- - Sunday, July 10, 2016

Some events speak with such loud clarity that no one, neither president nor preacher nor poet, can say anything to add to what everyone feels. President Obama, more eloquent than most, quickly exhausted adjectives speaking from Europe in the wake of the police massacre in Dallas. “Vicious, calculated, despicable and horrible” failed to adequately describe it.

An attack on a police officer is an attack on us all, on the very idea of a civilized society. When the guardians at the gate are gone, civilization is gone. Nothing illustrates this more vividly than tragedy in the streets.

The usual voices were quickly raised to prevent tragedy from “going to waste,” as Rahm Emanuel famously described an earlier calamity. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said the massacre of police in downtown Dallas demonstrated only the need for more federal gun control. Another chapter in the endless debate over the Second Amendment could not wait until the dead officers were mourned and laid to rest in heroes’ graves.

President Obama had spoken earlier in Warsaw, where he was on a state visit, of similar tragedies in Louisiana and Minnesota, which he rightly called “symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. When people say that ‘black lives matter’ it does not mean that blue lives don’t matter. All lives matter.”

The anguish on the president’s face and in his voice as he spoke, not once but twice from Warsaw, was clear to all who heard his voice and watched the flickering television image.

The sad truth, however, is that lives — black, blue, white or brown — do not seem to matter much to some of us. Life, from conception to the grave, is not held as dear as it once was. Life, like the society that spawns it, is often cheap.

The shooter in Dallas told police before he died that he was upset about “Black Lives Matter,” presumably referring to the organization that has been holding protest rallies across the country in the wake of several police shootings of black suspects. “The suspect said he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown told reporters.

What warmed broken hearts in the early coverage of the tragedy was how the Dallas officers, comprised of many variations of several races, responded as one to the grim task at hand, racing to the aid of each other and moving relentlessly to the sound of the gunfire. Neither risk nor bravery was marked by a single color. The officers were living proof of the traditional police boast that the uniform comes in only one color, blue, and the blood spilled in the protection of the common society comes in only one color, red.

Americans come in only one color, too, and until this sentiment comes to be universally shared there will be those among us eager to exploit differences, and when they do all will suffer. Laws can regulate behavior and punish lapses in decency, but cannot regulate the human heart. This is something that America is learning to its sorrow.

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