Black and Blue

Our culture seems to be slipping into running on feelings at the expense of thought. As a consequence, as we get upset at more and more things, we are ever less capable of dealing effectively with the very things that upset us.

More dangerously, as a focus on feelings displaces interest in objective truth, it becomes harder to find the truth. Feelings have no principles, no moral compass. Feeling anger does not tell me if I am justified in being angry, or if the object of my anger the right one. Only by pushing the anger aside and searching for truth can I hope to know. Consider “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter.””Black Lives Matter” seems essentially aggressive – a kind of “We hate them” and “They’re all evil,” (a stark contrast to the non-violent, sacrificial, conciliatory strategy of Dr. Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement). “Blue Lives Matter” seems essentially an antagonistic reaction against the vituperation of the other – a kind of “They’re attacking our cops, so support our cops.”

It is as if we are being asked to choose a team to support. But such a choice is a false one for it creates a zero sum game – if one wins, the other loses. I’m pretty sure we don’t want a world where cops don’t matter (Blue lives lose and Black lives get a pyrrhic victory and then lose in the long run) or a world where only cops matter (Black lives lose and then everyone else loses). Yet played as a zero sum game, whoever wins will drive us toward one or the other of these worlds.

But where is the truth? Feelings make it easy to choose. But feelings are also easily stirred up and easily manipulated – a bad basis for choosing. Think of advertising. Whether it’s weight loss, skin care, charities or politics, the ads almost invariably focus on feelings.

With regard to “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter,” where there were videos of the incidents I reviewed them, but first had to push aside any initial reactions. Every video reveals the victim fighting with the cop(s), running away or both. Guilty or innocent – either way,  their actions show a loss of self control. But they also reveal cops losing control. A cop stops a car driven by a middle aged black man. The black man argues with, then fights, then runs away. The cop had the guy’s car – he could be identified and picked up any time. Why then shoot the man in the back as he runs away? A loss of self control. The same dual pattern of loss of self control appeared in every video.

So the real issue appears to be – what are the root causes of the lack of self control in both black and blue? Racism? One can imagine racism in both actors in each instance, but racism doesn’t explain loss of self-control, especially on the cops’ side.

As citizens in a free country, we are forever an empaneled jury, sitting in judgement of our  society’s issues. To the degree we shirk that jury duty, we yield authority to judge society to those who would wish to be judge, and history shows that those who would judge for us invariably end up judging for themselves. But as ordinary folks with lives filled with day to day demands, how do we find the time and energy to dig for the truth?

I believe it is easier than it seems if – first, we remember that people (including ourselves) most easily believe true the things they want to be true – so, be suspicious of first impressions. Second, because of the first point, avoid rushes to judgement, for that means being guided by feelings, not facts. Third, shove personal feelings aside and be like Justice – blind to all except the weight of facts on an impartial scale. And fourth, we try to remember Anne Franck’s belief held in the darkest of times, “in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

So what about Black and Blue? What I see in the videos and in the news indicates that there are most likely two problems.

One is a consequence of cultural breakdown in the communities the victims grew up in. It makes no sense to me to blame that on racism. In previous generations when racism was rampant and in many places supported by Jim Crow laws, black communities and families were stronger and crime lower. Something else has gone wrong and needs to be fixed.

The other is likely a problem in selection or training of police. I’m not a cop. I was in the infantry and my experiences were in jungles and villages. Both demand good training. Jungles are scarier, but villages much more demanding of self control. But in the world of cops, I’ve read that the typical distance for potentially violent confrontations is a matter of feet. This puts the cop’s
average potentially violent encounter at the most stressful extreme of the soldier’s spectrum of stress – fighting at close quarters where the bad guys are mixed in with innocents.

As is so often true, Scripture can point the way.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;”
John  8:32 “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Until both sides are willing to reason together to find and accept the truth, then “No Lives Matter.”

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