With the second “death by officer” event in a short time, a new wave of disgust and revulsion rolled through my heart, as it did perhaps in yours. How can this be? Is there no hope? But for our African American friends, this event serves to display the truth more clearly; that is, this sort of tragedy occurs all too often. Wherever a man of color, most likely young, either foolhardy, fearful, resentful, inebriated, or emotionally disabled, acts foolishly in the presence of a police team bad things are likely to happen. Even if someone is calmly walking down the street, it can happen. In the case of Mr. Rayshard Brooks, we might say he should not have resisted the officers. He aroused their deadly response. But did it need to be the use of lethal force? Was he about to cause grave harm to either of the officers, or just trying to run away? What would have happened if he did get away? They had his car and his identity. A warrant for his arrest could have been obtained and he could have been arrested a few days or even hours later after he recovered from the effects of alcohol. But instead, he was executed.
We have a country that is in the agony of tearing apart. The roots of civilized behavior are torn by the actions of persons in authority, from the top down to the lowest rank cop on the beat. And then there are those who burn and loot, foment strife, celebrate destruction and add to the fears of peace keeping citizens. Peaceful protests occurring in dozens of cities and towns testify that our nation needs to change, that justice must be refined so it applies equally to all. But it seems our roots are being torn loose. There are signs of hope, but also signs of despair and hopelessness.
History reveals unrest and violence have erupted many times. In the hot summer of 1932 the great depression had brought devastatingly high unemployment in every community. People everywhere were desperate. That summer 43,000 World War I veterans and their families came to march on Washington, DC to demand help. In 1924 Congress had awarded each veteran a bonus certificate good for cash, but not redeemable until 1948. These desperate veterans came to demand an immediate release of the funds. About 10,000 of the protesters were living in a well-organized camp on swampy government land at the edge of Washington. But on July 28, 1932, by order of President Hoover, a contingent of infantry and cavalry, supported by six tanks, and guns firing, attacked this massive encampment. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned. Two men died of their wounds. Thousands lost the few possessions they had. This cruel attempt to restore “law and order” showed the worst side of our society.
When everything is coming apart, people who are willing to hang on tight to their senses, continue to love their neighbor and trust in God, will be the ones who make a difference. We can be those people, be the glue that holds life together for others and our selves. I want to be one of those people who look for good in others even when we disagree or disapprove of their actions. I want to be one who looks for new and unexpected ways to love my neighbor, to listen to his/her complaints, and to help heal their hurts. I want to be one who is willing to bend, willing to sacrifice some of my own preferences, my own desires, to pay my taxes to help others in need, and to demand justice for everyone, not just my own kind or color. May God reinforce my resolve every time it is tested. May God strengthen the best intentions in all people of good will in our hurting country. May we all learn the lessons he has to teach us in these agonizing times.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3 NIV
© 2020 Stanley Hagemeyer