I have a story I need to be writing. It’s the kind I like to do—an interview with a young farmer who got a good education and came back to the farm to put it to good use.
But I’m having trouble concentrating.
I woke up this morning to hear the horrifying news that five police officers had been killed in Dallas, Texas, while protecting a Black Lives Matter protest. Seven more, including two civilians, were injured. The protest was peaceful, and marchers reported later that all during the march they enjoyed a rapport with the police officers, had selfies made with them and expressed appreciation for their protection.
Then all hell broke loose. Five of those protectors lay dead; seven others were injured. One cowardly sniper was killed; three suspects were arrested. Marchers scattered. Chaos ensued, and now Dallas and the nation are again under the grim cloud of racism, hatred and intolerance. Where does it end?
I’ve spent way too much time this morning on Facebook, following friends’—many real friends not just FB contacts—thoughts on this horrific event. I expected to see posts from one extreme to the other, so I posted this plea: “Today, I really don't want to see racist memes, opinions or cartoons on my page. Thank you.” Ten minutes later I received one from someone who had earlier responded with a “like” to my post.
My longtime real life friend Janice Person posted a heartfelt, pain-filled paragraph on her feelings of loss, hopelessness and grief over the shootings in Dallas as well as the deaths of two African American men who were killed by police officers earlier in the week. Janice is one of the most sensitive, caring people I know, and her anguish is palpable. I responded to her post:
The divisiveness in our society is more pervasive than at any time in my 67 years on the planet, and I lived through the 50s and the 60s. It's more pervasive now than then because extremists have so many more targets--African Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, transgender, gay, liberal, conservative, male, female, Democrat, Republican, rich, poor. Pick your label.
It's worse because anyone with a computer and a phone line is a publisher--armed with an immediate readership but without the governance those of us in real journalism respect from editors, publishers and our own reverence for truth. We need cool heads, we need rational minds. Where are they? Not in Congress, where the divisiveness is as blatant as anywhere in America, and, I think, at the root of the problem. We need solutions not palliatives. We need leaders, not rabble rousers. We need common sense, a commodity that's in short supply. Janice, thank you for sharing your pain, your sensibility and your hope. Bless you.
I posted a few lines from one of my favorite poems: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” W.B. Yeats http://www.potw.org/archive/potw351.html
My sister, also one of the kindest and most sensitive people on earth, posted back asking if I was having a bad day. Yeah, I think so. I responded to her:
This thing in Dallas makes me far beyond sad, especially coming after what appears to be other senseless killings of African American citizens. We have to be better than this.
I wish I had the answer. I wish I just knew where to start. Maybe it starts with me. I think I’m pretty tolerant. I think I respect other people’s opinions, beliefs and their rights to speak their minds. But maybe I’m not tolerant enough. Maybe I don’t listen closely enough to someone who has a different perspective than I do. Maybe I don’t share my opinions often enough, politely, respectfully and without insulting those who disagree.
Maybe I can do better. Maybe we all can. We all matter.