‘Don’t shoot the messenger’

Travis McMullen - Contributing Columnist

I’ve got to imagine that it’s a difficult time to be a local law enforcement officer – shooting, murder, arson and burglary abound and it seems like each new day brings a long list of police reports. Criminals from Missouri’s larger cities lay low in Sedville for a while when the heat is too hot in their usual spots and go largely undetected until they commit another crime. It even seems like there are a few too many locals who seem to think they can solve their problems with violence, or suddenly decide to set out on lifetime careers of petty theft.

And if the increased pressure from those who commit criminal activities wasn’t enough there has also been a series of incidents that have been increasing the divide between some departments and the communities they patrol. There have been good people in uniform who have been gunned down for nothing more than daring to wear the uniform. Yes, there are a few bad cops, but that’s true of any identifiable group – there are always going to be bad apples, but we shouldn’t excuse them. You’ve got to remove the bad apples before they ruin more of the bunch.

Both civilians and officers have been senselessly killed. No matter what problems you have with a given group, the answer isn’t to start killing them indiscriminately. It’s just like Shakespeare said, “Blood begets blood.” Starting an endless cycle of escalation and retribution doesn’t do anyone any good.

Our police already operate with a base level of fear that they might not make it home one night, and they shouldn’t have to deal with potential revenge over an incident they and their department had absolutely nothing to do with. On the other hand, African-Americans shouldn’t have to fear for their lives from some of the people who are sworn to protect and serve them.

That’s the thing that makes this whole situation extremely difficult: no matter what color someone’s skin is or how they make their living it can be nearly impossible to separate the good ones from the bad before something terrible happens.

The criminal element has always depended on blending in seamlessly with the general public. Many of us break the law in small ways each day, while simultaneously assuming the criminals in prison receive a much easier experience than they deserve. The criminal justice system should be about rehabilitation more than punishment – would you rather see someone turn their life around and start contributing to society or would you rather see someone who checks in and out of jail like it’s a seedy hotel and eventually either ends up behind bars for life or literally killed by the state?

I’m especially tired of the endless rants about how the real culprit of this and all of America’s problems is the dastardly media, working tirelessly to divide and conquer the masses. This is a common tactic employed by those who are unwilling to confront the real causes of any problem. In their world people are naturally good and must have been tricked into violence or cruelty by some sort of outside force. I’ve never seen a rolled-up newspaper grab a gun and shoot anyone.

It’s silly to refer to the monolithic media anyhow — “media” covers just about anything from your local daily newspaper to national news magazines and channels to that blog written by the guy down the street. The members of the media have different backgrounds, different experiences, different motivations and different relationships with their fellow man.

To even casually imply that all, or even most media outlets come together in a big annual meeting and collectively decide to push a divisive narrative to drive sales is laughable at best. The “media” is so vast and diverse and varied in size that they could never agree to a grand scheme to divide the country.

Here’s the real narrative: media outlets cover things that happen and the things people say about them. If you don’t like hearing about the things that are happening then maybe you should talk to some of the other members of your community and try to do something about it. Media-bashers tend to forget one of the most relevant pieces of old wisdom: “Don’t shoot the messenger.”


Travis McMullen

Contributing Columnist

Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.

Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.

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