by | Feb 5, 2023

This is clearly a fact that has long been obvious to anyone viewing the atrocities which we continue to inflict upon each other when we don’t get what we want.

The thoroughly unprovoked, insane rage displayed by those five policemen, resulting in their murdering Tyre Nichols cannot be denied or minimized.  

A five-year-old having a temper tantrum is manageable, but when five out-of-control, enraged adults with deadly weapons throw a temper tantrum it is a nightmare waiting to happen – and it did – again.

How many more people have to die before we effectively and consistently refuse to tolerate it?

As horrifying as it is to consider, there must be at least hundreds more like those five, spread out across the country, buried in precincts large and small. 

These are men whose mental instability has escaped detection in the hiring process, men who cannot or will not control their rage and when triggered, can, and all too often do, kill in the name of “justice”, at the drop of a hat, or I should say, at the drop of a human.

It is imperative that we identify the cause of this kind of insane behavior, and recognize and respond to it as a cry for help. 

Civil rights attorney, Ben Crump asked, “Why couldn’t they see the humanity in Tyre?” (AP, Feb 2, 2023; Aaron Morrison and Adrian Sainz) And we must add George Floyd and countless others to the list. They couldn’t see it in Tyre and all the others because they could not see it in themselves.  They had forgotten their own humanity. You cannot give to another what you are not aware of having yourself.  Most of us have known murderous rage, if only for an instant, at some time or other, but, fortunately, we have had enough awareness to control it, to remember our humanity. 

If we are to find the solution, we must first understand the problem.  

Individuals like these five policemen are deeply disturbed, and, hopefully, their psychopathy would have become apparent if they had been investigated, tested, and interviewed by trained and competent professionals prior to being hired. 

I do not know the protocol of hiring police officers, but having worked for the federal courts as a United States probation officer in San Francisco for nearly ten years, I conducted hundreds of interviews and investigations of individuals convicted of criminal offenses.  

It seems obvious to me that some steps in the process of selecting the right people for this critically important job of a police officer are sorely lacking, and that is not a problem unique to Memphis, Tennessee.

In this tragic case of Tyre Nichols, immediately removing those men from their jobs, while obviously necessary, and then indicting them for murder and sending them to prison does not end the problem.  It merely controls the symptoms temporarily in this particular incident.  Long-term, it is no more a solution than capital punishment which has not ended or even reduced the crimes for which it continues to be a sanction. (Vera Institute of Justice, The Prison Paradox: More Incarceration Will Not Make Us Safer; Don Stemen, Dept of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Loyola University Chicago, July 2017). 

Fundamental changes in the way this country is policed are necessary if we are to stop police violence. 

At the very least, the most basic criteria for employment should be reassessed and revised where necessary. A panel of carefully selected, trained professionals that would include at least one psychologist, should be established in every police department in the country to assist in the hiring of officers, and a system for tracking police misconduct should be instituted.

At the same time, we need to carefully analyze the real, operating culture of police departments across the country – not what they say they do, but what they actually do – with initial emphasis on those revealing the greatest problems. Immediate sanctions should be imposed upon those officers who violate the rules. While containing very little leniency or tolerance, those sanctions should focus on genuine help rather than punishment alone.

We are living in a society that normalizes, legitimizes, brutality, in all its forms, often called “entertainment”, and that entertainment has become increasingly pervasive and violent. We have permitted it, even created it, both deliberately and by default.  

Our children grow up watching this violence on television, in films, in games and, all too often experience it in their immediate families. This indoctrination is powerful, and it occurs at an age when they are most impressionable.  

Babies are not born hating. Children are color-blind, and race-blind until the adults in their world start programming them.  Hatred is born out of fear and has to be taught. It is not natural.  Love and connection are natural and, when left alone, arise effortlessly and spontaneously in awareness and behavior.

Unfortunately, stories of love, forgiveness, and integrity do not pay the rent.  Stories of intrigue and murder make headlines and high revenue.   This is both the cause and the effect of a culture that has created humans so alienated and invisible to themselves and each other that fear is the inevitable result, and anger in all its forms remains the primary coping mechanism. No one is innocent. We are all responsible, either directly or indirectly.   

We who do not identify with those who inflict brutality upon others frequently see them as an aberration. We would like to punish “them”, our “enemies”, get them out of our sight and carry on with business as usual. What we do not realize is “they” are our business and will continue to be until we integrate them and realize they are part of us.  As “Pogo”, in Walt Kelly’s famous satiric cartoon of long ago, said: “We have met the enemy, and he is us”. 

If we are to have a new earth or any earth at all, our priorities must shift from money to morality, from barbarism to humanity, from division to unity. If we are to survive as a species, we must stop killing and start collaborating.  And we must respond to the cries for help that are all around us.

Except for a very few enlightened souls, most of us are asleep in varying degrees, and we all need help in waking up to our true nature which we would like to think is basically good. 

“What is needed here?  What would love (respect, decency) do now?”  Until we have a society in which we do not kill each other because we don’t like the color of the other’s skin, or we don’t get what we want, whether it be winning an election, or finding a compliant citizen at the end of a traffic stop, we must realize we are still deeply unconscious and sick. 

Our fundamental similarities are greater than our differences.  We all want to be seen, respected, loved, and valued.  This is true across all cultures and applies to every human being, even those whom we might consider most evil or misguided. It includes all ages and both genders and is also true of “lesser evolved” beings like animals, from whom we still have a lot to learn. 

What can you bring to the table, this day, to prevent another Tyre Nichols tragedy?  

Your answer must include respect for all – yourself, the victims, AND the perpetrators.   The guiding question is, “If everyone did this would we have a better tomorrow?”. 

We cannot wait for a better tomorrow to just happen. We are the ones we have been waiting for.   And it is urgent.