“I will accept what the interpretation is [of the facts of Brown’s shooting] depending on who is doing the interpretation.”
Thus spoke Bishop Dudley while interviewed on the O’Reilly Factor a few weeks before the final verdict in the Brown shooting.
Anger, frustration and chaos boiled over the city of Ferguson for days. Then there were the sympathizing protests across the country, only to break out into more trouble with the death of Garner in New York.
Now, after the shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana, more protests arise and then the slaughter of police officers in Dallas. Then Baton Rouge caught us off guard.
What is going on?
Bishop Dudley may have pointed us in the right direction: suspicion. He is suspicious of the police’s interpretation of the facts.
This surprisingly open and frank answer from one of two black pastors near Ferguson is a brilliant moment of clarity in a sea of cultural chaos that is the wake of the Ferguson shooting. The Bishop was responding to a question given directly to a Rev. Scott on the Bill O’Reilly show a month ago:
O’Reilly: “Now, I am going to ask you the same question, Reverend Scott, if it comes out that forensics says ‘Mr. Brown attacked the officer’ and eight African-American witnesses back it up…will you Rev. Scott accept that there might not be an indictment?”
Rev. Scott: “It is not a matter of whether I will or will not accept if there is going to be an indictment or not…And here is the thing I think that you fail to understand Mr. O’Reilly. The issue is: who interprets the data, who interprets the forensic evidence. And when you look at what has taken place as far as the forensic evidence and the autopsies are concerned, this [leaked fact] is nothing new. So in that particular vein, I think that it is very important for us to understand that the interpretation, of whoever decides to interpret the data, they are the ones that basically writes the script.”
I certainly do not know how widespread this reasoning is in America, but these responses are illustrative of a nation divided by mutual suspicion.
Too many peoples and groups are suspicion of each other. From political liberals to libertarians, rich, poor and various minorities, many are suspicious of each other, whether for good or ill.
And considering that the full facts of the latest police shootings are not available, are not many of the protests evidence of suspicion?
But whence the source of these suspicions?
There are certainly many valid reasons to be suspicious: there is racism, there is corruption, there is injustice in America.
Politically and culturally, the causes run deeper: we are a divided nation. The last fifty years is a history of growing division along many cultural and political fault lines in America. It suggests that one nation under God is really many cultures under many gods. And that is the breeding ground of mutual suspicion.
How can people who believe in the sanctity of life at conception trust others who wish to expand the right to murder? How can people who believe in the sanctity of heterosexual marriage trust those who redefine marriage? How can those who believe freedom is defined by God’s law trust those who believe freedom is absolute?
They cannot. And that is only natural. As the old adage states, birds of a feather flock together.
Unfortunately, many people on many sides of many issues are unaware of this. They think—classical liberals, libertarians, conservatives and the like—we can all agree to get along whenever one of the opposition is in power. And that, somehow, we can stay America regardless of our view of murder, marriage and freedom.
But we cannot. And the Progressives know that.
As more and more conservatives are discovering, when those with antithetical views enter the halls of political power they will direct it to their own ends. As Professor Trueman expressed:
“To repeat myself: Confident pluralism assumes either a balance of power or a basic common decency between the various sides in any of the cultural debates. The balance and the decency no longer exist. Nor does it matter that there might be a democratic majority supporting the dissenter in whatever public-square conflict occurs. Power is not a function of numbers any more, if it ever was. It is a function of organization and of having one’s hands on the levers of cultural and legal power. Expect no quarter in the conflicts that are already upon us, however many of your neighbors may initially express sympathy with you.”
It is naïve to think that laws and political parties and sound-bite arguments can keep a divided culture together. At this rate, America is only staying America because of an enforced top-down approach to cultural unity. And that just compounds the problem.
If America wishes to overcome the suspicions that are growing, it will require enough people to agree upon basic issues such as the definition of life, marriage and freedom.
At one time we did: that was when we considered ourselves a Christian nation. We are no longer such a nation. We are quickly mutating into a version of a scientific paganistic nation: science (technology) is the glue that holds together disparate cultural gods such as liberalism, materialism and socialism.
For America to move forward and deal properly with the anger, the killings and the protests, we have to deal with suspicion. And before we deal with suspicion, we have to acknowledge that there are significant and irreconcilable differences at the foundation of our nation.