Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26.52).
A great crowd, doing the bidding of the chiefs priests and elders, the established authorities, came to arrest Jesus; a seizure that led to his crucifixion and death. One of his disciples, seeking to protect and to retaliate, drew a sword. Jesus believing, knowing the power of violence to reproduce, bearing like fruit, counseled the sheathing of the sword.
I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. (quoted in a variety of sources); another innocent assassinated:
“Hate begets hate…violence begets violence…”
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral…begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy; instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.”
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”
Rioting spiraled in the City of Baltimore in response to the death of Freddie Gray, another black person who experienced the ferocity of law enforcement; arrested for an as yet unspecified crime (looking at a police officer and running?), in the course of which, he suffered a spinal injury, leading to his death. Some, seeking, if not to justify police action (or inaction in failing to provide on the spot medical care for Mr. Gray), to mollify community outrage, cite Mr. Gray’s criminal record; so to infer that he could not be numbered as an innocent. (Truth to tell, as all of us, I believe, in intention and action, word and deed, fall short of whatever standard of goodness we profess or practice; none of us is innocent or, to state it positively[?], we are innocent only by comparative degrees or gradations of our failures.)
My point, simply, profoundly is that the rotted seed of violence, indeed, begets the spoiled fruit of violence.
I lived in Washington, DC, for over a quarter century. Baltimore, less than an hour away by car, is a city I had the privilege and enjoyment of visiting many times. West Baltimore also was home to a number of my wife’s relatives. O’er the years, the stories I heard (and, blessedly, did not experience personally) of police brutality were legion; the agents of law enforcement, by many and almost necessarily, were viewed with circumspection and fear.
I do not condone the violence of rioting and looting, particularly as I believe that some of the instigators of these unlawful actions have come from outside Baltimore, taking advantage of the unrest for whatever personal gains. However, I can understand the root of the violence in a long-simmering community-wide sense of having been disregarded and disrespected by the institutions of government. To some degree, this may explain why the pleas for calm, though, I trust, well-intentioned, by the mayor and police officials, ring hallow and false to those who bear grievances.