08 July 2016
Something terrible has happened in Dallas, where someone opened fire on police during a peaceful demonstration protesting this week's "officer-involved shootings" of black men in Baton Rouge LA and St. Paul MN. As I write, at least three officers are reported dead out of eleven shot, possibly by two people. The news networks are receiving phone videos from people who were in the demonstration. I've just seen one that sums up the moment. A group of people are walking, doing the "Hands up, don't shoot!" chant. The audio is poor enough that you really only hear "Don't shoot!... don't shoot!... don't shoot!..." They don't realize that they're imploring an actual person in vain until the shots ring out and the procession becomes panic. At that moment no one in the streets knows whether anyone in particular is being targeted; they're all in danger as far as they know. Terror unites people in the immediate moment, but recriminations are sure to follow. Depending on what sort of person did the shooting, we'll be told that everyone from the President on down is to blame for criticizing police tactics, and the constituency for an American police state is likely to grow. Because someone was obviously wrong to shoot at cops, that will make all cops right in everything they do, while everyone they kill is wrong. "Blue lives matter" will be the cry from many who had insisted stubbornly on "All lives matter" before. But if tonight's murders provoke an unfair backlash, they might also chasten people who portray police as the enemy rather than as public servants who need serious retraining. Dallas sadly proves yet again that it's too easy for any American to kill people. If our police need retraining to prevent needless killing, they're not the only ones.