Shoot first, think later

In the short clip of the shooting, yet again, of a black man in America this week what gripped me was the despairing frustration of the young woman.

Source: Shoot first, think later – The Zimbabwean

She jumped up and down in utter anguish and when she was interviewed the words tumbled out in anger and shock. Once again America is racked by unbelief that police are so itchy with their guns that they shoot without thinking – and shoot continuously – a man who was so obviously helpless and unresisting.

We are caught off balance by the tragedy played out again of how human beings treat one another out of some irrational and emotion based compulsion. Why is it so hard to face up to the truth which presents itself to us in every situation and is waiting to be recognised? Why do we prefer to be driven by primitive motives of fear rather than rational motives of compassion? America has a particular problem as they will not allow their government to control the use of guns. And so people are afraid that others will use their gun first. Their instinct is to shoot first and think later.

It is a relentless agonising situation. But we would be running away from ourselves it we think it is their problem only. All of us, one way or another, find it hard to face up to the reality that presents itself to us daily. The reaction by the Zimbabwe government to the Catholic bishops’ recent letter, calling on the government to listen to the grievances of the people, is another example. They could not bring themselves to listen and preferred to ‘shoot’ verbally instead.

Why is it so difficult to listen? To hear what people have to say? To enter for a moment into the suffering that people are enduring? Why is that so difficult? Is it that we do not have the inner confidence in ourselves to hear other people’s words and feel their experiences? Why do we feel so threatened?

There is a passage in Jeremiah 20, which we read this Sunday, in which he confesses he wants to run away. Facing the truth is just too demanding. ‘I will not think about him. I will not speak his name any more’.  Then, he says, he felt ‘a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me. I could not bear it’.  He was trying to resist the truth but there was something deep within him that he held on to and even though it felt for him like ‘violence and ruin’ he persisted and accepted his mission to speak out.

Peter had a similar experience in Sunday’s gospel. He wanted Jesus to run away. Don’t get involved!  Keep yourself safe! Jesus turned on him and called him ‘an obstacle in my path’, a scandal preventing me fulfil my work.

It would not be easy for the police on America’s streets to listen but it would be a way to freedom for them as well as the people they so easily shoot. It would not be easy for our ministers to listen but it would be a way to freedom for them and the people they so easily hammer.

But each of us has to think, ‘where am I in this scene?’ It is so easy to say what other should do. But if each of us can begin to listen, and to feel for those who suffer, it could, in the end, become a contagious epidemic – a Covid 20.

30 August 2020           Sunday 22A                 Jer 20:7-9        Rom 12:1-2     Matt 16:21-27


  • comment-avatar
    Cynical 2 years ago

    Whats the difference between what happened here and our own army shooting innocent people..