Tuesday, November 25, 2014
All Lives Matter - Reflections on a tragedy in Missouri
Emergent and organic church leaders are rushing to make sure that they are on the side of equality and justice, while seemingly forgetting that there are lives on both sides of this issue that have been forever changed by what happened. The more extreme liberal groups like Moveon.org, Occupy Wall Street, and Anonymous have jumped on the bandwagon and are now posting slogans like "No Indictment, No Peace" and "Black Lives Matter". While angry protesters burn cars and businesses and make threats against the community, politicians on both sides are trying to convert the misery and unrest into political capital.
And yes, I do have something to say, first of all, I believe that black lives matter. I also believe that white lives matter, and pretty much every other color. Lives matter, all lives, not just those of the minority or the oppressed, but even the lives of the privileged and the oppressor matter. When we begin to treat one life like it is more valuable than another, we devalue all life. If officer Wilson had lost his weapon in the struggle and the "Gentle Giant" had succeeded in killing him, would these same protestors be marching and demanding that Michael Brown be held accountable for the murder. I would like to think so, but cases like that of Mumia Abu Jamal remind me that minorities who kill police officers gain an almost folk-hero status. When we elect to see one life as more valuable than another we devalue all life, after all, neither Darren Wilson nor Michael Brown chose their race.
Second, when we demand Justice, then we must trust the Justice system that is in place. It is not seeking Justice to dictate the outcome of the investigation before it is completed. It is also not seeking Justice when we demand that if we do not get our way, we will throw a temper tantrum. We have a justice system, not a revenge system, and even though some think that what Officer Wilson did was worthy of punishment, if the evidence and the totality of circumstances when weighed by a jury does not reach that same conclusion, I cannot choose to then take justice into my own hands. This is called vigilantism, not justice. If you really want justice, you do not only want Justice for Michael Brown, you want justice for Officer Wilson, and for the victims of Michael Brown, and for property owners who have lost so much to the rioting and looting. Justice must come for all, not just for one. If you gain your version of justice for Michael Brown by committing an injustice against Officer Wilson, then you have achieved no justice at all.
Is there a systematic problem, I would say yes, does acting unjustly to make up for past injustice fix that problem, no. We cannot make one life more valuable by devaluing another, and we cannot make one injustice right by committing more injustices. In fact, this is exactly the kind of thinking that has lead to many of the systematic problems. Placing a higher value on the lives of whites over reds, and yellows and blacks is what got us into this mess, and placing higher value on the minority life as some kind of revenge or penance for past inequality only perpetuates the problem of unequally valuing life.
Rather than teaching our children to value black life, lets teach them to value all life, white, black, red, young, old, unborn. Life is precious, and whenever we take actions that devalue one life, we devalue all life, it is as simple as that. Once that value is lost, it is nearly impossible to regain it again. For example of this, we need only to look at abortion. Somewhere along the line, we made the decision that the life of the unborn was less valuable than the life of the mother, and so ending the one to save the other became acceptable. But it didn't end there, we have devalued the unborn to the point that we demand abortion anytime, for any reason, even if it is just that the mother cannot be inconvenienced by having a child.
In addition to teaching our children that all life has value, we also need to teach them what justice is. Justice is not getting our way at any cost. Justice is allowing the system to work, even when we disagree with its results. Justice is not only for the minority, or even the victim, but justice is for everyone involved, both directly and indirectly. Justice is taking into account all the evidence and circumstances and making the decision that is most consistent with our system of laws, even when it is unpopular. And in my opinion, that is exactly what the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri delivered, justice, not popular, not what one side wanted, not what the vocal protestors demanded, but what the system of laws that our society was built upon demands, justice for all, even for Officer Daren Wilson.