Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t speculate on “what’s wrong with America”. Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t post a video of someone doing something awful to someone else. Sometimes it’s a child or teenager. Sometimes it’s a parent. Sometimes it’s a law enforcement officer. Sometimes it’s a pastor. Sometimes it’s a teacher. Sometimes it’s a politician. Sometimes it’s a celebrity. Sometimes it’s an athlete. Every race is accounted for, every religion, every political persuasion, every gender, every social and economic class. We are all part of a group that has royally screwed things up.
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us know that on a bad day we could look just like the some of the “villains” we’ve seen caught on camera. Most of us know that even rational people can lose it. Even good people can do bad things.
Everyone is so hell bent on placing blame and exacting judgement and so few are really thinking critically about the situations. Are we asking enough of the right questions?
Whose job is it to really ask why? Whose job is it to dig deeper? Whose job is it to care about the actual people involved in the situation? Whose job is it to be proactive?
If we don’t ask why, then we’ll never move past this – this same old story every day. We have to think more critically, we have to dig deeper, we have to seek to understand. We have to allow our adversaries to become human in our own eyes, to become our equals, with feelings and thoughts, and trials and unmet needs. We have to be willing to consider doing things differently.
We have to be more proactive as a community, as a society, if we are going to ever see any good changes. We can’t just watch from the sidelines and click our tongues at the “bad kids” or the “bad cops” or the “bad teachers” or the “bad parents”. We have to actively seek change, dig in our heels, dig into our lives.
We have to set aside our easy answers and look for real ones. We have to remember that people exist within the context of their own lives (their personal experiences, circumstances, and beliefs) and we have to be willing to see their world as they do if we are to begin to understand their actions. Behavior is communication. All races and ethnicities and social classes and political classes and ages and religions communicate through behavior. Our behavior has meaning. If we forget that, if we ignore that, we will never change anything, We will always be reacting, we will never be able to get in front of it.
Understanding more about the “why” of someone’s behavior doesn’t excuse it, but it does allow us to dissect it into manageable pieces, it helps us see from another perspective, it helps us understand motive. Motives matter. Reasons aren’t automatically excuses, but they are important to understand. Understanding someone’s motives and reasons doesn’t absolve their behavior, but it does empower us to enact change.
Everyone wants a simple solution and they want the solution that costs them the least and requires the least from them. Everyone wants someone else to take the fall, be the scapegoat. But what if there is no scapegoat? What if we are all required to sacrifice something of ourselves in order for change to occur? What if we must consider the humanity of everyone we encounter, no matter how different? What if we are all more alike than we are different? What if we are all full of the same stuff, aching for the same thing, reaching for the same prize, just doing it in a million different ways?
We have to be willing to consider situations holistically. What if it’s not just one problem with one solution?
What if it is poor work environment for those in public service, leaving them overworked, underpaid, burnt out, unsupported, and vulnerable to snap in anger or make poor decisions under duress? What if it is also years of systematic racial/minority oppression? What if it is also lack of moral upbringing? What if it is also poor mental health care? What if it is also issues with gun control? What if it is also a constantly charged political climate where money talks more than morals? What if it is also lack of community? What if it is also fear culture propagated by the media? What if it is also due to the weakened state of the church as it becomes factioned over and over by politics? What if it is also because we live in a selfish and self-centered society?
What if there isn’t one person to point the blame at? What if there isn’t one thing to change and make it all better? What if it’s going to take all of us taking responsibility for the part we play? What if we all have to change something? What if we have to work together? What if we never figure out how?