On the night of Thursday, July 7, the city of Dallas fell victim to an all-too-common occurrence: Ignorance producing racial hate spawning violent tragedy…which, like religious hate and class hate is as old as mankind itself. The terroristic shooting of Dallas and DART police, an act unfortunately tied to a peaceful “Black Lives Matter’’ protest during which cops and protesters were actually working hand-in-hand to make the event a safe and positive one, isn’t just the result of a series of recent deaths at black citizens at the hands of law-enforcement officials. No, it’s the horrifying result of thousands of years of this sort of conflict, and the concept of mankind going to “hell in a hand basket” is one as old as the story of Eve eating that apple.
Extremists on both sides of the issue wish to term this a “war.’’ They demand that you “choose a side,’’ as if it is morally impossible to be both a supporter of rights for black citizens – to avoid being racially-profiled to death (literally) – and a supporter of policemen and policewomen who, in a vast majority, intend to simply protect and serve all of us.
That “choose-a-side’’ approach is especially popular when opportunists demand that sports figures speak not for themselves…but for the opportunists. Dallas Cowboys legend Troy Aikman found himself sucked into this “Us vs. Them’’ trick when he tweeted supportive words for the Dallas Police Department…only to have The Huffington Post call him out for not being equally vocal about the alleged brutality of police against young black men.
But just because I express a view inside the confines of a 140-character framework doesn’t mean I am limited to that view. In my case, I’m comfortable proclaiming that I’m “pro-white’’ and “pro-black’’ and “pro-every-other-race,’’ and that I’m also “pro-gay’’ and “pro-faith-based’’ and “pro-female’’ and “pro-male’’ and “pro-young’’ and “pro-old.’’
Which weirdo bloc do I belong in? Probably the 90 percent of Americans who recognize our melting-pot origins, who understand that these tragedies are driven far less by racial hatred than by the ignorance that feeds the hatred, who see that this conflict isn’t “Cowboys vs. Steelers.’’ It’s not a game. There don’t have to be two different teams.
Sports figures, though, can offer something in the sense that many of us in North Texas and in America root for our teams with little regard for skin color. Maybe it’s a move toward healing that Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Irvin and Mark Cuban and Tony Romo and Tyler Seguin and Joey Gallo and Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman all tried to add words of comfort to their beloved Dallas over the weekend. Maybe people like them — members of different teams in sports life — can make us realize that we aren’t on different teams in real life.
Some of what’s happened in the wake of the senseless deaths of five policemen, and the senseless deaths of citizens, too, is the American Way. Yeah, even the bad stuff: the exploiting of hatred and anger, and the turning of tragedy into T-shirts and riots into revenue and ignorance into income…
The risks of freedom are part of freedom.
Most of us understand that screaming at one another right now might be cathartic, but is otherwise unhelpful because in so many cases we are screaming the same words our great-grandfathers and their great-grandfathers screamed at each other. Words matter and semantics matter. But at this moment, suggesting that “this life matters’’ is causing “the other side’’ to wonder if that means we’re omitting the importance of “that life.’’ And this is a sign that for all the screaming on TV and for all the white noise on social media, nobody is much listening right now.
My buddy Dale Hansen offered a commentary to assess the Dallas Police shooting and insisted on WFAA-TV that “America has changed” and that, essentially, there is no hope. The idea that we accept this causes us to scream into Twitter and Facebook by day and to scream into our pillows at night.
We’ve never been worse-off? People have been saying that about America since before there was even an America. We are at war with ourselves? The exploitative extremists want us to believe this so we vote for their candidate or donate to their cause. The situation is hopeless?
The one thing that we are most wrong about is that situation is hopeless. As Americans, we were wrong when we said it in the 1770’s and we were wrong when we said it in the 1860’s and we were wrong when we said it in the 1940’s and we are wrong now. In a sad sense borne of our worst fears, the exact reverse is true: Our situation is not hopeless, because, actually, in our darkest times, about the only thing we have to cling to is hope.