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Local failure, national tragedy

Broad-brush solutions to social problems are worse than futile

On the night of May 28, while the city of Minneapolis was on fire, Dawn Frederick noticed that looters had broken into a gas station on her block. Understandably, she called the police. Unfortunately, she tweeted about calling the police.

Frederick is the founder of Red Sofa Literary Agency, well known in bookish circles. Within an hour, three agents associated with Red Sofa resigned in protest over the tweet, citing their commitment to racial justice and the threat posed by law enforcement. Frederick tried to defend herself: “There were no protesters present. Zero protesters”—just people (black, white, or brown) running out of a smashed-in doorway loaded with stuff.

None of that mattered. The next day she apologized, but her agency appears to be in tatters, and it will probably take some time to recover. More publicly, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees apologized for defending the American flag, but the big red “cancel” sign on his back remains. 

The Law, as Paul explained in Romans 7, can’t reform the human heart.

Everyone agrees that anger at the choking death of George Floyd is justified but disagrees about what to do with it. Celebrities, officials, and talking heads have rushed to the fight with their preconceptions: This happened because of racism, capitalism, inequality, corporate corruption. “Why wring our hands over a looted Foot Locker,” asks a Facebook friend, “when the richest one percent own half the world’s wealth?” Another says, “Years of peaceful protests have done nothing to end systemic racism—maybe it’s time for rage.”

At every flash point, generalizations bloom like clouds of smoke. We’re choking on them. Yes—inequality, racism, and corruption are the problem, but these are endemic to a fallen world. They can’t be “fixed” by policy, only moderated over time. When general sins find individual expression, they must be dealt with individually.

What made Officer Derek Chauvin kneel on the neck of George Floyd, ignoring Floyd’s pleas for air until the man blacked out? We will never fully know, because motives grow deep and tangled. We can’t address Chauvin’s heart, but we can address his behavior. Records in Hennepin County, Minn., indicate that other cases of overreach by this officer went ignored, and he may have assumed immunity for this one, too. If leaders had applied the disciplinary procedures on the books when they should have, Floyd might still be alive.

What motivated two plainclothes police officers in Louisville to break into the apartment of Breonna Taylor after midnight on the authority of a “no-knock” search warrant and shoot her dead after her boyfriend (reasonably enough) assumed they were invaders and started firing? We don’t know, but we can reason that no-knock search warrants are a bad idea and probably unconstitutional besides. Most of us didn’t even know there was such a thing. 

What would have prevented Gregory and Travis McMichael from tracking down an unarmed black jogger and fatally shooting him? We don’t know, but we can take aim at the old-boy network that allowed the killing of Ahmaud Arbery to go unpunished until video emerged. 

Trying to address a broad canvas of historic and persistent racism with broad-brush “solutions” (like defunding the police or trashing America) is worse than futile—it’s destructive. The law, as Paul explained in Romans 7, can’t reform the human heart. The law can restrain behavior when applied. At the local level, an overreaching cop went undisciplined, a faulty police procedure went uncorrected, and overzealous vigilantes went scot-free. At the local level, anecdotal failures spilled out in national rage. We point fingers at ultimate causes but can deal effectively only with the proximate ones.

Barack Obama put it this way: “It’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices”—not Washington, D.C., but city hall.

God put it this way: “Love your neighbor”—not your cause, your pet peeve, or your tribe. This is where we can all do better, and we must.

Comments

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  • RC
    Posted: Mon, 06/15/2020 03:12 pm

    I read the McMichaels had a gun stolen out of one of their cars.  Their anger was enough to get them out roaming around looking for the guilty party. That same kind of anger has the rioters breaking into stores and stealing merchandise?  Self-appointed vigilante judges end up doing everything but justice.     

