Friday, July 15, 2016

Dallas Blame

There has been a lot of rhetoric surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the assassination of five Dallas police officers. On the one hand some people are blaming BLM (and the president, and others) for the attack. Others are saying it was a mentally disturbed veteran and we should blame the government for making him a soldier and sending him to war. But are either of them (or is anyone, really) to blame, other than the gunman himself? Let's consider a couple of scenarios.

Scenario 1. Alice hates Bob. She secretly wishes he were dead. Bob is shot dead. Alice feels guilty. But is Alice really responsible for Bob's death? Of course not. While she willed his death, she has not done anything to influence whether or not Bob lived or died. The gunman is solely responsible.

Scenario 2. Alice hates Bob. She hires a hit man to kill Bob. Bob is shot dead. Is Alice responsible for Bob's death? Of course. While the gunman is ultimately the cause of his death, Alice influenced him to kill Bob by giving him money to do it.

Scenario 3. Alice hates Bob. Alice takes out ads saying that Bob does not deserve to live. She appears on national television speaking about how terrible Bob is and how he deserves death. Bob is shot dead. Is Alice responsible for Bob's death? Of course. While the gunman is ultimately the cause of his death, Alice influenced him to kill Bob by calling for Bob;s death in a way that was compelling (obviously) to the gunman.

BLM has put itself in a position of authority by claiming to speak for blacks. In that position, they have tremendous influence on the actions of many people (witness the number of people who come out to march with the movement). Inasmuch as they have that authority, they also have responsibility for the actions they call for. When they call for justice against white police officers, is that not a call for them to have the same penalty on them that BLM says they imposed on the black victims they "murdered?"

I heard a BLM spokesman on the radio the other day, and his speech upset me enough to write this blog post. Even after the murders of the officers in Dallas he not only had no regrets, but reiterated his support for the killer. In his words "Nobody wants to see innocent people killed" but he then went into a diatribe on police, the gist of which was that none of them are innocent.

St James understood the responsibility of those who claim authority when he wrote, in James 3:1-8 (emphasis mine):
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies.  Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
While we're on the topic of police brutality, let me say that there are good cops and bad cops, just like all of us, and like all of us, most cops are good but some are bad. Despite a NYC study that shows cops treat blacks more harshly than whites, a wider study showed cops are more likely to shoot whites than blacks. But all of this rhetoric only serves to obfuscate the problem. By claiming they know the motive for cops shooting blacks (racism) the BLM stifles any real research into systemic problems with excessive police force. They also, ironically, justify the militarization of police and harsh treatment of blacks by encouraging blacks to be aggressive and non-compliant when interacting with police officers.

As an American I agree with the issue being addressed by BLM, the over-militarization of police, in terms of armament, equipment and training, and the apparent increase in use of overwhelming deadly force. However, we need to look for the real cause of the matter and address that rather than calling it racism in certain cases and ignoring the rest. We cannot become blindly "anti-cop" and expect laws to be enforced and the public to remain safe.


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