I’m still trying to process what happened in Dallas the other day (Black & Blue). The repercussions of it are going to echo out through time like the slow motion after effects of a thousand pebbles tossed in to a serene millpond.
For most of us it started with the live feed death of Philando Castile, in addition to many other black Americans at the hands of the police. A peaceful protest was organized and carried out… but then something went wrong. A single person decided that protest did not deserve to be peaceful because the catalyst for the protest was anything but.
You see, for decades now the NRA has been making a concerted effort to make the public aware of their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. The primary reason that they feel this right must be preserved is so that the citizenry may have the ability to rise up and defend itself from an oppressive and totalitarian government. The rise in sales of assault-style weapons has gone through the roof since the beginning of this campaign. Gone are the days when household weaponry consisted of deer hunting rifles, shotguns for birds and game, and maybe a .22 or a BB gun for plinking at empty cans and cardboard targets.
There’s no hiding the fact that the NRA is a major lobbying arm and advertising firm for weapons manufacturers. The method of advertising is fear and the products are powerful anti-personnel weapons. They have helped spark of a new type of civil war threat, and have then fanned the tender flames on talk radio, blogs and op-eds. The NRA’s cause is collective individual freedom, and for justification they point to the Bill of Rights. In fact almost exclusively to a single Amendment, the Second: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
But how would you tell if you were in danger of a totalitarian government taking over, or in danger of a citizen revolt getting out of control? Well, I suppose one thing you’d begin to notice would be the lack of “due process”, which is another right guaranteed to us (see the 5th & 14th Amendments). Without need for due process there would be a sudden rise in individuals, both official and private, who would develop a lack of confidence in the system. Add to that distrust the knowledge of the sheer amount of high powered weaponry that exists in the hands of the citizenry, and a base fear becomes the foundation of many actions. When that kind fear and lack of confidence gets merges with someone’s desire to exercise their Constitutional Rights, they will feel justified in acting as judge, jury and executioner when they find themselves in high-pressure situations.
Based on the current evidence Philando Castile was not given due process, as was his right. He was, however, allowed his right to keep and bear arms. He did so legally, and was attempting to provide evidence of such when we was shot. It was then that he became the latest victim of the constant fear the police feel when approaching any car during a stop these days, especially when they have certain knowledge that a weapon exists inside of the vehicle. The realization of the presence of a weapon during any interaction with police changes the dynamics of that encounter from routine to unpredictable instantly. Everyone involved becomes in mortal danger from this knowledge alone.
Many people also believe that the shooting was racially motivated. Those that do think so have begun to think and act out of that belief system. One person who believed that was Micah Johnson.
Micah Johnson was many things. He was a person of color, he was a U.S. Army reservist who served his country in Afghanistan, and he was citizen who was fed up. He had no faith in the system anymore. He made it clear that he was tired of watching white police kill black men… and he had been planning to do something about it.
At this point I want to make a couple of things very clear. I abhor how and why Philando Castile was shot and killed. I am also completely opposed to Micah Johnson’s actions against the police in Dallas. Both are precisely the opposite of what I stand for. But what I do know is that thoughts lead to words, which together lead to actions. If we do not examine the actions themselves and follow them back to the words and thoughts that gave birth to them, then it’s possible we could erroneously conclude that this situation was a one-off, an extreme situation conceived of by an unstable mind. If we hope to learn anything we must look at this event from a position of great height in order to take in all the factors that lead up to this entire tragedy.
To help do that let’s revisit a statement at the beginning of this essay where I said: “You see, for decades now the NRA has been making a concerted effort to make the public aware of their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. The primary reason that they feel this right must be preserved is so that the citizenry may have the ability to rise up and defend itself from an oppressive and totalitarian government.”
But what if when the NRA began making these claims they failed in the most crucial way possible: That they lacked scope to their imagination. What if their largest fault was that the revolt they envisioned couldn’t possibly look any other way than how they had pictured it. What if they were unable to foresee that there could again be another lone gunman, trained by our own military, who took an armed stand from a building high above Dallas. And that they couldn’t foresee that this madman/citizen/veteran/patriot would also target what he saw as a threat to American’s like himself, to their lives, to their liberties and pursuits of happiness.
Or maybe they simply failed to imagine that he would be anything other than white.