OPINION – It looks like the summer of unrest that some have been predicting has officially begun.
After the high drama of the last couple of weeks, it’s been challenging to know just what to write about it. This doesn’t happen very often.
Being criticized for giving voice to unpopular truths doesn’t concern me. It’s typically a good indicator that impact is being made.
My concern is that I’d rather not further widen the deep divisions that are feeding a growing hostility toward one another.
That’s something that the vast majority of media is already doing with great skill.
When sensational and tragic events occur, it’s easy to let our fears outpace our ability to reason. When killings such as occurred in Orlando and Dallas happen in rapid succession, it’s easy to give in to full-blown panic.
With a fresh outrage dominating the news cycle and social media, many people feel an expectation of sorts to choose a side, dig in and fight to the death for their viewpoint. However, few things are quite as black and white as we are led to believe.
It’s when tribal mentality starts to take over that we tend to cinch the blinders on as tightly as we can.
The need for clear and independent thought has never been more critical.
Too often, the sides from which we’re supposed to choose represent a false dilemma.
For instance, if a person doesn’t support everything the police do, are we to assume that they are in lockstep with the Black Lives Matter movement? Likewise, does any reasonable person believe that the only thing keeping the gangsters at bay is the the “Thin Blue Line”?
False dilemmas like these keep us wound up tighter than watch springs as we savage one another online. Mass media feeds the disinformation by offering a narrative that is strictly limited to these two extremes.
This means that people who aren’t used to doing their own homework or vetting the information they’re taking in are likely to perpetuate bad information and greater conflict.
Case in point: One doesn’t have to believe law enforcement is racist to acknowledge that every man-made law is backed by official violence. No matter how minor the infraction, once the state has become involved, violence is always a possibility.
Sometimes that violence is necessary to bring individuals to justice or to halt an act of lethal aggression that threatens the public. The problem arises when official violence is used arbitrarily or unnecessarily as a simple technicality.
The rolling back of essential civil liberties to benefit the power of the state is not something to be taken lightly. Most police officers are good people individually. The problem of abusive state power is a systemic one that requires restricting government to its proper role, not murdering its employees.
By the same token, we don’t have to believe that the murderous acts of an individual genuinely represent the desires of all those who protest against state-sponsored violence. The vast majority of individuals who have spoken out against abusive authority have done so peacefully.
Sadly, they diminish the validity of their cause when they succumb to the temptation to practice identity politics and assign value to lives based upon group identity. This simply creates more unnecessary division among the American public.
When we think in terms of the “blue tribe” versus the “black tribe” – or all other various tribes – we are inviting greater conflict.
Dan Sanchez correctly identified the engine that drives the need for reciprocal bloodshed as collectivism:
Seeing fellows attacked prompts fear and anger. Fear and anger focused by the lens of reason pinpoints individual offenders for the delivery of justice. But refracted through the lens of collectivism and primal reaction, fear and anger disperses into indiscriminate terror and hate, which scatters to cover whole populations who are ascribed collective guilt and prescribed collective punishment.
The biggest struggle that has played out throughout our nation’s history has not been the left against the right or the conservatives against the progressives.
It has always come down to the collective versus the individual.
This has been the case in more than simply politics. The deepest injustices, the most inhumane indiscriminate acts of violence, all share the common thread of disrespecting the individual.
That is the true hallmark of collectivism.
It persists and finds traction in society through the misguided belief that individuals can be strong-armed for the benefit of others if the collective desires it.
This is the reason for petty laws which invite state violence into our lives for the most trivial reasons. It’s why we tend to dismiss the abuse or disenfranchisement of others who have harmed no one but who don’t belong to our tribe.
The cure for this malady, unsurprisingly, starts with each of us as individuals.
My best advice is to turn off the news and learn to love your neighbor.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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