Remembering Dallas Cops and Asking:What Constitutes A Crisis?

This is  the day after July 7, 2016 it is not clear how famous that day or the July 8, 2016  when the most deadly law enforcement  incident since 9-11  began and ended in Dallas. Much remains unclear and much is likely to remain unclear for some time. These are surely troubling days… and it remains to be seen how famous or infamous these days will be in the history of the United States or even in more narrow histories of the period of the struggles of various parts of American society or in the histories of the Obama administration. The shootings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling both armed black men one in front of a convenience store in Baton Rouge and one in a traffic stop in Minnesota have been the occasion for a vast amount of upheaval, protest, and perhaps have led to the violence enacted in Dallas.
The Washington Post has tried to react to these three events and to round up reactions to them in a way not so different than what I do tin this blog. Their story draws out the connections for consideration.

 I am reminded in a way that might seem trivial and inappropriate to some of a John Denver song from his later and less glorious years but before he had ceased to really be an important star in his own part of the musical firmament.  I have put these lyrics up on my Facebook timeline before. In fact, they’ve appeared probably three times or so. But every once in a while I have to let John Denver say something about my own life. Except that I am now  writing about my country as well  and writing much more bluntly than the speaker is in the lyrics. But I still relate to the way the song sounded when I first heard it. It is time for Americans to realize that many very serious problems must be addressed in our society. Wr would all like to say that thinngs will work out bu they may not, we would like to say that the crises on our streets and eslewhere almost every day do not define our country but in part they do. the song expresses that well in the personal sphere.

“When you asked, how I’ve been here without you
I’d like to say, I’ve been fine and I do
But we both know the truth is hard to come by
And if I told the truth, that’s not quite true

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones
Sometimes the hard times won’t leave me alone
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones
Some days are diamonds, some days are stones

Now the face that I see in my mirror
More and more is a stranger to me
More and more, I can see there’s a danger
In becoming what I never thought I’d be

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones
Sometimes the hard times won’t leave me alone
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones
Some days are diamonds, some days are stones”

The song then repeats these refrain lyrics

It is important that we try to see the value of our civic exercises, it is important that we care about the lives of all Americans, it is important that wc recognize the price paid by those who form the thin blue line in times of trouble. It is important that we try to support out President as he negotiates difficult situations near Russia. But there comes a point when one has to admit that there are serious problems in the country and that things are not going along just fine. There comes a point when  the existence of national instability has to be admitted and a national crisis has to be addressed. This is a day when it would be good to be able to write about one tragic situation at a time. This is a day when it would be good to be able to focus on positive things going on in my  personal life. This is a time when it would be good to be able to focus  on th issues without writing anything that might seem paranoid or lend credence to the fears that many Americans have — but that is not the day that I am actually writing about or in which I am actually writing. But there is a great deal on my mind which is not going to be resolved in any kind of post that meets any of those standards. In fact my own personal situation for dealing with anything at all is very poor as well. Let us remember that this killer in Dallas was killed by a bomb he had made, 9-11 involved box cutters taking planes, Timothy McVeigh took down a building with fertilizer and a van,   the current serial killer in San Diego seems to be content to murder homeless people by burning them alive and beating them to death.  But guns do make it possible for the law abiding citizenry to face a country filled with protesters flirting with violent extremists (not only Black Lives Matter but many other groups) and make a realistic plan to continues living their lives.

Originally many highly credible reports were filed that spoke of multiple shooters in a coordinated attack on police.  But the new orthodoxy after Obama and his feds made contact is the traditional lone nut idea. The focus is increasingly only on a suspect who died after  a robot destroyed  a bomb he had made or placed and after he had spoken with negotiators in a  standoff with Dallas police. That man said that  he wanted to kill white people — especially white police officers — and that he was angry about “the recent police shootings”. Conveniently for the great American narrative that all is well this man may have been recorded saying  that he acted alone and that is the narrative put forth by Dallas Police Chief David Brown after the  told reporters Friday that there would be no questions answered about suspects. Early reports can be seen here and here. The original posting of the first article online was,

Four gunmen shoot 11 police officers – killing at least five – and … Daily Mail

While these texts are fluid and are changed to fit the evolving narrative it is clear that there was enormous evidence that this was not a lone nut situation. In addition there is a great deal of interlocking tension in the country. There is a very limited amount of real and effective political discussion about these tensions. Political discussion is not a cure-all by any means  and the country might move into greater crisis with such discussions. But the lack of effective discussion of the forces straining our national consensus and the framework which  allow for our differences — that lack of effective discussion is an important part of our daily reality.

