By Jack Levine, Founder 4 Generations Institute
It seems like every week brings us more evidence that our nation is suffering from an unnatural and destructive storm of hate and violence, resulting in the deaths of so many whose lives should not have been lost.
I was preparing to write my thoughts about how an advocate should think about this dismal and undeniable crisis when a member of my network send me a very reasonable and balanced point of view, which he received from the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Those who know me understand that I have never in 38 years of advocacy favored one political party or candidate over another…and have never given a political contribution nor attended a political event.
That said, I feel compelled to share this message…and in full fairness, I have also included Donald Trump’s statement in the wake of this week’s violence featured on his campaign’s website.
Like so many people across America, I have been following the news of the past few days with horror and grief.
On Tuesday, Alton Sterling, father of five, was killed in Baton Rouge — approached by the police for selling CDs outside a convenience store. On Wednesday, Philando Castile, 32 years old, was killed outside Minneapolis — pulled over by the police for a broken tail light.
And last night in Dallas, during a peaceful protest related to those killings, a sniper targeted police officers — five have died: Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. Their names, too, will be written on our hearts.
What can one say about events like these? It’s hard to know where to start. For now, let’s focus on what we already know, deep in our hearts: There is something wrong in our country.
There is too much violence, too much hate, too much senseless killing, too many people dead who shouldn’t be. No one has all the answers. We have to find them together. Indeed, that is the only way we can find them.
Let’s begin with something simple but vital: listening to each other.
White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk about seen and unseen barriers faced daily. We need to try, as best we can, to walk in one another’s shoes. To imagine what it would be like if people followed us around stores, or locked their car doors when we walked past, or if every time our children went to play in the park, or just to the store to buy iced tea and Skittles, we said a prayer: “Please God, don’t let anything happen to my baby.”
Let’s also put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to do a dangerous job we need them to do. Remember what those officers in Dallas were doing when they died: They were protecting a peaceful march. When gunfire broke out and everyone ran to safety, the police officers ran the other way — into the gunfire. That’s the kind of courage our police and first responders show all across America.
We need to ask ourselves every single day: What can I do to stop violence and promote justice? How can I show that your life matters — that we have a stake in another’s safety and well-being?
Elie Wiesel once said that “the opposite of love is not hate — it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death — it’s indifference.”
None of us can afford to be indifferent toward each other — not now, not ever. We have a lot of work to do, and we don’t have a moment to lose. People are crying out for criminal justice reform. People are also crying out for relief from gun violence. The families of the lost are trying to tell us. We need to listen. We need to act.
I know that, just by saying all these things together, I may upset some people.
I’m talking about criminal justice reform the day after a horrific attack on police officers. I’m talking about courageous, honorable police officers just a few days after officer-involved killings in Louisiana and Minnesota. I’m bringing up guns in a country where merely talking about comprehensive background checks, limits on assault weapons and the size of ammunition clips gets you demonized.
But all these things can be true at once.
We do need police and criminal justice reforms, to save lives and make sure all Americans are treated as equal in rights and dignity.
We do need to support police departments and stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us.
We do need to reduce gun violence.
We may disagree about how, but surely we can all agree with those basic premises. Surely this week showed us how true they are.
I’ve been thinking today about a passage from Scripture that means a great deal to me — maybe you know it, too:
“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”
There is good work for us to do, to find a path ahead for all God’s children. There are lost lives to redeem and bright futures to claim. We must not lose heart.
May the memory of those we’ve lost light our way toward the future our children deserve.
Donald Trump’s July 8th statement:
Last night’s horrific execution-style shootings of 12 Dallas law enforcement officers – five of whom were killed and seven wounded – is an attack on our country. It is a coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe.
We must restore law and order. We must restore the confidence of our people to be safe and secure in their homes and on the street.
The senseless, tragic deaths of two people in Louisiana and Minnesota reminds us how much more needs to be done.
This morning I offer my thoughts and prayers for all of the victims’ families, and we pray for our brave police officers and first responders who risk their lives to protect us every single day.
Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they’ve lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better. This isn’t the American Dream we all want for our children.
This is a time, perhaps more than ever, for strong leadership, love and compassion. We will pull through these tragedies.
So there you have it, the two leading presidential candidates, expressing themselves in terms which give some hope that they understand what our families, communities, states, nation and to a great extent, our world is facing as we move forward.
It is my hope that despite all of the negativity, vitriol and divisiveness in the name of politics we can come to a place which brings us to pledge to participate as informed, active and dedicated voters.
Please do not fall into the trap of complacency, but take every opportunity to learn about how each of us has the opportunity and obligation to be full participants as citizens of this nation.
Here are the two leading candidates’ official websites if you want to examine their positions on issues:
Hillary Clinton: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/
Donald Trump: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/
We are about to experience the national conventions of our two leading political parties. Here are the dates and official websites for these conventions:
The Republicans convene in Cleveland July 18-21 http://convention.gop/
The Democrats convene in Philadelphia July 25 -28 https://demconvention.com/
About the author –
Founder, 4Generations Institute
The Advocate’s Credo:
Thou art my child, my parent, and my elder,
I love thee best,
But could not love thee half as much,
Loved I not all the rest.