myriad reasons we’re in this mess.
But that’s what I keep thinking about. We’re focusing on the symptoms, not the cause. Progress can’t be made that way. How can we cure this cancer with an aspirin?
Alton Sterling was killed selling CDs in front of a convenience store. Let me step back from that, as consuming a picture as it is, and take a moment to ask a few questions. Why was he out there selling those CDs in the first place? Why are we not fighting harder to improve our economy? Why, in the United Goddamn States of America, does a grown man have to resort to selling CDs in front of a convenience store to put food in his belly? Why do we hate him because he lives in an impoverished community? Why do we fear him for it? Why is it so easy for him to carry a gun? Why does he only feel safe when he carries one? And why, oh why do so many Americans simultaneously use the color of his skin as a cause and a justification for his killing?
Five Dallas cops were picked off by a single gunman. Senselessly killed. It was blamed on Black Lives Matters, on every single person directly associated with the group and even those of us who support its necessity. But what about these questions: How did no one who knew that shooter not notice his hatred? Why was he not identified as on the very edge of insane behavior? Are we so self-centered, so afraid to butt in when we know someone is troubled, that we no longer feel the need to turn a man around? Instead we wait until after and point fingers. He should have found God. His family should have stepped in. He shouldn’t have had a gun like that. Maybe all of those things would have helped. But let me throw this out there: If it takes a village to raise a child, how is a person to go on without that same community support? WE failed that man. Our sense of community is broken and he is only a symptom of it.
And what about the cops doing that shooting? Which “that shooting?” Any of them.They take a human life and are put on administrative leave. Blue lives matter too, ya know. Oh, really? It never occurred to me that when a human life, a human heartbeat, is purposely stilled that I should have compassion. This part, to me, is incredibly frustrating. Of course all lives matter, but up until Trayvon Martin, America didn’t prioritize the life of every American. Up until that time we only prioritized the monied and the connected, the “respectable” folk. Which is to say we prioritized quality of life of White Americans. The rest be damned. So Black Lives Matters sprung up around the country to highlight that unfairness. The injustice of one group of people being held as more important than all others. The name of the group is not ONLY Black Lives Matters, so get off your high horse and use your brain for once, then take time out to show you have a heart.
But let me go back to the cops for a minute. Why are we hiring men and women who are so hungry to use lethal force? Why are they so distanced from the people in the communities they serve they’re so willing to pull a gun and shoot? What the hell ever happened to the motto To PROTECT and SERVE? Protect comes first. And as a cop, only protecting yourself is not what you signed up for.
Where is the training to manage a risky situation without a gun? Why is training not a bigger priority? As a nurse, I trained for three years to earn my RN. Every year after I was required to prove my skills were still accurate and to continue my training and education. Is that something police have to do? Because I definitely see a parallel here. Medical mistakes and negligence have been a priority topic in health care for a while now. The fewer mistakes, the better. Why are we not focusing our attention on police departments across the country in this same way?
Playing The Blame Game is much too fun. It’s much more engaging and makes better headlines. It gets our hearts pumping. But it’s so ugly. And that’s what saddens me the most. We Americans have become so ugly, so nasty. If our behavior had a smell, it would be worse than a ripe pig farm sitting in the middle of an industrial waste site. If it had a color it would be the color of evil, whatever that is to you. If it had a sound? Unfortunately it does have a sound. Gun shots. That’s the sound of our collective ugliness.
Now I need to collect myself and take a deep breath because here’s the thing. I wish I could end this with some witty something or other to give you hope. Honestly, I’m too disgusted and depressed for that. Instead, let me show you something I found in our front yard”
Here are two pictures of a Sunflower bloom. The first was taken three days ago, the second yesterday afternoon. Stop and think about that for a second… What a difference a couple days of bright, warm sunshine can make.
Go ahead, take that as a metaphor, if you like.