A Reflection on December 14, 2012

“Aeschylus wrote: In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black. Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world. Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”– Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4, 1968.

In all the slaughters of innocents in our society someone knew ahead of time what the killer had planned.  Whether the deaths have come in a massacre of the awful scale of Newtown or by ones and twos on the South Side of Chicago or Roxbury, we must take responsibility for creating a society in which those who know something can find the courage and morality to tell someone.

We need a new national dialogue.  The current polarity around guns is not enough.  I am rational enough to see that anti-personnel weapons such as Armalites and semi-auto handguns should not be available to the sociopath.  And, let us cut the proverbial shit, they are not always that hard to spot.   If I were king no civilian would possess a handgun.  They are an established lethal threat to two groups to which I am partial: kids and cops. But guns are instruments, not causes.  And we are awash in them as a society.

In my opinion the “fix” is not technical.  We have grown way too good at technical solutions and have lost the plot on the moral.  If these murders were the outcome of biology, we would probably have a vaccine by now.  Or if it were a matter of applying data, we would have those sunny “IBMers” on TV take care of it.  Nor is creating Fortress Kindergarten the right direction.  We need to reach out for another not build walls.  The illness is behavioral and social.  Human behavior is the most unpredictable force in nature, granted.  But consider this.  Once we developed a polio vaccine, we needed a national mobilization of institutions to put it to use.  We needed trust from, and changes in behavior by, parents.  That’s the sort of campaign we need our leaders to lead today.

From government and politics, faith organizations, the labor movement, education and the business community.  We could use the celebrities, too.   Surely we can come together behind the common goal of no more killings of kids.  We don’t need leaders to tell us they are parents, too, and choke up describing the slaughter. Cut the crying and get to work, Mr. President.  In every killing, on whatever scale and no matter the neighborhood, someone had information they kept to themselves.  We need to learn to trust each other and the few institutions left whose leaders have not traded their moral voice for pleasure or treasure.  Someone always knows. We have the philosophical outlines of a plan in the “Don’t Shoot” hypothesis of David Kennedy.  We need our leaders to start and maintain the campaign necessary for one thing to become true.

No more killings of kids.

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About stephenomeara

My name is Jim Jordan. I have had the privilege of working with the Boston Police Department and hundreds more departments over my nearly 30-year career in police administration and city government. I am now teaching and consulting independently at www.sergeantsleadership.org. I have learned the best of what I know from the thousands of smart, dedicated and ethical police personnel and scholars who have guided me along the way. My address is named for the great Reform commissioner of the Boston Police at the turn of the 20th century. Commissioner O'Meara died just a short while before the Strike in 1919. He was replaced by a vicious puppet (of Gov. Coolidge) named Edwin U. Curtis. Had O'Meara lived events may have turned out quite differently.
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