Violence, fire, and fear: What is our responsibility?

By Cory Goode

At the time that I sat down to write this letter, the streets of Baltimore were being swallowed up by waves of violence, fire, and fear. Anger and frustration have again reached their boiling points following the death of Freddie Gray. A city—a community—is seeking answers as to what caused the injuries that led to Gray’s death while he was in police custody.

Earlier this morning, a friend shared the following quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., on her Facebook profile.

“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

We share a moral obligation to condemn any act of violence in times such as these, warranted or unwarranted. The authority we have given to our police to protect and serve our communities is not immoral, but police brutality most certainly is. Protest is not an immoral act, but the violence that sadly accompanies many recent protests most certainly is.

At the same time, we share a moral obligation to pause and listen to the voice of “the unheard.”

Whatever issues are present in our society related to race and violence, we must listen to one another. None of us are exempt from the ills of our nation. Our union, no matter how polarized we may be, exists under the premise that all are created equal and that liberty and justice should be extended to each and every one of us.
The story that’s being played out in Baltimore and all the other stories like it have carried more than their share of national headlines over the last few months, but I’d like to think that these stories are ones that affect each of us deep within our hearts and our consciences. There are issues beneath the violence and the protest that are causing deep rifts within our society, and they are impeding our ability to love one another and live together in civility and peace.

When we meet uncertainty and grief face to face, let’s refuse to offer critiques of others based on perception and stereotypes. Instead, let’s find ways to listen deeply to one another. It just might save a life.


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