By ANDREW PAXTON
A recent United Nations report has slammed the United States’ handling of inmates, the brutality of its police forces and its use of capital punishment.
The report, combined with the grand jury decisions in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases, has forced us all to start asking where exactly our country is headed.
When is it acceptable to take another person’s life? Does that criteria change depending on the color of skin or the uniform being worn? What are the underlying causes of all these killings? Has America lost its way?
The ideas of liberty and equality helped birth this nation, but those lofty endowments were not bestowed upon women or residents of color, many of whom were either slaves or Native Americans being run off their ancestral land.
No, this country has always had an issue with race. The election of a black president or the rise of an African-American billionaire female talk-show host hasn’t changed the fact that “the land of the free” doesn’t apply to everyone.
Have things gotten better than the days of slavery or the Jim Crow South? Of course. But that doesn’t mean we are yet living in a truly equal country.
Far from it.
Capital punishment disproportionately affects minorities, and people of color make up an ever-increasing number of America’s surging prison populations.
Many of them never even make it to a jail cell.
Minorities are gunned down on the streets or choked to death in front of our very eyes at alarming rates, and the officers often face no repercussions.
The outrage is being seen and heard on the streets all across the nation.
We all know police must have the ability to defend citizens, and themselves, when necessary. But exactly what has been deemed “necessary” in recent cases has raised questions that are shaking America to its very foundations.
We can no longer accept the killing of other people, even as a form of punishment. Only in extreme cases of self-defense should the taking of another life be permitted.
The U.N. report laid out some basic ways to hold police more accountable, including having independent oversight boards reviewing every case of lethal force by law enforcement and improved training techniques for police. These must be implemented immediately.
Furthermore, this country must start addressing the causes of many of these problems, including lack of education, lackluster social services and a rigged system, as well as undertaking fundamental cultural and philosophical changes, if we ever want these tragedies to stop.
If the violence, torture, inhumane treatment and killings by the U.S. government and its proxies continues unabated, the protests in the streets will undoubtedly grow.
Paxton believes that peace, love and understanding are actually pretty groovy after all, just like the hippies said.