Like most of you, I've been stunned by the events of the past several days. The deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling followed by the attack in Dallas have illustrated that there is now a clear war between those who support #BlackLivesMatter and those who support #BlueLivesMatter.
This is the moment we've been waiting for, right? The official declaration of war?
For years, every time a black male died at the hands of the police, it indicated a war was coming. Every time a police officer died at the hands of a black male, it was a war coming. The events of this week have surely removed all doubt that we now have a full-fledged war, haven't they? Clearly the videos graphically depicting the deaths of Castile and Sterling prove a systematic targeting of black males by homicidal cops. Correspondingly, no one can argue that sniping 12 cops from an elevated position isn't "targeting."
We obviously have two very homicidal groups of people clashing with each other now, don't we?
To find sympathy and understanding towards one of those groups is to most decidedly turn your back on the other. If you think that Castile and Sterling should still be walking the Earth today, you are quite obviously a Cop Hater. If you think that Micah Xavier Johnson was nothing more than a coward and a murderer, then clearly you have no sympathy or understanding for the plight of African-Americans who face police brutality on a daily basis.
You simply must chose a side, for better or for worse. Failure to do so only earns you the disdain of both sides of this war.
Many moons ago, when I was in college, I took a sociology class where the professor made the off-hand comment that the only taboo that was acknowledged in all cultures was treason. Initially, the statement seemed overly broad. However, if you think about it, it makes sense. Across the globe, there are some cultures in some places that will condone killing, stealing and raping. None of those cultures, however, will tolerate betrayal.
As a former-prosecutor-turned-defense-attorney who still holds a great general admiration for the people of law enforcement, I think about that statement often. When I blog in defense of a police officer (or prosecutor), I'm occasionally treated as being quite treasonous by the Defense Bar. I used to be a member (and board member) of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, but my ties to old friends from the D.A.'s Office and my work on Cold Justice ultimately led to the end of that relationship. Conversely, when I criticize decisions of the District Attorney's Office or the police department, I suffer the same level of ire and criticism.
Man, it's rough out there trying to think independently.
But, I digress.
At the end of the day, in the immortal words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."
Although it may be more satisfying to pick one side or the other, there are no such things as absolutes when it comes to humans.
Some of the most honorable, intelligent, brave, and selfless people I have ever had the honor to know wore a badge. I may not have always agreed with them, or wanted to hear what they had to say, but in the vast majority of cases, I didn't doubt their honesty. On the other side of the coin, I've spent the past seven and a half years of my life representing people accused of crimes -- from the innocuous to the heinous. Some were guilty. Some were innocent. All were humans that had a story to tell and a reason for being in the position where I first found them.
None were the monsters that prosecutors often believed them to be.
The events that led to the deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarippa, and Brent Thompson were events that are a sad reflection of what the world is like today.
But they aren't a reflection of a "war."
There are horrible police officers out there who will use their badges as a license to lie, cheat, steal, brutalize, and sometimes, murder. It cannot be denied that this happens, much more than we are comfortable admitting.
And of course, there are citizens who will lie, cheat, steal, brutalize, and sometimes, murder, albeit without the protection of a badge. These are things that cannot be effectively prevented, unfortunately. As much as we try, wish, train against, pray for, or teach about, there is no way to wipe out those who seem to truly enjoy harming their fellow man.
We flock to causes in the delusional belief that we can, though.
Yesterday, prior to the attack in Dallas, I watched a Facebook skewering of an individual who had dared to say "All Lives Matter" in response to a friend who had posted about #BlackLivesMatter. Man, it was brutal. This person was clearly going to perpetuate more deaths with an "All Lives Matter" posting, and thank God, Facebook was there to shout her down.
Four hours later, I was reflecting on the fact that five police officers went to work their shifts that day and never came home. They said goodbye to their families with the assumption that they would see them again in a few hours, but those simple reunions would never happen again.
The families of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling would sympathize.
I'm rambling. I know. But in my opinion, none of this should be described as a "war."
It may make us feel better to pick a side and run with it, but that solves nothing.
This is simple tragedy.