Littwin: Summer of rage, summer of outrage

The temptation is to say that we’ve reached a breaking point. That the center cannot hold. That, as The New York Post irresponsibly splashed across its front page, we’re now in a civil war.

The truth is far more complicated than that. This is not 1968. Or 1861. A nation is not torn asunder. Protesters didn’t join the snipers. There was no police riot.

The truth, the hard truth, is that we are finally being forced to take a harder look at ourselves, to ask honest questions about violence, about race, about polarization, about demonization, about politics, about media, about the desire to look for easy answers in a complicated world.

And in the most obvious truth of all, we are forced to look again at gun violence, even as the sound of Dallas gunshots echo in our ears.

If anything, this should be more a tipping point than a breaking point. But sadly, whether we can successfully confront any of those truths is, at this point, very much an open question.

It’s made harder still by the political climate, in which division has become the default position. As Philip Bump points out in The Washington Post, the answer of who to blame for Dallas is usually whoever you didn’t already like. And so former Rep. Joe Walsh* of Illinois, who is now a talk radio host, blames Barack Obama, tweeting (in a now-deleted post) for the president to “watch out … Real America is coming after you.”

In fact, when a politician honestly stands up to say that peaceful protest didn’t kill the Dallas cops and that race was the determining factor in the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, that becomes news.

There’s much we don’t know about the horrific attack on Dallas police, just as there is much we still don’t know about the deadly police shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge.

But there are certain things we do know after three days of pain.

We watched two men die. You can’t just walk back from that. We saw them close up, on video, in pointless, tragic real time, black men killed by police for no discernible reason, blood gathering from their wounds as we watched. And strangely, both men were carrying guns — guns that were apparently legal, yet almost certainly contributed to their deaths.

We know there is no civil war. In Dallas — which, in the saddest kind of irony, has been often praised as a model for its police-community relations — it was a night of peaceful protest against police shootings in other cities until one or more snipers opened fire, killing five and wounding a dozen. The attack was constantly replayed, taken from smartphone-collected videos, on our TV screens, an attack that meant, for once, we could not help but be collectively shocked by the level of violence in our midst.

What we heard was the kind of gunfire we typically hear from Fallujah or some other war-torn city. What we saw were people running for their lives because someone, or some few, moved by some twisted rationale, fueled by easy access to shocking firepower, targeted the good guys with guns. And so a nation mourns. Again.

And so we can’t help noticing certain truths.

When Castile was killed after a traffic stop for a broken taillight, his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, testified on a streaming Facebook account what was happening, so there would be an accounting. If you haven’t watched it, please watch it now. We don’t know all the details of Castile’s death, but this was a truth as told by someone whose loved one is dying beside her while cops caution her to keep her hands on the wheel. She said that Castile had his hands up when he was asked to reach for his ID, that he told the officer he had an apparently licensed-to-carry concealed weapon, that, as we saw, he lay dying from a series of gunshots. We saw that the officer seemed shocked by what he had done, screaming profanities. The panic was as clear there, in its own way, as it was in Dallas.

As I watched, I couldn’t help wondering why cops had come to both windows for a broken taillight, why Castile and Reynolds had their hands raised, why, after the shots were fired, it took so long for paramedics to get to the scene, why the cops didn’t immediately try to treat Castile. Why Reynolds was handcuffed as if she were the danger. Why a cop fired into a car as a four-year-old girl sat in the back seat.

When Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton witnessed the video, he had to ask what everyone would ask: Would a white person have been treated the same way? He said we had to concede that we know the answer.

If you don’t, ask yourself this: Have you ever been asked to raise your hands after a routine traffic stop? Have you ever had a cop point a gun at you? I never have. Have you ever had to explain to your daughter why a senseless act — as, thankfully, Donald Trump called it today in a statement about the days of violence — caused her mommy to cry out for mercy?

The day after Castile was killed, a shaken Obama said, “All of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings, because these are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”

A day later, he would talk of the horror of the Dallas shootings and how nothing could justify them. And because he felt compelled to, Obama said that access to “powerful weapons” make these attacks “more deadly and tragic.” He might have noted, as he will on another day, that in 1963, only a few blocks from these Dallas shootings, Lee Harvey Oswald had taken a mail-order gun and killed John Kennedy. Obama would, of course, be accused of politicizing the deaths when he was, in fact, as in the police shootings, calling for justice and sanity.

