We’re helpless against violence, whether locally or in Wisconsin or somewhere else in the nation. Worse, no one has a promising plan or idea to stop us from showing our worst to one another.

But we can take action. We can listen to one another. The default reactions to violence lead to us yelling past one another. Only by listening — however difficult that may be — can we come to an agreement on potential solutions.

When history recalls this period of history, it will remember a time of immense change during which society was too shell-shocked to be willing or able to take a step back and see the full picture.

All confrontations fit into a simple routine. Circumstances end up similar to a morbid Mobius strip of incrimination, recrimination and despair. Who knows how it begins? Someone breaks a law, appears to have broken a law or just gives off something disliked by a person in authority. Sometimes the authority oversteps its bounds, sometimes the person in custody does something to get away or to harm someone. Reactions turn into overreactions and, this being the United States, there are plenty of guns to go along with the aggrieved party. Matters escalate.

By that time, no one’s in the mood to step back and listen to anyone else.

Notice how in this example we’ve made no judgment of the innocence or guilt. That puts us in the middle of a situation where sides have definitely been chosen.

Who is correct? Law enforcement authorities have been dealing for months with complaints about some cities’ uses of unnecessary force and public calls for their departments being “defunded” along with the traditional stressful and dangerous parts of their jobs. This summer has seen a spike in brazen gun attacks. Including “gang-like” activities, if we’re going to insist there are no gangs.

Then there’s COVID-19. It is affecting all of us, leading to mental and physical health issues as well as employment, food and housing concerns.

When you feel like the future will only get worse, you’re not going to be in the mood to listen.

So we break off into sides and protest in different colors, waving signs and hoping to both have our own voices heard and drown out those opposed to us.

Which is the exact definition of talking past one another.

No one wants to be the first to step back. Either they’ve been stepping back too long or they know if they step back, they’ll be surrendering ground they feel they’ve earned.

This is the base of so many of our societal issues this summer, from bullets shot at innocent people to confrontations between law enforcement and citizens. We’re so certain we’re correct we can’t imagine anyone would have reason to disagree.

When it comes to violence closer to home, we must cooperate. Too many news stories include information about a lack of cooperation from victims and witnesses in shootings. We’re nothing without one another’s help.

There’s no easy answer, and we won’t be welcoming a solution anytime soon. We can’t even get to the point where we all agree on what the problems are.

— The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

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