Saturday, July 9, 2016

Eye for an eye

Another way the spectacularly politically relevant movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes resonates is how it shows groups in an uneasy peace policing their own ranks. The peace is worth preserving because of the death and maiming that would result from war. Either war is inevitable, and you fight to win, or peace is possible, and you police your side to keep it.

The opening scene of the movie shows Caesar letting a rogue human off the hook for killing his tribesman in cold blood. Caesar knows that a swift reprisal would be construed as an act of war against the humans. Therefore the responsibility for punishing the killer is the humans’. Likewise it’s Caesar’s responsibility to check his warlike tribesman Koba, who would relish a war with the humans, whether started by the humans or themselves.

The facts may very well exonerate the police in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis, but I doubt it. Police are fallible, but sometimes they’re treated as infallible, as entitled to homicidal mistakes. Sometimes they don’t own up to them, as in Eric Garner’s case and other cases I’ve observed. So when one group fails to punish its own members who breach the peace, it doesn’t surprise that the aggrieved group seeks revenge, short of war.

But what about Jesus’ command to not retaliate, to “not resist the evildoer” (Matthew 5:38-39)? Would those ancient words be heeded by all! Jesus’ teaching is the tonic for a soul torn from God, but unfortunately it is not a predictive model of human nature. Not even Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the great Christians of the 20th century, fully obeyed what he properly understood to be Jesus’ teaching. That’s not an excuse to not try, just a reasonable template to base your expectations from.

It goes without saying the murders and attempted murders of police in Dallas are atrocious. It goes without saying the truth often runs counter to beholden grievance narratives always angling for political currency. Years of pointing this out has done little to convince anyone of their errors. The situation isn’t about justice and righteousness so much as political appeasement.

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