I watched in horror last night as five Dallas police officers were killed and another seven wounded in a racially charged attack that ended when police used a robot to kill the sniper. The killings came at the end of a largely peaceful protest over a pair of fatal shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. These killings culminate a string of killings of black men by police officers, including Ferguson, Missouri, New York, Baltimore and Chicago.
Several things concern me.
First, looking at the tactics and weaponry used last night, one has to ask, “Are we at war?” When does disagreement and the thirst for political integrity justify the use of heavy weapons? As noted by Carl Philipp Gottfried, “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” When do we lose our ability to communicate that our only option is to don camo-pants, an ill-fitted bulletproof vest and weapons? Does it matter if one is pro-Black Lives Matter, pro-abortion, pro-life, anti-religious this or that, anti-this or anti-that? Must the next logical step be shoot first, dialogue later.
Secondly, our current juncture in history lends itself to the fact we are exceptional at destruction. We suck at repairing. Whether the issues are Iraq or homeland infrastructure, healthcare, abortion, left leaning judges, right leaning judges, whatever … it seems our current nature leans toward complete and utter destruction. We lack the ability for common interfaith dialogue.
Jay Parini echoed similar comments on an CNN opinion piece earlier today.
“Are we a people at war with ourselves, unable or unwilling to control our most violent urges? Must we settle every dispute with a gun or a bomb? Who is responsible for this mayhem that plays out on many fronts?
We quickly blame the other guy: the Mexican or Wall Streeter, the immigrant, Muslims, “millionaires and billionaires.” In our confusion and malaise, we have become a deeply angry nation. As such, we reach for scapegoats, and they’re easy to find. Anyone who doesn’t look or sound like ourselves becomes suspicious.”
The real pain of Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Orlando and Dallas is that someone always wakes up fatherless, motherless, daughter-less, brother-less, sister-less, uncle-less. As a Buddhist, I — along with communities and practitioners of all faiths — stand in solidarity with those who seek to live in peace and nonviolence, and grieve for the loss of life
Yes, I concur we have too many freely available weapons. However, I also believe we have too many disenfranchised people. Theoretically, we could fix the gun issue. We wont. Just look no further than recent bipartisan gun legislation condemned to legislative purgatory.
If society is to survive, we must fix disenfranchisement. If we don’t, all we’ll get is one more prayer service.