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DN Editorial: Just Breathe

We must find peace on the battlefields we are all living in

SIX FAMILY members slaughtered by a Montgomery County man who then took his own life.

One hundred forty-three, mostly children, killed in a Pakistan school by the Taliban.

One hundred sixty-five children kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram.

Two New York police shot in cold blood.

And that's just last week.

The world is never exactly a sane place, but lately it seems that the madness has increased. Few corners of the world are free from strife, from unbearable tensions. At home, malls sell T-shirts proclaiming this year's catchphrase. In easier times, those slogans might be "Where's the beef" or "I'm with stupid." Today, the T-shirts read, "I can't breathe."

I can't breathe.

If that doesn't sum up the anxiety of living in this age, we don't know what does.

Last week's horrors began with the tragic saga of Bradley Stone who, battling over custody of his children, murdered his ex-wife and five members of her family. Initial reports suggested that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour of duty in Iraq. But some Marines said that he was there for only 30 days, and couldn't possibly have had PTSD.

His horrific action aside, has this become a world where you don't qualify to be traumatized by war unless you've put in the requisite amount of time on the battlefield?

The world's battlefields affect us all, and if we've learned anything in the 21st century, it's that the dangers of extremism aren't limited to certain geographies.

It may be a stretch to link the domestic bloodshed - of Stone's family, of Michael Brown, of NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu - and the atrocities around the world, but it's not really.

It's all of a piece with a world in which the established order continues to be challenged, and the result is too often appalling violence. It's a world where inequality continues to increase - economic, political and geographic, certainly, but also inequalities in power. Those whose power is being challenged will fight more aggressively to keep it; those out of power will fight to get a foothold, sometimes with "asymmetric warfare."

That's why the follow-up to the murder of two police in New York last week is critical. The battle between civilians and the police cannot be allowed to escalate. In fact, we can't afford any battle between police and civilians.

Some already fear the growth of a police state leading to the erosion of civil liberties, and the increasing militarization of police driving a mind-set where police begin to think of those they serve as the enemy. That's borne out by the reaction of some police who criticize both NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and President Obama's tolerance of protest as fostering hatred for police.

On the eve of the Christmas holiday, and on the brink of a new year, it's time for peace. There may be little we can do in the world to foster that, but here at home we must at least try: maybe to be kind when we don't want to be.

To think before uttering fighting words, or to remember that a different viewpoint is not the same thing as a challenge.

To remember that while war and murder may be fundamental, we as a species have other, finer qualities worth putting into practice.

We need to take a breath. We need, at least for a while, to just breathe.