Friday, July 8, 2016


Today is witness to still more tragedy in our nation. This time at the hands of someone who has been described as a "sniper," but who I prefer to refer to as, simply, a murderer.

It's got my mind spinning, trying to make sense of what's happening, and one thing keeps pinging in my head - which either means there's truth to it or that I just need to get past it. But I can't help but keep coming back to this idea.

The idea? The monolithic other.

This week we've witnessed horrific tragedy in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis, where two separate incidents saw black men killed by murderers (who were police officers) for, apparently, the crime of being born black. In last night's attack in Dallas, the murderer apparently claimed that he wanted to kill white police officers, all while also stating allegiance to the non-violent Black Lives Matter movement.

A few weeks ago 49 people were gunned down in a nightclub in Orlando for the apparent crime of being LGBT or allies. The murderer in this instance claimed that he was doing this for ISIS, even while he had no prior formal affiliation with the organization and was more likely just a self-loathing gay man who had been taught early and often in life that who he was was an abomination.

Time and again, violence is the outcome - and in the U.S. this violence is particularly potent with the current proliferation of weapons designed solely to kill massive numbers of other human beings.

Last night on the Daily Show, Trevor Noah put it succinctly when he said that one can both be pro-black and pro-cop. We have to stop viewing others as the monolith - all black or all white.

We saw this in this year's Democratic Primary, where expressing certain beliefs either meant one was a "$hill" or a "Bernie Bro," without regard for nuance. We've seen this in the Republican Primary, where anyone not holding up their right hand in allegiance to Herr Drumpf is instantly "other" at his rallies, inviting violence to be visited upon themselves. We see this in every attempt by the media to describe a shooter as a "terrorist," often because they were Muslim. We see this today - at this very moment - as people ascribe violence to the Black Lives Matter movement, all because a single murderer used BLM as cover for a horrific crime against humanity.

There is no all-powerful Democratic machine; there is no singular-minded national police force full of nothing but racists; there isn't a singular banking industry exclusively full of nothing but money-grubbing elitists; there isn't a well-coordinated NIMBY attack on all things urban and environmentally just; there is no violence-encouraging Black Lives Matter movement; there isn't some LGBT "agenda" to turn everyone gay.

Yes, there *are* people working together to elect certain people to office, to support their financial interests, to undermine others based on race/ethnicity/sexual orientation/gender/disability, and to co-opt other ideas as an excuse for violence.

BUT, and this is important, we must not confuse these people with all people. If we believe and act as though all cops are racist, then we lose some of our most important allies inside the police forces that we seek to influence and to change. If we believe all Democrats or Republicans or bankers or NIMBYs are our enemies, then we lose opportunities to connect with those people who could and would be our greatest supporters, including at times we need them the most. If we believe everyone who co-opts other ideas as excuses for violence are who they say they are representing (whether claiming to be acting on behalf of the horrible ISIS or the important Black Lives Matter), then we undermine our own ability to understand the truth of the matter while also painting with such a broad brushstroke that we will be less able to recognize new threats before they become new crises.

In the Catholic tradition, we take a moment at each mass to turn to our neighbors and say "Peace be with you." It was always one of my favorite moments, because I got to look into the eyes of the people around me and to connect with them - even if for just a moment. (It was also a good excuse to focus on the people around us, rather than solely on the priest performing the ceremony.)

Today we are called to turn to our neighbors, friends, and strangers; look them in the eyes; and say "Peace be with you."

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