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Understanding the other side
by Bryan Gray
Aug 17, 2016 | 2052 views | 0 0 comments | 284 284 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When readers write me, whether by letter or email, I appreciate reading their (usually strong) opinions. Over the years I have been called a “liberal socialist” and a “redneck conservative,” but lately reader comments have reflected the ever-growing partisan divide, something I fear is highly destructive to our communities and our national purpose.

Two letters received last week offered comment on my column “Stand Up for Justice” in which I wrote I had no sympathy for people who shot or assaulted cops and, likewise, had nothing good to say about rogue policemen caught on cell phones shooting and roughing up motorists (“Unless you are blind, there is no way to excuse the recent killings of black men in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis”).

One of the two readers lauded the column, “The column was a victory for common sense,” he wrote. “When a black physician treating hospitalized police officers remarked that he was still fearful of being stopped by a police officer, we need to look in the mirror and understand how others see us.

“Your statement that we should ‘stand up for justice’ instead of blindly choosing sides is the most sensible thing I have read in all the debate between law enforcement supporters and the Black Lives Matter protestors. You are also correct that we should show no mercy to those who assault police officers. Thank you for a well-written, thoughtful column.”

But the other reader was not tossing me any bouquets.

He objected to my citing a study showing black men, as a percentage of the population, were more likely to be to be stopped by police officers (“Who paid for this study? Al Sharpton or Louis Farrakhan?”). He wrote the “Black Lives Matter” movement was “a joke dreamt up … by race baiters always looking for a way to make the police look bad.” The cell phone videos showing police brutality, he said, could be bogus (“You get 30 seconds of someone’s telephone video and all of a sudden you are an expert and have made up your mind about what happened”).

His experience as a former policeman in Los Angeles obviously left him with an attitude on race. (“I don’t like crooks,” he wrote. “Those too lazy to get an education and a job but think the world owes them because of their ancestry, choose to stick a gun in your face and take what they want. Yeah, I really dislike those people and I spent a lot of the time trying to put them in jail.”).

Two readers, two letters – two opposite ways of looking at the world.

Can they sit on the same church pews on Sunday and see the humanity in each other? Can they have friends on Facebook who disagree? Can our country sustain a civilized society with such a side gap in perception?

Surveys show Americans hate the “us versus them” partisanship in Congress. We know instinctively that compromise produces better results, yet I don’t see any indication that we are moving politically and philosophically towards positions that are inclusive.

As Pres. Dwight Eisenhower said more than 70 years ago, “To define democracy in one word, we must use the word ‘cooperation.’” And that comes from understanding the other side.

The opinions stated in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ownership or management of this newspaper.

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