Friday, July 8, 2016

Dallas

Brent Thompson, one of the officers slain in Dallas.

     In the 1980s, when such things were still possible, I spent a Christmas Eve riding along with two Chicago cops in the 2nd District—the area around 51st and Wentworth. The central memory of that night is that I was scared—particularly charging up the darkened stairway of a six-flat—and I was with two cops.
     Police have hard jobs—that doesn't get said enough, because it's obvious, and because it's beside the point in the steady drip-drip-drip of abuse-of-authority cases we see in Chicago and across the country. When innocent black people are being murdered on camera by police, the fact that most officers are doing their duty somewhere else isn't particularly relevant.
     The difficulties police face is a fact we only only acknowledge when something like Dallas happens, when officers are killed in the line of duty and suddenly their perspective snaps into view—it's a job that can get you killed if you're not careful and sometimes even when you are careful.
     It is a truly shocking crime, because it cuts at a basic assumption in American life: respect for the police. The officers themselves decry criticisms that are leveled them, with increasing volume and frequency, thanks to the undeniable evidence of cell phone video technology. They consider themselves misunderstood, victims. What they don't realize is that these criticisms stem from disappointment: we expect the police to be heroes, we want them to be heroes, to do the right thing. And they usually are. But they are also human, and mistakes happen. Even those police who are caught on camera shooting people without justification are not, I believe, acting out of racism so much as out of fear. They're trying to get home at the end of their shift, and they know—unlike the public, they don't have the luxury of being able to forget—that not everyone does. Or they're hopped up from whatever chase or scuffle happened before the camera was trained in their direction, and they do the wrong thing.
     Or, sometimes, they're poorly trained or aggressive jerks. There's that too. This tragedy does not erase the dire situation we have with police and minorities in this country. It only adds a new chapter.
     The situation is still the same. Police have more power and authority than other people—they enforce the law. More so, they embody it, and if they feel they are being held to a higher standard, they are. That's what they signed up for. What we need to understand is that we are all, cops and civilians, facing the same problem here: how to combat crime without hurting either innocent people or police officers. Right now, decency requires we honor these fallen officers and their grieving families—look at Brent Thompson's face. A father and grandfather, he just looks like a good guy, and deserved to go home Thursday night, not to the morgue. Think of him, and his four other slain brothers in blue, and remember the debt that society owes to its heroes. They died trying to keep their city safe. Our thorny law and order problems will be right where we left them, waiting for us, when we're through.   Already, the various factions are trying to twist this horror to their benefit, with union officials claiming, incorrectly, that this is an outgrowth of disrespect for police, while critics observe that the shoe is on the other foot. That helps no one. What would help, if we could muster the strength to do it, is if we could only realize that, police and civilians, black and white, are all in this together, bound by a common humanity and citizenship in this great country of ours. We will all succeed or fail, live or die, together. When will we understand that? Not anytime soon.

13 comments:

  1. For all of us to realize we are part of one nation, we all need to be included. As long as there is differential treatment of citizens, as long as the health, opinions, voices, education, livelihoods, safety, etc. etc. of some people matter more than others, it is very hard for those who have been institutionally excluded from our society through an intentional effort to take ownership and responsibility for our society. Until we as a people embrace the true meaning of equality of opportunity and equality before the law, I'm afraid we are doomed to fail in our efforts to come together as a people.

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  2. Not much to say about this sad situatio, but one headline sent a shiver down my spine. While I still cling to the comforting thought that Donald Trump is unelectable, the people in my district did once put Joe Walsh in the Congress.

    Tom Evans

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    1. I noticed Walsh pinned the blame for Dallas firmly on President Obama, already. I met Walsh. He's not an evil man, per se, but narcissistic and shallow and enamored of his own error.

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    2. He did a bit more than "pin the blame on Obama." The text of his tweet read "Watch out Obama. Watch our Black Lives Matter punks. Real America is coming after you." Language that would earn some a friendly call from the Secret Service. Some of the comments posted after the Tribune article give a hint to how the message has been received by many of his fans.

      The tweet has since been deleted, which suggests an update to an ancient proverb: "A tweet may be deleted but not what it has revealed about what is in the heart."

      TE

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  3. Well said, Neil. We need to unite and act as one America, because we are one America. Attorney General Loretta Lynch stressed that well in her speech today. She said we need to put any differences aside.I think we should focus on how we are more alike (as fellow human beings) than different.

    LB

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  4. Was it proven yet, as far as some news mutterings go, that one of the snipers was tied with the new Black Panthers group?

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    1. "One of the snipers"? There was only one. Reports of multiple shooters seem to be in error.

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  5. Nothing about Black Panthers in the six papers I read on line, and I would question the motives of people who put about such speculation. Perhaps he was a 2nd Degree Mason.

    What is known, apparently, is that he was an Army Reservist who served in Afghanistan. And he told the cops they would be finding IED's he had planted. Well trained for his mission.

    TE

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  6. In an open-carry locale, every angry nut can waltz into a 2nd floor of a parking garage or a college tower, find an opening, and shoot 100 bullets into a crowd of police officers, or protestors, or college students. Or moms and babies.. God bless America.

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  7. I showed the Walsh Tweet to my wife. Her comment was "I don't like realizing that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING anyone says surprises me anymore." I couldn't agree more.

    B. Yandel

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  8. We are all in this together, but our top elected officials (both national and statewide) are supported by people who feed off their message of divisiveness. "It's us against them, we need to take our country back." Why should we be surprised by the inevitable response to this message? Whether supposed aggressors or defenders, we're attacking each other, more often with guns. It's up to our national leaders to put aside their differences and support all citizens.

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  9. If it's fear & not racism, then how come the cops don't shoot white men that have guns out & pointing them at cops?

    And there aren't any good cops, because you never hear about any cops ratting out the corrupt or violent ones.
    The Blue Wall Of Silence is as solid as ever!

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  10. Your apt closing here reminds me of a line from W.H. Auden's poem "September 1, 1939," which I have been re-reading since the Brexit vote: "We must love one another or die." Any attempt to put blame on one, or even two, absolute culprits (Obama, BLM, NRA, FOP) misses the point entirely. As one Hyde Parker said on TV news last night "It's all of us." I agree with that. It's a complex, nuanced problem with many moving parts in which all of us play a role. Otherwise, one is just shirking a shared responsibility.

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