Can We Stop Circling the Wagons?

I read that 5 police officers were killed in Dallas today during a protest over the killings of two black men – different cities.

I’m going to refrain from analysis of any of the events and let the investigations take place. I have neither the expertise nor insight to, prior to those investigations, offer much more than condolences and sadness.

“Matthew… …ask yourself what you have done to offend them, make them uncomfortable, or cause them to act or react this way.”

What I do wish is that less time was spent by those from any perspective circling their philosophic wagons. That the first response to a black man killed was not – by one group – to vilify all law enforcement or – by another group – exonerate and defend all law enforcement.

This is a philosophic circling of the wagons.

  • All police are not saints and neither are all villains.
  • All black men are not victims and neither are all criminals.
  • An admission by those whose first response is to absolve law enforcement of criticism that the power afforded police can and does lead to misuse and this must be addressed.
  • An admission by those in the black community that urban black culture teaches an often violent response to any show of authority and contributes to conflict.
  • An admission and understanding by the largely white population that growing up black in America is fraught with peril and very real prejudice – that the anger of the black community has some deep-rooted and warranted causes… causes that still exist today.

There are no scores to settle, because in keeping score we are really just keeping a tally on death and sadness. No amount of bodies counted solve the problem.

I want to check my first response – which can be anger at X or Y. Here is why…


Faith and Introspection

I don’t often discuss my faith publicly. Mostly because public politics and religion rarely induces understanding. I am more inclined to discuss such issues over coffee, or wine or beer, or on a hike. One on one – person to person – human to human.

I am a Christian.. as such I believe in the fallibility of people. This idea is often misconstrued and misrepresented by people of faith – my faith – who seem quick to point out the sins of others… other groups and other individuals.

“What’s going on inside of me. I despise my own behavior. This only serves to confirm my suspicions, that I’m still man in need of a savior.”
from In The Light by DC Talk

But my faith, from my perspective, should cause me to look more clearly on my own failings – while extending and representing grace and love to others.

Many years ago I was discussing a professional conflict with a friend. I was frustrated with the situation and at what the other person was doing to make my work and my relationship with my client more challenging.

This woman, took my hands and looked me in the eye.. She asked, “Matthew, before you focus too much attention at what the other person is doing, I want you to ask yourself what you have done to offend them, make them uncomfortable, or cause them to act or react this way. This is a good starting point to help create understanding.”

I’ve tried to remember this conversation. Because she was sweet – and pretty – I suppose I was more susceptible to listening.

I fail in this regard most of the time. My first reaction is to circle my wagons – to protect my turf – to see how I was wronged – to harbor “righteous anger” – to shake my head at how others act. You do the same! Don’t worry – just admit it. It is liberating!

But circling the wagons guarantees we spend our time looking outward, at our “opponent,” not inward, where I believe we should be looking more often and with greater scrutiny. It closes us off as individuals, as communities, and human beings.

What if, rather than circling our wagons –defending our position – we looked more critically at where we stood and with greater understanding at where the “others” stand.

It doesn’t solve yesterday. But maybe it can help give us an opportunity for a more peaceful tomorrow.

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