Black & Blue

“The potential beauty of human life is constantly made ugly by man’s ever-recurring song of retaliation.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dallas police chief David Brown at this morning’s press conference

Two days ago, I wept at the video of Alton Sterling. Yesterday, I was dumbfounded and heartbroken by the video of Philando Castile, especially since I was just in the Twin Cities on Tuesday. And then late last night, I see the first reports of shooting at a peaceful protest in Dallas, city of my birth, and wake to learn that five law officers are dead, specifically targeted because they were white cops.

I am numb. One day, we will have black children in our family. How do I prepare them to live in this world? How can I guarantee my future child that if he reaches for his wallet during a stop that he will be okay? How do I teach them the very real danger law enforcement faces every day on our behalf, that most can’t imagine the stress they face literally every day?

What especially sickens me is the retaliatory pathos of last night into this morning. Revenge holds hands with the cycle of insanity and is its own form of hypocrisy. Hate breeds hate, blood begets blood, those who live by the sword die by it. (See Matthew 26:52)

As Dr. King proclaimed in Strength to Love a half century ago, “The potential beauty of human life is constantly made ugly by man’s ever-recurring song of retaliation.”

More and more, I feel like the past is coming back to haunt us, like the 60s is replaying. We get wrapped up in the meaning and political uses of hashtags and “what ifs” and victim records and debates on gun control and militarized equipment. And none of this lends extra support to law enforcement, and none of it addresses the terrifying and tragic disproportionality of black men killed in questionable circumstances.

We either see the image of the divine in our neighbor or we don’t. There is not space between the two. We either value the life of our fellow human or we don’t.

If most of us are honest, our mutual weakness is that we don’t value everyone equally.

Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter do not have to be diametrically opposed, one or the other. Assuming so leaves our nation black and blue, rolling downhill in an unending cycle of finger-pointing and retaliatory words – and as we saw last night, retaliatory actions that only further divide and damage and dismember.
It is good and right to mourn for all: Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith, and let’s please not yet forget all the victims in Orlando.
What we need is more of love for all, sympathy for all.

To my African American brothers and sisters: I have no answers other than Jesus, who can sympathize as one who was mistreated, misunderstood, and condemned. But I hear you. I weep with you.

To our brave men and women in law enforcement: I can’t even imagine the fear and loss for you right now. I don’t know how you do it. I pray God guards you and your family both from fear and from those who would bear ill will. I mourn with you too.

As the news has told us all today, last night was the worst loss of life for law enforcement in one place and time since 9/11. All I can hope is that last night’s events will turn the tide from enmity to unity, from vengeance to reconciliation. I pray that right around the corner, mourning turns to dancing.

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