The roar is deafening.
The last several weeks have brought a seemingly endless round of violence and chaos centered around our nation’s law enforcement agencies — from the murder of police officers in Texas, to the shooting deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, and now the murder of three more police officers in Baton Rouge.
Unfortunately, the real, individual lives lost in these incidents have been almost entirely forgotten, swallowed up by the grandstanding of our pathetic, media-devouring politicians and talking heads.
On news programs, talk shows and Twitter, the self-serving propagandists that dominate our public discourse spout their end times gibberish engineered to send you running wild-eyed to the ballot box — “Vote for me, or the country is lost!”
This is nothing new of course, just a larger scale version of the so-called Southern Strategy used by the Republican Party in the 1960s and ’70s, an election year game plan that consciously stoked white southerners’ racial anxieties in order to gain their support.
Throughout history, fear has been one of the politician’s most useful tools. To paraphrase a quote from the 1980s movie Wall Street, for politicians, fear is good. A populace that’s both ill-informed and afraid is one that’s easily controlled.
But however loud and constant the drone of doom may be these days, it’s only our technology, not the state of the world itself, that has changed dramatically. Unwarranted shootings by and of law enforcement officers have taken place for decades. The only difference now is that the incidents are being caught on mobile imaging devices and spread across the globe in a matter of minutes. Now you can watch a man die in real time on Facebook.
What we’re reaping today is the whirlwind of anger and mistrust that’s been buffeting black communities and law enforcement agencies for generations. The drug wars of the 1980s and ’90s drew battle lines that are only now starting to be crossed, hesitantly but hopefully, as both sides begin to realize that the only solution will come through communication and understanding.
No, not every police shooting is a murder; sometimes they are entirely justified. The fact is, police officers have a dangerous job for which they are underpaid and over-stressed. Most members of our law enforcement agencies perform admirably day in and day out, with little or no thanks.
But obviously, there is a problem, and it’s not just “a few bad apples.” It has to be recognized that a certain percentage of sadistic, mentally unstable individuals will be drawn to a job involving firearms and state sanctioned authority over everyday citizens.
Law enforcement agencies need the means to perform more comprehensive background checks and psychological evaluations. They also need to abandon the practice of passing bad cops down the line like pedophile priests
On the other side of that conversation stands the Black Lives Matter movement, which, despite what the geriatric former mayor of New York City might say, isn’t made up of a bunch of punks and thugs trying to incite violence against police officers. They are addressing a very real, life and death issue. Unfortunately, as we saw in Texas, justifiable anger can boil over into uncontrolled rage. It’s heartbreaking in too many ways to count.
But none of this means we’re sliding down some inescapable sinkhole of escalating violence and terror. Despite what men like Donald Trump and Rudolph Giuliani would like you to believe, we are not in the middle of a race war and black communities have not declared open season on police officers.
Here’s an idea: stop listening to politicians and their minions who have a vested interest in keeping people polarized, in keeping them fearful of the government taking their guns, of the “radical homosexual agenda,” of swarms of drug dealing/rapist/terrorist illegal immigrants overtaking our cities.
Don’t let them laugh at you. Turn them off. Tune them out. Let their childish blather wither into silence.
The problems of race and mistrust won’t be solved by our government; they will be worked out among individuals in their own communities. So put down your phone and take a walk around your neighborhood. Talk to one another as human beings, not enemy conspirators.
Accept that the world is a chaotic place and that no one, not your senator or governor or president, can ever make it truly safe. And save your fear and anger for those who would tell you differently.
The roar is deafening.