The wide-spread protests against police brutality remind me, in some ways, of the riots of the middle 1960s, which would include the riots in Watts section of Los Angeles. That neighborhood never really recovered, even to this day. Fortunately, many current protests are not as violent, and tend to consist of people of a variety of races and ethnic roots. A former President of the United States, a Republican and a conservative voiced his dismay concerning the incident and the deeper roots of similar incidents scattered across our nation. The response has been overwhelming, and focused on one specific action by one specific police officer. What I have not seen in any of the coverage over this situation is any kind of a sense of sorrow or regret for what happened.
It seems that in our society today, no matter how much we mess up, no matter how blatant an action is, no one will accept responsibility. What we seem to do is to create a justification instead of an explanation.
One of my jobs in the corporate world before I went into the ministry was with a large publishing firm. The division I worked for built and maintained computer-based programs that enabled another division to put together a huge publication used by travel agents. The book was big and complex and so was the software designed to publish it. And my group was in charge of the software. My client wasn’t happy with some upgrades. The CEO of that division called my CEO and complained. So, my CEO called me into his office and proceeded to lambast me for creating such poor software. Instead of trying to defend myself, I took an approach that agreed with my boss. I said something like “if I had heard from our client what you heard, I would be as mad as you are.” He stopped, looked at me and realized that maybe there was another perspective. After about an hour of explanations about how the client had expected things they never asked for, he had another conversation with his counterpart.
I didn’t try to defend myself. There was no point. My boss was justifiably upset. But he had only heard one side of the story.
When things blow up, and people get defensive and try to justify something that, in the light of day, is truly unjustifiable, we end up hurting not only the small group involved, but the entire group of which the individuals are only a small minority.
A friend of mine recently retired from the Bergen County Police Department. He is pretty conservative. But he lamented the fact that one policeman has sparked such outrage against, what at times seems to be all other policemen.
For me, that is the most unfortunate part. It is pretty clear that this single person was in the wrong. Yet people seem bent on trying to defend him. He deserves a fair trial, which may be very difficult to provide. Then he can defend himself in any way he sees fit.
It is when we seek to defend the actions of people who seem to have committed indefensible actions that we need to step back and realize that there may be another perspective. At the moment, we need to focus on insuring justice. When the path to justice seems to have roadblocks put up by the very people charged with insuring justice, the necessary trust in our legal system breaks down.
Let us pray for our country, our legal system, for those charged with upholding the legal system, and most of all, let us pray for “justice for all”.
I will be writing the Wednesday Post after I leave as the Pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church in EHT. After July, I will no longer post these on the Asbury UMC Facebook Page, but will post them on my blog: https://thewednesdaypost939095248.wordpress.com/