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Dallas – A Vicious Cycle

August 24, 2016

This past Thursday night we were all confronted by the horrifying vortex of death surrounding the latest iteration of what threatens to become an ever increasing downward spiral of mayhem which seems to have our nation in its grips. As everyone now knows, five Dallas police officers were shot dead and seven wounded protecting a peaceful march and rally of people legally protesting the recent killings of two black men, one in Louisiana and one in Minnesota, both shot by police officers in those states. In Dallas dozens of that city’s police courageously risked their lives protecting the protesters and successfully confronting the sniper who’d gunned down their fellow officers.

The sniper apparently hated white police because of what he perceived as pervasive blue on black violence perpetrated by police all across our country. His racial hatred mirrored what he saw as white police hatred of blacks. He and small segments of otherwise honorable police forces represent mirror images of an evil yeast that leavens each side’s racial bigotry. If not confronted, their small numbers threaten to tear down what so many of all races have taken decades of painstaking effort to achieve in building bridges over the fault lines and divides that continue to separate the various segments of American society.

As each of us tries to grapple with this horror we need to look past the immediate events and recognize what contributes to such acts by the few that threatens the many. Currently in any given year in the US approximately 30,000 lives are lost to gun violence and another 100,000 people are maimed by such violence. Those numbers, however, disproportionately arise out of our inner cities and poverty stricken neighborhoods where poorly educated youth have access to endless numbers of guns. And using them they wage a sort of war with each other, their communities, and us as they go about the only things they can do to get money – sell drugs and commit other acts of robbery and violence – since almost no jobs are available to them given their lack of skills other than pulling triggers.

Our police have to wade through all this mayhem and its aftermath on a daily basis. In 2014 fifty-one law enforcement officers were killed and 13,654 sustained assault related wounds in doing so. Thus far in 2016 twenty-eight officers have been killed by gunfire. It truly is a war.

As a result, many local police, especially beat cops, are suffering the equivalent of post-traumatic stress as they work our streets, neighborhoods and roads. If you’ve seen the cellphone video of the confrontation in Minnesota you hear the officer shouting, “show me your hands,” his voice on the ragged edge of panic. His apparent fear wouldn’t allow him to hear the black man he’s confronting and that man’s girlfriend’s reasonable explanation that he was reaching for his gun license to show the office. And then the fatal shots are fired.

The end result is that having acquiesced in the creation of a society where our police tend to fear the very people they are sworn to protect we face the tragedy of black lives and blue lives being violently cut short or ruined. In the face of that reality, we have to begin to change the conditions that lead to the resulting attitude of “I’m going to shoot him before he can shoot me.”

We have to get involved by taking the lead in this effort and demand our elected and appointed officials do the same if we want to make the changes that have to be made. We have to be willing to reach into our pockets and pay the taxes needed to insure that all our school systems are first class, not just those in affluent suburbs. We have to train all our youth so they are not only prepared for meaningful employment, but that they also understand that all lives matter – black, blue, brown, and white. And we need to create the job opportunities that will produce the work that will keep kids off the streets and out of trouble which in turn will massively reduce the hair trigger stress reactions of law enforcement.

At the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s President Franklin Roosevelt created the Civil Conservation Corp (CCC) that put huge numbers of unemployed to work. In doing so it also taught many of them new job skills. We need to create its equivalent today and be willing to pay for it. We can’t just stand aside like several in the parable of the Good Samaritan, passing the fallen bodies by, thinking “what a shame” as we avoid getting our own hands dirty.

We have all been taught that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves. But many struggle to understand who our neighbors are. Well, they are those we can see in real need no matter their color, especially those caught up in the cycles of hate and violence that have given rise to the tragedy that just unfolded in Dallas. It is that love that will defeat the hate and violence we all despise.