Tuesday, June 2, 2020

We’ve Been Here Before—And It's Time We Stop

Lest somebody misinterpret what I’m reflecting on in this post, let me first say this:

Whether we call it murder or willful manslaughter (I find it difficult to grasp the nuances of what determines the legal difference when the murder is not premeditated), the death of George Floyd was an unjustifiable act of police brutality that must be condemned. Those involved should be held accountable to the degree they were responsible for the death. When it comes to discussing this, there should be no “but” in our words that negates our condemnation. If there is some sort of regional or national problem that makes his death a “symptom” of a greater problem, we should be looking into what sort of just response needs to be carried out to correct it quickly (as opposed to a meaningless gesture).


NOTHING that I say below should be interpreted as trying to downplay that evil.

What I have to say next is not an attempt to defend or explain away any injustice, past present or future. Nor is it a blanket accusation. If you’re not guilty of what I’m about to discuss, then I’m not speaking about you. Only God has knowledge of what’s in your hearts. I do not.

Having issued my statement against that evil act, I find myself dismayed to see once again how the tragedy of the death of this man is—like every other tragedy caused by evil—being exploited by some (not all) people who use it to attack the factions they were already opposed to. 

Let’s face it. We’ve been here before, and every time we arrive, we leave with no changes except a greater divide between us. We have too often seen the unjust killing of a person, followed by rioting, followed by people making excuses for those who unjustly killed or those who unjustly rioted. Under this endless cycle, nothing ever gets done because nobody ever tries to break away from it. In fact, it’s always the fault of the “other side” that an evil happens. 

Think about the noise for a moment. Think about how many times over the years decades you have heard some people say that “if he had only cooperated with the police, this wouldn’t have happened” or “the fact that this happened is because of national racism.” Now think of the silence—the silence over the thing happening when our favored party is in power but was condemned when the other party was in charge. The silence is about as deafening as the noise.

What I’m speaking about here isn’t just a problem with America’s shameful history of minorities being terrorized by bad cops. Whether it’s racist cops and rioting here, or terrorism followed by the mistreatment of migrants all over the world, we will always find people coming up with unjustifiable “justifications” that this is tragic but unavoidable, while that is condemned as a proof of evil by the other side. Often people combine the two. Some ask, “Why are we focusing on this when we don’t get upset by a worse issue?” To argue that way falls into a tu quoque fallacy where the evil of group A that we oppose cancels out the evil of group B that we favor. 

I’m saying that if we want to work for justice, we need to stop making excuses for one side and focusing on the evils of the other. We must look at ourselves too and see if we’re being hypocrites by way of selective outrage. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) tells us that whatever we want others to do to us, we must do to them. If we want others to behave justly towards us, we must behave justly towards them. Because, while people are not very good at seeing their own hypocrisy, they are very good in seeing it in others. So, if we’re outraged at others for turning a blind eye to something, be aware that they’re looking at us in the same way. Both sides look at each other with disgust and nothing gets done.

That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about speaking out against an evil until we clean up our own mess. Evil must be opposed wherever it rises up, after all. But it does mean that opposing evil is not limited to pointing fingers at the other side. Remember, the “other side” is doing the same thing about us.” If we get angry at them labeling us hypocrites, then let us be sure they have no opportunity to justly do so.

At this point, I figure the reader either understands what I am saying, or wrongly thinks I am siding with one of the factions. So, there’s probably not much more I can say. So, to wrap up, I would say this: regardless of what we do, there will always be some sort of appalling evil we will need to respond to. In facing that evil, we will need to be certain that we scrutinize our own motives and demands for hypocrisy, eliminating when we see it. Otherwise, the other hypocrites will use our hypocrisy to justify their own stance. And nothing will be done.

We’ve been here before too many times already.

And it’s time we stop.



(†) Regardless of whether they reciprocate.

(‡) Unfortunately, we have the example of the “Original Pro-Life Movement” vs. the “New Pro-Life Movement” continuously falls into this trap, both accusing anyone calling for them to clean up their own house of insisting on this.

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