Years ago I interviewed a young man who faced a murder charge. “I don’t know what the fuss is about, I only killed a wog,” he told me. (‘Wog’ was a derogatory term used to describe a foreigner). A day later I interviewed his father. “I don’t know what the fuss is about he only killed a wog,” he told me. Like father, like son came to mind. I was struck by the importance of role models in our lives. We so easily adopt the mannerisms or attitudes of a parent, a hero, a musician or even a rapper.
The Bible says ‘death and life is in the power of the tongue’ and that truth is on display with the mounting tragedy of murdered police. The average age of US police killed by gunfire this year is 40. In just seven months 32 died. The assassination of police is a serious problem and it calls for urgent and immediate action. We also need to understand how it so abruptly escalated.
A persistent barrage of incitement to kill police is reaping a sad dividend. Incitement is often categorized as freedom of speech, but is it? Incitement to genocide first became a crime under international law in 1946. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg made that finding when Julius Streicher and Hans Fritsche faced charges of crimes against humanity.
Streicher used his anti-Semitic weekly magazine ‘Der Sturmer’ to stir his German readership against Jewish influence. Jews were depicted in various demeaning ways. “Parasite, enemy, disseminator of diseases’ or ‘like swarms of locusts which must be exterminated immediately.’
“The Tribunal found that by means of such hate propaganda, Streicher, ‘incited the German people to active persecution,’ as well as to ‘murder and extermination,” reports Wibke Kristin Timmermann, Legal Officer, Department of War Crimes. (Incitement in International Law, Wibke Kristin Timmerman, International Committee of the Red Cross).
Today a major unrestrained force for incitement is rap music. It is often hate-filled and yet, seems to get a pass.
With the police fatalities in mind the rap giant 50 cents (2007) released ‘Officer Down’, singing “I’ll murder them, I’ll murder them” in the chorus. The song title was changed to ‘Man Down’ for the album version. In his album ‘Curtis’ tracks included ‘My Gun Go Off’, “I’ll Still Kill’ and ‘Fully Loaded Clip’ –sold 691,000 in the first week.
Dead Prez is described as a hip hop duo known for their confrontational style. The lyrics of ‘Cop Shot’ say ‘Another dead pig, knocked straight off my block, Cop Shot, Cop Shot, Black cop, white cop, all cop!” later, ‘the only good cop is a dead cop!’
I do not pretend to understand the racial tensions in America. I know they are very real and the problems urgently need attention. That has to do with wages, education and equality, which is why I so strongly believe Jesus is the answer. Our worldly problems cannot be solved when selfish interests go first. His Kingdom is colour blind. We worship as one, regardless of race, ethnicity or privilege. Incitement is no answer. God loves the peacemaker.
A wonderful thing happened in New York last February. Rapper DMX (pictured) whose real name is Earl Simmons, was found unconscious in a parking lot of the Ramada Inn. He had no pulse. He was not breathing. Police were called.
In his song ‘Crime Story’ DMX sang, ‘Knock on the door ‘Police! We’re looking for a man. Killed a coupla cops last night and the reward is ten grand.” At the end of that lyric he rushes to the 116th police precinct with a bomb. After the explosion the lyric concludes, ‘Can you dig it, can you dig it, can you feel it.” Apparently celebrating the dead police the explosion caused. At the Ramada Inn, police saved his life. “This was an excellent job by the officers, they definitely saved his life,” Lt. Patrick McCormack told the New York Daily News.
There is genuine pain and deep-seated anguish in the coloured community. We have that same trauma here but shooting police or anyone else is not the answer.
“The whole world lies in the power of the Evil One” the Bible warns (1 John chapter 5, verse 19) If we do not treat a different ethnic group with love and respect, we have denied the Lord. The Apostle John describes the Evil One as ‘the father of lies.’ (John chapter 8, verse 44) The Apostle James tells us not to join his ‘restless evil.’ (James chapter 3 verse 8) The Evil One was ‘a murderer from the beginning’ according to John. The Bible describes Jesus as ‘the word’. He is an edifying, accepting, uplifting word.
In recent weeks I have been watching NRL Rookie on TV. It is about young men trying to win a NRL contract. In the Shed section of the program the players themselves analyze their performances. They have to be honest and address each other always expecting their team mates to have the right of reply. The process is not judgmental but it is meant to be educational and valuable. They have never mentioned their ethnicity or their nationalities or even their state allegiance. It is all about being a reliable team player, who does or does not behave consistently in the team. Words matter. What we say and how we say them has tremendous even eternal impact.
See the world through the eyes of the Lord. He came and died for all. Years ago Chuck Swindall wrote about ‘true teamwork.’ I have adapted his words. Look around. The people need you and you need them. Some are weak, in some areas so are you. Together you can be a much stronger unit.
Take time to pray today and give thanks that you are not alone and by the way, pray for the police and our brave servicemen and women.