“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
With the great Russian’s famous sentences before him, a Dallas native and long-time friend of this blog, John Zmirak, has produced the best thing yet written about Friday’s treason against the men in blue.
Last night, someone tore out a piece of America. Five hard-working, brave policemen of the City of Dallas are dead. Seven others lie wounded, as do two civilians. Racial resentments, not wholly groundless, have been needlessly inflamed. All this in Dallas, a vibrant, economically thriving city where before the shooting, cops were posing for photos with the Black Lives Matter protestors whom they were there protecting; where misconduct by members of our highly diverse police force has plummeted thanks to higher quality training; where the black citizen carrying the AR-15 whom someone misidentified as a suspect was in fact a law-abiding gun owner exercising his Second Amendment rights, who handed his rifle to the cops in case they needed it.
As Dallas Police Chief David Brown said at the prayer rally I just left in downtown Dallas’ Thanksgiving Square, “We will not let that person steal this democracy from us.” The mood here isn’t sour. At that rally, evangelical preachers black and white, a rabbi, an imam, and the city’s Catholic bishop led a multiracial crowd of more than 1,000 in prayers for the police and for racial healing. We held hands and prayed, and the Salvation Army band sweltered for our benefit, playing “God Bless America.”
Nationally, things are bleaker. Social media bubble with charges and counter-charges. Each of the major presidential candidates is so divisive that it’s a blessing neither of them chose to visit. It’s also very sad: presidential election opponents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, even George W. Bush and Al Gore, could have (and probably would have) changed their plans and made an appearance in Dallas, after the worst strike against law enforcement in more than 100 years. This year, neither of the candidates has any place preaching healing or unity.
Just before adducing Solzhenitsyn’s line, Zmirak articulates some fundamental truths, relating to very sensitive matters, which are forever wanting articulate repetition.
Last night brought me back to New York City in the 1970s. If you’ve never seen it, Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam is a powerful document of memory. It immerses you in the moment when a rampant serial killer (Son of Sam), a record heat wave, an electrical blackout and massive street looting brought our nation’s greatest city to the brink of civic collapse. The film depicts the powerful role that racial division plays in making order harder to keep and justice tougher to find.
But ultimately, it isn’t the conflict between one group and another that causes chaos. In a lily-white society like 1930s Germany, or an all-black republic like 1990s Rwanda, we will still find sufficient divisions to make us hate each other, if that’s where our hearts incline. And incline there they will, if we don’t push back continually against the powerful currents that otherwise sweep us along — the world, the flesh and the devil.
I will add that there is hope, even in the midst of treachery, slaughter, manic recriminations and ancient bitterness.
Zmirak mentions briefly that his city of Dallas, under the emollient influence of sagacious reform, has improved both its crime rate and its relations between police and free citizens. The First and the Second Amendment to our Constitution are respected in Dallas: which statement, alas, cannot be said of some cities in this nation.
The more tenuous hope lies in this. A path is open to the cities and towns of America to emulate Dallas’s sagacious reforms, through that deliberative process of self-government by consensus, which is our birthright as Americans. Read Leon Wolf, an old friend and now Editor of Redstate, if you suppose that there is no sentiment on the Right for reform of policing. Read Matt Lewis or Rachel Lu if you think American eyes are blind to the tyranny of cruel or corrupt cops, which has been the particular burden of blacks to endure, even decades after the fetters of official tyranny were broken.
These are law and order conservatives, hard on the heels of a traitorous ambush of police officers, stating frankly that policing in America needs judicious reform. (I would add that prosecutors need judicious reform as well; the cavalcade of prosecutorial misconduct, alongside appalling incompetence, over the past few years, has likewise opened a lot of eyes.)
It remains to be seen if the Left will take yes for an answer. Already the instant resort to the sweet heroin of Gun Control has consumed many liberals from the President on down. But unless our liberals recommend disarming cops, that liberal narcotic needs to be emphatically set aside: at least long enough for consensus policing reforms — self-government by deliberation and choice — to commence in cities around the country.
The bad news is that we face the home stretch of a National Election featuring two candidates who, as Zmirak rightly asseverates, have no business preaching healing or unity. None. The best thing of all, sub specie aeternitatis, would be for both of them to shut the hell up.
The good news is that America’s people still, even at this late and dire date, have the manifest capacity to govern themselves, as free men and free citizens, who deeply desire to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to insure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.