We had this eerie feeling of driving into some sort of cauldron of racial tension, policing, protests and, of course, guns. Clairvoyance is not a strong suit. But it’s also not necessary to see what is happening in America these days.
The day we arrived in Stillwater, a lovely and historic town near St. Paul, five police officers were shot dead in Dallas by a man who said he wanted to kill cops, particularly white officers. Just over a week later, three more police officers were killed in Baton Rouge.
The two shooters had things in common. Both had military training, they served overseas and had easy access to powerful guns. Questions will be asked, such as: Did they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? Were they radicalized in Iraq or elsewhere? Did the killings of the black men trigger them to shoot police or were they already domestic terrorists biding their time to kill?
From an outsider’s perspective, the United States appears to be a pretty messed up place these days. And that’s not good for the world, particularly Canada. “Everyone right now must focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further,” U.S. President Barack Obama said after the Baton Rouge officers were killed. “We need to temper our words and open our hearts, all of us.”
Sadly, the President’s words will likely fall on deaf ears, just as his other impassioned pleas for gun control did after previous mass shootings.
And then, the Republican National Convention came to Cleveland, Ohio, one of many states that legally (and I use the word legally loosely) allow people to walk around on city streets carrying and displaying their guns; from pistols to AK-47s, AR-15s and the Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic military assault rifles.
And this “open carry” policy is turning into a political statement with gun lovers walking around Cleveland packing weapons just as Donald Trump is to be ordained the Republican presidential candidate. Police are pleading to put a temporary ban on “open carry” during these volatile days, but Ohio Governor John Kasich has washed his hands of it saying he doesn’t have the power to do so.
We can just all hope and pray what feels like a powderkeg in Cleveland is not ignited by radicals or nervous police feeling like sitting ducks.
There is a sublime feeling of reaping what one sows in America, whether it be from ridiculous gun laws (or lack thereof), miserable race relations over decades, growing economic disparity between rich and poor, deprived educational opportunities for the underprivileged and many other social issues.
It can be easy to sit back and feel smug and morally superior in Canada. But we never should. We have problems, plenty of them, from economic disparity, growing tensions between police and communities and more. We should all strive to do our best to prevent them from festering and growing to the scale and gulf that now exists in the United States where a President can only sit back and feel powerless to ignite real and positive change.
The Bible often warns us about the perils of sowing the wrong things. Indeed, there are 66 Bible verses about sowing and reaping, according to Google. Most come in the Old Testament, but there are many in the New Testament as well.
One of the most famous comes from Proverbs 6:18: “A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” That sounds somewhat apropos for this coming U.S. presidential election.
But there’s always hope, as Proverbs 11:18 suggests: “The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward.”
For the sake of America — and Canada because the old adage tells us that when the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold — let’s hope current tensions ease and politicians on all sides follow the advice of Galatians 6:9: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
(Brehl is a writer in Port Credit, Ont., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @bbrehl on Twitter.)