On my way into a week of prayerful and blessed silence, I brought with me, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling and the Dallas Police Officers. In the middle of the retreat, I heard priests talking about “the horrible news out of Nice.” The day I came out of retreat it was Turkey. And, after church today, at the Red Robin with my Mom, I saw the CNN ticker, “Baton Rouge Mayor: 3 Police officers fatally shot.” I hung my head, “Oh, God.”
Tom Friedman totally predicted this in Hot, Flat and Crowded. In this connected world, my kids have studied in Rome and Buenos Aires, traveled to China and Costa Rica. In this connected world, two Cal Berkeley (where I teach) students were killed in terror incidents in Nice (where three others were wounded) and in Dhaka, Bangladesh two weeks ago. Love it or hate it, we’re connected to each other.
Mom said what so many feel: “The world just feels so crazy.” I feel it, too. What do leaders do? Leaders:
- See it. Feel it. Don’t deny it. Black (live)s are scared of police for too many real reasons. Police are under enormous stress for many many reasons. We’re shook, as Mom feels it. And also:
- Gain and share perspective. True: Civilization is less of a certainty than we’ve come to believe (in the United States), but the world is NOT all crazy. Stories of goodness abound. Opportunities for bridge-building are everywhere. Build bridges.
- Widen our zone of influence. Race is everyone’s issue in America. If it hasn’t been yours, how can you become part of the solution – at work, at church/synagogue/mosque/etc, in your neighborhood? The vast majority of police are doing God’s work; thank them.
- Focus in our zone of control. Help bring faith, love and reason — not hysteria and over-reaction — to your world, where people are worried.
If Mom feels disturbed, as I feel disturbed, what about those who have critical mental health issues — who feel profoundly isolated, alienated, confused — and have guns? What of those who are clinically paranoid? (That’s the profile of the two veterans who killed police in Dallas and Baton Rouge.*)
Public leaders have some major duties with respect to mental health generally, and especially as it relates to those we recruit, deploy — and how we reintegrate — our soldiers and police. And
We all have duties:
- To be mindful of those who are alone and suffering.
- To protect – as best we possibly can — those in our workplaces, schools, stores, etc.,
- To intelligently discuss and regulate weapons (as we do speech, automobiles, abortions, etc., which also involve constitutional liberties), and
- To cease contributing to the general mood of panic.
This is a time for calm and alertness, honesty and compassion,
as we lead with our best selves.
p.s. Thanks for all the prayers and positive thoughts. My week was truly spirit-filled. I recommend silence in this time more than ever.
* Mental health is one factor in homicide generally and mass killings. It is far from the only one, although studies suggest as many as 60% of mass killings since 1970 have involved killers with mental health issues (including New Town, Columbine, and Aurora). Source: Metzl and MacLeish, “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms, American Journal of PUblic Health, February 2015. The authors argue that blaming issues solely on mental health is wrong, and the effect of cultural contexts and biases.