FALCON HEIGHTS, MINNESOTA — A nonviolent man’s life is snuffed out in his car by a police officer during a routine traffic stop. The nation was horrified as his death was streamed over the internet by his girlfriend, who was also in the car at the time with her young daughter.
From what anyone knows of the situation at this point, it is reasonable to assume that Philando Castile would still be alive today, were he not a black man. Mr. David French, a columnist I generally respect, misses this point in an article he wrote in the aftermath of the event. Like Mr. Castile, he is a gun owner and licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Like Mr. Castile, he has been pulled over by the police for traffic offenses (although it is not clear exactly why Castile was stopped). Like Mr. Castile, he says that when he is stopped by police, he informs them that he has is carrying a weapon.
Mr. French is certainly punctilious, and well should he be in such a situation. But fortunately for him, “When I’ve followed these steps, law enforcement has been unfailingly polite and professional.” The polite professionalism of law enforcement was unfortunately not on display the day Mr. Castile was killed.
Mr. Castile of course immediately became the latest icon of the Black Lives Matter movement, which believes that systemic prejudice among law enforcement officers results in unequal and often deadly treatment of black men at their hands.
Meanwhile, in DALLAS, TEXAS — Last night, domestic terrorists ambushed and shot a number of police officers, killing 5. Their ostensible motive was revenge for the deaths of Castile and others.
But if that were true, why did they attack police officers in Dallas, who obviously could have had nothing to do with Mr. Castile’s death, the killing in Baton Rouge of Armando Sterling, or any other recent “officer-involved shootings” of black men?
It’s not revenge. It’s totemistic violence. For the terrorists, people — whether they be black victims, or police officers — are not significant in themselves, but only as symbols of what they represent in some ideological construct.
But in order to bring an end to the cycle of violence, we must renounce all ideologies that reduce the human being to a mere totem whose destruction carries political significance. What is significant about human beings is that each one is a bearer of the divine image, and killing them is a mortal sin.
Until we recognize this and repent of all forms of ideology and prejudice that reduce human beings to objects and abstract symbols of power, the cycle of hatred and murder will continue.