Column: Shootings show need for finding common ground

The shootings of the last few weeks are overwhelming from social, spiritual, intellectual, psychological and social dimensions. No one can contemplate these events without feeling a profound disgust and fear. Disgust at what senseless violence has been committed.

And fear that our society has gone so wrong that there is nothing we can do to stop these events from repeating themselves.

A question that gets asked in response to situations like this is why? Why do police officers seemingly routinely shoot unarmed African-American males? And why is the response becoming to shoot police officers who had nothing to do with these shootings?

An easy answer to the question as to why African-American males get shot routinely is that many police officers are racist. But some of these shootings are done by African-American police officers. Another easy answer is that police officers routinely encounter African-Americans who are acting in criminal ways and who have a propensity for violence.

None of these easy answers are the full truth. There are racist police officers. Do all racist police officers shoot to death suspects? Are all African-Americans criminal and given to violence? I think nothing could be further from the truth.

As with any explanation, there is another explanation. Sometimes, these explanations are the opposite of what is initially offered. Sometimes they are different only in seemingly minor details.

I am aware I have been very vague up to this point. Halfway through this column, it is time I offer specific thoughts. But first, I want to offer a little thought exercise.

There are few topics that can lead to heated discussions between many local residents than the proposed new fairgrounds complex. The group who has been spearheading this effort feels they have given every opportunity for people in the community to weigh in on the topic.

Others see the group as secretive and wanting to use tax dollars without the input of the people.

The principle parties, the Hancock County 4-H Agricultural Association and the county commissioners and council met July 12 in a very public forum at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts to discuss the plans and future efforts to move the fairgrounds.

These three groups have done the exceptional thing and made their meeting very public and accessible to as many as possible. But if this is the only such meeting, and there is no opportunity for public input, the process will fail to meet the public’s need to feel included.

So what does this have to do with the increasing problem of shootings in our country?

The topic has nothing to do with shootings. The idea that parties to the problem can come together to find solutions has everything to do with solving the problem. What would happen if representatives of every component of this problem were to begin meeting to look at real solutions?

This would have to happen at the community level, state level and national level. It would be a slow process, especially in the beginning. There would be those who could not tolerate the process and leave. And those remaining would continue to look at solutions.

There is no question that further killings will happen before a consensus can be reached. Meet anyway. There is no question some will give up because of the enormousness of the solution.

Meet anyway. There is also the likelihood others will come up with solutions. Meet anyway, and include or join those others. The likelihood we will descend in to utter anarchy if we do not find a solution is one I do not want to contemplate.

Jim Matthews is a Greenfield resident. Send comments to