Gavin Eugene Long did not represent the African-American community. He did not represent the BlackLivesMatter movement. He was a frustrated man with mental problems who chose a path that led to his ultimate demise. He represented no group of people, only his own confused mind.
Gavin Long opened fire on police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Sunday morning, 17 July, killing three and wounding three others. A look at his commentary on social media over the past two weeks gives one to believe that in his mind, he was seeking retribution for the deaths at the hands of rogue police officers of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile earlier this month. But the reality is that this man was not right in the head, that he had problems and was delusional.
One can no more blame the African-American community nor the BlackLivesMatter movement for the actions of this delusional young man than one can call all Mexicans ‘rapists’ or all Muslims ‘terrorists’. When we stop trying to assign labels to all, then we can move forward in our goal of equality for all and a humanitarian society, but not before then.
Gavin Long was also a former Marine, though he did not see combat. Nonetheless, he seemed delusional, calling himself one of the ‘targeted individuals’, people who believe they are being harassed with mind-control weapons and by armies of stalkers. His life was a web of paranoid ideas, a professed allegiance to an antigovernment. I am not making excuses for Gavin Long. He murdered three police officers in cold blood and thus he is a murderer. There are no excuses. He died at age 29, and there is no question that he brought about his own death.
However, we must be very careful about placing blame. I have heard President Obama and Hillary Clinton both blamed. I have heard some blame black people as a whole. And I have heard the BlackLivesMatter movement blamed. None of these are to blame, none knew about Mr. Long or had even heard of him prior to last Sunday. The blame is squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Gavin Long, no other.
We are living today in an environment of toxic hate, racism, bigotry and xenophobia that has been assisted, at the very least, by the rhetoric of none other than the GOP candidate for the office of president, Donald Trump. That toxicity is thick, green, ugly and slimy. There is a very real danger of that toxicity spreading and our nation becoming one big battleground. We cannot let that happen, for if it does, we will be at war with ourselves for decades to come. We will see a resurgence of groups like the KKK and a return to open hostilities between races.
The correlation between the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the murders of the police officers in Baton Rouge existed only in the mind of Mr. Long. None of the rest of us see even a thin thread of connection. The African-American community mourns the deaths of these police officers, as do those of us who ascribe to the BlackLivesMatter movement. As do all people in this nation with good hearts and consciences. Do not be so quick to call up blame, do not jump to misbegotten conclusions that make you look like the racist, the bigot. Place the blame where it belongs. Squarely on the shoulders of a deranged and misguided man named Gavin Long.