Two civilians it appears were also were injured in the shootings, the office of Dallas’ mayor has said. Most of the injured Dallas police officers have by midday of the Friday on which this post appears  been released from a hospital, Chief Brown told reporters. The officers’ conditions are improving, Brown said. He seemed to be clearly aware of a set of underlying tensions to be dealt with. “All I know is that this must stop — this divisiveness between our police and our citizens,” African American Police Chief and Dallas area native Brown said. “We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days. Please, we need your support to be able to protect you from men like these, who carried out this tragic, tragic event.”
Twelve officers were shot it appears and the chaos affected the entire city in one way or another but especially the area around the protests.
I think about what Chief Brown said and am aware of a post that appeared on Facebook which I quote liberally hear from a Facebook friend that I only know slightly in real life:
— Officers killed include one officer with DART, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit agency, which operates buses and commuter rail in the city and surrounding suburbs.
— DART identified the officer killed as Brent Thompson, 43. He joined the transit agency in 2009, and was its first officer killed in the line of duty, DART tweeted.
— Thompson got married two weeks ago to a fellow transit officer, DART police Chief James Spiller told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday.
Witness Ismael Dejesus said he filmed a shooter from his hotel balcony about 50 yards away. He described the gunman as carrying a weapon with a “pretty big magazine.”

 

 

In between we had a bad cop that the city fathers eventually fired. It happens. Cops are humans just like the rest of us. But the vast majority are good people, just the like vast majority of people in other occupations. And like other first responders and people in the military, they routinely take risks that the rest of us rarely face in order to keep us safe, and I am grateful for that. When there are episodes like those in Baton Rouge and Minnesota this week, I hold the bad cops responsible as individuals, not as a representative of all cops.

A lot of cops have helped my family and me, not least those men and women who stood out in the wind and rain for hours and hours during Katrina and Gustav. A lot of them have been my friends and neighbors. John and Danny Cummings—the sons of my dear friend Big John, who taught them to call me Uncle Bill (which I like)—have both been cops, and I am proud of them.

A lot of cops have been my colleagues on the faculty at Southeastern Louisiana University, for example, Ronnie Jones, the one-time spokesman of the Louisiana State Police, who was a great teacher and a great cop. In the latter guise, he was on hand a few years ago when a truck started leaking explosive chemicals less than a mile from my house, and emergency workers had to set off a controlled explosion to destroy it.

A lot of our campus cops have been my friends, including Paul Marek, who served as chief of the University Police and whose previous job was as a U.S. Army Colonel and head of Southeastern’s ROTC. And O’Neill DeNoux, who writes brilliant crime novels when he is off duty. And all the others who have defused dangerous situations on campus, been the first responders when faculty, staff, and students have been injured, and in one instance bailed out a shamefaced department head who accidentally locked his keys in his office.

One of my former graduate students is a state cop named Clay Schutz, who has been the driver for every Louisiana governor since Roemer and who still calls me from time to time. In fact, a lot of cops have been my students, including several who retired at the end of their hitch and went into teaching in an effort to get kids into good jobs and keep them off the street. I learned as much from them as they did from me.

That is why I pray for the cops who lost their lives in Louisiana over the last week-and-a-half and those who died in Dallas yesterday. That is why I do not hold all cops to blame when one does the wrong thing. That is why I do not identify cops by race, gender, or anything else except the badge. That is why I, diehard civil libertarian that I am, regard cops as my friends. God bless all those who serve, who uphold the law, who take risks on our behalf, and who in some cases make the ultimate sacrifice. I know who you are, and I thank you.

 

 

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2 responses to “Remembering Dallas Cops and Asking:What Constitutes A Crisis?

  1. Pingback: Racial Violence, Islam, Christianity, America and Me… Part Two | Franksummers3ba's Blog

  2. Pingback: Cops, Women, Movies and What I might blog about more if I were really a celebrity…. | Franksummers3ba's Blog

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