It’s been a horrific few days in this country. In this era of instant news and communication, we feel connected more than ever and this, I believe, is a good thing.
Events like those in Louisiana and Minnesota seem to be happening with greater regularity. Two more police shootings and how the situations unfolded were captured on cellphones and broadcast on Facebook. Who would ever have imagined this kind of live broadcast?
In response, a protest took place on the streets of Dallas. We have seen these kinds of marches before, another example of our freedom of speech. More importantly, these calls to action have become an avenue to express frustration, fear, and appeals for change. This peaceful protest was interrupted by gunfire and the deaths of five police officers in Dallas. The shooter has been identified as a veteran who served in Afghanistan, and whose motivation involved killing white police officers.
David Brown, Dallas Police Chief, held a press conference to talk about the horrible details of how five of his fellow police officers where killed. He eloquently summarized the sentiment that many people have right now: “All I know is that this must stop. This divisiveness. . . between our police and our citizens.”
As disturbing as this violence is (and continue to be), I find some of the responses to these moments distressing as well. I don’t expect everyone to have the same reactions, but I would hope that we could have a little more compassion and understanding. My friend Stephen Reeves, Associate Coordinator of Partnerships and Advocacy for the CBF, put it this way on his Facebook page: Dear Lord, for our white brothers and sisters in Christ who methodically analyze every angle of a particular incident in order to justify a killing, but can’t be bothered to give a second thought to an unjust system, we pray.
I’ve become more interested in how these incidents affect the youngest among us. They are the ones who are going to inherit a nation with all its problems, challenges, and hopefully opportunities. Among these challenges will be how we bridge the racial divide. It also relates to the rise of gun violence in this nation. I admire their courage and activism in engaging our communities and calling for more dialogue and action.
My daughter Cally just graduated high school. It has been enlightening to observe how these gun related deaths are impacting her. She posted these thoughts on her Facebook page: We must not turn against each other. Now more than ever we need to love each other and respect each other. All the hateful words I’m seeing on Facebook and Twitter about the BLM movement really troubles me. We have a serious racial problem in this country and we need to work together to fix it. I’m devastated by what happened tonight in Dallas. Its going to be hard to sleep tonight thinking about everything that is going on. All this senseless killing needs to stop.
There will more calls for “thoughts and prayers” to be given to these families, and rightfully so. Grief needs to be observed. We need to call for calm and come together as families and communities. But, we also ought not be dismissive about the causes of this violence nor succumb to hopelessness that nothing will improve or change in this country.
Erin Grinshteyn is Assistant Professor at the School of Community Health Science at the University of Nevado at Reno. She offered these findings in a recent article by CBS News: “Overall, our results show that the U.S., which has the most firearms per capita in the world, suffers disproportionately from firearms compared with other high-income countries. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that our firearms are killing us rather than protecting us.”
I’m concerned about our nation and especially those in the millennial generation who are watching these events unfold before their eyes. It may be this generation of students and young leaders who compel us to do something to improve the way we relate to each other and how we view one another. We need to hear their voices.
I hope I’m wrong though. We can’t afford to wait any longer to come together. In the meantime, I call upon our churches to show our concern and commitment by living out the teachings us Jesus. We need to share life together in authentic community and do the hard work of demonstrating there is a better way. Let’s not let the moment pass.