I love all of you reading this. Not in the personal, I know you kind of love, but in the love thy neighbor way. But I am about fed up with #BlackLivesMatter and #PoliceLivesMatter. It is not that those things don’t matter, but what seems to be filling social media, mere days before Christmas, is a debate between the two. Wake up folks. It’s not an either or. All lives matter. So let’s look at some things, and see if we can make sense of it all.
#PoliceLivesMatter Absolutely true. But there are issues. Is not the police motto “To Protect and Serve?” Answer me this, any of you. When is the last time you saw the lights on top of a cruiser in your mirror, even if they weren’t on, and thought, “Oh, good. That guy is driving behind me to protect me?” Even law abiding citizens have an unnatural fear of the police: whether it be tickets, Tasers, or whatever.
It’s not a healthy state of affairs. The public, the ones to be protected, often fear the police, or at least are intimidated by them. Imagine a criminal, even guilty of a minor offense, who may have been handled roughly before, or has been to jail and has no desire to go back. Imagine the fear. Then think about how you react when you are afraid. Add to it a confrontation with an armored, armed individual. The result? Often, panic. There are cautious, fear easing techniques police can use to approach even criminals, allay their fears, and still manage a safe arrest.
But those are more dangerous. And harder to teach, set a standard, train to. Instead, we have increased intimidation by increasing armament, which in exchange increases fear. Which brings us to the next point.
#BlackLivesMatter Okay, stop. Let’s back up for just a second, and take off the first word. Why? By its very nature, it implies prejudice. While racism is still a real problem in this country, the hashtag does not help. Rather it implies reverse discrimination. #WhiteLivesMatter might not get the same traction. And wouldn’t relate to the current situation. So let’s make a reasonable change, even before we get to the end of my little rant.
#CitizenLivesMatter Better? As citizens we have certain rights, and one is that we are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But, if you are standing on a corner, holding a large amount of an illegal substance, and selling it, the police have the right to gather evidence that what you are doing is illegal, and take you into custody so they can examine that evidence and you can defend yourself. Follow me so far? Pretty simple.
Do police overstep their bounds? Yes. Do they use intimidation, even when not needed? Yes, see above. Why do they do that? Because they are afraid too. As the police are more heavily armed, the criminal element seems to follow suit. Fear pushed the criminal to react to the intimidation by the police, who are also afraid. What are they afraid of? The citizen’s reaction to their intimidation. So they move in aggressively, not to protect the citizens they serve, but to preserve their own lives.
Are the police justified in their fear? Sometimes. Are the citizens justified in their fear, especially when departments and individual officers engage in racial profiling? Yes, sometimes. So what is the solution? The answer, as anyone who has followed the debate knows, is far from simple. But here is a place to start. I’m not saying it isn’t hard, but here goes.
#AllLivesMatter Can we all change the hashtag we use on social media to talk about what is going on, whichever side you come from? Do #policelivesmatter more than #blacklivesmatter? I don’t think so. For that matter, do #blacklivesmatter more than #latinolivesmatter? Here is my final thought.
Every one of the officers killed or injured due to the actions of a citizen has a family of some sort, a circle of friends and colleagues, the same as we all do. To someone, somewhere, their lives not only matter, but are an integral part of their existence. When an officer does not come home, someone grieves. Someone misses them more than they can express. #policelivesmatter.
Every criminal undeservedly gunned down has a family too. We usually see them on the news, more often than the families of the cops and others. Because they get more media frenzy and attention. The media fuels the fear of the citizens because that is how they get them to tune in. (See the recent #ebola scare, now rarely talked about.) Regardless of the reasons, when the person killed does not come home, someone grieves, misses them more than they can express. #citizenlivesmatter.
In reality, #AllLivesMatter to someone, somewhere. A show of mutual respect goes a long way. Police, don’t use deadly force and intimidation as an option except as a last resort. Treat the person you are arresting with the same care and respect you would want someone to treat your son or daughter with if they were being arrested. Don’t escalate unless you have to. Let go of the fear.
Criminals, or those being arrested: cooperate. Does the justice system always dispense justice? No. But if you are shot on a street corner, you never get a chance to find out. And if you are guilty, and you know you are, accept responsibility for your actions, and take your lumps. At least when you are confronted by officers of the law, show some respect so they can do the same.
Is it all this simple? No. I am sure there will be those who tell me how officers are threatened every day, and reacted exactly as they should. There are other instances of police brutality, and increasing violence. For #alllivesmatter to make a difference, both sides must take a step back and look at what they are doing, not what the other side is doing. That’s the key.
Here’s to hope for change. #alllivesmatter.