Have you thought deeply about the basis of recent tragedies?
In the wake of the atrocities in Dallas and the death of two black men there will no doubt be a lot finger pointing and attempts to use the events for partisan political gain.
An assessment of the basis for the killings can fill books but there are a few basic pieces of history to which we need to attend. The words We the People are being used as the headline for this post because we need to understand that it is fundamentally the public at large which must face the basis of the problems and what we are to do about them. As of now truly enlightened historical commentary has been limited.
The Human Social Animal
There needs to be two broad areas of concern. One relates to how human beings are at base and how it affects our society. Humans are social animals which is both a strength and a weakness. Being social, we cleave together in groups of “our” people and work together for that common good. There is strength in numbers and it forges not just relationships but the development of productive effort.
Yet, our young staff working in the inner city of Baltimore in the 1960s learned to attend to a fundamental truth. In a very real sense, because we are socially centered beings, there is a dark side of racism and rejection of “the other”. What we learned was that each of us had to own that dark side and discovery and attention could help us contain and overcome the effects. As a society we still have not adequately recognized these realities nor how we can most productively work together.
Misguided Public Policy
At another level there is the matter of public policy. In Baltimore, as I stated in another post, we saw the beginning of a gulf between the police and the public when the police were forced to “arrest” innocent, homeless people. The police did not want that duty but were forced into these arrests which created terrible scenes out in the communities. And then came another level when we began the “war on drugs/war on crime”. It was a bipartisan error forged by both major political parties.
And with this new war the police were forced into “stop and frisk”, stopping people on the roads where their cars were searched often resulting in the discovery of small quantities of illegal drugs. Convictions led to long prison sentences which robbed many men (especially minority men) of their future. Their home communities declined and the effect was to not decrease but increase crime. It also led to the scandal of our swollen prison populations. The ramifications are extensive.
The Public and Police as Victims
The people in these communities along with the police all became victims. Divisions and hostility was increased. And recently we have seen terrible tragedies especially within the black communities and in Dallas which further increased tensions. Not every police officer is consummately effective in a difficult crisis situation. Errors will be made. Racism may contribute but it may also simply be an error. We cannot blame the police as a whole. And the effects of errant policies may lead the depressed or dysfunctional person to strike out. Depression is a janus and may lead to suicide or murder.
Looking to the Future
Are we to face ourselves and face the fact that it is we the people who have brought us to these tragedies? And we the people deserves emphasis. We must face our own racism. And if the public responds to prejudice and racial manipulation on the part of self serving politicians, then we become responsible for the tragedies as is currently the case. And if we fail to educate ourselves in the election process, then we abdicate our responsibility as citizens. I have often heard people say it does no good to vote. To not vote does harm, to fail to face reality and assess the often self serving political rhetoric does harm. We each have only one vote but we need to exercise it in the interest of our country and our fellow citizens.
We the people helped create the problems we are facing and we the people can help solve them. That is the hope and the nature of a democracy. We face a swelling set of changes in this country and we had best attend to the process and our mutual interest.
What can be your contribution to solving these problems?