I am not, and have never been, a fan of former president George W Bush. Even in the aftermath of the Sptember 11 attacks, when he enjoyed a 91% approval rating, I was among the 9% who disapproved of the job he was doing.
Part of my reason for my disapproval even then, was he patently false “they hate us for our freedom” line he gave as his reasoning behind that horrible day nearly fifteen years ago. While I wouldn’t expect the justification for such actions to be easily answered this answer was just too facile, too simplistic, too grossly unrealistic to be even within the top ten reasons for hijacking four airplanes destroying two large buildings and trying to destroy two more, killing nearly three thousand people in the process.
If any introspection occurred within the Bush administration, asking the question of what of our actions might have yielded such a horrific backlash, it did not take place publicly. When you add on the observations of Timothy McVeigh during his time in combat during the first Iraq war, it seems to me as though some things we might be doing, aren’t exactly hobgoblins of the freedoms our enemies allegedly hate us for.
That’s not to say we need now or have ever needed to give in to their demands. But it’s a fair question to ask.
I mention this because another horrific event took place in America while I slept last night. I woke up to numerous notifications on my phone about a sniper in a garage, later identified as Micah Johnson, who shot twelve police officers keeping the peace at a Black Lives Matter protest. As of this writing, five of those officers died.
Unlike those of the organizers of the September 11 attacks, Johnson’s motives were patently obvious for anyone willing to pay attention. The protest itself was in response to two highly publicized incidents from the prior 48 hours where a police officer apparently used excessive, nay lethal, force in a traffic stop. That the deceased in both incidents happened to be African American is not a coincidence. There have been numerous such incidents around the country for quite some time, and in recent years we have seen them far more often than anyone, regardless of skin color, should be comfortable with.
That’s why we have the Black Lives Matter movement in the first place. I am not defending Johnson or his actions here, but extreme, prejudiced violence is a consequence of patience wearing too thin. When you see a community terrorized by the people who are supposed to protect them, you will get backlash.
We often see blurbs about the criminal records of the people killed by the cops when the confrontation took place. And to those people I ask, “so what? Is petty larceny or any other minor infraction cause for a death sentence?” We also often see blurbs about how not to provoke the cops; don’t give them reason to mistrust you. But the mistrust — on both sides — has been fomenting for generations. Sure, the cops might not be donning white sheets for a lynching during their off-hours but profiling still persists. And when there is no accountability in the courts, it bespeaks a system that the African American community would not be wrong for regarding as racist or so badly in need of reform, one questions whether it ought to be dismantled completely.
Not all cops are bad cops. Any more than all black people are criminals. If the cop who kills someone over a broken tail light is a bad example for police officers, so, too, is Micah Johnson for the African American community.
Now what can we do to help heal and actually make progress?