Part 2 of Two
(continued from Character, Part 1 of Two)
Each of the incidences cited above differs in surface details as reported in the press. Each was a tragedy waiting to happen. Each was not about race. They were also not about harassment.
Timar Rice inadvertently made a fatal move when he touched his gun. The policeman automatically responded to that move and fatally shot Timar. His death was tragic but fundamentally accidental. Trayvon Martin was a much younger and stronger man than George Zimmerman. There was a critical face-to-face moment when George Zimmerman, a man who was ultimately proved to be unprejudiced, shot Trayvon because he thought Trayvon would seriously injure or kill him. Michael Brown violently lunged toward the officer with the intent to kill when he was shot. Eric Garner died as a result of his exhausting resistance to arrest.
None of those tragic deaths resulted from harassment or racial prejudice. Unfortunately, sensational cases are those that receive the greatest notoriety. Highlighting cases that are not sensational or end with a fatality would better expose unequivocal police harassment and brutality.
Instead of having an honest and thorough dialogue about authentic harassment and brutality, protesters and ‘officials’ alike engage in mindless slogans and destructive actions. Looting stores has nothing to do with rage: it has everything to do with ruthless greed. Raising both arms in homage to Michael Brown is a lie. And, no one knows better than a policeman who risks his life every day that “Black Lives Matter.”
The spectacle of a rhythmic chant demanding “dead cops” is chilling not only because it is a threat but because it is like something out of Nazi Germany and is disgracefully un-American. I remember the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. I remember the integrity and dignity of most protesters. I remember Martin Luther King who did something about injustice with courageous leadership and inspiring words.
You’ve probably noticed that in modern print the word “character” has often been altered to “mind” in Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech (August 28, 1963).
Although “mind” is a reasonable surrogate for “character,” “character” is far more encompassing, as Martin Luther King meant it to be. Remembering his original use of the word, prompted me to search the speech online as recorded in the United States National Archives. Here is the precise excerpt:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I was thrilled by the truth and brilliance of his speech when he first delivered it. So much so, that the sounds of his spoken words still ring in my memory.
During a public protest, let alone a riot, there isn’t much space for “mind” in a crowd. But individuals within it reveal great difference in character. I vividly remember the contrast between two protesters in the Ferguson riots. One of those individuals started a fire in a store, the other individual quietly extinguished it. That tells me more about controversial issues than any sociological study, demographic report, or poll.
Character invariably distinguishes an individual from all others. It is the fundamental factor that determines the difference between a brutal policeman and a heroic officer like Rafael Ramos; a looting rioter and a peaceful protester; an Al Sharpton and a Martin Luther King.
In a larger context, character is a function of free will. It defines whom an individual chooses to be morally. Whatever the factors of heredity, environment, and circumstance may be, character is inviolate. It is autonomous.
Character is the DNA of the soul.