Sometimes it seems like our country, our counties, and our communities are so polarized we can't even agree on what time it is. We're like a broken clock that isn't right twice a day. It's a sad state of affairs when fellow citizens can't help but turn everything, every moment, and every bit of minutia into a pitched life-or-death battle for the very soul of our country.
Last weekend we removed from New Times' website all comments on our story "Deceased shooter who killed SLO police officer had mental health crisis, his mother said" (May 13, 2021) because the comment section turned into a poo-flinging contest between conservatives—one in particular—who see anyone not aligned with their thinking as "alt.left/BLM radicals/antifa anarchists"; and progressives who believe "oppressive gang-stalking sharks-cops" are waging an "undeclared, silent, bloody war on citizens."
Can't you both be wrong?
What happened was a tragedy, perhaps a preventable one where both SLOPD Detective Luca Benedetti and alleged burglar Edward Zamora Giron would still be alive if the situation had been handled differently. Instead, we have two dead over some stolen property and a battle between those who can't see that Detective Benedetti didn't deserve to die and those who can't see that Mr. Giron did deserve help and compassion.
The comment section of the story was hijacked by those who wanted to air their lengthy, and often libelous and mendacious, grievances against the left; and those who wanted to use it to vilify all law enforcement and conservatives and paint them with the same brush as power-mad racists and fascists.
What we should be discussing is how to prevent such a tragedy in the future, but when Giron is nothing but "pure evil" and Benedetti and those who ordered him to Giron's apartment are unquestionable "heroes," we get nowhere. If we could power our communities with our distrust, misunderstanding, and animus for one another, we could leave the lights on 24/7 and have juice to spare.
It's not just in SLO Town. Law enforcement supporters are having a meltdown over the removal of a "Blue Lives Matter" flag from outside of the Paso Robles Police Department after a neighboring county's sheriff's association complained online ("Kings County weighs in on Paso police's removal of a 'Blue Lives Matter' flag," New Times News Wire, May 10, 2021).
"The constant caving to the 'woke' cancel culture sweeping across America is promoting lawlessness and fueling negativity toward our beloved law enforcement," the Kings County post read. "The Kings County Deputy Sheriff's Association sends their support and admiration to the brave men and women at the Paso Robles Police Department. Now more than ever before we need our leaders to stand tall and support those of us who risk our lives."
Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis removed the flag because he knew that for many it's a controversial emblem.
"I am aware that the symbolism of thin blue line flags is viewed differently by many," Lewis said in a Facebook post. "Some view it as a symbol of law enforcement support, while others view it as a racist and divisive symbol. I leave it to each community member to research this controversial topic and form their own opinions. With that said, in an attempt to avoid any controversy and preserve public trust, I ordered the flag be removed from the light pole."
Naturally, like biting flies to political honey, the knives—and lies—came out, with some Facebook users posting that the flag was stolen when it wasn't. A relentless ultra-conservative poster—do you have a job, dude?—condemned Lewis and his decision to remove the flag, claiming actions such as his "fueled criminality and mob defiance all across the USA" and "lost [Lewis] the support of his rank-and-file officers as a result of this woke stunt."
The other side noted it was "despicable how local white supremacist troublemakers are wanting to divide our community by bad-mouthing some of our greatest leaders and public servants."
Hey everybody, you can support the police and not be a white supremacist. You can realize that communities of color and their allies find the flag divisive, just like some people believe the Confederate battle flag is about heritage and others see it as a symbol of racism. You can still be proud of your Southern heritage and be cognizant enough to know not to fly the Confederate flag because for many it's a symbol of hatred. You can be aware that law enforcement historically targets communities of color but realize not every police officer is an unrepentant racist. It's called being an empathetic grownup.
We need to stop being so myopic. Your political opponent doesn't have to be your blood-feud enemy. He or she is your neighbor, your fellow American. Are we all so infantile and bitter that we have to pick a fight over everything? Are we incapable of stepping back from our immediate knee-jerk emotional reaction to see a situation from another's perspective? Because if we are so intransigent and truculent, so incapable of listening to our opponents' views and considering them dispassionately, we are literally doomed.
Here's your weekly challenge, whether on the left or right: When next you're triggered, breathe. Δ
The Shredder promises to work on itself to be more broadminded. Send encouragement and suggestions to email@example.com.