Dallas tragedy shows it is time to lower the rhetoric and start healing

Published 5:57 pm Friday, July 15, 2016

Have we gone totally, completely insane? It is not bad enough that the specter of Islamic terrorism hangs over us like a toxic cloud, now we have a sniper in Dallas killing five police officers and wounding seven others because, according to Dallas police chief David Brown, he reportedly wanted to kill white people in retaliation for the death of two black people in Minnesota and Louisiana by white police officers.

What did Black Lives Matters say? Sir Maejor said in Atlanta, “Black Lives Matter doesn’t condone shooting law enforcement. But I have to be honest. I understand why it was done.” Maybe he would like to explain that condescending statement to the wife and children of one of the police officers shot down in cold blood.

What is happening to us? Why all the hate? Are there no reasonable white people and black people in our country willing to sit down and try to find common ground? Or have we ceded that ground to the demagogues — both black and white — who espouse violence and racial intolerance?

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Jay Parini, a poet and novelist who teaches at Middlebury College said in an eloquent response to the Dallas shootings, “There is simply no place for the exaggerated language of division that has become the common currency of our daily discourse, and we must turn our backs on those who continue to talk like that.”

I have no problem with protests — it’s the American Way — but I am also for responsible actions and our country is currently a racial tinderbox. We don’t need hyperbole. We need honest and open dialogue, sans bullhorns. We also need courageous leadership in our nation and, of that, we seem to be in short supply.

Where is the political will to bring this madness to heel? In the White House? In Congress? How many people must be killed before the president and members of Congress do something other than issue politically-correct bromides deploring the violence and inevitably trying to leverage the senseless violence to the advantage of one political party over the other?

Expect to hear more righteous indignation about gun control vs. the Second Amendment and more debate on erasing all vestiges of the Confederate South vs. honoring the area’s heritage.

Neither goes to the root cause of our division. It just hardens the positions of the wingnuts on both sides of the political spectrum.

And where are our churches? Our synagogues? Our mosques? Do they not have some imperative to get involved beyond sermonizing? Isn’t there more that houses of worship have in common than they have differences?

One of the worst things to happen to our democracy has been the advent of social media where people can engage in uncivil discourse under the cloak of anonymity. Sadly, social media allows us to spew our venom and fan the flames and make the angry angrier.

It doesn’t provide solutions; it encourages more division, more animosity. In my opinion, social media is today’s equivalent of yesteryear’s anonymous obscene phone calls, only more widespread and potentially more dangerous.

Back to Dallas. I found it heart-warming that after the tragedy, Dallas police officers suddenly found themselves the recipient of hugs — yes, hugs — from grateful citizens who all of a sudden seem to grasp just how hard and how dangerous a police officer’s work is and to appreciate the fact they are around and willing to protect us from ourselves for a pittance of what they and their families deserve. Dallas police Chief David Brown said, “Police work is a job where you seldom hear the words ‘Thank you.’”

In the fantasy world in which I sometimes reside, wouldn’t it be nice if Black Lives Matters marchers could put down their bullhorns long enough to say ‘thank you’ to the police — maybe even give them a hug — and police officers could assure them that they don’t want rogue cops on the streets any more than the protesters do because it makes their difficult job even more difficult. They might also remind Black Lives Matter that police officers’ lives matter, too.

In the meantime, in the real world in which we find ourselves today I pray to God that the unimaginable violence that occurred in Dallas last week will get us to talking to each other about what unites us rather than finger pointing before another protest turns into tragedy. It is time to lower the rhetoric and begin the healing. I just hope it is not too late.