  • Paulo
    Posted: Mon, 06/15/2020 07:55 pm

    We seem to have forgotten that we are fallen creatures - and when God is left out of our individual and corporate lives we can expect to reap more of what we have seen recently.  All the progranms and good intentions will never work long term when the "heart is evil - who can know it" (Jeremiah).  Our only hope is for us to come to end of ourselves and seek after God with all of our hearts and  turn from our wicedness  - perhpas then God might look down upon us and have mercy

     

    Paul G 

  • JM
    Posted: Tue, 06/16/2020 07:45 am

    Drug arrests are a special issue, and I do not know enough about their methods.

    When private citizens call the police to intervene, the police are usually injected in a situation where they are not wanted. Proverbs 9:7 (NIV) says  "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse." The officer is generally trying to avoid insult and abuse. Who wants a job like that?

    Next, we need to look at the culture of the neighborhoods, where the current issues have arisen. The culture if the intercity was a problem in the 1930s, and racism was serious. Nicky Cruz, can tell you all about it. West Side Story and The Cross and The Switchblade, documented the problem as entertainment. Nothing changed. Elvis recorded "In The Ghetto", (originally titled "The Viscous Circle),in 1969. The family was abandoned, and politicians poured money into food and housing projects. There is no incentive to go to work and awful entertainment on the TV. Don't kid yourself, the white communities, where the police officers grew up, are not morally any better.

    Now look at the police culture. Cities don't pay police like they used to, It takes more than a police salary to survive. Security work is available, which is not usually bad, but security work in a bar or club, sort of takes someone who has an ego. Put a man, who is raised on Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger, in daily environment with ego vs. ego confrontation. Snap "Go Ahead Make My Day". The side is the one which snaps first is deemed guilty by social media.

    I personally grew up in that environment, but was raised to Biblical standards. Our church personally helped families is a project in D.C. Several families made it out, but "the narrow gate" principle still applies. The Boy Scout Troop worked with the ones who lived in the suburbs. It is a "one person at a time" friendship evangelism system. No broad brush system has worked, to clean up a city. Lot tried to bring men out of Sodom, with his family. They refused!

  • MD
    Posted: Wed, 07/08/2020 02:43 pm

    I can speak to this issue with more background than most. As an indigenous missionary to the Americans for the past 12 years with an organization called TACTICAL CIVICS™, I have helped Christians launch chapters in 191 counties from Alaska to Maine to Arizona to Florida. The first order of business is teaching the citizens basic civics and history, such as the fact that Grand Jury and Militia are not optional but primordial, bedrock duties of every serious citizen fit for service

    Both institutions date back in western law to the Dooms of Ethelred in the 10th century. Thus, while We The People acknowledge both institutions in the U.S. Constitution, we did not create them thereby, for they had been in existence from the earliest colonial outposts in some form or another.

    The People themselves, in short, must be both the adjudicators and the enforcers of law. Read the Constitution (Art I, Sec 8, Clause 15). It is also quite vital to read Romans 13 in this constitutional context, because We The People place ourselves, while in Grand Jury and Militia service, in the position of 'the higher authorities' mentioned in that Scripture.

    In any American neighborhood, community, or state where the population abdicates this basic authority and duty of American citizenship, only criminality, tyranny, anarchy or combinations of these, can result. This is independent of microculture, skin pigmentation, or socioeconomic level. 

    With the project called Grand Jury Awake™, we teach, brief, and support citizens who wish to seriously pursue that vital duty. With American Milita 2.0™, we prove to communities and paid law enforcement staffs that the lawful, dutiful, trained citizens of the county serving in their duly authorized Militia are healthy and long overdue.

    As it was when young King Josiah was brought face to face with the scroll of the long lost Law, we have right in our lap, all we need for real repentance, but the thing itself. That we are under God's long-overdue judgment for generations of lawlessness is now clear to all, except perhaps those men in pulpits. That repentance is an ACTION word, is far less clear to most.

    We find our job as indigenous missionaries simultaneously confounding and truly exciting. These Americans are an interesting lot.

    D.M. Zuniga