None of These People Needed To Die

Last night in Dallas, Texas, at the end of peaceful protest over the shooting deaths of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota this week, a lone gunman opened fire on the Dallas police. He killed five officers, wounded seven others plus two civilians. None of these people should be dead but they are.

Like Charles Pierce, I dread what’s coming. I truly do.

To those of us who are of a certain age, the psychic signposts of Thursday night in Dallas marked a vaguely remembered route to hell. Snipers in buildings. The wounded being rushed to Parkland Hospital, for pity’s sake. And when Don Lemon of CNN made the curious observation that the streets of Dallas seemed an unlikely venue for murderous gunplay, those of us who are of a certain age thought he was out of his mind.

After all, it was murderous gunplay in the streets of Dallas that was the first inkling many of us of the post-war suburban generation had that, yes, the world could go out of its mind. [..]

By all accounts, including Radley Balko’s, the Dallas Police Department is the very model of a modern urban law enforcement operation. That is going to be lost in the cacophony (and worse) of what comes next. Just as the events in Dallas profaned the victims in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, whatever vengeance is taken by law enforcement that profanes the victims in Dallas likely will be taken far from that wounded place. The political utility of this awful series of events is going to be manifested in ways loud and indecent. I won’t even dignify it by mocking it, not right away, at any rate. I choose for the moment not to ride with the Hobby Horses of the Apocalypse.

This week has now flown so far beyond politics that it is barely visible any more from the ideological trenches in which we have grown so comfortable. It began with the impromptu execution of two African-American citizens at the hands of police in Louisiana and in Minnesota. It ended with the organized execution from ambush of Dallas police officers. I do not intend to contribute to the general rhetorical melee.

Yes, I believe that there should be far fewer high-powered firearms in the hands of the general American public, but I’m not going to get into stupid arguments over what is and what isn’t an assault weapon. Yes, I believe there remains a serious crisis in American law enforcement with regard to the militarization in thought and in materiel of the people who are charged with keeping what we call the peace.

But, for today, anyway, I am going to make the unremarkable point that none of these people, not the two victims of police violence nor the five victims of Thursday night, need to be dead right now. Their deaths served no purpose. Ennobling them in public grief doesn’t make those deaths any less unnecessary. There is too much useless death in this country, too much pointless martyrdom. That is the lesson of this awful week. That is the only lesson worth listening to in the days ahead.