Fury over the Dal­las po­lice am­bush is fully jus­ti­fied

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ruben Navarette Jr.

— Shortly af­ter last week’s am­bush of po­lice of­fi­cers in Dal­las, many of my fol­low­ers on so­cial me­dia were im­plor­ing me to con­trol my rage.

But, as the son of a cop who spent 37 years on the job, I pushed back and as­serted my right to be fu­ri­ous.

Af­ter all, I’m no Bobby Kennedy. Dur­ing an ap­pear­ance this week on MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe,” colum­nist Mike Bar­ni­cle re­called the ex­tra­or­di­nary and im­promptu speech that the 1968 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date gave in April of that


year — on the night that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was as­sas­si­nated.

“There is no one like Robert Kennedy stand­ing up on a night in In­di­anapo­lis af­ter MLK got killed,” said Bar­ni­cle. “There is no one in our po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship who can lower the flame, the col­lec­tive flame in this coun­try, and speak to these ills.”

He’s right. I don’t see any­one like that in the world of pol­i­tics. But I’m not sure it would make much of a dif­fer­ence any­way. That is, I don’t be­lieve those on ei­ther end of the di­vide would lis­ten to any­thing a politi­cian had to say.

Politi­cians be­lieve in the re­demp­tive power of rein­ven­tion. Last week, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den urged Amer­i­cans to “act with unity, not di­vi­sion” af­ter the Dal­las killings. In 1994, Bi­den was in the Se­nate where — in a fact usu­ally down­played by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Demo­cratic Party and the lib­eral me­dia — he au­thored a bill called the Vi­o­lent Crime Con­trol and Law En­force­ment Act. The leg­is­la­tion — which was signed into law by Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, and cham­pi­oned by Hil­lary Clin­ton as a way of com­bat­ing what she later called “su­per-preda­tors” — put more cops on the street, tough­ened sen­tenc­ing stan­dards and con­trib­uted to the mass in­car­cer­a­tion of African-Amer­i­cans. The end re­sult? Less unity, more di­vi­sion.

None of this was on my mind Thurs­day night, as I watched in hor­ror the im­ages out of Dal­las. Af­ter 25-year-old Micah John­son, an African-Amer­i­can Army vet­eran, slaugh­tered five of­fi­cers and wounded seven oth­ers, all I could think about was what was com­ing next — thou­sands of fel­low of­fi­cers salut­ing flag-draped coffins, the haunt­ing sound of bag­pipes, chil­dren grow­ing up with­out their fa­thers all be­cause of some­thing ab­surd.

Racism is al­ways ab­surd, no mat­ter who prac­tices it. Dal­las Po­lice Chief David Brown told re­porters that John­son was up­set at re­cent killings of African-Amer­i­can men by po­lice and “wanted to kill white peo­ple, es­pe­cially white of­fi­cers.” And while Brown said that John­son was not af­fil­i­ated with any group, the chief did say he shared the anger of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment.

And while the me­dia are go­ing the ex­tra mile to try to ex­on­er­ate Black Lives Mat­ter in the killing of the po­lice of­fi­cers, it’s not that sim­ple. Not when lead­ers in the move­ment ad­vance the in­flam­ma­tory accusation that po­lice are “hunt­ing” African-Amer­i­cans and marchers, some of them af­fil­i­ated with the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, call for “dead cops” and chant “pigs in a blan­ket, fry ‘em like ba­con.”

So, as you can see, like a lot of Amer­i­cans, I have much to be an­gry about. And I ex­pressed some of it on so­cial me­dia.

In re­sponse, one per­son wrote: “Your anger is jus­ti­fied, but it’s time for light not heat.”

I’m all for light. But there is a time for heat. If ac­tivists — no mat­ter what their cause — didn’t be­lieve that, they wouldn’t do what they do.

An­other per­son wrote: “You also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to tone down the hys­te­ria. These ur­gent times call upon us to cre­ate the space for di­a­logue and un­der­stand­ing. De­mo­niz­ing will only get us closer to the abyss.”

Now we’re get­ting to what it was about these com­ments that both­ered me. As an opin­ion writer, I don’t have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to tone down any­thing. Look around. Do you see many peo­ple in my busi­ness ton­ing down their rhetoric, on any topic? I don’t. So I wrote back: “Hear me now. I am not your priest. I am not your mayor. I am not your leader. I am not your so­cial worker. I am not your teacher. I am a JOUR­NAL­IST — an OPIN­ION jour­nal­ist, in fact, whose job is to chal­lenge you and ev­ery­one else, on the right/left/cen­ter to con­front things you don’t want to con­front.”

One thing I must con­front is un­fair ex­pec­ta­tions. As the son of a re­tired cop, it’s not up to me to cre­ate a space to un­der­stand cop killers.

Ruben Navarette Jr. is a syn­di­cated colum­nist from the Wash­ing­ton Post. His email is reuben@ruben­navarette.com.

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