I struggle to parse through my thoughts in the wake of this week’s atrocities as I seek solutions that are seemingly non-existent. One quote, however, comes to mind:
“My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man,” said JFK at his inauguration, inviting us all to change ourselves so that we can achieve unity.
Nothing is more relevant than that quote is right now. It is clear that our government, the establishment, the elite or whatever you want to call it, is not working for us the way it should but we have allowed it, encouraged it, and even enabled it.
As Jason Donohue said, I see humans but no humanity. In a world of increasing individualism, we both reject and demand labels. We contend that we are unique and unbound by labels but before we see ourselves as human, we label ourselves proudly as: white, black, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Christian, Muslim, queer, male or female, rich or poor, disenfranchised, etc. All things that we did nothing to belong to. Those labels only work to further divide us.
By failing to acknowledge that we are all just sacks of flesh with a beating heart, we obfuscate the root of the problem. That is what countries, politicians, police and other institutions thrive on to maintain the status quo. Where there is civil unrest and racial warfare, corruption and regressive attitudes go unchecked.
Below I outline how many of us, even those who are most oppressed, need to change to bring about progress. This may engender outrage, or be labeled as victim blaming but the reality is that rising above victim-hood is the only way to move forward and away from Trump America.
- To the good cops out there. I am certain that you far outnumber the bad ones but your refusal to condemn police brutality, to demand that those unfit be stripped of their badges, and to challenge stereotypes all make you complicit. You must stop thinking first of the brotherhood in blue instead of those you are sworn to protect. Loyalty is commendable but not when it makes you complicit to the atrocities your fellow police men are committing.
- To the gun addicted: your widespread refusal to support enhanced gun legislation makes you complicit. There is no sane and humane argument for why your sport, your hobby, or your delusional idea of a well-armed militia as outlined in the 2nd Amendment, is more important than the lives we continue to lose daily at the hands of gang violence, gun accidents, and domestic terrorism. You may think the NRA cares about the second amendment but they don’t. Like the rest of power in the U.S. they are concerned with profits. There is a reason why they are the most powerful lobbying body in America and I guarantee it isn’t because they believe your weapon will prevent the government from getting too big.
- To the members of the black community: You have seen how the smallest smidgeon of resistance enables cops to murder you and get away with it. I understand the frustration of not being able to do things “While Being Black”, but we don’t move forward from that if “Fuck the Police,” is your motto. It adds fuel to their bigotry as they label the entire race unruly to justify their oppression. I am not saying that this is all of you but like the cops if you don’t try your best to prevent it in your communities, you are complicit.
- To the young adults of our generation: WE ARE LAZY. Our elders are right in that assessment and we have enabled them to decide our future by being lazy. Young adults (18-35) outnumber senior citizens 46 million to 39 million (2012 figures), but only 45 percent of them vote, while 72 percent of seniors participate in our democracy. Stop hiding behind your computer screens and hashtags and vote; not just for presidential elections but for local elections because the presidency is highly ceremonial when it comes to creating laws. Congress is where laws are made and Congress will not see reform if we don’t take it upon ourselves to vote the scum out. We are stuck in a cycle where we don’t vote, our voices are not heard, and we become less incentivized to vote again and again and again. We, in fact, need to take the reins and create the future of this country.
- To the jaded: defeatism has never brought a country forward. There is no doubt that this country is in shambles, but wishing it burned to the ground is a matter of privilege. Perhaps you think you will not be that affected by a Trump presidency but that is to assume that the plight of black people and minorities is not your own. There is a lot of economic implications but that is a conversation for another day. Just know that civil unrest has and will directly affect your pocket and your quality of life. More importantly, you cannot call yourself a champion for social justice and then be so jaded that you are complacent with watching America burn.
- And finally to those who continue to push that #AllLivesMatter. As one of my wonderful peers put it, it is like going to a cancer walk and yelling “There are other diseases!”. We are not here to pit issues against each other. Instead we must point out each issue distinctly in order to formulate policy and change. So yes all lives matter, but cops are not murdering you at the ridiculous rates at which they are murdering black men. And please do not try to justify these recent killings on arrest records. When police answered the call that ultimately ended Alton Sterling’s life, all they knew is that someone was threatened with a gun. They MURDERED that man before knowing any of his priors.
I hope you can see that we ALL have blood on our hands even if it is because you don’t speak up. Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dylan Noble, and all the officers murdered in Dallas yesterday, are tragedies that we have enabled by enhancing and dwelling on the things that make us different. To be clear, I’m not saying that we do away with the diversity that makes this country great; but we MUST see ourselves as humans first. That requires that we evaluate how our actions and our words, often unintentionally, antagonize our goals for our society. Only then will we be able to fight bigotry and the racism that Trump has made mainstream again.