Who Decides What Is “Justice”?

I’ve been watching the events of this past week unfold. I have tried to maintain some form of even keel when I pass along information about the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philandro Castile in Minnesota, and the act of domestic terrorism committed in Dallas as a peaceful demonstration was concluding just a few days ago. Each has its own unique circumstances, each has left people with horrific memories, devastating loss, and emotional damage that will take time to heal.

What I am about to say will upset many, but in my heart I know it is what must be stated for the record. First, now is not the time for the general public to attempt to become judge, jury, and executioner in any of these events. It doesn’t matter to me if you are an expert in criminology, a layman, or a civil rights legend. None of us have the proper, completed, and factual information needed to make a truly informed decision on what happened here. The only one that would be even slightly close to that point is the assassination of 5 law enforcement officers and the wounding of 7 more in Dallas. Even in that case, the initial crime scene will not be completely processed until the middle of next week at the earliest.

What is not needed here, and has not been needed in the other similar events like Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson and Freddie Gray in Baltimore are uninformed people jumping to conclusions. It is poor leadership and could be considered a form of defamation making inflammatory statements before all the facts are in. This has happened in this week’s events with local, regional, statewide, and nationally elected officials. I saw one New Orleans area state representative within minutes of the 2nd video being distributed on social media in the Alton Sterling case state unequivocally that the policemen involved should be “thrown in jail now”! So no evidence, no trial, just a cry to punish without due process.

Another thing that is not needed right now is the politicians involved in each incident all the way up to the president himself attempting to use the horrific events of this past week to advance ANY political agenda. Seeing this happen repeatedly with the devastating events in Orlando just made my blood boil. Watching politicians line up after each of these horrific events to tout gun control, or police reforms, or attempts to divide people along racial or economic lines made me literally sick to my stomach.

What the people of Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas need now are leaders on every level to step up and show that they are more concerned with comforting those affected, assurances that the main priority will be finding the truth behind why the events happened, and that anyone that broke the law will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. It is time for the people that have been honored by being trusted with public office to lead. Each one of you that decided to push a political parties agenda, or that displaying your anger instead of calling for calm until all the evidence has been process have severely degraded the office you were entrusted with.

And the politicians aren’t the only ones that have besmirched the position they were entrusted with. While most of the clergy I have seen active during the fallout from these events have been tending to their flock, and trying to comfort the people that have been emotionally affected by what has happened, there are many “civic leaders” that claim to be focused on improving the community, but instead are on the front lines using the pain, fear and grief felt to drive a wedge through the heart of the places they claim to love.

I by no means advocate attempting to stop people from expressing their anger at what has happened here. Being able to freely express our displeasure with current events, the system, or the political process is a right guaranteed to us. With that said, it is one thing to demonstrate and express yourself, it is completely another to disrupt someone else’s freedoms to do it. Blocking roads (or the interstate), disrupting other people’s events is not the way to get your point heard. When you try to cause disruption you put your safety and the well being of others at risk. Attempting to get law enforcement to attack you is even more destructive, and could make you a convicted felon in the process. Say what you have to say. Make your point, but do it peacefully.

One of my part time jobs (I have several) is a board operator for a local station here in Southeast Louisiana. I’ve been honored to have the opportunity to work behind the scenes this week to help my station lead part of the public discussions of these events on the air. While we do get our share of the extremist that blame racism, police brutality, and hatred as the main catalyst in these events, there seems to be a much more consistent consensus as to a real cause.

To be honest, it seems to be the general consensus when I talk to friends, colleagues, and social media contacts as well, so there must be some validity to it. The main point that seems to return is that there seems to be a lack of respect by certain people for anything or anyone. This may not always be the case, but hear me out. There are a healthy amount of people in the current generation, and maybe even another generation back that expect to have everything come easy to them. They don’t seem to have the same drive to succeed, the same discipline that my generation, and preceding generations have.  Many people I have heard discuss this, and many I have have conversations about it seem to blame it on a lack of proper parental structure at home growing up, as well as a lack of ability for parents to discipline children the way we were raised.

My eldest son Logan has a tight knit group of friends he hangs around with. Most of them are seniors in high school like him, and they spend time together both in and out of the school environment. Out of the near dozen people in this group, our son is the only one that is not from a split family home. More than 75% of them live with a grandparent because their parents are divorced and decided they could not properly raise their own children. The rest of the group have one parent (with the exception of one, the biological father) they live with and hardly ever see the other.

Logan runs into issues trying to spend time with them because we raise our kids with rules and guidelines. We must meet their friend’s guardian before they can visit their home (mainly to make sure the parent is OK with it, and of course to know someone responsible is there). He can’t stay overnight on a school night. He has to let us know if he’s going somewhere other than where he told us (just a short text). His friends constantly pick on him because they do what they want, when they want. Some of his friends, who are still minors, are out walking around on their own past midnight on a school night.

I gave that background because in my opinion the lack of parental control and concern shown by the parents of Logan’s friends is the cornerstone of that lack of respect for anyone, or anything that I mentioned earlier. They don’t show respect because they have never been shown the importance of it growing up. It becomes a huge gap that causes problems in work, in relationships, and in life for those who don’t grasp why it is so important. This missing cornerstone makes it much easier to have no concept that life is precious.

Is this the only issue causing these confrontations? No, of course not. What this becomes is a definable problem that political, clergy, and civic leaders can work together to find tangible paths to correct and improve. This is a common ground that we can all agree must be addressed to help make the next generation of leaders we need for our communities and our country to survive.

I keep hearing the slogan “No Justice, No Peace!” chanted all over the country. Who gets to decide what that justice becomes? Shouldn’t that be determined by gathering all the evidence available? Is it vital we are making sure the truth of what happened is found? To find the truth, to assure we truly find justice for the people that have had their lives destroyed by these tragic events, shouldn’t every leader be calling for calm and patience so there is no rush to judgement. Everyone’s goal should be to find the truth instead of allowing knee jerk reactions stoke the flames of hatred, division, and fear? We have to know that we are truly dispensing justice so we can all know the peace we are looking for.

 

 

 

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