Days after we blithely demonstrated, once again, our pride in this “great nation,” America’s sins took center stage in a horrific explosion of gun violence July 5, 6 and 7. Seven people, including five Dallas police officers, are dead.
As the events unfolded, raw footage showed us police officers killing black men — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minn. — on July 5 and 6, respectively. These two killings are the latest in a string of high-profile police shootings in which the necessity of deadly force has been questioned.
Next, apparently in retaliation, five police officers — Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael J. Smith and Brent Thompson — were killed in Dallas July 7. According to Dallas police, the suspect in their killings, a veteran of the Army Reserves, set out to murder white officers.
University of Louisville Pan African studies professor Ricky L. Jones told The Courier Journal afterward that he was saddened but not shocked by the attack on law enforcement. Jones, chair of the University of Louisville program, said such an attack was inevitable.
We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Do our divisions run so deep?
We ought to weep and pray, then dust off our knees and find out how we can help heal this nation of its divisions. We can begin by reflecting on what Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said in his statement following the trio of events.
Speaking as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he said in a July 8 statement that police officers are not a “faceless enemy” and suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not a “faceless threat.”
Police are “sons and daughters offering their lives to protect their brothers and sisters,” his statement said. “Jesus reminds us, ‘no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (JN 15:13).”
“So too, the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a faceless threat,” he said. “They are members of our family in need of assistance, protection and fairness.
“When compassion does not drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one another,” he added.
The archbishop urged all people of good will to “beg for the strength to resist the hatred that blinds us to our common humanity.” And he asked his brothers and sisters in Christ to “gather at the Cross of Jesus.”
He also called America to a deeper regard for human life and for a national conversation on a variety of issues.
“The need to place ever greater value on the life and dignity of all persons, regardless of their station in life, calls us to a moment of national reflection,” he said.
“In the days ahead, we will look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.”
These are big issues and may seem too big for “people in the pew” to address. But all of these issues have a local facet, indeed, big problems begin in small ways.
Race relations in the Archdiocese of Louisville was one of the topics discussed last month in this space, in the series of teaching editorials called Teaching Our Faith.
M. Annette Mandley-Turner, who leads the archdiocese’s Office of Multicultural Ministries, wrote about racism in the church and how that may be countered with a spirit of welcome and openness. That’s a part all of us can play in our nation’s healing.
“To provide ministry that is authentic and healing, the racism and privilege of the church must be recognized as the sin that has separated and kept people of color as ‘the other’ in parishes and dioceses,” she wrote, “Reconciliation demands openness from all involved in ministry to be open to the Spirit’s call to listen and forgive.
“There are no winners in division and no health in holding on to past wrongs and divisions,” she said. “Honest dialogue, prayer, relationship-building and more prayer will foster forgiveness, healing and change.”
Let’s not delay another minute. It’s time for each person to do his or her part to heal division.