Pick a line

line-of-peopleThere’s an image in my head of two long lines of people, stretching off in different directions. In one line are the people who believe torturing our enemies is okay. And that police officers who shoot unarmed black men are just doing their job. The people in the other line — let’s call it the Sob Sister line — think differently.

Few things in life are black and white but it seems I can only stand in one of those lines so here I am in the Sob Sister line and as I look around, I don’t recognize most of the people in this line. But there are so many familiar faces in that other line. People I grew up with. People I worked with. Of course I think I’m in the “right” line, but so do all those people in the other line.

Up and down the line people are shouting back and forth, pretending to have a “conversation.” (Boy, I hate that word) But that’s not what’s really happening. Here’s what I think is really going on.

If the people in the Other line are right, then I must be wrong. Being wrong about really important stuff like torture and shooting people goes right to the core of who I am. Scary stuff.

Here’s my dilemma: I’m having trouble meeting the gaze of people I know in the Other line. They want to talk. To explain why I’m in the wrong line and persuade me to join them. But I smile awkwardly and look away, convinced nothing good can come from such “conversations.” Ideas, and the words we use to express them, are losing their power and meaning for me. They’re just sounds. Like those dogs whose owners think they can speak or sing. I’m focusing more these days on what I do. Actions seem like real things to me.

Am I being cowardly? Maybe. And I haven’t pefected my Stand Mute strategy yet. It’s difficult to be silent. To be still. But here I am in the Sob Sister line, hands in my pockets. Lips tight, eyes straight ahead.

UPDATE: My analogy is flawed. We need more than two lines. Not a third line, maybe, but a place for people to stand who aren’t comfortable in the two lines I described above. Picture that big infield area at the Indy 500.

These folks believe there are times when a police officer might have to shoot (12 times) an unarmed suspect. You have to look at the facts of each case and try to put yourself in the shoes of the officer. And clearly there are time when torture is justified. If a kidnapper has buried your family alive out in the desert and the only way you could save them was to torture the guy, wouldn’t you do it? Of course you would. So, see? You have to take each case on its merits. I don’t belong in either of your lines. Life’s not that cut and dried. Now. What did I miss?