We have a pervasive problem in this country of unequal treatment, disparate levels of justice, and an attitude of entitlement. I’m not talking about some
outrageous views of poor, uneducated, law-breaking minorities. I’m talking about specially trained, majority, law enforcers who act without vigilance for justice. And we don’t want to talk about it. We want to limit the conversation to a couple of hashtags. You know the ones: #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter.
There’s a poem making the rounds on social media and websites called, “Today I was a Police Officer.” It has been posted as a response, of sorts, to the riots and protests against police brutality and unjust treatment of Black suspects. It attempts to equate unlawful actions by criminals that cause the death of a police officer with unlawful actions by police officers that cause the death of a civilian. It derails the conversation that we need to have, but don’t want to, because it’s hard to talk about.
It derails the conversation because it’s a false comparison. Criminals are not paid by our tax dollars to keep the peace by upholding our laws and protecting our citizens. It’s also a false comparison because we know better than to trust criminals. We know they lack integrity. Some people have forgotten that while we should not trust them or presume they act with integrity, they still deserve respect.
We Don’t Have to Choose Which Lives Matter More
There’s an approach to building strong organizations that holds that they improve their organizational health, and thus become bigger and stronger, when they strengthen their weakest areas. This runs counter to the more common thinking that organizations, or even individuals, should build on their strengths.
I suggest that this same principle applies to democracy. Our society can only be as democratic as its principles are upheld by our weakest members. This is evident in our systems of education, housing, employment, credit, healthcare, and as we have seen in recent months, in our system of justice.
Our system of criminal justice contains three components: law enforcement, where officials investigate and gather evidence, courts, where evidence is heard, and corrections, where punishment is delivered.
We will not have equality among all Americans until we can acknowledge that we have a preponderance of evidence that in some cities, some of the time, by some law officers, we have unequal application of our system of justice. In some cities, some of the time, some people act without integrity, without trust, without respect for others. Some of those people are called law enforcers.
That’s what the protests are about: the lack of integrity, the lack of trust, the lack of respect. A protest is a one-sided conversation; no problem can be addressed by one side talking to itself while the other side watches on TV.
We don’t have to choose between Black Lives and All Lives. We don’t have to settle for one or the other. We can have both. We can have peace and democracy.
But we won’t get there until we can come together in conversation that is steeped in integrity and built on trust. We won’t get there until we recognize that senseless killings are senseless, no matter where or how or why they occur.
What about you? Does the idea of a conversation about unequal justice, abuse and overcoming an attitude of entitlement make you uncomfortable? Would you rather let someone else tackle this problem? Why?
Live Honest, Open and True
We have a pervasive problem in this country of unequal treatment, disparate levels of justice, and an attitude of entitlement and ample evidence that it is time for change. We can choose to make this change happen through honest and open conversation that is steeped in integrity and respect for each side and allows trust to grow. What conversation will you have? Will you play a role, or will you remain part of the silent majority?
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Thanks to my reader who brought this poem to my attention. If you have an idea you’d like me to address, stop by our Life is HOT blog Facebook Group and leave a comment or tweet me @LifeIsHOTBlog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!