As I see it

coroner-16

Heartbreak in America – Graham Hetrick

 

My heart is heavy with concern for my fellow Americans. I was there in the 1960s when we went through the Civil Rights Movement, led by one of the most powerful leaders of the 20th Century. He was a black Baptist minister. The leader he admired most was Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Gandhi helped overthrow the British Empire through ideas, not guns. The only shot that Gandhi knew was the one that took his life, not long after he accomplished freedom for his country.

It is not surprising that this Christian minister from Georgia chose nonviolence as the weapon to bring down institutional racism. Gandhi carried a Bible as one of his most inspirational books, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. followed Gandhi’s concept of moving the world toward good through speaking truth through words of love.

In early July, 12 policemen were shot, and five died on the streets of Dallas, Texas. They were husbands, sons and fathers, both young and middle-aged. I don’t know if they were all white or some were black or Hispanic. I do know they were human. I do know they were brothers. They were at a Black Lives Matter protest to maintain order and to give the protestors the right to a peaceful assembly. Some of the fallen police ran into the direction of gunfire to protect the protestors.  Shortly before the shooting, some of the police were having conversations with the protesters. They were communicating, which will be the key to America’s survival in the coming years.

The United States of America and the concepts of unalienable rights have only been around for 240 years. Most democratic states haven’t survived for very long because individuals have failed to control their personal behavior for the greater good of a free society. When this happens, fear develops, and the masses turn to the central state to replace the power of the individual with a state-mandated order, defined by a ruling elite.

Individual freedom is lost.

Dr. King recognized this and knew that a political solution would not bring real, lasting change; only exposure of wrong, forgiveness by all parties and a sense of human responsibility for our commonness as brothers and sisters would create fundamental change in civil rights.

Dr. King said we must recognize evil. “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Dr. King exposed the evil of racism, and once exposed, minds began to change, both white and black.

Dr. King said,“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Black lives matter, but the very statement begs the concept of “otherness.”  It prevents us from looking at the real issues concerning not just the black population but all Americans.

America is losing hope, and without hope, there is no future for this country – only division. Benjamin Franklin stated something to the same effect: if we don’t stand together, we will hang separately.

Data does not show that police are racist and want to harm blacks. Actually, there are a greater number of white and Hispanics killed by police each year than blacks. I do believe that there are racists within the police force, just as the shooter the other night was a racist when he stated, “I just wanted to kill white police.”  Evil is evil on both sides, and it must be condemned.

Dr. King said, “When you are right, you cannot be too radical – when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.”

When Dr. King spoke of being right, he didn’t mean violence; he meant revealing evil and demonstrating that love could and would overpower evil.  We now live in an America with a declining middle class – millions cannot find work, and many live lives of dependency on a state’s subsistence level, destroying self-worth and suffocating hope for the future. The school system has failed us, and ghettos divide us socially and economically.

Even when the state tries to help, it is reminiscent of the quote by C.K Chesterton: “The government exercises mercy as coldly at it does justice.”

Mercy and love cannot come from the top down; it must come from the bottom up.  I mean from the bottom of each individual heart when they seek justice for others.

Another tragedy I have faced recently was a coroner call the morning after the assassination of the five police officers.  I had a new deputy on a scene, and it was a child death.  We investigate all child deaths to assure the safety of other siblings in the family. The home we visited showed all the signs of inner-city poverty. It was hot, and there was no air-conditioning. There were multiple children in the house, being cared for by relatives rather than parents.  There was a heavy, humid closeness in the air and clutter abounded – not because of slovenliness, but rather from the lack of space and closets. Even food was limited from the looks of the refrigerator. Sadness hung over the scene. Social workers and police seemed overwhelmed looking at the confused expressions on the faces of the deceased baby’s siblings.  An aunt wailed with guttural heart-wrenching cries. I look down at the young woman, perspiration flowing over her body and said, “Give me a hug.”  She grabbed my neck and wailed with pain and her misplaced feeling of guilt for the death.  I looked her directly in the eyes and said, “You did what you could do.” I meant it.

As I left the scene, I passed about five or six police officers.  They, too, were soaked with perspiration, intensified by their dark blue uniforms and Kevlar vests. They were weighed down by the same sadness that I felt – the helpless feeling of being overwhelmed and incapable of changing anything for the good. Again, Dr. King came to my mind. I imagined how he would have grabbed the hands of those police, brought them together with that grieving family and prayed for forgiveness and change.

Dr. King, that blessed soul, said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Let us decide today to walk in the light of altruism and deny the haters on both sides the opportunity to dominate the debate. ◆

Graham Hetrick

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