America’s Bad Week

There are times when you are simply not quite certain how to react: anger, frustration, shock, resignation? As this past week unfolded, I found myself doing a great deal of reading and thinking as I struggled to digest just what was befalling our nation and its people.

First, there was Hillary Clinton and the peculiar case of the non-indictment for something that speaking as (thankfully) a non-attorney seemed pretty darned indictable. We have, of course, watched a parade of Wall Street non-criminal criminality over the past decade, so we should be quite used to the notion that the rich and connected live far beyond the reach of the law, but this one still troubled me—a lot.

To have any government official engage in skullduggery that hides official actions from public view, exposes secret information to hackers, and (when all is said and done) subjects a weary nation to the worst sort of legalistic parsing in order to avoid an admission of wrongdoing should bother us. However, this is doubly troubling when the individual in question has a very good chance of being the next President of the United States.

Hillary’s defenders (and they are many) seem immune to the notion that being “extremely careless” with government secrets or concealing important details of your official duties from the public might disqualify one from holding the highest office in the land. I just don’t get that kind of thinking. The ability to nimbly circumvent the law should not win either our admiration or respect.

If we then toss into the mix the steaming pile of unabashed influence peddling known as the Clinton Foundation, it is not at all difficult to understand why Hillary Clinton is struggling with a “trust problem” as she campaigns. Bernie Sanders may have had his drawbacks as a candidate, but he at least seemed to understand that government service is not supposed to be some sort of private get-rich-quick scheme.

Next up during the week of horrors were the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in police custody, deaths that thanks to the Internet were video-streamed to a worldwide audience of aghast onlookers. Although police work often looks awful to outsiders because it inevitably involves extreme emotions, physical force, and a thousand snap judgements and decisions that all have the potential to go seriously awry, both of these cases seem to fall right into an apparently never-ending series of violent attacks by police officers against African-Americans, and it boggles the mind that law enforcement is still immune to changes in training and tactics that could prevent at least a few these sickening incidents. Emptying your firearm is not the answer to every situation fraught with stress and confusion; showing just the least bit of reasonable restraint could save lives and win back some portion of support for our nation’s police.

And then there was Dallas.

Reading about a sniper targeting human beings whose only obvious offense is carrying a badge is really too much to wrap your head around. No matter how you feel about the police and some of their actions, there is no possible justification for such a heinous crime.

I am pleased that many rallied to support the police in Dallas and elsewhere, but I am unhappy with all the dehumanizing rage and inflammatory language of a few who seem to imply there might actually be a rational reason to climb on top of a building with a high-powered rifle and execute as many strangers as possible because they are wearing blue.

As angry and disheartened as a person might feel because of the actions of a very few police officers, none of us are soldiers in a war zone and the police are not an occupying army of targets. Nor is this justifiable self-defense. It’s murder. Just murder. No problem is solved, no understanding is gained, no healing is engendered—and you tarnish the lives of those who died when you try to use their tragedies to justify your misbegotten response.

I hope this next week—and all of our weeks to follow—are marked by honesty, openness, and respect. This might be difficult to remember when we are overwhelmed by the press of events, but nothing will ever improve unless we listen to those who put the interests of the many above benefits for only a few, speak to us openly and honestly about the problems facing our nation, and are willing to ask difficult questions in order to find realistic answers that can truly help us heal and move forward together.

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