or Why doesn’t burning this car and stealing that TV make things better
Almost every news and social media outlet was overwhelmed by stories about the riots in Baltimore. If you didn’t know what was going on you either live in a cave or haven’t been on Facebook. A man died under suspicious circumstances while being detained by police. Some people feel this is a good reason to take to the streets in protest. Demonstration is one thing, but rioting is another. When did a peaceful protest against excessive force by police turn into the worst incident of civil unrest in Baltimore since the 60’s?
Regardless of how things got started or what people feel their justified reasons are, how does burning cars and looting stores help to solve social issues? It often feels like people are just looking for a reason to do the things they normally wouldn’t. ‘Usually I wouldn’t smash a window and steal from a store, but today it’s OK because I’m angry about the police killing someone.’ I get that people are angry. I get that people are extremely angry, but how does destroying a business solve the problem?
If we look back through history to some of the greatest protests for civil change, we see very rarely was violence used as an effective tool. Martin Luther King Jr., arguably the greatest figure of the American Civil Rights Movement, advocated for non-violent civil disobedience. He told his supporters to meet the violence of the police and the establishment with strength and courage, but not to strike out. In another example, Mahatma Ghandi, in his quest to free India from harsh British rule, told his followers to disobey the laws, but always in a non-violent manner. So why do some people still feel that you have to throw stones to make a point?
From where I sit, comfortably on my couch with my laptop and coffee, several hundred miles south of anything resembling a rioter or a National Guard solider during that time, the root of all this comes back to the separation of self and other. If the police saw Freddie Grey as a person no different from themselves, would they have been as rough? If the protesters looked at the police as fellow citizens of Baltimore, would they still have thrown rocks? If the looters saw the shop owners they were stealing from as hard working business people rather than faceless companies, would they still have stolen and burned their establishments? One of the biggest problems with society is we constantly try to get something at the expense of someone else. We don’t see each other as fellow humans trying to live and thrive in the same world. In the Bible God said “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. Similarly the Buddha said “Consider others as yourself.” If I see the person who angers me as self rather than other, it becomes very hard for me to hate him. It all boils down to compassion. We all suffer, we all want, and it’s time we stop working working against each other and start working with each other.