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What Are We Talking About? 09.30.2016

In the 1980s “Operation Rescue” made newspaper headlines on a regular basis as pro-life activists organized sit-ins and rallies near abortion providers throughout the United States. At that time, legalized abortion was a hot-button topic in our country, but it was often difficult or impossible to engage in reasonable debate on the subject of abortion because there were multiple ways to frame the arguments surrounding abortion. One side called themselves “pro-life” while referring to the other side “pro-abortion.” The other side called themselves “pro-choice” while referring to the other side as “anti-abortion.” Those on each side of the abortion issue generally only communicated in their own language, each claiming the high-ground of either “life” or “choice” – both American values worth fighting (and historically, dying) for. Without a willingness to listen to the language of the other side or at least to agree with each other on what language was going to be spoken, most discussions related to abortion were pointless.

Currently, our national headlines (of which their are exponentially more than during the 1980s thanks to the internet) focus on black-lives-ended-by-police. It’s not a surprise to any of us when each new week brings another controversial shooting, and the immediate reaction by all of us (and by “us” I actually mean the internet, which seems to be the tool we are using to define ourselves as a culture) is to start firing off opinions about the particular incident in question or about those who have already voiced their opinions about the particular incident in question. Pictures are posted, pieces of video are released, accusations are hurled and headlines (clickbait?) are made. Just as with the abortion issue, black-death-by-police is a supremely important issue for our nation. It should be unacceptable for our police force to be involved in unwarranted killings of our nation’s citizens. It should also be unacceptable for our nation’s citizens to irresponsibly deride the police force which provides us with the stability and order that allows us to live our lives from day to day.

But in trying to make sense of what’s going on in America right now with the hope that I can perhaps be a productive peacemaker within my circle of influence, I have little idea what anyone is talking about. Once again, one part of us (again . . . by “us” I mean the internet) is speaking one language: “police are bad.” Another part is speaking a different language: “police are doing the best they can in seemingly impossible situations.”

I see people talking but not listening. I see seven-second sound bites offered as “truth” without critical reflection. I see opinion after opinion after opinion – mostly based on our emotional reactions. What I don’t see is a concerted national effort to seek THE Truth.

So where do we go from here? There has to be an agreeable starting point for a discussion on race relations specific to police-related deaths, doesn’t there? What is that starting point?

Maybe I’m a dinosaur because I still believe in notions of Truth even though the culture I live in has seemingly abandoned Truth for a philosophy that says our truth is based on how we feel at any given moment. Maybe America has passed its point of no return when it comes to societal breakdowns because we primarily engage via the internet which seems to feed our “I’m right and anyone who isn’t like me is wrong” mentality. Maybe the cold hard truth is that a foundational value of America – the preservation of our individual rights – inevitably leads to disunity because for 250 years we’ve all been seeking after our own individual good regardless of what the consequences of that good might be to others.

Even if all these “maybes” accurately reflect our current national situation, I remain compelled to seek answers that will enable me to take personal responsibility with regard to my place as a citizen of the United States. But what do I do? What is the starting point?

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