By Joe Darby/Opinion
I like to write columns about the good ole days and the funny quirks of present day life. I really do. You know, light-hearted columns that make you chuckle, or at least smile.
But it seems that every couple of weeks there’s a new tragedy in this country, or the world, that makes me feel compelled to comment about it.
What I’m talking about here, of course, is the terrible mass murders of the Dallas policemen, as well as the events that precipitated those killings.
Most of my fun columns, so to speak, just kind of flow and almost write themselves, a result I suppose of my having been a writer for more than 50 years.
But in this week’s column, I am writing more deliberatively, carefully choosing my words, because this is such a difficult topic. It’s not a subject that is black and white, but it is of course about black and white.
My perspective on all of this is shaped by who and what I am — an older white male. If I were a young black male, I’d probably see it differently.
But what I’m taking away from recent events are these thoughts: First, I grieve for the slain law officers, who were doing their duty by protecting the demonstrators, as well as for any black men who were wrongfully shot by police, whether in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Minn., or elsewhere.
There’s little that’s more tragic than the taking of an innocent life. But let me say this about the police. As a long-time reporter with The Times-Picayune, I got to know the police very well. Sure, there were some rogue cops, as there are bad apples in any barrel.
But until someone can walk in the footsteps of a law enforcement officer they can have no idea whatsoever of the difficulties, pressures and frustrations of the job. On a couple of occasions I rode with police on overnight patrols and there was always a sense that something in the next few minutes could go terribly wrong. As families of officers often say, when they put on the uniform and go to work, the loved ones don’t really know if they will ever see them alive again.
Secondly, I cannot understand why a police shooting evokes such rage in the black community while the far more frequent black on black killings cause little or no reactions. I’ve heard black leaders say the reason is because we rely on the police to protect us but then when an officer kills an innocent person it’s a betrayal.
Okay, but is it not even more of a betrayal when a man from your own community, a brother so to speak, takes an innocent life. How many times over the years have we heard about a shooting over a pair of sports shoes or some such. And don’t forget about the men who fire wildly into a crowd at a party, utterly uncaring about how many innocents may be killed.
I would truly love to see black leaders take to the streets to protest such violence.
The group that is heading most of the protests is Black Lives Matter. Who couldn’t agree with that? Of course they do. But all lives matter. If we’re ever to have a sense of brotherhood on this planet, we must realize that. Any innocent loss of life is a loss to all of us.
I think it would have been appropriate for the protestors to call a 24-hour moratorium on the demonstrations in honor of the five murdered Dallas officers, but that didn’t happen.
And President Obama, our first black chief executive, is a disappointment. As the first black man in his position, he could have done much to ease race relations. Instead, they have deteriorated. A poll in 2010, one year after he took office, showed that 13 percent of Americans were greatly concerned about race relations. A recent poll shows it is 36 percent.
Finally, there’s the most depressing aspect of all of this — there seems to be no end in sight. People have been violent since the first caveman bopped another one on the head with a stick, or if you prefer, since Cain slew Abel. There’s no sign in the early 21st century that we’re really changing for the better.
Some turn to prayer. I am a man who prays myself and I have a stronger faith now than ever before in my life. But — and I hate to say this — Christians have been praying for peace for 2,000 years and I just don’t know how much good it’s done.
Perhaps we can use the social media of our modern times to try to connect with those different than ourselves. Can we try to look at someone as just another person, not as a member of a hated group? Who knows. But it is very clear — something must be done.