Let's Stop Talking About 'War' with Cops
The broad-brush painting of law enforcement and a debate marked almost solely by hostility has created an atmosphere in which violence was an inevitable outcome.
San Diego — I spent Friday morning, processing the horrible events in Dallas, alternating between sorrow and rage, and crying over the deaths of complete strangers as if I’d lost a member of my own family. Actually, I lost five.
My dad is a retired cop who was on the job for 37 years, and so my childhood didn’t come with guarantees that he’d come home at the end of his shift. In fact, I remember the day that my dad, in his uniform, sat me down and told me that he might not be coming home. A man had been going around town, threatening his life, and my father wanted me to know that he loved me and that he expected me to take care of the family. I was 10.
By excusing irresponsible rhetoric, and refusing to acknowledge the ugliness in causes we agree with, and making weapons of war readily available to people who shouldn’t have them, we have arrived at the darkness.
The protectors need protecting. How long before the police qualify as a protected class, where prosecutors can charge with hate crimes those who attack cops because they’re cops?
For years, the Fraternal Order of Police — the nation’s largest police union, representing 333,000 officers — has been pushing unsuccessfully for a federal law that would designate as a hate crime killing someone because they’re a police officer. Hate crimes usually carry stiffer penalties.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch seems to be nibbling around the edges. On Friday, she said the Justice Department will investigate as hate crimes the killing of five police officers in Dallas, and the wounding of seven more.
But that probably has something to do with the fact that it sounds as if the now-deceased shooter, 25-year-old African-American Micah Johnson — an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan — was an anti-white racist intent on murdering white cops. Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who is also African-American, told reporters that Johnson “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” Brown also said that — while the shooter opportunistically took advantage of the fact that police officers were out in the open providing security for a peaceful protest by supporters of the movement known as “Black Lives Matter” — Johnson was not affiliated with any group. The chief did also make clear, however, that Johnson was — like the movement — extremely upset by police shootings of black men.
The Justice Department has also opened a civil rights inquiry into the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and it is “monitoring” the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Those are but the most recent in what seem to be a long series of recent and unfortunate cases of unarmed black men being killed by white police officers. It’s those deaths that are the kindling that, with just a spark, turn into a bonfire.
Whether we’re ready to confront it or not, there is a segment of the African-American population that perceives itself to be under attack by police officers.
In fact, in what is a prime example of hyperbolic and heated rhetoric taken too far to the point where people lose perspective and relationships are poisoned, there are those who insist that police are now “hunting” black people.
A group of anti-police violence activists in Los Angeles has even printed up T-shirts with the acronym for their slogan — “Hate Us, Not Today” or H.U.N.T. After the deaths of Sterling and Castile, but before the cop murders in Dallas, Columbia Professor and novelist Trey Ellis wrote a defiant column for the Huffington Post titled: “The Police Hunting and Killing of Black Men Stops Today.”
And then people wonder why some African-Americans feel they have to respond with deadly force.
It’s ridiculous and outrageous for anyone to advance the narrative that police have declared open season on African-Americans. And anyone who has up to now accepted, or shrugged off, that claim whenever they’ve heard it should be ashamed of themselves.
Ellis wrote something else in his piece — something about responsibility that goes far and wide. He is no fan of Fox News which he accuses of being an accomplice to “The Blue Wall of Silence” in reinforcing “inherent black criminality” and a world where “cops can do no wrong and blacks no right.” For that, Ellis wrote, both Fox News and entire law enforcement community are guilty as sin for the deaths of Sterling, Castile, and the countless black men who came before them. As he put it, “Both of them have blood on their hands today.”
That’s an interesting theory. Now let’s fast forward to what’s happening at this hour where liberals and other well-meaning supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement rush to exonerate the group of even a shred of responsibility for the deaths of the Dallas police officers.
Never mind that there is that unfortunate video of anti-police violence protesters marching in Minnesota behind a Black Lives Matter banner, chanting: “Pigs in a blanket. Fry ‘em like bacon.” And there is another video of protesters in New York, chanting: “What do we want? Dead cops.”
Never mind that we’ve already established a precedent in these kinds of debates of holding people accountable — or at the very least, subjecting people to criticism — when their rhetoric is incendiary. Remember when the left blamed Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio for the Oklahoma City bombing?
Hell, I’ll plead guilty. I myself have blamed hate crimes where Latino immigrants have been beaten and killed by racist white people on an immigration debate marinating in nativism, xenophobia and racism and irresponsible fear mongering politicians who use this poison to fuel their re-elections.
You don’t get to stir up all this sewage and then, when it backs up and flows into the street, you wash your hands of the unpleasantness and say: “Not me, I had nothing to do with it.”
That’s the real problem plaguing our society, the one that prevents us from solving the others. When it comes to debates and dialogues and disagreements, Americans don’t fight fair. We throw honesty, logic, consistency, and common sense out the window. And, as often as we can, we apply situational ethics.
We point out the flaws, the mistakes, and the irresponsible rhetoric of movements we disagree with. But we ignore the flaws, the mistakes, and the irresponsible rhetoric of those we agree with.
Let me tell you something you probably already know: Our country is in terribly bad shape. Americans need to feel safe again, and to stop being afraid that the land they love is careening into the abyss. They need to, once again, recognize their society and be proud of their country.
And in the middle of all this, the political parties are getting ready to nominate in the coming weeks — in Cleveland and Philadelphia — as their candidates for president, Hillary Clinton (who is untrustworthy, unreliable, and untruthful) and Donald Trump (who is unserious, unlikable, and unhinged).
The parties can do better. The activists can do better. The politicians can do better. The media can do better. The police can do better. We can all do better.