Shootings

The tragedy in Orlando was still fresh in our minds.

And then Alton Sterling was shot by two police officers in Louisiana.

And then later I walked by the news on a TV at work and there was a story about a black man being shot by police. I thought it was another story about Alton Sterling, but it wasn’t.

My friend asked me, “What happened with this shooting?”

And I said, “I don’t know…I can’t keep track of all the shootings anymore..”

Philando Castle was killed by police in Minnesota when he was pulled over for a broken tail light. Because he was reaching for his wallet, after telling the officer that he had a concealed carry license and that he did have a concealed weapon in the car. He told the officer he was reaching for his wallet and the officer shot him. In the car. By the way, there was a child in the backseat. That shouldn’t matter, of course. But it does. An innocent man was shot and that’s what is really important. But thinking about that child makes me really sad too.

Police make me nervous anyway. If I was black my anxiety would probably make me stay home all the time.

I am so sad.

And our society is so fucking divided that people say things like, “If they treated the officers with more respect they wouldn’t have been shot.”

That is victim blaming. It’s no different from telling a rape victim she shouldn’t have worn a short skirt. Victim blaming makes me really uncomfortable. People are dead.

People say things like, “This person had a criminal record, they weren’t really innocent.” That’s crazy too. Who cares if they had a criminal record? Does that mean that they should be shot in the street?

When people make excuses for brutality like this I just wonder if they love and trust the government a lot more than I do. I don’t understand.

I get it, being a police officer is hard. Really really hard. But I believe we can expect more from them. Maybe police need more training. Maybe they need better pay so that precincts can be a little more discerning in who they allow to work these jobs. I don’t know. But I do know that we shouldn’t just accept this as normal and blame the victims whenever possible.

And I’m not sure if these officers had hate in their hearts when they committed these acts (but let’s investigate and find out). But I am sure they shouldn’t be police anymore. Because at best these actions were negligent. If your job is to protect people and you accidentally kill someone, that’s it.

And then some police officers were shot at a protest. (as of this writing I couldn’t find their names or I would post them here. I am mourning them too) As though violence can solve anything, as though this will do anything other than make people angry and ruin the lives of those officer’s families.

I don’t believe our society is so divided that we can only feel sympathy for either the officers that were slain or the two men. All of them are victims of a cycle of violence and division that I hope we can stop.

I think our culture teaches us that violence is the way to solve problems and I don’t agree with that.

Violence makes problems. And we should all cultivate peace and love in our hearts instead of violence and hate.

Not that people shouldn’t defend themselves when they’re under attack. People think that because I’m a pacifist that’s what I think, but if you’re against the wall, you do whatever you have to do. None of these killings were in self-defense.

What can we do?

As Buddhists, some of us take vows to try to save everyone. What can we even do in situations like this?

Today I just don’t know.

Love each other. Build bridges instead of walls. Be kind. Be connected. Stop trying to divide and separate. We do far too much of that.

The media and politicians have a role in this division, but that’s because that’s what people expect from them. So let’s expect something different.

Just be nice.

You can spread kindness and positivity in your life.

It starts with you.

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher living in Kansas City. He gives online teachings through the Open Heart Project. His writing has appeared in Lion's Roar, Patheos, Tattooed Buddha, and Elephant Journal.

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