Last week I posted on Facebook that I didn’t write a blog last week because I had nothing to say. The truth is that I couldn’t put my feelings into words just yet. This week I’ll give it a try.
Hate crimes, groups promoting ethnic supremacy, racial violence – these are nothing new, in any part of the world. We hear all the gory details from many angles almost immediately, courtesy of 21st century technology. Copycat actions often pop up among people wanting attention.
In my little town that certainly isn’t on global maps, tensions run high right now. I am not privy to the whole story, but here’s what I know: Our city manager and our police chief got into an argument in the parking lot following a city council meeting. At the next council meeting, the city manager requested that the police chief be suspended pending an investigation into the police chief’s handling of his official duties. The city council concurred and suspended the chief. Several people around town began marshaling support for the police chief. Bright blue wooden signs popped up everywhere, asking God to bless the chief, saying this particular homeowner stands with the chief, etc., etc. The local newspaper is still doing its part to sell news by printing editorials from all kinds of writers, covering impromptu meetings almost verbatim, and fanning the flames of emotional involvement.
We had a “scandal” last year that was labeled in the press as a sex scandal. In reality it was little more than harassment, but not many people know that. They know what they saw online, in print, and heard from their neighbors. This latest issue is turning out the same way. No one is quite sure exactly what the charges are or who is investigating. What we do know is that the city manager received so many threats, phone calls, and bad press that he resigned his position effective immediately, just seven months before he was due to retire. A city council member also resigned. According to the newspaper, a man, whom I personally have heard expounding his opinions at length while at work, opened an emotionally charged meeting of “concerned citizens” by saying that he wasn’t wearing his boots (meaning that the muck was pretty deep from the just-concluded city council meeting).
Of all the creatures on this planet, humans have the greatest ability to think, to make choices, to alter situations, to use tools, and to love. Why, why why don’t we do any of these? Why do we follow blindly behind others, mimicking their rhetoric, using our emotions instead of our brains when we make decisions? Why do we choose to act like everyone else instead of thinking and acting for ourselves? We humans have the capacity to sort out truth from falsehood, good from evil, justice from injustice, oppression from kindness. Why don’t we do that? We have systems in place for hearing all sides of an issue. Why don’t we use them? (Some people will argue that these systems don’t work. Usually they do, IF they are used properly. Too often, people get impatient or want their particular view to be the only view, and then the systems do break down.)
Occasionally I will lend my influence to a cause, but I won’t do it blindly. A long time ago I took a vow to renounce the forces of wickedness and evil. I accepted the freedom and power to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they presented themselves for people of all ages, races, and nations. I intend to stand by that vow, perhaps now more than ever. Here in Great Bend, KS, we are not dealing with Neo-Nazis, we are not driving cars into crowds of people, we are not gunning down passers-by…or are we? We are labeling people, we are ruining reputations, we are making it next-to-impossible for justice to be served, all because some people’s friend got his feelings hurt. (Maybe that’s putting it a little simply, but that’s about what it boils down to in the end.)
What should I do about this? I have lots of choices, the first being to do nothing. Or I could listen to people discuss the situation. Would I learn the real facts there? Probably not. I could find the police chief and ask him for his story. I could also try to find the former city manager and interview him. I could go see the mayor. I actually know him. Perhaps he could give me a truer picture of the facts. Perhaps not, though, since much of what he knows probably came out in a closed executive session and is not for publication at this point. On the other hand, how important is it for me, personally, to know the truth? After all, the city council will do what it decides to do with or without my permission or knowledge. Do I have a civic responsibility here, or am I just being nosy? These are the questions I wrestle with as I still don’t know what to “do” about all this. I have become very good at procrastinating lately. Is that a good idea here? How will I make a decision – or will I decide to not decide? I wish I knew.
How many of you are just like me, struggling with indecision? How many of you will actually take the time to find out the truth and then take a stand based upon truth rather than hearsay? What difference will it make?