One of our dear friends had a horrific experience last week, and it breaks my heart. She was riding her bike in a peaceful demonstration with the group called Critical Mass, a movement that promotes bicycle-riding as one solution to the rapidly dwindling availability of petroleum products, and our rather scary dependence on Earth’s oil resource.
Apparently a row of police cars appeared and blocked a cross-street in front of the riders. They slowed down, and as our friend passed by one of the cars, the door flew open, knocking her off her bike. As she fell, her shoulder was broken. The officer who did this is claiming it was her fault. He did come to the hospital—not to see how she was, but to give her five tickets amounting to $150.
This is tricky. No one can prove whose fault this “accident” was, though witnesses believe the door was opened both violently and with purpose. But that’s a tough thing to prove, and in our litigious environment, suing a police department has a pretty small chance of succeeding. At least, that’s what the lawyer is telling her and I suspect it’s right.
On the other hand, paying the tickets is tantamount to admitting guilt, strengthening the police claim to innocence. With the medical costs, the interruption to both her work and personal life, and the physical pain, to say nothing of the injustice of it all, such an act goes against the grain. I ache for her. She’s been going through a rough patch in life, and this is the last thing she needs. She’s a good and holy woman, who wants to participate in creating a better world for us all.
Here’s what breaks my heart: we are a country crumbling under the weight of our consumer worldview and excessive lifestyles. Many of our police departments (along with churches, businesses and educational institutions, among others) are struggling to right themselves from reputations besmirched by members who have forgotten who they are and what (hopefully) led them to these occupations in the first place.
What has happened in that officer’s professional and personal life that opened the door to such a cruel, needless, unfair act against someone he doesn’t even know? And what continues to exist in our organizations that promotes the cooperation and tacit approval of their colleagues and superiors in such behavior? The Enron debacle has shown us how pernicious is the spread of participation in illegal, unethical, immoral behavior. And we are all cohorts in these crimes if we simply sit back and tsk-tsk about them, doing nothing to change our world.
“Terrorism” isn’t a person we can shoot or a place we can bomb. It is a willingness in the heart to abandon self-respect, to forget that when we hurt anything else on Earth we hurt ourselves as well, to lose track of what it means to be a species capable of (and responsible for) compassionate behavior. The possibility for being a terrorist lives in every one of us; whether we act it out or not is a choice we must each make.
It breaks my heart that a people founded on, and quick to claim, the high ideal of “freedom and justice for all” has become the laughingstock of the world. Sadly, we continue to earn those snorts and snickers.