The Doctor: Sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones, but you still have to choose.
Last week I wrote about my own personal struggles with hatred and the temptation to believe that violence might be a valid option. I believe that nonviolence can bring about vast changes-but only if both the oppressed and the oppressor are committed to it. When the oppressor refuses to listen to multiple nonviolent protests, when said protests are twisted and lied about and are blamed for the deaths of others, when those in power decide to create an us vs. them mentality, they are paving the way for violence. So this is a plea, a desperate cry, for those in positions of power to listen. Specifically this is a cry for those who work in law enforcement and their loved ones, as well as those in charge of crafting public policy, to listen to the Black Lives Matters Movement, which has predominately been peaceful. Even though some, who did not have ties to the movement or were in the periphery of the movement, have taken it upon themselves to react violently. And no, I don’t think destruction of property in anyway compares to the repeated murders of black and brown bodies at the hands of the state. Right now there is an opportunity for the state and for law enforcement to help turn a new chapter in the troubled history between the legal system, the government, and people of color. But if the peaceful protests are ignored, I believe that violence then becomes an inevitability.
In Mummy and the Orient Express, Clara and the Doctor have the following conversation:
In this episode, the 12th Doctor seems particularly cruel. He witnesses he death of others and doesn’t even wince. And when it seemed as if the Doctor was going to allow Maisie to be murdered, one was left wondering whether this regeneration even had a conscious. The Doctor however, proves he still has a heart and a conscious, he till cares. But he admits that had she died, he would have simply kept on trying to defeat the mummy, even at the expense of the lives of the lives of others on board. He argues that he only had bad options. Now I’m sure some could debate that and argue that he had other options (for instance, perhaps he could have continued to ignore invitations to the orient express) but in this scenario the Doctor felt as if he was placed in a situation where the only options he felt he had were bad ones, but he couldn’t refrain from making decision. In fact refraining, would have in and of itself been a decision. He was placed in a position where he felt as if his only options were inaction or risking the lives of some individuals, in order to save a larger amount of people.
Likewise, when the state and those who work for the state, insist on co-opting or dismantling peaceful movements-they are placing those who are at the receiving end of their actions in a potentially difficult spot. The “Blue lives matter” movement is not simply about or even primarily about affirming the worth of police officers, but it is about discrediting the Black Lives Matter Movement and accusing it of perpetrating violence. The movement is accused of fostering a “war on cops” When the statistics clearly demonstrate that there is no “war on cops.” In fact, if the rate of police deaths continue, 2015 is on track to be the second safest year on record for police officers. Furthermore, The Guardian has counted over 800 civilians have been killed by law enforcement. Over 172 of those people confirmed to have been unarmed. Knowing how things have worked, how many of the other 700 may have been unarmed but because of lack of footage, we only have the officer’s account? This isn’t to accuse individual officers of being “bad people”, but it’s acknowledging the pull that the atmosphere of an institution can have on individuals, no matter how good they are. Martin Luther King Jr, himself could be a police officer and the institution would still have a profound effect on how he would treat the poor, people of color, etc and all those dismissed by the larger culture of being thugs. And of course this isn’t to say there are no justifiable shootings, there are. But the fact of the matter is that the institution, like most government institutions, is marred by injustice and racism. The individual cop can be the most upstanding person but if the institution upholds laws that target minorities and the poor, if accountability is considered to be a dirty word, if civilians are treated as enemy combats, all this will affect how the officer treats those that he/she comes into contact with.
The “Police/Blue Lives Matter” movement and its supporters have insisted that calls for accountability are the same as calls to murder individual police officers. They are equating protests for change with waging a war. As a result, they are precariously close to creating an atmosphere where nonviolent protests are ignored and discredited leaving those who care about justice two options: inaction or to bring change through violence. The state is potentially creating a situation where those who care about injustice are left with nothing but bad options, which leaves the door open for death and destruction.
The “Exodus story” in which God frees the Jewish people from the abuse and oppression of Pharaoh is often portrayed, rightly I think, as a story of liberation. It reminds those who are being exploited by the powers that be, that God is with them, and will never leave them. However, it is also a story of warning for those who find themselves in positions of power. In an individualized country, such as America, the exodus story has been reduced to a feel good story that if I am in trouble, God will help me. In reality, the message serves as a warning for those of us who participate in institutions that systematically oppresses others. In the story, ( specifically Exodus chapters 7-14) God, through Moses provides the Pharaoh with numerous opportunities to repent and gives warning after warning about the devastation that would occur should the pharaoh decide not to listen to God’s demand for the freedom of the Israelites. Finally, after the death of the firstborn in Egypt, the Pharaoh seems to have had enough. He lets the Israelites go. Yet at the last minute he changes his mind: Exodus 14:5-9
14:5-9: 5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed toward the people, and they said, “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” 6 So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him; 7 he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. 9
The story does not end happily for Pharaoh and his men, who are ultimately killed.
While I don’t believe in a God figure that manipulates people into doing what is good or what is bad, or that God “hardens” the hearts of people, (however one may interpret that) what I take away from the Exodus story is that those who exploit others and refuse to repent will ultimately be destroyed. And I believe that they end up destroying themselves-they create situations where the only way for justice to reign is by the end of a sword or gun.
I firmly believe that the lives of all people-black, white, native, men, women, police officers, government officials, etc matters. This is why I advocate for justice and why I stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, who are trying to peacefully bring about change. They aren’t saying only Black Lives Matter, but are pointing out a larger truth in America: that institutionalized racism continues to serve as the basis for many institutions including the legal system and law enforcement. And this is why I cry out to those in positions of power to be willing to accept calls for accountability, to make the necessary changes, and to not create an environment where peaceful protests are ridiculed and are accused of endorsing violence. Do not create a situation where people are forced to choose between inaction and justice, even if justice comes through violence. Violence can so easily get out of control and create a perpetual cycle of injustice. When peaceful cries for change and justice are ignored, death and destruction follow. If those in power and those in law enforcement truly care assert that “Police Lives Matter” and that “All Lives Matter” they will take seriously nonviolent calls for justice.
Note: I am not speaking on behalf of the Black Lives Matter, or any other social justice movement. These are simply my own thoughts and reflections.