This past week, after decades of racial profiling, after repeated incidents of harassment and abuse, after pre-dawn raids upon camps of peaceful protestors, after killing people at will, the police officers of New York finally got a taste of their own medicine.

Two officers- Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos- were killed in what appears to have been a straight-up assassination.

For this, the people of New York City can hardly be blamed. They live in a city where the mayor has taken it upon himself to decide how much soda a person can drink. They live in a city with crippling high taxes that prevent them from emigrating elsewhere. They live in a city where the biggest trade is the drug trade, one which the police do everything they can to destroy. In other words, they live in a city where personal choice is taken away, where the acquisition of wealth is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

At some point, under such conditions, it was inevitable that people would strike back in the only way they know how: violently. Violence is purported to be the best way to solve any problem; such are the lessons that state-funded schools and historical revisionism produce. Violence is the method by which the colonists liberated themselves from the English. Violence is the method by which the North kept the Union whole. Violence is the method which enforcement officers use to keep the peace.

Only the government could produce such an odd idea: harming another person is the best way to ensure no one is harmed.

However, by using force against another person, the cop-killers of New York are now playing the state’s game. By crossing the line from peaceful protest for the purpose of embarrassing the state, they now have entered into active combat with the world’s most efficient system of murder. There can be no victory for either side, only blood spilled upon blood, retribution taken again and again until nothing is left but a seething hatred that feeds upon itself.

This is the situation as it exists today between the people of Israel and their Muslim neighbors. Conflict between these two peoples has been going for so long that both sides have forgotten what they are fighting for. They are consumed with anger, acting out to revenge every wrong they experience, while the other side does the same. The only people benefiting from this are the funeral directors.

As a result, rather than assassinating police officers, another solution has to arise. Police officers, however much wrong they do, are nonetheless human beings with thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and dreams. They live their lives the best they can, sometimes making mistakes, sometimes correcting the mistakes of others. Removing such a life from this world does not actually address the problems inherent in an oppressive, militaristic police state. It merely demonstrates a lack of respect for human life.

Police officers, even those who murder other people, should be free from the harm they do unto others. They may not be forgiven. Their crimes may not be forgotten. Yet, as long as they live, they always have the chance to turn their lives around, to do good in the world, instead of evil.

Thus it is that mercy is always preferable to vengeance. Those who kill police officers in an attempt to right society’s wrongs pursue a wrong-headed sense of justice that will not, nor cannot, lead to an equitable society in which each individual is free from harm done by agents of the state.