America is burning: 
indignation and the end of civility

I spend a lot of time thinking about the world — wondering what I can do with no money to throw at problems and little influence. I want to make my world better and definitely leave it better for my kid. When Michael Brown was killed, my son was a little more than a year old. I cried the tears of a mother saddened that someone could be so cold and that the bullet — which should be a last resort — once again became the easy out for faulty police work. I cried because my son runs that very same risk simply because he is brown. We’ve allowed the trigger to become the judge and the jury in the hands of too many officers who’d be better suited to a desk assignment than a beat.

My son is very fair skinned, yet, as he grows, he will have to understand that my half of him — the hint of brown, his curls and round nose — will cause him judgment and could present a very specific and dangerous risk to his safety despite how well dressed or well mannered he is.

I’m enraged that I have to consider that he could be the potential target of an errant policeman. At 2 years old, he doesn’t know that life ends or that guns even exist. Anything shaped like a gun is a hammer to him. He is innocent and I love his wide-eyed amazement at life. The day that he fully recognizes the dangers that lurk in the world will break my heart. The day that he learns his skin color is political will do the same.

In all that is happening in America — with out-of-control police and people using religion relentlessly to justify their discomfort with people who are different — this country is a powder keg. The risk — as always — is the spark. The spark, when it comes, will endanger officers because people want blood for blood. It will be the same spark that accidentally burns the wrong church because of those using the pulpit to preach division and exclusion, to the detriment of Christ’s teachings.

I’m not the most patient person and I don’t take well to feeling slighted or having my friends and family at risk. I react sometimes more than I should. I say that, knowing that I live in a nation that feeds apathy and willful ignorance and values them above confrontation and knowledge. We’ve been passive for too long and any suggestion that our indignation should result in peaceful and calm protests needs to be met with a strong blow to the face. Al Sharpton can carry the signs and march. We want permanent results — whatever it takes to get them.

When I see injustice, especially systemic, I jump quickly to revolution. My life comes at a point in the history of this nation where all the other quiet and calm ways of resolution have been tried and provided only temporary relief. I have little patience for picketing or singing spirituals over another dead body. If the system won’t change for us, we need to change the system and maybe that means dismantling the parts that aren’t working and rebuilding. The police force is a great place to start, followed very quickly by the enmeshment of the church in our political processes. Periodically the earth needs to burn to be reborn. I don’t find society is much different than those ecosystems.

Certainly, this will make me seem radical and that’s fine. If you think it is radical to fix what is broken instead of continuing to patch it up with temporary remedies, then I’m very radical.

With the recently surfaced video of a South Carolina police officer murdering a black father — shooting eight bullets and hitting him with five — America is faced with a dilemma: How do we make compassion part of our societal values? If it isn’t police killing black men, then we are passing laws that support discrimination. Is America so ill equipped that it can’t function in a progressive world without resorting to regressive laws and crime management? We hold our nose at the human rights violations of others and ignore our own.

There exists a time to defend what is right — by any means that result in effective and complete solutions. Could it be that we only begin to comprehend after loss — either financial or corporeal? I’m not advocating, I’m asking. At some point the gun barrels will point the other direction and it shouldn’t be a surprise. •