US Opinion and Commentary

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Issues of Race, Police and Patriotism

Posted September 23rd, 2016 at 11:49 am (UTC-5)
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Protesters peaceably walked past police and national guardsmen Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, a 180-degree turn from Wednesday’s near-riot that prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency.
The protests were over Tuesday’s killing of a black man by Charlotte police. Days before, on Friday, a black man was killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Video of both incidents exists. The video in Tulsa raises questions about whether deadly force was necessary, and manslaughter charges have been filed against the officer. In Charlotte, police and family members of the victim say the video is inconclusive in determining whether the man had a gun and was threatening the officers.
These killings have re-ignited the debate over social justice for African-Americans, a cause now taken up by some professional football players after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick registered his protest by kneeling instead of standing during the pre-game national anthem.
As a battleground state in the presidential election, North Carolina, for the moment, stands at the intersection of American politics and American culture.

Black Lives, Blue Lines and the Political Megaphone

Posted July 19th, 2016 at 6:22 pm (UTC-5)
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Sunday’s murders of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana made Monday’s “Law and Order” theme at the Republican National Convention resonate louder.

Donald Trump has proclaimed himself the “law and order candidate” and criticized President Obama’s leadership on the issue in a Facebook post Sunday.

In a televised statement Sunday, Obama said “nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.” Monday he sent a letter to the National Fraternal Order of Police, expressing gratitude for the work of law enforcement officers, acknowledging the dangers they face and the valor in which they perform their duty.

But for some, Obama’s supportive words for police ring hollow because he has also voiced concern and understanding for blacks who have been killed by police under questionable circumstances.

As the Republican and Democratic conventions play out over the next two weeks, the political rhetoric about race and police will likely continue.

America’s Racial Divide

Posted July 14th, 2016 at 5:20 pm (UTC-5)
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A horse-drawn carriage carried the body of Philandro Castile through the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota.

More than a thousand miles to the south on Interstate 35, processions of hearses and police cars wound through the streets of Dallas, Texas and its suburbs, carrying the bodies of Officer Brent Thompson, Sgt. Michael Smith and Sr. Cpl. Lorne Ahrens. The scene will be repeated Friday and Saturday for the funerals of Officers Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa, all killed by a man seemingly bent on revenge for the death of Castille and others.

President Barack Obama convened a summit of sorts Wednesday. Black activists and law enforcement representatives exchanged ideas of how to bridge the divide between the police and people of color.

Obama said “we’re not even close to being where we want to be.” And from what’s being written and said, getting close will take many more conversations and understanding by both sides of the divide.

Duty, Danger and Death in Dallas

Posted July 13th, 2016 at 10:46 am (UTC-5)
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Eulogies by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush Tuesday praised the call to duty of the five police officers gunned down in Dallas last week. Both presidents also sounded the call to America to put aside differences and work toward the common good.

Acknowledging that police officers and their families know “each new day can bring new dangers,” Bush said “none of us…could be prepared for an ambush by hatred and malice.” He added “too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions and this has strained our bonds of understanding common purpose.”

Obama observed the nation was not as divided at it may seem. He addressed both sides of the “black vs. blue” debate, saying “an overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally,” but are undermined when broadly depicted as biased or bigoted.

He also noted that no one is “entirely innocent” of having bigoted thoughts or feelings, including police departments….we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protests troublemakers or paranoid…or a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism.”

It will take more than words of two presidents to bring these polarizing issues closer to the middle.

Dallas Mourns

Posted July 11th, 2016 at 9:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Dallas, Texas is bracing for a week of anguish, burying five police officers, killed by a man who the Dallas police chief said “was asking us how many did he get. And he was telling us how many more he wanted to get.”

President Barack Obama will be in Dallas Tuesday, once again assuming the role of consoler-in-chief at an interfaith service. With him, Vice President Biden and former president George W. Bush, who also was the governor of Texas.

Thursday’s killings of the police officers, Wednesday’s police shooting of a black man in Minnesota and Tuesday’s police shooting of a black man in Louisiana is again raising — and politicizing — the issues of policing and race relations — past, present and future.

In Iraq, I Raided Insurgents. In Virginia, Police Raided Me.

Posted July 27th, 2015 at 9:17 am (UTC-5)
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The culture that encourages police officers to engage their weapons before gathering information promotes the mind-set that nothing, including citizen safety, is more important than officers’ personal security. That approach has caused public trust in law enforcement to deteriorate.