“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” – Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities.”
Some may ask: How can this be the best of times when we have over 100,000 dead in the U.S. from COVID-19, George Floyd’s murder by criminal cops, massive demonstrations throughout the country far to often accompanied by riots, looting, numerous instances of police brutality, and violent attacks on police?
Fair question. It definitely is the worst of times, but it also is the best of times. Let’s begin with the worst and save the best for last.
In the midst of the pandemic, four cops in Minneapolis murder George Floyd, and the nation erupted with protests and demonstrations borne of righteous indignation and boiling anger. Understandably so.
Unfortunately, it is not only these four cops. As we watch demonstrations—mostly peaceful, but with far too much violence, property destruction and looting—we also watch police trying to keep order. Sadly, we see many instances of the kind of police violence and abuse of authority that sparked these demonstrations.
What kind of a men, much less a police officer who has taken an oath to protect citizens of the community, literally throws a woman to the pavement? Videos show at least two instances of police officers doing exactly that—throwing women to the ground like a piece of trash. Those cops must be very brave men.
Our police are supposed to be role models—men and woman whom our children can look up to as aspire to be, even if that is only a childhood aspiration. But do we want our children to aspire to be like the cops who broke the window of a car to taser the couple inside, drag them out fo the car, and arrest them? Arrest them for what? Driving while Black?
As you have watched the news and news clips of protests, how many acts of excessive force, assault and violence against civilians have you seen? Yes, police have been assaulted and injured. That is wrong; and it is terrible. I truly feel badly for those officers. We should not want to see anyone injured, police included.
Police are supposed to be trained to deal appropriately with crowd control, to deescalate potentially dangerous situations. I understand it can be difficult not to get enraged when people are screaming names, hurling water bottles, cursing, making obscene gestures. But staying calm “under fire” is part of their job. They should take the verbal abuse and respond with no more force than necessary when physically attacked.
A 75 year old man in Buffalo, New York stood in front of the Emergency Response (riot control) Team, talking to two officers. Apparently, they were telling him to move out of their way. Suddenly the two officers violently shoved him to the ground, causing him to fall flat on his back, blood pouring from his head onto the pavement. The Response Team begins walking past him.
One of the officers who shoved him apparently got in touch with his compassion and his sworn duty. He tried to stoop down to render aid, which police regulations require officers to do—render aid to anyone who is injured until paramedics arrive. But he was pulled up and pushed forward by another officer as at least a dozen officers walked past the stricken man who now is in intensive care.
Yes, these are brave men indeed, with their riot gear, firearms and other weapons, pushing a 75 year old man so hard he falls and is severely injured. “Profiles in Courage”.
Fortunately, the officers were arrested and charged with assault. At their arraignment Saturday morning, the courtroom was filled with police officers standing in solidarity with the criminal cops, and a large crowd of officers gathered outside. They brutally oppose dissenters, but they take pride in dissenting themselves. Indeed. Courageous all.
What did the rest of the Emergency Response Team do? The remaining 57 members resigned from the team in protest of their criminal cop colleagues being arrested for the assault they committed. So much for police enforcing the law when they condone and encourage law breakers. They have no business being police officers and should be fired.
Some cops seem to think the press is the enemy. More than one reporter has been arrested simply for doing his/her job. One arrested reporter stayed calm, repeatedly telling police he was a reporter. A camera crew was with him. Everyone had press credentials, and he showed his repeatedly. No never mind; he was arrested and handcuffed.
Another reporter was attempting to obey police commands as they advanced toward demonstrators. The reporter with a video camera took refuge in the corner of two buildings, completely out of the way of anyone. A cop repeatedly hit the reporter with his shield, hitting him in the stomach with the side of the shield repeatedly. Why? What for? For getting out of the way? For doing his job?
Police say they should not be condemned because some cops are racist bigots and commit violent crimes against minorities and/or peaceful demonstrators. Yet, when they from a “blue wall” around criminal cops, why should they be spared criticism? Why should not police as a whole be denounced?
“Don’t you like to see the hero take his licks like a man,
Stand up and be tested and be true ?
“if you’re bound to do your duty then it’s time that you do”
“Look your future in the face
– Kris Kristofferson, “Hero”
Then how is this the best of times?
While cop abuses may be seared into our brains, and we rightfully feel moral outrage, we also must sear into our brains the compassion and love shown my many police officers. Officers in Atlanta and numerous other cities have knelt with protestors, prayed with protesters, talked with protesters as friends, as brothers and sisters; and were cheered by protesters for doing so.
A police commander understood the best way to defuse a tense situation between protesters and his officers was to talk with the protesters. They talked. He shook hands with several. He was cheered. There was no violence.
A white the Florida Highway Patrol officer talked with a protesting African American woman. At the end of their conversation, she asked for a hug; and he gave her that hug. What a beautiful, magnificent sight.
A police chief met and talked with protestors and decided to march with them, saying he wanted to make their march a parade. A parade! YES! A parade; a celebration. We can protest and celebrate at the same time. Celebrate the life of George Floyd, of every person wrongfully killed by the police, the KKK or whomever because of their ethnicity, their religion, their gender orientation.
There have been many, many instances like these. Thankfully, the media and individuals with cell phones were there to record these acts of human kindness, human decency.
These police officers deserve our respect, our admiration. They do not discard their morality or their humanity when they put on the uniform. They wear their morality and their humanity like the badge of courage and honor it is. They deserve our respect, our admiration, our praise. They are the role models we should pray our children aspire to.
These police officers are the best of who we are. They are not only the best of the police. They are the best of who we are.
Yes, it is the best of times even though it is the worst of times. We must not forget the misdeeds, the injustices. Reform and justice come only from remembering them and being determined to to end them. However, we must never forget the best either, for that is our guide to a better future.
“Let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
– Amos 5:24
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows Atlanta Police Officer J. Coleman (left) and protester Elijah Raffington, of Sandy Springs, fist bumping while an Atlanta Police bicycle unit kneels with protestors in a symbolic gesture of solidarity outside the CNN Center at Olympic Park, June 3, 2020, in Atlanta. (Photo: Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP)
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