Mornin' y'all. Hope this Wednesday finds you in the highest of spirits with the wind forever at your back. Recent non-sporting events, however, have made the winds swirl enough to impress a Category 5 hurricane. Sadly, the worst of humanity has been on display both in the tragic events and the fallout surrounding the shootings of Philando Castile, Aston Sterling, and the Dallas Police Department.
Sports are especially grand because they do not truly matter and allow us an escape. There are particular times, however, where we need to utilize the community built through sports to serve a larger purpose for our society. As our country continues to travel a dangerous and violent path, such a time has presented itself. LeBron James is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. He has sometimes avoided utilizing this platform to discuss his opinions on social or political matters while simultaneously being one of the more outspoken activists in sports. With that, he has not been silent on these episodes.
Escalations of Fear
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. - Yoda (Phantom Menace)
Fear can be an all-consuming entity. Fearful police officers might take more drastic measures even when not utilizing lethal force. Fearful citizens might act untrusting of officers. Of course, the issue is of escalation. Officers detecting untrusting citizens increases the usage of drastic measures and shows of force leads to more untrusting citizens. The circle of fear and mistrust is demonstrated in a recent NY Times article highlighting a new study that dives into the issues of police force amongst racial lines.
I cannot pretend to understand or to know how others feel. I can have empathy towards them, however, and do my best to attempt to think of everything from each point of view. Hardening our hearts and our minds towards our biases will only create higher obstacles to overcome as our nation attempts to navigate these issues as Ben Watson eloquently stated for the Undefeated:
When you talk about racism, when you talk about black and white and how we see things totally differently, it’s bad. That’s obvious. We view the world through our own lens and our own biases. How many of us don’t even want to put our feet in someone else’s shoes because we’re so ingrained in what we think? That’s a problem.
Forgiveness over Vengeance
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? - Luke 6: 27-32
Charleston gave me hope. The separation of justice and vengeance is crucial. Justice ensures those who have done wrong are rightfully held responsible for their actions. Vengeance is the internal drive of victims to punish their offenders. As understandable as vengeance is, given the harrowing circumstances, the momentary satisfaction is fleeting according to most accounts.
However, there is undeniable power in the simple statement "I forgive you." Some might find forgiveness to be letting the offender off the hook for their actions. It is not. Justice must still be done, which does include punishment. However, the grace of forgiveness can provide a release and a way forward.
So, Charleston gave me hope. Hope that the country can change. Hope that the country will change. And, it seemed fitting that actual change resulted from the grace demonstrated by the grieving survivors.
The brief televised hearing electrified the country. President Obama was swept up by the feeling during his eulogy for slain Emanuel pastor the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and shifted into song: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound …” Blacks and whites filled the miles-long Ravenel Bridge in a show of unity, and within days the most contentious public symbol of South Carolina’s Civil War past, the Confederate battle flag, was removed from the state capitol grounds with relatively little of the controversy that had surrounded it for decades.
Social Media Empathy Vacuum
I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. - Thomas Jefferson
Whether you think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any other potential semi-anonymous outlet is the most despicable corner of the internet, the lack of empathy and thoughtfulness displayed in electronic conversations can create an empathy vacuum. The desire to be bold, witty, or blindly support a viewpoint often trumps any thought of upholding the common human decency one would show to someone's face.
For instance, tagging a thought with #BlackLivesMatter will have strong replies tagged #AllLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter as if the original poster does not agree with those statements. The same types of responses also happen in reverse. Opposing forces and screams are digitally howled into the abyss often tangential to the point at hand.
Even the times when someone realizes they've gone too far, they can find the internet has a memory that is as immediate as it is long. Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell was emotional and wanted to make a statement. Instead, he found himself making a regrettable decision to post a horrific and insensitive picture to his Instagram account. He immediately deleted it, but the poor decision required a public apology and the team has indicated Crowell will need to take steps to undo the damage, which he began by personally calling the chief of the Cleveland Police Department.
Perhaps if people could focus on having discussions rather than arguments, these types of issues would happen less often. As Geoff Schwartz noted on Sports Illustrated's MMQB, it is OK to disagree in a civil manner.
It’s gotten to a point where social media causes fake outrage mobs and everyone wants to be on the right side of a story. There’s no nuance anymore and heaven forbid you have a reasoned opinion that isn’t what the masses believe. You’re labeled all sorts of nonsense. It’s okay to have civil disagreements and reasoned opinions.
The nation feels as if it is entering or has entered a dark period. But, a single light is most easily seen when surrounded by darkness. True leadership attempts to do what is best for a society without concern for personal gain. So, where is the Martin Luther King Jr, the John F. Kennedy, the Ronald Reagan of our generation to push our nation through these storms? Where is the leader with the ability not to convince others of their side, but with the ability to hear all sides and rally around the best solution for our country?
There seem only to be two directions left for us as a country. Either we can continue the spectrum divide, go to our corners, and await the bell so that we might come out swinging. Or, we can come together as a nation and find a way to allow these events to make us stronger. It is my hope and my prayer that a leader emerges to help us follow the latter path.