On Baltimore

Both sides are pointing fingers, calling each other names, each blaming the other for the violence that consumed much of Baltimore last week. Politicians are trying to figure out what to say about race and law enforcement in our country, scrambling for words that minimize their own commitments and do as little damage as possible to their chances for re-election. Unelected thought leaders on the TV and radio are weighing in with opinions that are designed to be divisive, because nothing sells air time like a good fight.

And they’re all wrong.

Goals Status:

  • Marathon: On Track. I’m heading out for a four-mile run as soon as I finish this.
  • Two Square Yards of Earth: Still Stalled.
  • 100 Posts: Behind Schedule. This is my 33rd post for the year.

A lawyer once explained going to court to me this way: Nobody goes to court until everybody’s wrong. If somebody is clearly right, you don’t need a judge to decide. A little simplistic, maybe, but it tells us a little about Baltimore.

I think the situation in Baltimore, and the one in New York, and the one in Ferguson, and everywhere else black people fear police more than white people do, can be compared to a court case–both sides are wrong. Anyone who claims the police are blameless in these situations is guilty of wishful thinking, at best; while individual incidents may or may not be proven to have been motivated by an officer’s biases, the cover-ups and dodging of responsibility when something happens don’t help the police in the long run. And anyone who claims the people of Baltimore or Ferguson or New York or anywhere else are blameless is simply ignoring the facts; if a police bias exists, you don’t overcome it by looting and burning.

New laws aren’t the solution, either. A new law may set the conditions for people to fix what’s wrong, but the law can’t do the hard work we have to do to stop these incidents from happening. Neither can politicians. Neither can unelected thought leaders.

The truth is, getting our country to a place where people, white or black or brown or gay or straight or whatever don’t fear the people who are there to protect them, and don’t fear each other, won’t happen quickly and it won’t be easy. Because until we do the hard work of overcoming our own fears, until we reach out to our neighbors without waiting for them to reach out to us, until we can love each other without conditions or clauses or biases getting in the way–we can expect more Fergusons and Baltimores.

As long as there’s a we and a they, we haven’t done that. We can’t love they. We can only love we.

And that means I have to love you, whoever you are, without waiting to find out anything about you.

That’s where the hard work is. That’s what scares the hell out of every one of us. Because very, very few of us have ever had the courage to reach that point.

That’s my goal. Will you join me?

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.
  • Nancy Barber

    Of course. Also, I saw one thing consistent when someone posted links to destructive “riots” after sports games on FB, too. Young men. I’m wondering if every young man had a mentor if this would help? As the mother of a young man, I can see how difficult it is for them to simply find a job. I wish millions of older men would step up.

    • H. Scott Dalton

      Excellent point, Nancy. As the father of a young man and a mentor to others through Boy Scouts, I really can’t speak for millions of older men. All I can really do is step up myself, and encourage others to do the same as best they can. Thanks for being part of the conversation!

  • Truth.

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