It has been a couple of tumultuous weeks in Louisiana with our state once again thrown into the national spotlight that seems to visit us on an all-to-regular basis – usually for things that are not good. Of course, it was provoked by two incidents the drew the country’s attention: the controversy over a police shooting captured on cell phone video and the tragedy that circled back to strike law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge.
Without question, it has been a time of great anguish for many. There are certainly many things to ponder from the recent events and that will surely be done both individually and collectively over the course of time. It goes without saying that the death of Alton Sterling must be thoroughly investigated as independently from the horrible law enforcement murders as humanly possible. Justice, whatever that proves to be, must win out.
Beyond that, as many have noted, we need to undertake a more vigorous dialogue within our communities about the tensions both racial and otherwise that clearly divide us. They’re not just in Baton Rouge, but evident in cities across Louisiana and indeed, as we have seen, across our nation. This time these issues played out in the most tragic of ways here at home, but they are issues that confront us all.
It is worth noting that in the immediate aftermath of Alton Sterling’s death, the protests in Baton Rouge and expressions of concern around the community were peaceful. It seems fair to say from the perspective of most citizens, things didn’t begin to escalate until individuals and groups from outside of Louisiana showed up and began to turn up the temperature.
Indeed, media accounts report that the overwhelming number of arrests that were made in response to demonstrations were of individuals who were not from our state. And, of course, the man who attacked our law enforcement officers was a stranger who specifically travelled here to commit a heinous crime.
All of that is small consolation, but it does give rise to hope that our people – Louisiana people in whatever community we may live – can come together to work out our differences in ways that are productive and honor the lives that were lost.
Appreciation should also be given to Governor John Bel Edwards. He has shown a steady hand and a provided leadership that has been strong, prompt, comforting when need be, but also reassuring and hopeful. Not every leader has shown the ability to do that, but few would question that he has.
And finally, who could not feel a sense of pride and appreciation for the law enforcement officers who gave their lives to protect their community and each other. Their actions have often been described as heroic, and indeed they were.
Clearly, there is still more grieving to do. More searching for reasons why things like this happen. That will continue. One can only hope that out of tragedy some good can come. And maybe as a state we will pull together and engage in issues in ways we haven’t before – thinking about what’s really important and putting aside the trivial issues that tend to get in the way of addressing the things that matter.
That might only be wishful thinking, but one can always hope.