WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — Brent Thompson, a 43-year-old Dallas transit police officer, was gunned down on a day where the actions of police captured the attention of the nation.
Thompson went to work never thinking Thursday would be his last. It’s the deadliest attack on police since September 11, 2001.
“Dude, that’s a cop down. A sniper?” one witness shockingly told another in a video aired by CNN.
Five police officers are dead. Seven others are wounded.
Forty-nine people danced, laughed, drank, lived and died in an Orlando gay night club June 12 as last call approached. Their last call. Ambushed by Omar Mateen who clearly had grudges and was inspired it’s said by ISIS entreaties.
Investigators reported right after the massacre, as bodies were strewn in that club, the sound of cell phones ringing intermittently pierced the silence. Relatives of the victims were desperately calling the dead.
Let’s face it. The men who executed people in Orlando and Dallas in the prime of their lives were mentally ill. No sane person does what they did.
The motives are different whether it’s hatred of the police or of the LGBT community or a terrorist being called to arms by ISIS.
No doubt we are a country on edge. A country divided.
Take the two African American men in Minnesota and Louisiana gunned down at the hands of police. It prompted a flurry of social media fights which spilled on to cable news programs and into American homes and into the streets.
The president rushed to the nearest microphone on a visit to Poland to address our nation grappling with how to calm an angry, deflated country.
Everyday Americans can feel the pain, sadness, uncertainty in the air.
Just days ago, Americans celebrated July Fourth. The 240th anniversary of the birth of a nation. Smiling faces of all colors beamed in Washington and across the United States as they swayed to patriotic songs. It was heartening to see Americans happy and proud.
And so quickly all of those images are replaced by video of dying police officers in the streets of Dallas.
The moderator of Meet the Press, Chuck Todd, made excellent points on the program Morning Joe on Friday. Todd implored the president to do a prime time address as he questioned how do you erase hatred from someone’s heart?
This is a battle for the soul of America. A battle where rational people need to speak up when they identify a relative or friend who clearly is in need of mental health help. Where good cops need to call out the few bad ones. Where parents call out the homophobes and teach our children that LGBT Americans deserve to be respected and treated with dignity.
America is still the beacon of hope and opportunity to the world.
But there is something wrong with American culture which is fueling a few bad actors to scar a nation of good people who go to work, pay their taxes and hang the flag.
America “can do” is on display even as Dallas is reeling from this latest tragedy. The sun came up on an ugly day and Americans pressed on. They have to. They did as they always do.
As we did on September 12, 2001.
Americans are optimistic by nature.
President Ronald Reagan, in one of his last speeches he made in 1992, said “While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future.”
Reagan soared: “We were meant to be masters of destiny, not victims of fate. Who among us would trade America’s future for that of any other country in the world? And who could possibly have so little faith in our America that they would trade our tomorrows for our yesterdays?”
Reagan’s words of almost 25 years ago still hold.
There is nothing wrong with America but there is something terribly wrong in America.