Lately, few issues have divided our nation quite like the problems of police excess and civil unrest. Cop shoots criminal suspect, suspect shoots cop. Who was right, and who was wrong? Often, it seems, we form our opinions before the ink is dry on the story. Nevermind the details, forget the nuances. Let’s run into the streets, lay blame, and burn down a department store. As if.
Last week, one of my Facebook friends posted a short rant that began: There is no such thing as a good cop. Of course I couldn’t disagree more, and I don’t know how he came to that conclusion. I tried to draw him out to understand his reasons, with no response.
Last week, just down the street from where I live, Los Angeles Sheriff's Sergeant Steve Owen gave his life to protect his community. He held his fire, to give the other guy a chance to back down. But my friend just thinks he got what he deserved. I shared this news on Facebook, and explained that I hope to dissuade him from this hateful view.
I was stunned at the response.
Many of my friends advised me to disown him as a friend, posthaste, lest I share in his guilt. One classmate from high school, who has known me for almost 40 years, let loose a string of epithets and summarily un-friended me. (Note: I still have a problem with the word friend as a verb. But that’s neither here or there.)
Here’s the thing: In the course of the past 54 years, I have done many stupid things to harm and offend many people. I’ve lied, I’ve stolen, I’ve gossiped, and I’ve lusted. And when I come to my senses each time, I go back and beg forgiveness. Sometimes I gain pardon, sometimes not. But with the benefit of hindsight, I now understand that I brought it on myself.
As for my friend the cop-hater, I have known him for about ten years and this is his “first offense.” That is, up to now he has done nothing to hurt me, and this is the first that I’ve heard of his attitude toward law enforcement. I am reminded of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant: Having been forgiven for a multitude of sins, how can I now cut him off for one?
I suppose I should feel glad to see that so many of my friends share in my support for law enforcement. But at the same time, I’m doubly dismayed to see so many of my fellows so eager to condemn someone who disagrees. Is this what our country has come to? No compassion, no patience, no willingness to engage?
If you doubt my loyalties because I'm willing to keep company with a political heretic, then please shoot me now.