Friday, September 23, 2016
WHAT ARE WE TO DO ABOUT INJUSTICE?
What are we to do about injustice? How should the Christian respond? There are so many questions and issues involved. Complicating these questions are the political perspectives many have, which are not always Christian but may pose as such. From these political perspectives sometimes charity is lost in evaluating the involvement of other believers in matters that have become emotional to many of us. Can I be emotionally engaged in matters that I think are crucial while maintaining love for those who seem apathetic or even opposed to my way of thinking? I would hope so, but I see many fail at it and it both disappoints and worries me. Mostly my worry is that I am tempted to go off on folks in the same manner.
It is important to me to try and be “Christian” in the way I think, the way I feel, and in what I do. Part of my “doing” is how I speak or write about things, and how I respond to criticism. I have found Facebook especially to be a rather poor place to engage in debate. Blogging and articles aren’t immune from spite and put-downs, as well as one sided arguments that set up straw men and paint with a broad brush. We seem to make statements and not listen, we assume, we smear by association even if there is no actual association with personas or ideologies we despise. Name calling, ad hominem arguments, assuming motive, and acute sensitivity to slight are common hazards.
Deciding matters of criminal justice by watching incomplete videos on the internet is bound to get our hearts and mouths in trouble, even if what appears to be the case makes our blood boil. We have real trouble in this country, we have real life and death stuff happening every day, and it will not be solved no matter how insulting, adamant, vociferous, mocking, sarcastic, or caustic our supposedly right on target comments might be.
I am in favor of protests to call attention to injustice. I am thankful for those with the bravery to lead such non-violent protests. I don’t believe such protests are an attack against good policing or good police officers. I am never in favor of violence. I am in favor of protests that protest violence. I am opposed to brutality by public officials. If your argument is in fact that you are for police brutality I am wondering what your definition of it is, how you can say you are a real American who believes in the ideals of our Constitution, and how you would feel if it happened to you? The idea that injustice only happens to bad people is, well, both simply historically and factually wrong but also carries with it the idea that bad people don’t really deserve justice. Brutality is not justice, it is extrajudicial punishment, and once it is allowed society declines all the way to a time when folks just end up “missing.”
I am opposed to police training that cares more about making sure supposed perpetrators are dead than in seeking to diffuse potentially violent escalation. I am in favor of legislation that doesn’t allow police officers to use their fears as a defense after they have killed unarmed individuals. Self-defense has to mean there is or was a legitimate threat, and to use deadly force means that deadly force was in fact threatened not supposed; not imagined, not implied due to someone being uncooperative. I am opposed to police training that doesn’t create leadership to handle confusing situations so as to prevent every officer from pulling a gun and shooting in unison, especially when some are using Tasers and another is using bullets.
As a citizen, as a father, as a man who understands a little bit about authority both in the church and the military I have a visceral response to disobedience; which means I think you should have your ass kicked. But I don’t do that, and I don’t think the police should do it either. I think those that execute the laws have to be the first to obey them. I say this, if for nothing else, then for their own protection.
At the same time I know that our cities are in trouble because they are full of people who aren’t used to obeying anyone in authority. They don’t obey their parents, they don’t obey teachers, and they don’t think they have to obey the police. They assume if they cuss, yell, and tell authorities not to touch them they can prevail. They think if they argue hard and long enough authority will have to let them go. Our urban schools have way too many children who act in such manner, or without manners. Many of these same folks will not mouth off to a gang banger, and that is because they know there is no restraint from that quarter.
I believe in protests against gang violence too. I believe in protests against bad parenting that teaches children not to respect their elders, teachers, or those in authority. The jails are full of such folk who thought they could live with no compliance, now restrained by cuffs, chains, bars, and wire.
I am opposed to cities having more in their budgets to settle cases out of court for police brutality than spending that money for more and better police training, and the hiring of better police officers. How can you tell us that we can’t afford better when we are spending millions to pay off families for our “mistakes?”
I am opposed to the idea that every criticism of police officers or policing is an attack against the police. I am absolutely committed to loving police officers, to supporting them, to encourage them, to even physically protect them if I have to do so. I will always try my best to respect and obey their commands, even if I am not sure why they are giving them. I also understand that they work for me, that my taxes pay their salary, and that I will hold them politically and judicially accountable for whether or not they are doing the job, and doing it right, for which I and my fellow citizens have hired them.
This of course is a feeling of power, arising from my “white privilege.” I assume I have alternatives in the law, in political organization and leverage. This is where protests in the street have to arrive, at a place of enfranchisement, at a place of political leverage where not only dialogue can take place but real accountability. It cannot be a gun against the guns of the police, but it can be the firing of Chiefs, the changing of policies, the disciplining and firing of rogue or racist officers, or the ousting of those politicians who allow misbehavior to continue.
I am also in favor of trying to learn to be patient with those who continue to hold onto the idea that there are no problems, no real injustice, just unruly people who get what they deserve. I am trying to learn that patience but I confess it is difficult.
I am also trying to learn patience with those who think that somehow we can arrive at a day when no one will make any mistakes, when there will be complete justice, when no one will be abused. I don’t think “we” can arrive at such a day but I do think such a day can be delivered to us, when Jesus comes down to give us a new heaven and a new earth.
I believe injustice is a constant human condition, though not one to be tolerated. So, I expect there to always be some sorry or bad news, I expect there to always be victims, and always some people that are righteously angry about it. I put my hope in a God who will ultimately change us and everything for the better. I put my realism into the idea that we live in a sinful and mean world. I put my energy in trying to make it, the world and my smaller place in it, a little more just every day.