It is still early in the investigation of the sniper attack on Dallas police, but one thing is clear; America, as we knew her, is dramatically changed today. Some lessons already learned from the shooting at the Dallas “Black Lives Matter” protest indicate a major shift in American life from this day forward. To quote a phrase from our founding revolution, Unite Or Die, being chief among them.
We, as American citizens, can no longer stand silent while segments of our population cry out for justice. We, as Americans, can no longer stand idly by as a bloody revolution simmers just below the surface. We can no longer look away and hope it will all blow over when the emotional rhetoric and violent protests overrun our rule of law and equal justice before the law.
The lessons from Dallas are not ones of racism or police brutality. The lessons are of revolution, emotion and misinformation. From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile; social media, out of context videos and lack of full information have fueled protests based on emotion without information. That is not meant to minimize the fact that there have been questionable, as well as outright BAD, incidents of police brutality and use of deadly force. However, the incidents that have sparked these sometimes violent protests have largely revolved around incidents that involved little or no wrongdoing on the part of police.
The sniper attack on police in Dallas, according to early reports from negotiations with the shooter, was motivated by the recent shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. His response was that he “wanted to kill white people, especially white cops.” Both of those cases are mere days old and early in their investigations. Both have elements involved that are not clearly portrayed in the videos that sparked protests and now ultimate violence in the form of an ambush of police officers. Our nation is now gripped in fear; police are afraid of every traffic stop they make, people are afraid of being shot by cops and everyone else is afraid to do or say anything for fear of being sued, protested against or demonized in the media.
The main lesson from Dallas is this: freedom is messy, offensive and dangerous. Ignorance, emotion and a media driven culture make it even more so. The mainstream media’s “if it bleeds it leads” sensationalism, the proliferation of camera phones and social media fame have fostered artificial divisions, distrust, angst and anger. Do we have issues with police brutality and abuse of authority? Yes. Are blacks over-represented in police shootings? Yes they are. Are blacks over-represented in crime in general? Unfortunately, that answer is also a yes. We have an over-representation of blacks in a criminal culture, but is that a racist police problem? Is it a black culture/community problem? Is it economics, unjust laws or just racism? Whites, Hispanics, Asians, etc also have issues with police due to poverty and involvement in a criminal sub-culture.
There is a political component to this unrest as well. Governments at all levels have passed laws that many Americans find unjust, unfair and/or economically biased. Law enforcement is tasked with enforcing these “unjust” laws which breeds animosity towards the police as well. Ticket quotas as revenue generators for municipalities breeds paranoia among the citizenry rather than trust or respect. Very few people who get pulled over for speeding, because they are late for work, think “Thank God for the police, I might have killed someone.” People exercising their right to open carry who get harassed by police for “disturbing the peace” don’t generally feel “protected” at the time.
While whites and blacks “use drugs” at similar rates, blacks are overly represented in the “selling” of drugs, at least in the impoverished and crime-ridden areas most often patrolled by police. Harsh and often wildly varying sentences for drug crimes also disproportionately effect impoverished, largely minority neighborhoods. Crack cocaine is sentenced more harshly than powdered cocaine for example. The “drug war” has been an unequivocal failure, just as Prohibition was and just as the “war on poverty” has been. All of these laws and policies have contributed to the loss of respect for law enforcement and a focused attention on impoverished and majority minority neighborhoods. This goes far beyond the occasional racist cop or decaying neighborhoods. It permeates all levels of government as well, up to and including the White House.
The lessons that Dallas SHOULD teach us involve taking a good, hard, honest look at a few things:
- What is really going on in our neighborhoods and communities?
- Are we looking the other way on criminality in our midst?
- How is our government using law enforcement?
- Is government using the police to generate income at the expense of our rights?
- Has government passed too many invasive, oppressive and unjust laws?
- Are we working WITH police to secure our neighborhoods?
- Are the police working with or against us, the citizens?
There is plenty of blame to go around from the President all the way down to the lawless thugs on the street. Expecting the police or the government to “protect” you while complaining that they are corrupt, racist or brutal is an exercise in futility. We are ALL responsible for the situation we are in. We can ALL do something to improve it. What we CANNOT continue to do is pass the buck and scapegoat certain groups or organizations. United we stand, divided we fall.
During another extremely divisive time in American History, Abraham Lincoln warned of the danger from mobs or people who disrespected our laws and courts. Those who disrespect our Constitutional “law of the land” may be mobs of citizens inflamed by passions and emotions or may even be our lawmakers and judges themselves. In his Lyceum Address, Lincoln said:
Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.
That is where we are today; impassioned mobs protesting, lawmakers and judges passing and justifying unjust and unconstitutional laws, as well as law enforcement enforcing such laws, sometimes unfairly or even brutally. We are on the path of self-destruction and suicide, but our fate is not yet sealed. We have the power and the tools to right the wrongs, but the question is, do we have the WILL? Can we overcome our divisions to unite and get it done? I’ll leave that for each of you to decide, but decide quickly. Our first major opportunity to correct our course is coming in the next election. A single person in the Oval Office cannot change our course, but the right person with the help of the right people in Congress, State Legislatures and local city councils can dramatically alter our doomsday course. Look at the big picture, delve into the depths of ALL of our interrelated issues and most of all UNITE AS AMERICANS.
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