On July 7, 2016, Dallas suddenly got thrust into the limelight and for all the wrong reasons. A sniper killed five police officers, and wounded nine officers and two civilians. What started as a peaceful demonstration against police violence ended with death and maiming. We all know the facts. The only thing I can add to this is how we lived it here.
Besides being glued to the TV for the latest info, it was the topic of all conversations on our lips. If we ever thought we were immune to random or targeted violence, this killing took away the last of our delusions. But instead of dividing the city along ethnic lines, it rather brought us all closer together. It was a weird sensation simply going to the grocery store. People were more patient and chattier and strangely enough more courteous. We all felt like a line had been crossed: free speech was paramount and to be respected; police brutality was rejected but that same police protection of us was to be respected as well.
The police cars memorial emerged at the downtown police headquarters and I decided to go and have a look. I am not one for “tragedy tourism” but like I mentioned, the atmosphere in the city was exceptional. It was a sight to behold. Flowers, cards, artwork, balloons, sashes, plush animals, candles and other paraphernalia covered these cars like an avalanche. A lot of people with kids came by for, no doubt, a teachable moment, but the most noteworthy was they were from all ethnic backgrounds. Dallas police officers were out and mingling with the crowd and the Red Cross was handing out water. I asked an officer if they were planning to keep this memorabilia for posterity and she told me they had discussions about how to handle that. Police officers from all over the country were paying their respects in full regalia and were asked to pose for pictures with the kiddos. I had taken public transportation to the site but I don’t think it was possible to get a parking ticket if you tried. The cars memorial was not the only sign of support for the blue. All over town flags and placards were posted with messages. The road to my garden plot was lined with American flags, 10 feet apart on both sides of the road for two miles all the way to the area police station. The local scout troop earned a major badge. I was impressed.
Early on, I cynically e-mailed a friend that we all sing kumbaya, light tons of candles, hold hands in prayer and wait for the next killing spree to occur, doubtless more sensational than the last. I was right on that front; a week later we were looking at the events in Nice. Different motivations and what have you, but senseless killing is killing no matter how you look at it. However, I think we came out different and better as a city in Dallas. Unfortunately it took five lives and their families in turmoil to achieve this. The same holds true for the victims and their families of police brutality for which there is no excuse either. It made me realize that there is never just black or white to any situation but only grey. Try walking in someone else’s shoes for a while and you’ll recognize there is always more to any circumstance than you first perceived. The key to accomplish this is education and unfortunately that seems to be thrown by the wayside by budget cuts, lack of parental involvement and instant gratification. We need to clean up our act and I’ll start with myself.