This is certainly not in any related to this website, and completely opinion based, but I have had a large amount on my mind and heart over the last few months, so I feel the need to rant a bit. I apologize in advance for the length, but every word is from the heart, that I promise.
Full disclosure. Anyone who has read my stories knows that I am a very religious person. I am by no means perfect; I simply try to be my best and do a little better every day, but that background does shape my worldview a great deal. In addition, my political viewpoints do fall squarely on the conservative side of the spectrum. All this is to say, unequivocally, that nothing I say in this rant should be in any way taken as fact. These are merely the observations I have had in regards to the events across our great nation in recent months. I hold no grudge against any who would disagree with me, and I hope that those who do disagree may find my words thought-provoking and helpful for them to further understand why they believe the way they believe. Ok, Public Service Announcement over...
Having watched the non-stop coverage of the violence and tension pulling our populace apart at the seams has been exceedingly disheartening, on multiple levels. There are multiple theories and opinions at the heart of these events, from racial prejudice, to guns, to oversized police forces, to mental health. Each of these theories has merit in the right situations, however, I feel that the ultimate issue has been completely overlooked. Almost every one of these situations boil down to a single problem: respect for life, or lack thereof.
I have found that most of the recent violent occurrences in our nation can be placed in one of three categories: acts of terrorism meant to target the American way of life, criminal acts of personal depravity or hatred, and individual incidents in which poor decisions led to unnecessary violence. The first category, acts of terror, are perhaps the ones that incite the most anger within me personally. The United States of America may not be perfect, but there is truly no freer nation in the world, nor has there ever been, than our nation. While I may disagree with the path the country may be heading down, there is still no safer alternative. For example, I personally feel that the Supreme Court decision in regards to gay marriage was an overreach, and an infringement on the states' rights. In spite of this, it can always be worse, such as in countries where any individual deemed to be gay or lesbian, often with no trial or proof, is immediately taken into custody and imprisoned, perhaps even executed. Despite my disagreement with the Supreme Court, there is still no country in the world today that I'd rather live in. There may perhaps come a time when I no longer feel that way, but that day has not yet come.
This is ultimately why these acts of terror anger me so much. Not only do the perpetrators seek to destroy the nation that has protected the inherent freedoms of Mankind better than any other nation, they often do so in the most cowardly ways imaginable. Take the Chattanooga shooting, for example. The shooter deliberately wanted to target U.S. soldiers, supposedly attacking the very might of the nation itself. However, he did not attack a military base; he attacked a recruiting station. This is an area within which, despite all of the soldiers' elite training, they are not allowed to carry weapons. I will not delve further into that point, though, as that is a completely different discussion. The point is that this radical madman decided to target an area that he knew would be defenseless, further confirming his depravity and lack of respect for life in general. In the face of all of this, the soldiers in that recruiting center fought back as best as they could, shuffling out as many people as they were able to in the little time they had. They pushed as many people as they could out the back door and helped them over fences to escape the property, with five soldiers losing their lives in the process.
In Orlando, a similarly depraved radical decides to attack a nightclub. He initially considered a higher-profile target: Disney World. However, as before, he was a coward with no respect for human life, and chose the easy mark where the most damage could be done. Once he was inside the nightclub, the result was literally a bloodbath: 49 Americans killed. Much has been made of the fact that it was a gay nightclub, and speculation that the shooter may have been a closet homosexual. I, however, fail to see the relevance. Downplaying this as an attack on a specific demographic ignores the facts that all of the individuals killed were Americans and that the monster who killed them declared his loyalty to ISIS, a group hellbent on destroying our very way of life. These 49 people were all Americans, and I personally refuse to dishonor their memories by pigeonholing them as anything less than that. They are our fellow Americans, and they were attacked by a coward. That is more than enough.
The most recent tragedy we have experienced was one far different than the previous two I have mentioned. In Dallas, a man filled with nothing but hate for people he has never met decided to take up arms as a sniper and murder five police officers. He declared no loyalty to any outside group; he was, in fact, former U.S. military. After authorities raided his house, it became exceedingly clear from his writings that this man wanted specifically to kill white people and most notably white police officers. Finally, he again proved himself a coward by picking the most cowardly time to target these officers. He didn't approach their precinct for a shootout. He targeted these men as they stood guard during a peaceful protest of the Black Lives Matter movement. Equally as painful as this shooting was the Charleston shooting last year, in which a man filled with similar hate walked into a historically black church, sat through an entire bible study class, and proceeded to murder nine people in cold blood. As with the Dallas shooter, he targeted these people specifically for their race, stating by witness accounts that he was targeting people that "rape our women and take over our country."
