Last night I was at the place of a friend in Long Beach who is a sheriff in Orange County. Great guy. Intellectually curious. Well-read. Knows his scholars (he mentioned Bart Ehrman by name, actually).
My friend is a mastah of hospitality. Great whiskeys. Fantastic landscaping. Fire pit. He’s got it going on.
I was explaining my hypotheses and proofs to him for a long time. He was pretty patient with me.
We chatted about BLM, COVID-19, family. How he worries about getting hurt on the job, getting stabbed and contracting a transmitted disease that he would bring back to his family. He lives with that fear every day. Also told me that his training involved being told specifically not to pull over Black people. I felt empathy for him, even if we come from different places and have different perspectives.
I’ve never had to worry about getting hurt in a way that would affect my three kids.
He asked me what I think about everything that’s going on. I told him about a Black woman I’ve been dating and how she’s had it rough lately–how her cousin–who trained police officers in diversity and deescalation and was friends with the police chief!–was shot by an officer with a rubber bullet in the testicles and how he may have lost the ability to have kids.
My sheriff friend laughed nervously. It wasn’t out of hatred. It’s a coping mechanism, he said, that police and military guys often have.
I don’t know what the future holds. But I think our world’s ready for more listening, more empathy. It’s only human to be scared. It’s also human to transcend fear and feel compassion for others.