Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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Reducing Conflict Between Government and Citizens is Vital to Our Nation

Tremaine Wilbourn, a black 29-year-old man convicted of bank robbery, was out of jail. He shot and killed Memphis Police Officer Sean Bolton on Saturday, August 1, 2015. Memphis Police Chief Tony Armstrong, who is black, commented that all lives matter, and that this is his third officer killed by criminals since 2011. Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton pointed out the proliferation of guns that has made police officers' job increasingly dangerous.
      It seems to me that the combination of mass incarceration with growing economic inequality since about 1980 has set up two wars: one between law enforcement and the populace, and one between those who feel deprived and the people that they think are depriving them.
     We don't have to look far back in history to find that when a nation's wealth inequality deepens too far, the citizens' coping devices break down. When the breakdown is coped with by means of increasing crime, then law enforcement becomes increasingly repressive and conflict-based rather than being communicative and conflict-reducing. Add the sense of conflict incurred by unequal racial treatment and the nation spirals downward.
     I believe that greed is not the only motivator of crime. in fact, I think it is the least important motivator. I think the most important motivator is that sense of conflict that nations set up when their citizens create societally unequal structures (based on economy, education, class, and appearance). I'm far from the first to say this and I'm far from the last who will ever say it.
     When my children were young, I realized (rather belatedly) that I was setting up many of the conflicts that occurred between myself and them. I didn't mean to do so, but I was raised on a reward-for-obedience model mixed with the guide-and support model.The obey-reward, disobey-punish model predominated in my upbringing. I can't fault my parents; they truly did their best based on what they knew, but unfortunately, I now realize that too much reward-punishment distracts from genuine communication between parent and child.
     I'm not saying that children never need to be disciplined. I'm saying that I unwittingly structured situations in which my kids were likely to disobey me because what I wanted them to do was not cognizant of what they actually needed. Gradually I realized that I was setting up situations in which their efforts to communicate got interpreted as disobedience. Then I punished them, which caused compliance but did not enact justice.
     In prayer, I began to recognize how often I missed my kids' important signals. I managed to change. Nonetheless, I fear that I taught my children too much about compliance and not enough about honest, fair communication.
     When a nation's governing systems fail to recognize legitimate citizen signals, a vortex of conflict is generated. It is up to the leadership of the nation to recognize the vortex and institute changes.

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