My latest newspaper column:
I wonder if the recent horrific murders of police will lead “patriotic” Americans who talk about “Second Amendment remedies” for perceived wrongs, to stop and think for a minute. Of course the answer is no; but when you squint at it in a certain dim light, the killers could be heroes to them. Didn’t they choose “militia” members’ favorite avenue of redress for what they considered government tyranny? Shouldn’t someone ask those Foxotrumpian defenders of truth, justice, and their particular perversion of the American way what, exactly, are the criteria by which they justify their own taking up arms against a duly constituted government body? Assuming they’d be outraged at a suggestion that they’re philosophically in league with cop-killers, might they tell us who, in a country where government and law reflect the will of voters, gets to decide which laws and actions are onerous enough to legitimize revolution, even a one-man one?
“Patriots” proudly paraded their way to Oregon in support of the insurrection there, cheered by America-lovers across the land. How different, if you strip away skin color and threats to shoot versus actually shooting, were the actions: people abandoning the rule of law to right what they considered wrongs too egregious to be addressed within the constraints of democracy. Can we look at one but not the other without recoiling at the thought of where it all leads, how it all ends? What sort of line separates which kinds of polluted minds?
Unable to distinguish a few from the many, people on the right call Black Lives Matter a hate group. A former US Congressman, after the Dallas monstrosity, tweeted that President Obama and BLM better watch out: “We’re coming for you.” Before the slaughter in Nice, some people bragged they’d run down BLM protesters who blocked roads. Who has less hate in their hearts? President Obama spoke in Dallas, about twenty minutes too long, and maybe not the ideal time to tilt, yet again, at the gun control windmill. But he spoke honestly about issues on each side; his praise of the Dallas police couldn’t have been higher, his acknowledgment of the tough and necessary job police do couldn’t have been clearer or more sincere. Yet, even as his words still echoed, right-wing screamers called his speech “a middle finger to police.” Any ray of hope that this time the horror was so great that people might stop shouting and start listening was snuffed out before having a chance even to glimmer through the dark. Preferring to nurture their hatreds rather than accept the demands of citizenship, such people will never look for ways forward.
If BLM is calling for anarchy (it isn’t), then what is it when presidential candidates and governors call for ignoring laws, court rulings, and parts of the Constitution people don’t like? Red-state secessionists are, by definition, seditious, having neither love nor understanding of the implications of living in a democracy. Who isn’t putting up with laws they don’t like? I am. But I still prefer living where I’m given a voice, even if it doesn’t always prevail. Yes, the recent abominations and Malheur are enormously different. But isn’t there something to be learned, extrapolating from the latter, in considering the former?
And what about that man who joined that peaceful Dallas protest while legally carrying a rifle? The man falsely identified as a suspect, who, when he found out, notified the police and turned over his weapon, possibly saving his own life, but receiving death threats ever since. The man in reference to whom the Dallas police chief said open-carry makes police work harder? Any second thoughts? Any consideration of deferring to the views of embattled law enforcement professionals, over the curious need for preening and packing?
When I heard about Dallas, I felt sick. Then I saw moments of transcendence, as people of all ages and races hugged cops, heartfelt and real. It happened here, too, and I believed, momentarily, that it’s finally gone far enough, that this time there’ll be more than passing thoughts and effortless prayers. Then I read the malefic right-wing reactions to President Obama’s speech, and felt sick all over again. I still do.[Image source]