As I have been listening to the cascading reports of violence, of cruelty, of racism, of thoughts and prayers, I have been feeling sad, helpless, and sick at heart. If past is prelude, there will be more vigils and more demonstrations and more finger pointing about who is to blame... but to what end? So much has been said, but still nothing has been done.
While I do not pretend to have the answers, one of the areas that I believe needs to be addressed is the scarcity of community resources. Police forces are operating on bare bones budgets. Rather than having community policing where the police actually know their neighborhoods and the people on their beat, cops answer calls and move from one emergency to the next. Schools, especially urban schools where there is the most need, are generally the first ones to feel the budgetary axe. Classes are big and resources are scarce; social services are overloaded and overwhelmed, and medical care is often reduced to how many patients can be moved through the system as quickly as possible. These budget cuts are most commonly found and most acutely felt in low income and minority communities.
Rather than going to our corners and arguing about gun control or mental health or police brutality or systemic racism, perhaps we need to restore funding to health and human services, especially to areas where there is the most need. We need to give the helping professions the funding that they need to continue and to improve their services.
During recent years, legislators have fallen in love with the business model of making decisions by crunching numbers and proclaiming that the answers to all of our societal ills lie in data analysis. Sadly, these policies have given us divisiveness and have pitted us against one another.
- Who deserves better schools?
- Who deserves better community policing?
- Who deserves better health care?
Contrary to the current narrative of labeling people in need as wanting free stuff, most people who are in need are looking to survive and to support their families in whatever way they can.
- Why don’t we talk to the people whose lives are being affected by these slash and burn budget cuts to find out how we can best help them?
- Why don’t we try to recognize that their lives, their hopes, and their dreams aren’t so very different from ours and that we are all a part of the same human family.
If we are really serious about being in this together, we need to have uncomfortable conversations with people who are not like us. We need to quit talking past each other and to start talking to each other.