We are proud to claim several policemen and women as members of our parish. I nurture a strong admiration and deep affection for them. I admire them because wherever there is a crisis they are there to help. When someone has a stroke or heart attack, they rush to their side. When there is a road accident they are there to bring aid. They are there to solve marital conflicts and family feuds. Even when crowds are protesting against the police, they are there to protect the very same people. I admire their willingness to serve tirelessly and even to sacrifice their very lives so that all of us can live in peace and freedom.
Now you can imagine how the killing of those police officers in Dallas affected me. At first I was angry – not only at the killer but also at the condition of our society. Then I was afraid, wondering whether we will plunge into some sort of class or race war. I have always cherished the sense of community that we can palpably feel here in the US. I became fearful that we may lose that precious sense. At the same time, I felt helpless as I watch these two-year-old protests apparently spiral out of control.
Even as we condemn this dastardly act of ambushing the very individuals who protect the community, we must be careful not to give in to hate or to desire retaliation. While there may be a few officers who might have done bad things – this can happen in any profession – the vast majority of these men and women serve selflessly with noble intentions. They do not discriminate. It is easy to paint everyone with a huge brush and label them as bad.
Even when video evidence seems to be present at some of those police shootings of African Americans, people should be careful not to rush to premature judgment. I am not questioning the veracity of those videos. They do tell a story. However, they do not tell the whole story. Very often we do not know what transpired before the video was recorded or what exchange occurred between the officers and the victim. People should allow due process to take place and the justice system to do its job.
At this point, we pray for calm and serenity. We call for unity. We should not pit one group against the other. We must remind ourselves that we are all citizens of the same country. Policemen and women deserve our trust and respect. People should not view them as adversaries. Even in those attacks in Dallas, an African American woman praised an officer who sacrificed his own life to protect her and her four children. We must do all in our power that these generous individuals who protect others must themselves be safe and secure.
In spite of centuries of wars and killings, we have not yet learned that violence does not solve problems. It creates more problems than it pretends to solve. It tries to take a short cut but in the process loses the way. We need to heed the call of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said in one of his sermons:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it… Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate… Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Reflecting on the recent terrorist acts around the world, Rabbi Michael Lerner has written a lengthy essay calling on all Americans to pause and reflect. According to him, people resort to violence because they have forgotten that every life is precious, that everyone is sacred. We have begun to treat each other as objects, as means to an end. We have forgotten that human persons cannot be a means for me to reach my goals. Human beings are an end in themselves. Rabbi Lerner feels that resorting to violence is an act of de-sanctification. He writes:
When people have learned to de-sanctify each other, to treat each other as means to our own ends, to not feel the pain of those who are suffering, we end up creating a world in which these kinds of terrible acts of violence become more common. This is a world out of touch with itself, filled with people who have forgotten how to recognize and respond to the sacred in each other because we are so used to looking at others from the standpoint of what they can do for us, how we can use them toward our own ends.
In our Christian faith, we believe that each and every one of us came from the hand of God. We are His children. When we forget our common humanity, it is easy to wreak violence on others. I would like to quote Rabbi Lerner again:
We should pray for the victims and the families of those who have been hurt or murdered in these crazy acts. Yet we should also pray that America does not return to "business as usual," but rather turns to a period of reflection, coming back into touch with our common humanity, asking ourselves how our institutions can best embody our highest values. We may need a global day of atonement and repentance dedicated to finding a way to turn the direction of our society at every level, a return to the most basic Biblical ideal: that every human life is sacred, that "the bottom line" should be the creation of a world of love and caring, and that the best way to prevent these kinds of acts is not to turn ourselves into a police state, but turn ourselves into a society in which social justice, love, and compassion are so prevalent that violence becomes only a distant memory.
Let us pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom of love and peace, mercy and forgiveness!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...