An open letter to American politicians after the Dallas shooting

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Dear President Obama et al:

It’s been less than a week since alleged Dallas gunman Micah Johnson killed five police officers and injured seven in a hate-fueled rampage.

I’ve heard some people are angry because they don’t think some of you’ve said enough about the tragedy. Personally I think you’ve all said too much. And every time you open your mouths, things get even worse.

Wreath. Shot at Memorial Day Service in Warrenton, Virginia in 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Memorial Day Wreath. Warrenton, Va., 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

So please do me a huge favor. Just be quiet.

The immediate aftermath of a national tragedy is not the time to promote your personal and political agendas. Please show some respect. Give the victims’ families the time and space they need to grieve before you start pontificating about racism, gun control or any other relevant issue. There will be plenty of time to talk about that later.

Please remember that it’s not always about you — and that most of us couldn’t really care less about what you think.

I seldom agree with New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, but as he said when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton reportedly approached him in the wake of the Dallas shootings:

“Our interest is staying out of the politics of the moment, and not to provide photo ops,” Bratton said. “If Mr. Trump wants to speak to me, I would be happy to brief him on what we’re doing. If Sen. Clinton wants to speak to me, I would very happy to brief her on what we’re doing. But we are not in the business of providing photo ops for our candidates.”

Perhaps you should all take the hint.

But if or when another tragedy befalls us and you feel compelled to say something about it, please consider the following suggestion:

My fellow Americans,
In the wake of the tragedy that has befallen our nation, it is understandable that you should seek comfort and reassurance from your elected leaders. Please know that we are monitoring the situation and will do everything within our power to ensure the safety and security of all of our citizens.
Because this is an ongoing investigation, we are refraining from any comments about the incident itself at this time. We respectfully request that the media directs questions to the appropriate authorities. We also request that the media respects the victims’ families need for privacy….

Thank you for your time and consideration with regards to this matter.
Sincerely,
A Concerned Citizen

Hate begets hate

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

If just half of the information that has surfaced about alleged Dallas cop killer Micah Johnson over the weekend is true — and I do stress if because I would really rather not get sued — one thing is for sure. This was a sick, warped, twisted young man.

“We’re convinced that this suspect had other plans and thought that what he was doing was righteous and believed that he was going to make law enforcement and target law enforcement, make us pay for what he sees as law enforcement’s efforts to punish people of color,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown said in published reports.

Brown also said that recent police shootings that claimed the lives of black men in other parts of the country prompted the rampage that injured seven law enforcement officers and killed five.  When police tried to convince him to surrender after the shooting, the alleged gunman indicated he wanted to kill even more police officers, Brown added.

Black and white photograph of New York Police Department barriers taken by Alexandra Bogdanovic
NYPD barriers. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

If that’s not twisted, I don’t know what it is.

It’s also sad. Very sad. But in all honesty, it’s not surprising — because that’s what hate does. The ugliness hardens your heart. It messes with your mind. Before you know it, you’ve been consumed by it — and there’s no going back.

Now, some of you may be wondering what a middle-aged, middle class white woman from Connecticut really knows about hate — or discrimination for that matter. Trust me. I know plenty.

If I had a dollar for every misogynist comment I heard while working as a police reporter, I would be independently wealthy. Every time I got upset, one of the guys asked whether it was “that time of the month.” Every time I showed any emotion, one of the guys said it “must be a woman thing.”  I had a strict rule about dating guys in the agencies I covered. I never did it. Ever. But if you think that stopped the “locker room talk,” think again. I guess it’s just the price I paid for being “one of the boys.”

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, I never made as much as my male colleagues. And my male bosses — who were easily intimidated by an assertive woman — routinely treated me like garbage. Not that I put up with it at all.

But yes, I know a few things about gender discrimination.

I know a few things about hate, too. Back in the 1990s, my father received death threats because of his ethnicity (and a Letter to the Editor he sent to The New York Times). Things got so bad we had a wire tap on our phone and FBI agents in our house.

I was the one who answered the phone when one guy called and asked for Dad. When I asked what he wanted, he said something about a furniture order. When I told him (in no uncertain terms) that I had no idea what he was talking about, he told me to “tell that effing Serb his coffin is ready.”

Yes, I remember that phone call to this day. And yes, I know a few things about hate.

I also know we all have choices. Ultimately we determine how we react to discrimination or hate. We can choose violence, or we can find another way to defeat those who are determined to bring us down.

Some of the greatest men in history found another way. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. All three suffered. All three fought for what they believed in. All three advocated for change through nonviolent means.

I’m not exactly a “sit around the camp fire and sing Kumbaya” kind of girl. I don’t agree with everything these men espoused. But I do believe we should all strive to follow their lead.

Because at the end of the day, hate begets hate. Violence breeds more violence. And nothing will change.