Friday, July 8, 2016

Fearing the Worst

It happens all the time on crime dramas.  A crime boss or drug lord controls the community by fear.  No one dares testify against them.  Those that try end up dead before they can appear in court.  And eventually someone realizes the justice system is ill-equipped to deal with this particular criminal...and murders him.  Or maybe it's someone committing a single horrible crime, but getting away with it on a technicality and through the benefit of a clever lawyer.  Whatever the details, it's the same story - we know he did it, and the courts fail, so someone else "solves the problem."

It's always wrong.  We know that - but we can't help but feel a little sympathy for the good man forced to resort to murder in a bid for justice.  Have you ever thought about what you'd do in such a situation?  Your child or spouse dead, the murderer celebrating the "not guilty" verdict at a press conference...I certainly have, and I suspect I might be tempted.  When the legal system fails you, you take the law into your own hands.

But we seem to have gotten into a situation now where the legal system appears to have categorically failed about 12% of our total population.  For the time being, I don't even want to consider the truth of the proposition - it doesn't really matter if black Americans are actually suffering significantly higher rates of arrest, conviction, longer sentences, and deaths at the hands of police, if enough of them believe it to be true.  And the evidence is certainly compelling enough for many of them - and for me - to believe it.  You've seen the shows - what comes next?  What would you do if people who look just like you seemed to be getting murdered by the very system that is supposed to protect them?

It's still wrong.  Vigilante justice is still murder.  I'm not trying to defend it here, or excuse it in any way - that's not the point.  The point is that when such a large portion of the populace has reason to believe that their government is an active, existential threat to their very lives, there are sure to be some that will respond with violence.  We even have a term for it, all too familiar in other contexts - "radicalization."

That's what we seem to be doing - radicalizing our own home-grown terrorists.  And that scares me.  A lot.  Because I'm not sure we can turn the process around.  And if we don't, we will most surely end up with ever-increasing violence - police will be justifiably afraid when a black person even looks at them - and the blacks equally (if not more) justified in fearing the police.  In such a situation, the rule of law can only crumble and fall - and with it, our society.

So I'm very depressed today, seeing the news out of Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas.  Especially Dallas,  The shooter - the vicious, cold-blooded murderer - was a Soldier, my brother-in-arms.  Sworn, just as I am, to protect and defend this country against all enemies.  My worst fear is that he thought he was doing exactly that.  If too many more follow that path...I am desperately afraid of where that could lead.

No comments: