Terror, we are told constantly, is the biggest threat to America. It is. The terror of race and class and hatred, of divisiveness and ugly rhetoric and too many guns. The terror of too many whites hating blacks, or browns, too many blacks hating policemen, too many Republicans hating Democrats, and hating this President most of all. Donald Trump talks about “America First.” Okay. But which America?
These are the new 60s in this country, only meaner and far more dangerous. And even less innocent than that time was, even with a different kind of war to hate. We keep killing our own now, and then when there are protests about that, we kill the people trying to keep the protesters safe.
Really, what America are they all talking about these days? The America of Falcon Heights, Minn., where a young black man ends up shot dead after a traffic stop? The America of Baton Rouge, La. where Alton Sterling is shot dead even though he is already down? Or the America of Dallas, Tex. in the late hours of Thursday, in the next terrible news cycle after Philando Castile, who was the next terrible news cycle after Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge?
This is a country on a fault line right now, or a trip wire, with no end to the anger in sight, when we are in the early rounds of what is already the ugliest campaign in the history of Presidential politics, with these candidates yelling at each other and calling each other names across their own great divide.
This is a country, in the summer of 2016, where no one is ever allowed to see both sides of any issue. If you are outraged about the death of Philando Castile, then you must hate all cops. No. It doesn’t work like that and never has and never should. All of American life is not some stupid debate show on television. You are allowed to hate the way Philando Castile died and then turn around, the very next day, and hate and mourn what happened in Dallas. Times five. Where we find out the man shooting down officers of the law was once in the U.S. Army.
Two more African-American men are dead this week, shot dead by police, one in the front seat of a car. Now five police officers are dead in Dallas, as downtown Dallas becomes Brooklyn on the Saturday near Christmas when Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu were executed as they sat in the front seat of their patrol car. We talked at Christmas 2014 in New York City about open season on police, at this time in America where young black men think it is open season on them.
So the racial divide continues to grow, not just between the police and black people. It grows everywhere. We are told to suspect Muslims of terror simply because they are Muslims. And if one illegal immigrant commits a crime in America, that means we have to round them all up. There is no longer any sense of proportion, or context to any of these debates, anymore than there is any sense of context or proportion to debates about abortion or health care. Or immigration. Or guns.
Philando Castile does not deserve to die because of a busted taillight. Those police officers, policing a demonstration about Castile and Alton Sterling, don’t deserve to die, to be executed the way Officer Ramos and Officer Liu were, for the crime of being police officers and doing their jobs. This is the kind of terrorism that produces San Bernardino or Orlando, or innocents being blown up across the world with suicide bombs. Just kill somebody. If there are bad cops, kill any cop. If you hate one thing, hate everything. And then everybody start shooting all over again.
And the governor of Minnesota says race was a factor in the killing of Castile. And the very next day, the mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, has to mourn the death of innocent police officers, good cops doing their jobs. And Rawlings reminds us, as if we needed reminding, that “these police officers are all that stand between us and everyday tragedy.”
But what do we do when we start to believe that in what is supposed to be the most advanced and enlightened country on earth that some kind of tragedy happens every day?