Both of these accounts, despite the opposing races of the criminals and the victims, highlight the same core issue: lack of respect for human life. We are an enormous country, and it's flat out impossible for everyone to agree at any point in time. However, when a basic respect of human life is instilled within our moral compass, these disagreements never escalate to be anything more than disagreements. Some have argued that guns were the problem in these cases, but no gun laws would have stopped the Charleston shooter from doing the same exact things with a knife or machete. The only thing that would have stopped either of these monsters is their own conscience. That little flame inside their minds to tell them that this is not the right path, that it's never alright to take an innocent life.
So how does the country move forward? Can the country move forward? It can, and it will, but only if courageous, level-headed people stand up and say the things that need to be said, even if they are unpopular. As I previously mentioned, the country is currently being torn apart at the seams, particularly in regards to racial tension between police forces and America's black communities. This, as we know, has given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. Often this has caused people to ask this question: Do you side with the police or the protesters? I ask the less popular question: Why do you feel you have to take sides?
There have been an increasing number of single encounters between citizens and police officers made public, largely due to the advent of social media in today's society. This can be both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that a citizen has at their fingertips the ability to exercise their right to keep their own documentation of their encounters with legal authorities. However, it is a curse in that such videos are frequently used by so-called leaders on either side of the issue for the purpose of whipping people into a frenzy without allowing the legal system the chance to get things right. Social media, in the wrong hands, begins to erode the foundation of "Innocent until proven guilty."
The problem with such frenzied responses is that there is an enemy in this situation, but it's not the police, and it's not Black Lives Matter. It is a lack of empathy, which is a dangerous path that leads to the aforementioned lack of respect for life. Do I believe that white cops are out to kill black people? Hell no. I respect police officers, have my entire life. Do I believe that good police officers naturally become more cautious around young black males? Yes I do, since young black males, statistically, commit violent crimes disproportionate to their percentage of the population. This does not make these good cops racist, however; their apprehension is understandable, and the good cops can have this apprehension while still making the best decisions possible in the heat of the moment. There are bad cops; I am not naive enough to think that there aren't. By and large, however, I still believe that the police are the good guys, for us all.
I know that many precincts are working to instill empathy within their officers, cautioning them against certain actions in certain situations. The danger in this is that they will not react as quickly in a situation that does warrant instant reaction, which is a legitimate fear with how dangerous their lives are. Still, the effort is being made, and I hope it does not go unnoticed. Likewise, anyone who is stopped by a police officer should also try to exercise empathy, in my humble opinion. Remember, there are few situations more dangerous for a single police officer than a roadside traffic stop. It's completely random; literally anything can happen. Do everything you can to make their job safe and easy, while still knowing your rights. If an officer asks if you have weapons in the vehicle, do not move your hands, and use your words to explain where the weapons are and what they look like. Any cop worth their salt knows that, barring travel on government property, a citizen is allowed to have a weapon in their car, as it is an extension of their home. They simply need to ascertain the location of all possible threats to their immediate safety so that both parties can proceed safely with the traffic stop.
Sadly, we do have a recent incident where, based on cell phone video, it appears that an individual involved in a traffic stop did all of the things I recommended and still lost his life. That saddens me to no end. Ultimately, even if 99.9% of police are good, as I believe, there are still a few bad apples. They exist, just as racist madmen with guns exist, and just as terrorists hellbent on our destruction exist. It is a terrifying truth, but attempting to combat them by shouting down those who view the situation differently than you do will only play into the hands of them. If we give in to fear and paranoia, we lose. Period. If we ignore our moral compass and lose our respect for life, we lose. Period. Guns are not the problem, police are not the problem, peaceful protesters are not the problem. Respect for life is the problem. So many people in positions of power do not understand this.
The media reports wall-to-wall coverage in the name of ratings, knowing that riots and rowdy protesters are fantastic for attracting viewers. President Obama has in the past told his supporters to "Get up in the faces of those who disagree with you and shout them down." This was one of the most infuriating things for me to witness from a so-called leader. However, the Republicans and Democrats alike now are doubling down on that strategy, with the Democrats poised to nominate someone who, were it not for her last name, would likely be on trial right now. The Republicans, the party that I typically side with, are no better, thinking of nominating a man who does not believe in their ideals and divides people just as much as Obama has, saying things like "Get his ass outta here!" Or, "I'd like to punch him in the face!" These sorts of people are not going to lead us to a solution to this tension. These sorts of statements do not promote empathy or respect for life. The only thing that will, as I said, is for true leaders to step up and lead, even if it means saying things that will be portrayed as unpopular by the American Media. That's what real leadership is.
I am so sorry to have rambled on like this for so long, but I feel that these things must be gotten off my chest. If you have made it this far, I thank you, and I hope you have found my ramblings thought-provoking, regardless of whether you agree or disagree. If nothing else, maybe my ramblings can give someone, somewhere, a bit of peace in the midst of all this madness. Thank you, and God forever bless the United States of America.