Great power requires great responsibility
James Madison wrote: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary ... In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
The police have helped control the governed when they do not act like angels, but the protests which followed the killing of George Floyd attest that the police are obliged to control themselves. When people are given great power and the police are given great power along with danger, there is the temptation to misuse or abuse that power at times by some. When people face danger, they can overreact, and when race is added there tends to be toxic mix.
A post on Facebook demonstrated that many black families and police families share a fear of danger being out there in the world. One of the challenges remains how to control the governed while obliging enforcers of government to control itself.
The Preamble of the Constitution reads: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union ... .” For over 232 years, the U.S. has been in a process of forming that far from perfect union. The nation has not then nor in many ways since then acted as if all lives matter, and it is not just in the actions of our police forces. A black newborn in the United States is twice as likely to die in infancy as a white newborn, and a black woman is two and a half times as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as a white woman.
For all the gains in ending some legal forms of discrimination, there is evidence to suggest that we have a long way to go. One study has shown that professional basketball referees are more likely to call personal fouls against a player of a different race than against one of their own race. When the referees quit denying their bias and acknowledged what the study found, their calls became less race based. Perhaps, the Christian faith is right that confessing sin can lead to newness of life at a time when the nation seeks to governed people that are not angels while obliging the government to control itself.
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