Editorial: We reap what we sow
When will we learn that violence only leads to more violence?
People across the nation are protesting over the shooting death of a young African American at the hands of a white police officer in Missouri. It is indeed a tragedy, and not something that should be handled casually, but when you look around our country, can you really say such a thing surprises you?
By default – through our rhetoric, taste for violence in movies and television, and growing gun culture – we create a backdrop for violence.
We should be alarmed when a police officer shoots anyone, especially unarmed individuals, but consider for a moment the culture we ask our officers to operate in today. It is a great responsibility, and we do expect the most from those we entrust to keep us safe, but the stress of that responsibility and the split-second decisions that must be made are horrible to place in anyone's hands.
Yes, the officer in question should be held accountable, but so should all the rest of us. We live in the society we created and until we choose to make it different we will see these acts of violence grow.
Most who protested the shooting in Missouri have done so peacefully, but some resorted to violence and looting, which drew a forceful reaction by police. This only magnified the perception that the police are nothing but violent, but again, violence leads to more violence, and as tensions rise we should never expect anything less than an equally senseless reaction to senseless acts.
So far, in 2014, 33 officers nationwide have been killed by gunfire or vehicular assault. In 2013, that number – including stabbings and a bombing – was 38. Law enforcement officers face regular threats online and defiant citizens from every walk of life. If we create a situation where they suspect violence is coming, it becomes difficult to expect them to not be on edge and expecting it.
There are bad officers. There are racist officers and those who just seek violence, but those are the exception, not the rule. There is no place for these individuals among our la enforcement organizations, but just like in the rest of society they are often difficult to identify.
The real trick to eliminating this risk of senseless violence and unnecessary death is to make violence a rarity and something we are shocked by in every circumstance.