William Shakespeare penned a play in 1595 called “King John,” in which he wrote the phrase, “Be fire with fire.”
The words essentially mean to match your opponents’ tactics in order to conquer them, even if you have to resort to playing dirty.
It’s similar to “giving them a taste of their own medicine.”
About three centuries after “King John,” U.S. settlers combatted brush fires by setting small fires to burn up flammable material in the imminent path of a large fire. If that material was successfully extinguished, the idea was that the bigger fire wouldn’t have anything left to sustain or grow it.
Using all of the above applications, the strategy can be effective in certain situations.
In present-day Louisville, we’re witnessing a “fight gunfire with gunfire” scenario. This brand of violence is not effective; it is scary and it is dangerous. It’s playing with fire.
If you don’t know why people are in an uproar in Louisville and across the country, here’s a quick recap:
• Breonna Taylor’s apartment was one of five places for which a no-knock search warrant was signed off. Her ex-boyfriend, who was arrested on Dec. 30, 2019, in connection to drug sales, had been driving a car registered to Taylor, was still allegedly paying visits to Taylor’s place and had listed Taylor’s phone number on a complaint against a police officer in February.
• On March 12, Taylor and her new boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had eaten dinner at a restaurant on her first night off in several days — she was an ER technician. They were in bed watching a movie.
• At about 12:40 a.m. on March 13, officers said they knocked on the door and identified themselves. Walker and Taylor, who had fallen asleep, finally arose from their slumber and yelled, asking who was at the door. According to the Courier Journal, they didn’t hear a response. That’s about when police, according to the newspaper, used a battering ram to plow into the residence.
Walker admits he fired first, but claims he couldn’t see who was at the door. Officers returned fire, striking Taylor. She died at 12:48 a.m.
Meanwhile, about 10 miles away, police had Taylor’s ex-boyfriend and three others in custody.
Police found no drugs or cash inside Taylor’s apartment.
This gut-wrenching tragedy has been met with protests and riots across the country — which increased exponentially after George Floyd’s death — and numerous cries for the officers to pay for Taylor’s death.
The result on Wednesday was a charge against one of the three officers. Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, because three of his shots entered an adjacent apartment where three people dwelled. The fired officer faces up to five years in prison.
This wasn’t nearly enough for so many, but we must compartmentalize here. We must separate criminal justice from social justice. In the eyes of many, this was a far cry from ideal criminal justice, but can’t there still be social justice?
Can Black lives matter as much as other lives matter? The answer is yes, but the answer to “how to get there” is not to “be fire with fire.” It’s to be one with another.
Louisville’s streets filled with police and protesters in response to Wednesday’s announcement.
Two police officers were shot despite the mayor urging demonstrators to remain peaceful.
Those officers will likely survive, according to reports, but one’s wounds did require surgery.
Breonna Taylor did not deserve to die, but this violence must stop.
A war pitting American people against American people — aka “fighting fire with fire” — is not the answer.
It’s time to acknowledge the wrongdoings of the past, heal the wounds in the present and move forward together.