It is hard to draft words when you know from the beginning they won’t be sufficient.
This editorial cannot fully reflect our clashing emotions nor solve the problems that render wiser men and women silent. Still, we turn to words, because we wish to offer something.
Hearts grow weak in the flickering lights of heart-wrenching news footage and online videos. We’ve watched the easily avoidable death of a compliant man at the hands of police; peaceful protests that were met with violence; and riots that shatter hopes and dreams. We’ve watched blood and fire, heroes and villains, and hate and tears fill our screens.
The cascade of chaotic, conflicting images makes it hard to focus. It’s tempting to oversimplify the situation by focusing on one party. However, we are left with an incomplete picture if we concentrate on just one part. Though it will test us and make us uncomfortable, we must take in the good, the bad and the ugly.
We’ve seen people prove their commitment to noble causes with their actions, be it pacifists who spoke up in the face of violence, or police officers who engaged with critics to find common ground. In many places, demonstrations took place without incident with the support and even participation of law enforcement. We’re pleased to see positive local examples, such as the protesters in Rock Springs and statements from Sheriff John Grossnickle and Rock Springs Police Chief Dwane Pacheco denouncing the action and inaction of bad cops.
Meanwhile, it’s been disappointing to see more regrettable actions, such as the places where rioting and arson left scars and rubble. Instigators and opportunists are often attracted to tragic circumstances. While both protesters and officials have worked to curtail their efforts, too often the malefactors have been successful.
Worst of all, the outrage prompted by images of police brutality still grows as more examples of police brutality come to light on a daily basis. A small amount, but still too many, are abusing their authority and responding disproportionally to those with less power. It’s sickening. This demands more attention and correction.
In the heat of the moment, it’s difficult to separate the innocent from the criminals, but it is important to try, because it is unjust to treat one like the other. Our country, our people, have suffered blow after blow this year. In many cases our finances and emotions were already strained before the coronavirus, which is likely to see an increase in areas where people gathered in close quarters. Though exhausted and drained on every imaginable level, we cannot remain inactive now.
This is a time for accountability, not whataboutism, a tactic meant to distract and change the subject. The crimes of looters should not be used as an excuse to forget about those who drive through barricades and strike protesters, or vice versa. We should not excuse the actions of one because another has sinned. We believe most people are intelligent enough to recognize that the crimes of one person do not make another innocent.
One of the most disappointing truths is that recent events have not revealed anything new. The ideal remains that every American be treated the same in our country and enjoy the same opportunities, but that is not the reality for everyone.
The Bible tells the parable of a shepherd who left his flock in search of a missing sheep. It’s not that he loved the lost lamb more or the herd less; it’s just one was in trouble and needed his help. We see similar intentions displayed when there are calls to save the rainforest, preserve a local landmark, or help a business or family that has fallen on bad times. We display kindness and compassion when we seek to help, not favoritism or bias. It’s the right thing to do, and we don’t know if one day we’ll be lost and in need of rescue ourselves.
Words aren’t always enough, especially in times like these. We cannot summon widespread personal or systematic change overnight. It will take time to bring about the creation and empowerment of citizen review boards, new laws, zero-tolerance policies, and recertification standards based on meeting higher expectations. It will take sustained efforts to convict the guilty and weed out the unfit.
There are fires in America today, and while words alone can’t stop it, they can raise awareness and mobilize willing hands. The conversations and debates we have today can turn things around tomorrow. The more generations talk about our past mistakes and current pain, the better chance we have of learning from mistakes and moving in a new direction.
To have worth, words must be followed with action. Some troubles stem from broken promises and unfulfilled pledges.
When the alarm sounds, it’s great when many people echo the call, but it’s better for everyone to come together to fight it.
To remain inactive is to add to the destruction. There’s no neutrality in a fire – you’re either with the flames or the firefighters.
The burden is on each of us to do our part to stop the inferno.