It’s been a long week in this country. In two days, two videos of black men dying at the hands of police officers were shared coast to coast, and then a peaceful march in Dallas became anything but as five law enforcement officers lost their lives to a madman with a gun. It’s been nearly two years since Michael Brown died in Ferguson, Missouri and less time since two NYPD officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, were gunned down. In the alleged word of Mark Twain, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Again, people across the country are hurting. Again, family members are laying their beloved to rest far too soon. And again, there’s division among the people of this country over the issue of racism, police tactics and use of force, and the way we should treat and view law enforcement officers.
It’s good that there’s disagreement; it’s what this society is built on. People are free to have and defend their own opinions. There could be something to be said about how much respect people in this country give to those who disagree with their own opinions, but that’s another matter. People will fall on different sides in this issue, and that is OK. It’s good. These things are complicated. Anybody who believes they aren’t is not listening enough to others or considering the many aspects of the issues at hand.
The one thing people should agree on, however—something this country needs to take a moment to think about—is that life is sacred, life is a gift, and that when someone loses a life, it is painful. Most of us don’t know Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, or Michael Smith. But these men have people who love them, who loved them, who are grieving. People whose worlds have been temporarily shattered.
In the Talmud, texts that outline Jewish law and customs, it says, "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." Many worlds were destroyed this week. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, whether you think the police who shot Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were justified or are misunderstood, you must understand that the lives of these two men mattered. And those who are angered by policing tactics, who feel law enforcement violate their rights and threatened their lives, they must also realize that to the families of these police officers, the call that they always feared might come did come. That these men lost their lives doing their jobs, serving their community, allowing those in Dallas to express frustration.
I have my opinions on the matter. I, like many, was troubled by the videos of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I, like many, was inspired and somewhat heartbroken by the rage in the words of Nakia Jones, a black female police officer. I watched with pride from across an ocean as people from Chicago spoke out against the cover up of the murder of Laquan McDonald. And I felt pain when I heard the story of a woman from Virginia whose husband was killed in the line of duty as a police officer in 2014 and her words to the families of those killed in Dallas.
To those passionate about this issue, as one has every right to be, it is important to consider the grief those on either side are feeling. Many black people in this country are afraid they or one of their family members could be the next person killed at a traffic stop. And families of law enforcement are afraid, now more than ever, that the dangers of the job will claim the lives of those they love. What people in this country need to do is comprehend the humanity of those around them, and nothing good can come when we forget that those who disagree with us or are different than us are human as well.
Now is a time for mourning, for frustration, for speaking out, for calls for change. At times like this, when there is so much that divides us, it is important to consider what unifies us. Now is a time to remember we are all people, and we are all Americans, and most of us at the end of the day want the same thing: what’s best for our country. That may mean different things to different people, but such is the price of freedom.