Breaking a Deadly Cycle of Violence


The dreadful cycle of violence that has stained the Summer of 2016 has to stop.

We know that’s easy to say; we know, as well, that it’s hard to do. But we have to keep saying it, praying for it and working our way through this.

Sunday’s attack on police officers in Baton Rouge, La., that left three officers dead and at least three wounded in an ambush shooting was just the latest atrocity in a horrific two weeks in July.

A questionable police shooting in that city July 5 that killed Alton Sterling, a black man, was the first in a cascading series of policing incidents that have ended in tragedy.

On July 6 came another police shooting, this one in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn., that also took the life of black man, Philando Castile, in circumstances just as murky.

The day after that five police officers guarding a protest march in Dallas were felled by a sniper who said he wanted to kill police officers, particularly white officers.

All of this came on the heels of the June 12 nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 people and wounded 53 by a gunman claiming loyalty to the Islamist extremist group ISIS.

And in the midst of the bloodshed here, the world also witnessed the shocking terrorist attack in Nice, France, where 84 people were killed, including many children, and hundreds injured—mowed down by a murderous driver who plowed a truck into a crowd enjoying Bastille Day fireworks July 14.

Such a string of atrocities can be overwhelming, and it’s good to sit back and take a breath in the face of it.

A Facebook post of one of the slain Baton Rouge officers, Montrell Jackson, which said, “Don’t let hate infect your heart,” appears almost prescient in retrospect.

As Cardinal Dolan said in his homily July 10 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, this “one nation under God examines its soul” and prays for healing, peace and reconciliation.

“Sadness and heaviness is especially present in our African-American and law enforcement communities,” he said, and we “pray with them and for them.”

President Obama, while declaring, “attacks on police are an attack on all of us,” also told the nation we need to “temper our words and open our hearts.”

And the bishops of New York State, expressing horror Sunday at the wave of violence, urged prayers for peace and harmony.

We share that plea, and we also urge Americans to look to one another and to our institutions, as imperfect as they are, as a source of stability and strength in this difficult time, and to focus on building communities based on understanding and respect.

We’re fortunate to have as starting points a democratic government and a dedicated and professional law enforcement infrastructure—even though both need to double down on their efforts to bring us together in unity as Americans. And our communities need to work with their civic leaders, their police departments and their neighbors to make that happen.

Finally, we need to count on our churches and other religious institutions to speak out against injustice and violence—as many of our Catholic leaders are already doing—and to offer their confused and frightened congregants a better, more peaceful way.

The path we’re on will get us nowhere.


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