The Call For Restraint
I found myself in an unfamiliar place today. I was actually feeling some admiration for Jesse Jackson. I’d read that he sent out a tweet to his 20,000+ Twitter followers saying, “avoid violence because it only leads to more tragedies”. Given the heated environment in anticipation of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, it was certainly warranted for Jackson (a longtime civil rights activist) to say something, and this seemed like a very appropriate and sensible piece of advice. It was a nice contrast to his under-the-breath remark that he would cut off part of Barack Obama’s anatomy because he was ‘talking down to black folks’ during his 2008 presidential campaign. Nice to see Mr. Jackson is no longer advocating violence, either figurative or literal.
But, then, I began to reflect on the phrasing of Mr. Jackson’s advice. He implored his followers to avoid violence because it ‘only leads to more tragedies’. I’m curious as to why he didn’t suggest, or remind his followers that violence is simply wrong. It should not just be avoided because of the consequences, it shouldn’t be tolerated because it is immoral. If the only thing that keeps us from acting with violence is the fear of retribution, then won’t we just commit violent acts once we are sure that there is no retribution, or when we decide that we can live with the consequences?
I can’t put myself in anyone’s mind, and I’m willing to concede that Jesse Jackson’s comment may not reflect the full scope of his thoughts regarding violence and morality. It also appears that the call for restraint, whether it comes from someone like Jesse Jackson, or from people’s own sense of right and wrong, is resonating. With the exception of a few threatening tweets from those who are angered by the verdict, isolated incidents of vandalism in Oakland, CA, and a few insensitive comments from those who are happy with the verdict, I am very proud of my fellow citizens today.