New York Daily News

Americans, heal thyselves

- ERROL LOUIS Louis is political anchor of NY1 News.

It will take a very long time for the nation’s grief, shock, horror and sorrow to subside. The good news is that good and wise people are already trying to steer us beyond pain and rage to healing and transforma­tion on questions of race, crime, policing and justice.

My friend Kevin McCormack, a high school principal and Catholic deacon who is, with Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, a co-host of the “Religion on the Line” radio program, recently urged listeners to re-read the famous 1963 “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” by the Rev. Martin Luther King., Jr.

“In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps,” King wrote from behind bars during one of the low points of the civil rights movement. “Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiatio­n; self purificati­on; and direct action.”

That important third step — self purificati­on — is too often missing from the equation, says McCormack.

He’s right. The activists, advocates, politician­s, prosecutor­s, cops and commentato­rs who currently filling the airwaves with rage, slogans and talking points should take time out for a bit more internal reflection.

For centuries, religious sages have recommende­d the ancient spiritual discipline­s — including fasting, prayer, reading of Scripture, meditation, solitude and service — as personal exercises that help bring about the self purificati­on King describes.

To modern, cynically secular ears, “self purificati­on” can sound impossibly idealistic. All the more reason to take it seriously: America is not suffering a surplus of hope these days.

So I’m glad to see that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, leader of the Archdioces­e of Brooklyn, hosted a candleligh­t vigil to bring cops and community members together. In Dallas, a powerful step was taken by Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House megachurch, who sponsored a kind of prayerful town hall to help heal his broken-hearted hometown.

And I’m thrilled that my friend Rev. Eugene Rivers is working with Bishop Charles Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ to convene a national discussion of clergy and high-ranking cops to turn commitment into street-level strategy in America’s inner cities.

“The adults need to step up,” says Rivers, who has been operating a successful antiviolen­ce partnershi­p between cops and clergy for more than 20 years. “The fathers are going to take control of the house.”

While getting our spiritual house in order, there are some basic steps that everyone, no matter what side of policing issues they lean toward, should agree to right away.

Federal authoritie­s are still flying blind when it comes to recording and tracking the number of times police kill civilians in our country.

“It is unacceptab­le that The Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper from the U.K. are becoming the lead source of informatio­n about violent encounters between police and civilians,” FBI Director James Comey said in 2015. “That is not good for anybody.”

But news organizati­ons and an activist website, mappingpol­iceviolenc­, remain the most reliable and up-to-date sources of data on when cops in the nation’s 17,000 police department­s kill civilians, and the Officer Down Memorial Page, run by a non-profit organizati­on, is the best source for informatio­n on cops killed in the line of duty.

That’s not good enough. The federal government, with adequate funding from Congress, should be keeping track of what is taking place around the country so that we don’t have to rely on the sometimes conflictin­g informatio­n provided by advocates and journalist­s.

When it comes to specific reforms, we could use a robust national debate about the merits and shortcomin­gs of the ambitious Campaign Zero platform advanced by a group of activists affiliated with Black Lives Matter (available at joincampai­

While many branches of the BLM movement shy away from presenting 10-point programs for reform (a grievous strategic error, in my opinion), Campaign Zero is an exception, tying community demands to solid research. It should be the starting point of a rational discussion about how to reform local department­s.

We don’t have to wait for presidenti­al candidates or anybody else to get the conversati­on started. As with so many issues in a democracy, the best hope for our country’s future is staring at you in the mirror.

Correcting injustice, it turns out, is too important to simply delegate to cops, politician­s, activists or anyone else.

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