Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter have inadvertently become opposing perspectives on much of the violence in our nation. The former has been around several years, but the reactions in recent weeks to the rising death toll seems to be moving away from peace rather than towards it. Through the circumstances under which I first caught up with the news of recent weeks, I realized the benefit of stepping back and seeing the big picture of our nation's situation and why, unfortunately, the solution of activist groups seems flawed.
I recently spent some time off of the grid— without internet or a phone— and away from the sea of information that comes crashing towards us on a regular basis. Returning from that meant returning to the shocking news that more African Americans had been victims of police violence, that the Black Lives Matter movement had escalated to its current chaotic state and that police officers were being killed on the job.
This came all at once for me, rather than hearing one story at a time. I could not think about the fact that another African American had been killed and react to that before I found out about the largest single day of violence against police since 9/11. All that I had to come to terms with, all at once, was the sheer weight of the number of lives that had been lost unnecessarily. Not just black lives, and not just police lives— American lives and human lives.
I cried, and I prayed. It seemed as though, despite President Obama's words at the NATO summit, all I could see when I looked at America was division. Injustice by a few became the basis on which entire groups of people were and still are being ruthlessly judged. It was hurtful to see that lives had been lost, and it was painful to watch the different responses that only deepen the wounds rather than work towards healing.
Where the Black or Blue Lives Matter movements fail fundamentally in their response to each other is all in the name: they focus on the lines of division rather than on our common humanity. The moment we are equally enraged about the unjust death of our fellow man, we will understand that violence is not an appropriate answer for violence.
The fact is, all lives matter— not just our particularly race, class or political camp. All lives, from the man you don’t know who has a different skin color to the officers who have sworn to protect us to the unborn child who is offered no protection.
The cycle is primed to continue. Anger, frustration and threats of more violence continue even now on both sides. It is hard, as an individual, to know what to do other than cry for the dead and pray for God’s mercy on a nation which is looking more and more divided. Those tears and prayers, however, should be accompanied by the individual choice that we will face every single day. The choice to not be what the doubting world thinks americans are: a person who is taking a side and driving the lines of division even deeper. We can actively choose to love our neighbors and even our enemies.
If things continue to escalate, we may have to step out of our comfort zone more and more to be intentional about creating peace with our words and our actions. Ask yourself who in your friends, your workplace or your school might have been negatively affected by these events, and how can you speak to them in a way that brings you together? Peace will not be forced out of violent reactions and protests, but it can grow out of intentional love for our neighbors.