America Needs a Time Out
The terrible shootings in Baton Rouge this weekend just point out how much America needs a time-out. We’ve needed one for quite some time now and, with each passing day, our country seems to be in the middle of a period of distrust - and it’s awfully hard to find hope in the midst of mistrust. I feel terribly naïve, because I’m sitting back watching all this and wondering when this became such an angry country.
The terrible news story coming out of Baton Rouge this week really puts a fine point on exactly what I’m talking about. No matter what the circumstances may have surrounded the shooting of Alton Sterling, taking the law into our own hands is never going to be the answer. What kind of logic is at work that makes a person believe that it’s okay to take out our frustration and anger on each other? What kind of logic is at work for people to believe that going out and shooting cops is going to make things better in any way, or somehow “settle the score”?
I’m sure that, in the wake of the senseless murders of three innocent police officers in Baton Rouge, there will be more call for gun control since the killer used an assault rifle. What we need more than gun control is a good, old fashioned time-out. In the midst of all this anger, we need to all step back from the situation and try to figure out when and how things got to this point. Instead of trying to make sense of all this, we seem to be taking our rage to the street.
I have no problem with peaceful protest. Heck, that’s one of the great things about this country. But taking our rage to the streets and killing people, burning businesses and more name-calling is just making the matter even worse. In a situation like we have now, the enemy is no longer just mistrust; it’s just plain fear of one another.
Why is it that, when we hear of a terrible story like the killing of Alton Sterling, the very first reaction is to say that racist cops have killed another person? We didn’t hear most of the facts about the killing of Sterling until after the court of public opinion had already tried and convicted the cops. There was no mention of the fact that Sterling had a rap sheet a mile long, or that he was armed. Instead, the reporting focused on the fact that he was black and the cops were white, so it must just be that the cops wanted to kill a black man. That’s a ridiculous assumption.
Just where and when did all this mistrust begin, and why is it spreading like wildfire? I have an opinion about that and, simply put, I blame the media, to a point. The so-called “news media” no longer just reports the news. They now supply information on just how you should feel about the news. Objectivity has gone out the window. No one news channel is to blame, either. Both CNN and Fox are guilty of fanning the flames. “Why would they do such a thing,” you ask. Because sensationalism produces ratings, and that, my friends, is the name of the game.
There have been a few glimmers of hope in all of this. Recently, two groups of protesters met up on the streets of Dallas and, instead of going to war, they all joined hands and prayed about the situation. They proved that, despite the various things that divide us, we all have lot in common, and it’s only by exploring that common ground that we can start to control all the anger.
One of my favorite quotes is from Abraham Lincoln, and it comes from the time that we were even more divided than we are now. We were so divided that we actually went to war with each other. Speaking at that time, Lincoln said, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Time-out, America. Let’s let “the better angels of our nature” overcome our mistrust, anger and rage, and put this nation back on track. The politicians aren’t going to do it for us. The news media sure isn’t going to do it for us. This is something that can only come from “we the people”. It’s going to take individuals coming together and opening a dialogue. It’s going to take people setting aside their fears and talking. It seems that it should be an easy thing to do, since the list of things we have in common is much larger than the issues that divide us.
I’m not suggesting that we should all sit around the campfire and sing “Kumbabya”, although that would be an excellent place to start. I’m just saying, let’s all step back from the situation until cooler heads prevail. Let’s celebrate our commonality, not our divisions.
A town like Lake Charles would be a good place to start. I believe that this community could show the rest of the nation that it can be done. After all, we’ve done it before. This community pulled together well in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, even though that the storm was given very little coverage by the media. We proved that, together, we can recover even from a major natural disaster. I think we can recover from this man-made one.
Yeah, I know it sounds like something an old hippie would say, but I will admit that I do believe that there really are “better angels” of all our natures. Let’s celebrate that, and put a stop to all the insanity. Taking our rage to the streets will never work. Taking our rage to the streets will only fan the flames.