Once again, our nation is in mourning.
We hardly had time to digest the idea of dozens killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting, and now this. Five dead in Dallas. Police officers all, but human beings with spouses, friends, children and lives. Killed by snipers who did not know them and did not care who they were outside those uniforms. To their killers, they were nothing more than symbols and targets; representative of an idea so hated and reviled that to end their lives was worth the snipers possibly losing theirs.
Are you asking yourself where we went wrong as a society at this point? Or just moving on from the headlines and twenty-four hour news cycle, certain that something else will supplant this story, as it always does?
The uniformed professions – police, fire and paramedic – are not only noble and proud, they are necessary. Who are you going to call to save your burning house, catch the thief who stole your car or aid a loved one in a car accident if not any of them? Are you going to learn all those skills, and practice them enough to not only become good at them, but conquer your fear of walking into a burning building, chasing an armed suspect or crawling under a gasoline-drenched wreck?
I get that people are angry, frustrated and looking for justice after a number of recent police-involved shootings and deaths of unarmed civilians. Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, Corey Jones, Freddie Gray and Eric Garner are some of the more famous names. In 2015, over 100 blacks were killed in police incidents. That’s 100 too many if none were justified use of force. If 100 whites were killed the same way, the outrage would bring more than just protests. It would change laws.
But trying to even the score by dealing death from tall buildings and dark corners does nothing to change history. It only perpetuates the us-versus-them acrimony over a gulf so wide that soon, no bridge can ever be built to bring both sides together. Change has to start now and with the youngest and most impressionable: the children. You can teach trust as easily as mistrust. Outreach has to come from both sides: police officers have to make the split-second decision to defend themselves and others, but also have to see their role inside the community as one of peace and leadership, not just continually on the defensive role.
There will be another Dallas; there’s no question that crazy attracts more crazy and they try to outdo each other. But there is something more ominous in this kind of crazy: the fact that people feel left out, angry and unwilling to wait for solutions. And with that disenfranchisement, you often find those willing to deal in desperate measures.