You Are Part of the Problem

I spent last week with my family in the mountains of Colorado. The cabin we stayed in is a precious place to us, with everything we need to be comfortable–with the notable absence of TV, internet, and cell reception. It’s a place where we have no choice but to unplug and get off the grid. It’s not always easy, but in this age of constant connection, a forced fast from the constant barrage of other people’s thoughts is a gift.

And it usually leads to a bit of whiplash when we re-enter the world, as it did on Saturday as we drove back across New Mexico. It was there that we learned a man had shot a dozen Dallas police officers, killing five, under the cover of a Black Lives Matter rally on Thursday.

Since the event was already two days old, we learned of it at the same time we saw the last two days’ worth of discussion about who did what, who should have done what, and who had said and done the wrong things since then. We saw the praise for the Dallas police chief and his department at their conduct during and after the shooting. We saw the panicked condemnation of the way the officers on the ground chose to end the standoff. We saw praise and condemnation for the Black Lives Matter movement. We saw a friend of mine attacked on Facebook for using the all lives matter hashtag, attacked for being a racist when it was clear she was simply trying to promote peace.

It was then I realized we are all part of the problem. Every one of us, myself included, contributes to the intolerance and rage we see nearing the boiling point in our country.

If your first impulse when hearing a police officer has shot an unarmed black man is to wonder what the man did to get himself shot, you are part of the problem.

If your first impulse is to assume the officer is racist and killed a man for no better reason than the color of his skin, you are part of the problem.

If your first impulse is to excuse the officer’s conduct because, well, he deals with dangerous people all the time and he’s just human, you are part of the problem.

If your first impulse is to use the shooting to advance your own agenda, you are part of the problem.

If you rush to social media to condemn one or the other party without waiting to learn details, you are part of the problem.

If you assume all black people are thugs because of the actions of a few, you are part of the problem.

If you assume all police officers are racist and too quick on the trigger because of the actions of a few, you are part of the problem.

If you think you know what goes on inside someone else’s head when they are in fear for their lives, you are part of the problem.

If you think you know how to solve our nation’s problems, and your description of the solution includes the word only or all, you are part of the problem.

If you think the solution to our problems is for three hundred million of us to act like you think your grandparents did, you are part of the problem.

If you choose to take offense because someone used words you don’t like without taking time to consider the context of those words, you are part of the problem.

If you take time to gather information before you speak, if all your statements are well-reasoned and non-inflammatory–and you never live the advice you give, never live the words you preach, you are part of the problem.

You are part of the problem. So am I.

Let’s start acknowledging most of us don’t know the things we need to know to do better. And let’s resolve to learn them. Let’s admit that we are all human, prone to error and built to love, and let’s figure out how to love a little better. Let’s admit we are all part of the problem–and let’s find the courage to do something about that.

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.
  • This is the truth. I love the line about the grandparents. It is all messy and complicated – the problems and the solutions.

    • H. Scott Dalton

      It’s very messy. That’s why (or because) we’re all part of the problem. But that means we can all be part of the solution, too. Thanks!

  • Pingback: Assuming Offense – Courage Counts()