I closed down my blog and went away to pray. I often do that.
I used to go to a nearby church and sit with the Host. That was closed during the COVID-19 shutdown, so I found other places. One place I go to pray in the mornings is my parents’ grave. Another is a serene spot in my back yard. Sometimes, I play the piano and my prayer is music.
Last Friday, I went to Mama and Daddy’s grave. On the way back, I passed a police officer in a patrol cruiser, parked on the side of the road behind a row of trees, waiting to give tickets to speeders. I almost stopped, went up and knocked on his window to talk to him. I think the next time I see a cop sitting alone like that, I will stop.
I want to understand what is driving the murderous rage that the police are exhibiting all around our nation. What is wrong with them, and by that I mean what is wrong with them as people, not police officers.
I’ve seen too many videos of the police looking right at a completely non-violent reporter or an old man or a woman alone and shooting, tasing, strong-arming them. I’ve seen people go almost limp in front of cops, trying to convey that they are not “provoking” them because of the evidently well-founded belief that if you “provoke” a cop, you somehow or other have revoked all your unalienable rights as a human being and the cop may kill you at will. I’ve seen groups of male police beat 100-pound women with night sticks like a pack of vicious dogs. They kept on beating these young women long after they were lying helpless on the ground.
What is wrong with these people with a badge?
Any police officer who seriously thinks that they can kill another person just because that person “provoked” them is not only in the wrong job, they are in the wrong human race. You don’t get do-overs when you kill somebody. Killing is forever. To paraphrase a Talmudic saying, when you kill someone, you kill the world entire.
What could possibly be wrong with these police officers that they don’t see the reality of what they are doing? How can they live with this, and why do those who aren’t turned this way tolerate this behavior in their fellow officers?
I’ve watched enough of these videos and seen enough documentation about the police murders of young black men to be totally confounded. What I sense watching these videos is that our police have an enormous loyalty to one another that transcends their own individual morality and decency. I see group-think and mass rage and more than a little bit of terror and fear.
These cops are scared. And they are angry beyond anger. And they are aggrieved. And many of them have no business with a badge and a gun.
I see people who are looking at the world as a hostile place where their only allies are each other. I see people who need help but are too dangerous, explosive and violently unpredictable to even approach. They remind me of a terrified animal, striking out at everyone.
I’ve had family members in law enforcement and I’ve heard stories. One story was about CLEET training. My family member was in a CLEET class about weaponry or use of force or something of that nature. The class was taught by a veteran officer. The teacher discussed the various issues of the topic with the class, then he added a thought.
“Remember,” he said, “Jesus don’t like no killin’.”
My family member said the whole room fell into a deep silence.
I keep remembering that story as I watch these videos.
When you go out with a gun and point it at another human being, remember, Jesus don’t like no killin’.
We have to remember, these are our police. They work for us. Their charge is to protect and serve, not kill and terrify. Everything they do, they do in our name. If they are violent, racist, cruel, enraged and bullying, that is more than likely because we are those same things ourselves.
These are people who eat in our restaurants, go to our churches, live in our neighborhoods, send their kids to school with ours and show up on Saturdays to watch their kids play soccer with our kids. If their values are askew, then the values of our whole society are probably askew, as well.
I think we spend way too much time patting ourselves on our own moral backs and condemning our neighbors. I also think that political preachers encourage this practice because it increases their ability to control us and sell that control on up the social food chain to increase their own power.
The truth — simple, unvarnished and plain — is that Jesus don’t like no killin’.
If we want change, we’re going to have to change ourselves. Respect for the humanity of every person begins with you, and with me.
If you’re a cop and you’re reading this, that means you too. I know full well that you don’t think I understand what it’s like to be out on patrol in a society that’s coming apart morally. You’re right about that. I don’t understand.
I don’t know what you go through. I don’t know how scary it is. I don’t know how alone it is. I don’t know the barbarism and inhumanity you see and deal with. I don’t know how enraging and degrading dealing with the savagery of our society is to you. I don’t know how funny it can be or what a power rush it gives you or how satisfying it can be to frighten a belligerent person into submission.
I don’t know. Not anything. I don’t know one thing of what your job asks of you, of what it does to you, of what it does for you and gives to you.
I only know that we need you. We need you sane. We need you moral. We need you sound of heart and mind.
Most of all, we need for you to remember, Jesus don’t like no killin’.