The media is rife with coverage about cops and events surrounding their activities. There are private groups called "copwatchers" that listen to police scanners in order to arrive at possible incidents and film, just in case something happens. That’s how July 5th’s shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge was recorded and then released into the public on social media for everyone to see and decide for themselves what happened—and to incite someone angry enough or mentally unstable enough to ambush more police officers in Baton Rouge just a few minutes ago as I write this.
I’m not saying reform isn’t needed in some places—and in order for it to happen, yes, truth must come out. But people who incite it, profit from it, stir up more hatred and racism, they’re guilty of wrong doing themselves. We don’t need more hatred and racism. There’s plenty of it to go around already. Even the news media—NBC, FOX, CNN—they are guilty of cashing in on the tragedies unfolding in our country, sensationalizing aspects of events in order to get more views, to get things “trending” on their twitter feed or Facebook pages, to get people riled up so they respond and comment and make their news agencies look popular. Just for stinkin’ money and power, they are exploiting the chaos among our citizens, endangering the lives of innocent people—including cops. They’re not objective journalists anymore. That’s all but dead. Hard to find. They’re gossipers and riot inciters. They are embarrassing true journalism, if there is any left anywhere to set the standard.
You can’t go onto social media without running into a story or strong opinion about cops. People defend them, people condemn them. Both are too extreme. You can’t generalize about such an enormous entity. Yes, the video and story of Alton Sterling seem to suggest something fishy happened. But part of the “great” of our country is the process of law, investigation, and “innocent until proven guilty,” even for cops. Yes, there have been way too many bad eggs. And that is awful. Horrible. I hate that some have used their power to abuse and even kill people. But to generalize so grossly feeds into the perspectives that impel crazy angry people with guns to take justice into their own hands and make the world so much worse.
The photo Jonathan Bachman caught of Ieshia Evans protesting in Baton Rouge is spectacular. For so many artistic reasons as well as historical. But it must be taken with thought, with careful understanding. We’ve been having protests since our country was established. They were used to help us break from England, they were constant in the ’60s. And now, for good cause, voices are being heard, the marginalized are being represented. Evans was part of that process that is crucial to bringing change. But let’s be smart, People. Take her arrest in context. The cops there in riot gear were there to keep anyone else from getting killed. They were in that gear because that is the protocol. They removed her from the street because that was protocol. They didn’t abuse her. They just followed protocol. She was in her rights to protest to a point, but then she was to follow the direction of the authority present keeping the calm. Some have likened the photo of Evans to that of the young man in front of the tank at Tiananmen Square in 1989. It’s not the same. The Chinese government massacred hundreds, possibly thousands, of protesters that day. Our country, our government, does not do that. We just don’t. No matter how many times there are bad eggs that do bad things and make a bad name for agencies that had nothing to do with their rogue behavior, our government does not sanction the massacre of its citizens.
I think there needs to be some education about how cops work. How they’re trained. Ignorance is rampant. They are trained to neutralize danger. If they can’t ask questions first, they must make everything secure first. I truly think people are getting cops mixed up with teachers—the ones who have been educated that the only permitted touch is the class-room-appropriate side hug. And only if initiated by the student. Teachers can’t touch students. But cops can touch people. They’re trained to touch people. They’re trained and instructed to flatten people to the ground, if they must, to make sure nothing worse happens. If people don’t cooperate, cops have to determine what else bad might happen and consider how likely it is that it might occur. And they want to keep everyone alive. The good cops don’t want to flatten people to the ground. The cops I know would much rather have a peaceful conversation. They just want everyone to do as instructed so that they can get to the bottom of things and keep people safe and to help justice win out.
Every week we hear of more heinous acts; as good citizens and caring friends, let’s not make the same error in judgment as all those who are perpetuating hate, discord, racism, vengeful thought, and condemnation through propaganda, hate speech, profitable exaggeration or sensationalism. Let’s be careful when we comment on social media, as we talk to friends and coworkers even, not to be guilty of causing more fissures in our society. Adopt Martin Luther King Jr. as a role model—not just non-violence physically, but non-violence verbally and philosophically. Don’t incite hatred. Don’t perpetuate misunderstanding. Stamp out ignorance. And maybe, just maybe, in your little corner of the world, if you make that choice and partake in constructive dialogue instead, perhaps your effort will merge with someone else’s little corner who is doing the same, and there will be the chance that the movement for good change can advance and overcome the shadow of death that is creeping over us all.
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