The recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have caused much public outrage and raised many questions. I received this message from James last week:
Hey, I’m a college student and big fan of your blog. I hope things are coming together well for your book. I do miss your daily posts, especially the ones concerning recent events in the world. Right now in the news media the Brown and Garner cases are huge topics that are fueling a lot of debates concerning larger issues. With all of these different opinions and sides I find myself lost and uncertain. I was wondering what would a Jedi knight do in this situation? What stance would he take in this debate?
I gave James a quick answer, one that I could type out on my phone. But I realized that I have had this discussion with my children as well and thought that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. So I am going to expand upon my answer to James.
First off, these two deaths were completely avoidable. Had both of these men complied with the police officer’s requests, they would have been arrested and had their day in court. But they didn’t comply. They both resisted arrest. And in doing so the responding police officers did what they had been trained to do, they attempted to restrain these men and take them into custody. Had I been in Brown’s or Garner’s shoes, I would have complied with the police officer’s demands and the incident wouldn’t have even been a blurb or a sound bite on the evening news.
Following these two unfortunate incidents, grand juries were formed to determine if any charges should be made against the officers. In both cases, the officers were not charged with any criminal acts. This caused outrage in the community, but the outrage is based upon a trial by media and not all of the facts. Many years ago the police were very much a family that would try to protect one of their own. But recently this has not been the case. If you don’t believe me, ask a police officer in Internal Affairs how popular they are among their peers. If Internal Affairs and an impartial grand jury didn’t find enough cause to take these officers to trial for their actions then I accept their decision.
That is my take on these two situations. But before you crucify me, hear me out. My take is based upon who I am. I am a white male, a man who carries a badge and who is the son of a police officer as well. I am not a black male. I am not a member of a group that is treated so very differently than I am. So I can understand how their actions, born of distrust and fear, would be very different than mine. Remember this quote from Obi-Wan:
Luke, you are going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.
My point of view is that the police are there to serve and to protect. My point of view is that the police as an entity are a safe and secure group. My point of view of the police is different than the point of view of other people. And this isn’t just a difference between white and black. It crosses gender, race, social, and economic lines.
Opinions and points of view are also being shaped and, dare I say, manipulated by local, national, and social media. The news is being written and delivered in a way that attempts to polarize the community with anger and hatred and incite further protests and violence. Instead of trying to heal this wound, relieve tension, and mend the community, it either causes cries of “police brutality” or “inner-city criminal”. Social media does no better. I see posts and pictures that are supposed to be funny, or to show the irony or hypocrisy of the actions of both sides. But even if they do make you laugh, chuckle, or smile, those pictures are unconsciously trying to deepen and widen the divide that exists between both sides of this issue.
So, what is a Jedi to do? What stance would a Jedi take in this debate? In this situation your role as a Jedi is to act as a healer, mediator, and arbitrator, helping both sides come together. How does one do this? Keep reading.
First, you need to search your own feelings and be honest with yourself. Are you choosing a side? Don’t misunderstand me, the police need to be held to a higher standard because they are there to protect us. They are to be Jedi themselves, whether they like Star Wars or not. But a badge and a gun doesn’t give them the right to invade and violate your own rights. If you do find yourself choosing one side or leaning to one side, spend some time meditating to try and understand the thoughts, views, opinions, and feelings of the other side. By fostering this sense of empathy it will allow you to connect to both sides with compassion and help them meet in the middle.
Next, when given the opportunity try to act as as a mediator. If a family member, friend, coworker, or a crowd on the street expresses an opinion that is indicative of a highly polarized view in either of these cases, try to understand where they are coming from and then help them release their anger by showing them that their own point of view, while not wrong, is clouding their judgement. Talk to them, listen to them, let them know that you understand their point of view. But then try to help them understand the opposing point of view. You wil find that the majority of their issues are rooted in fear, and the same goes for the opposing viewoint as well. Police officers are not killers intent on genocide and all people not of your race are not criminals and thugs. Yes, there are bad cops and there are criminals, but we can’t stereotype and assume that all people of a certain group are. There can be no trust when there is fear involved. Instead, reach out and be a bridge between both sides. When one can see both sides they can then meet in the middle.
Many will not listen to you, desperately clinging with attachment to their anger and hatred, but you will make an impression on a few. Remember these words by Mother Teresa:
I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.
Your empathy and compassion will open the hearts of others. They will begin to understand interdepence, the understanding that there is a symbiosis and interaction between all people and events, and that what one does to another is the same as doing it to onself. This will remove the fear, anger, and hatred, and replace it with love, trust, and understanding. And then they too will act as you did, and an awakening will slowly happen across this country and eventually to the whole world. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
That is what I feel a Jedi would do.
I would like to thank Jamie for the question, and I would like to thank you for reading through this post. I hope it inspires you to go out and make a difference. Share your message and get the word out. May the Force be with you!