The news from Baltimore this week is shocking, but not so unexpected if one has been paying attention to the times.

Burning and looting and committing acts of random violence are never acceptable in a rational society. But then again, perhaps that rational society should take a hard look at fundamental indicators to determine if it has lost its way.

For too long now the middle class has been squeezed dry, leading to growing poverty and even hunger in these United States. The reported unemployment, and especially youth unemployment, figures from Baltimore are eye-catching. The city’s police department has a long track record of documented brutality and heavy-handed tactics.

So the combination of economic suffering and overbearing police tactics creates a powder keg. When a tragedy like the death of Freddie Gray takes place, the spark sets itself.

These are explosive times. Despite the election of the nation’s first African American president, race relations in this country seem to remain fractured. Too many white Americans lack empathy for the view of their black countrymen. Too often they hide behind a shield of law and order to avoid acknowledging the history of suffering and exploitation experienced, even in our lifetimes, by our black neighbors.

Step one is to learn from each other, to share experiences and actually listen to what the other is saying.

We take that back. Actually step one is for American police to stop violently targeting young black males with militarystyle tactics. Police need to stop shooting black men in the back. They need to stop breaking the necks of black men on the streets of American cities. They should be held accountable, and not hide behind the badge, when American citizens of any race are treated like enemy combatants in a foreign war zone.

Then we can start listening to each other and attempt to pursue a more perfect union. !

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