“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
Evil violence was perpetrated upon George Floyd. It was appalling. It was wrong. And it was also, in its way, a kind of violence against all of the actions and progress made in America over the last several decades to right the wrongs of racial inequity.
The reaction to this horror was further violence in cities across the nation. Are we now at a place where the evil of violence has become, as Gandhi predicted, “permanent?” Let us hope – and work together to ensure– that is not the case.
America is better than that ugly display of hatred by Minneapolis police officers. We are better than the resulting violence of rioting and looting—as demonstrated by those many individuals who are instead engaging in peaceful protest. All of these violent acts are inconsistent with a far more common experience of basic decency evident in innumerable situations of daily life. Simple kindness, respectful language, and a general sense of unity are not Pollyannaish ideals. They are the way most Americans – of all races – choose to behave and live their lives.
To be sure, there is hate in the world and in the United States. Violence in the service of hate occurs daily. Statistics on murders on our city streets are reported almost casually after each bloody weekend in Chicago or Baltimore. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many others reflect the worst of who we can be. But this does not reflect America at large. Our country may have its flaws, but all Americans largely are doing our best, and working on educating ourselves to do even better.
Throughout our country, grassroots efforts are underway to create greatly improved educational opportunities for young children in minority communities. One of the very first priorities when Covid-19 closed schools was a recognition by states nationwide that school-based feeding programs were essential to the health of young people and their families and needed to be sustained. Neighbors reaching out to neighbors to provide emotional, spiritual and physical care and support were reported daily in the national news. None of this was hateful. All of it was helpful.
Put simply, America is far better than what we saw in the treatment of George Floyd. It is far better than the vigilantism that resulted in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. It is far better than the violence unfolding in our cities.
We can and must do more. We can and will learn and grow from this tragedy. We can and must recognize, as the common mantra of Covid-19 expressed, we are all in this together.
That idea of togetherness leads us to consider basic truths that might help to guide our thinking as we work our way out of the current cycle of violence. These are:
– All people are equal.
– All people have inherent dignity, value and importance.
– All people are worthy of respect, acknowledgement and appreciation.
– All people are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
– All people have a duty to strive for fairness, foster community, advance equity and commit to dialogue.
– All people must communicate in a manner that demonstrates empathy, listens to hurt, advocates for equality and promotes harmony.
– All people have a responsibility to care about and take care of others. This responsibility includes being outraged, yet motivated toward positive action when any of us is harmed.
It may also be worth considering a most important truth spoken by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. :
“Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”
If we can accept these truths, we can work together for peace and make a better world.