I can’t believe I’m writing about this again, but as I type three more police officers have been killed today. Three others are in the hospital. As the shooting was occurring the Baton Rouge police were putting out warnings about men armed with long guns — _In a state with open carry_. I know this is going to earn me howls and objections, but can we stipulate that in a civil society open carry is crazy?
At this point police forces around the country are worried if not down right terrified. If you are wandering down to the Starbucks or Target to do a little shopping and you are packing you are adding to the tensions rising in the country. You are making the work of the police so much more difficult. Apparently this tragedy today was the work of a single gunman, but for a long time they thought there were three shooters. How can the police tell if the armed man they see on the street is just a guy “exercising his second amendment rights” or one of the shooters? In this climate can we reasonably expect them to wait to find out?
This is not to diminish the problems of overly aggressive policing in minority communities. Too many people on all sides of this discussion are ending up dead. We’re the United States of America not downtown Mogadishu. I shouldn’t be afraid that if I go out to Starbucks or shopping at Target that some citizen is going to decide to stop a shoplifter by pulling their gun and shooting up a parking lot. Bystander Firing at Fleeing Shoplifter. Or a man looking at an air rifle in Walmart ends up killed by the police. Man with Air Rifle Fatally Shot. I shouldn’t be afraid of dying in a movie theater because some mentally ill man can buy an arsenal. And god help me if some bystander decides to whip out their gun and start shooting in a dark theater filled with terrified people in an effort to stop the shooter. I have no confidence in the NRA’s vaunted “good guy with a gun”. I’m pretty confident they’d just add to the death toll. Apparently neither does the police chief of Dallas. Armed Civilians in Texas ‘increasingly. challenging’.
We have got to have a serious conversation about race, about guns, about how we face the future. We have a President who has asked for careful and judicious words, to bring down the rhetoric. In response we have the presumptive Republican nominee who has used racial anxiety to win the nomination Tweeting — “Our country is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse!”
I am a liberal and a gun owner. But this is madness. The rule of law does not mean that we take the law into our own hands. That we answer grievances with a bullet. Let’s try words. They can be very powerful.
Over on Facebook I’ve been nattering on about horses and the World Science Fiction Convention because I truly cannot make sense of Dallas. Or perhaps it’s all painfully obvious and understandable, and I’m trying to avoid facing it.
We have a divided society with economic and social inequality. We have a fraught history as regards race in this country which we have never honestly faced. We have an increasingly militarized police force and minority populations who feel separated and disenfranchised from their country, government, society. Who feel that their lives don’t matter as they are denied decent housing, education, and protection.
And we have guns.
So many, many guns and people who have come to think that guns are how you solve disagreements. Or get yours. Or make a statement. Or prove you still have power.
We desperately need to learn to put away the guns. Pick up words again. Learn to talk. Learn to listen. Learn to hear. Learn to look past superficial differences and see the common humanity braided in our very DNA.
I am so glad to be home. No moon, so the sky is like black crystal. The Milky Way looks like a gossamer shawl thrown over Heaven’s shoulders. The longer I look the more stars seem to appear. There are the big, bold ones trying to see who can throw the most light, and then the small, shy ones peeping out from behind them like elf children. There is a soft breeze carrying the scent of piñon and juniper, and making the trees sigh and dip. My wind chimes are singing to each other. Together they create an A sharp major chord.