The Dallas police chief said that the gunmen told police he wanted “to kill white people,” particularly white cops. And we nod, knowing that we had come to this. The shooter, an Iraqi vet, said he acted alone, although three others are in custody. We’ll eventually learn more. But it’s already clear that this summer of rage is more a summer of outrages, where the American story is being written as a series of American tragedies that we continue to be unwilling to address.

Anyone who seriously wants to make America great again has to know where to begin.

*Correction: A previous version of this post misstated a name. It was former Congressman Joe Walsh who posted a tweet, not Joe Wilson, who is a current congressman. 

Photo credit: Johnny Silvercloud, Creative Commons, Flickr 


  1. The New York Post’s headline implies that there is some justification for this heinous, evil act committed by this Dallas gunman, who is no hero but only a common criminal.

    My sympathy goes out to the victims and their families and friends.

  2. Both George Bush and Barack Obama had a combined 15 YEARS to work towards comprehensive Police reforms regarding use of excessive, and deadly force.


  3. Gabriel King – saying Bush and Obama did nothing misses some background. I don’t know about Bush – I doubt he prioritized the issue.

    For Obama, there was a commission, it made recommendations, and Obama followed up with various actions that could be taken by Executive Orders. But his range was narrow and lacked power because of the reality of Congressional opposition. See:

  4. We need to place the blame square on the U S Congress and the state legislatures that passed open gun laws. I live in Montana where people enter grocery stores, libraries,churches with guns holstered on their hips.
    We have lost the civility we once had. And please don’t tell me that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The gun is the lethal weapon that often kills the individual.

  5. The stench emanating from this column is a product of Mr. Littwin’s toxic hypocrisy. His “concern” over the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling is driven not by compassion but by politics. Were it otherwise Mr. Littwin would already have written at least one column on the death of Laquan McDonald. But he hasn’t.

    Who was Laquan McDonald and how did he die? This from the New York Times:

    “A dashboard camera video of Laquan McDonald, 17, who was shot 16 times by a (white)Chicago police officer on Oct. 20, 2014, was released more than a year after the shooting.”

    Mr. Littwin has never seen a white cop/black victim story that didn’t make him drool. Never.

    Yet he completely ignored the death of Laquan McDonald. Why? Mr. Littwin wrote an entire column about an eye-roll. That’s right, an eye-roll! You could look it up. But somehow he managed to ignore Laquan McDonald’s death.

    Why didn’t McDonald’s death generate as much intense outrage and column space from Mr. Littwin as the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner or Freddie Gray?

    This New York Times editorial excerpt may answer that question:

    “But the timing (of the release of the dashboard camera video), in late 2014, was not good.

    Then up for re-election, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, was looking ahead to a contested election on Feb. 24, 2015, which would ultimately result in a runoff election on April 7. In Ferguson, Mo., a grand jury was hearing testimony on the police shooting of Michael Brown. The video of Eric Garner being choked to death during an arrest in New York had gone viral. The Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum across the country.

    The video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel’s chances for re-election. And it would likely have ended the career of the police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy.”

    So there you have it, yet another example of Mr. Littwin ignoring a story because it doesn’t fit his political narrative. It would have been extremely difficult for Mr. Littwin to write about Laquan’s death without discussing the role played by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—-a Democrat and former chief-of-staff to President Obama—-in blocking the release of the dashboard camera video for over a year simply to improve his reelection chances.

    So he ignored it!

    Mr. Littwin views every story through a political lens and those failing the political litmus test are ignored. The death of Laquan McDonald is only one example but it demonstrates, unambiguously, Mr. Littwin’s desire to put his strange political views above everything.

    Mr. Littwin very generously admits, “We don’t know all the details of Castile’s death,” but that doesn’t stop him from describing the incident as “a routine traffic stop” and wondering aloud “why cops had come to both windows for a broken taillight, why Castile and Reynolds had their hands raised”

    Well, this from suggests it was far more than just a “routine traffic stop” and may explain “why cops had come to both windows” and why the car’s occupants had their hands raised.

    “When Philando Castile was pulled over Wednesday night by officers Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser, purportedly for a broken tail light according to the video account of the aftermath of his being shot and killed by Yanez made by passenger Diamond Reynolds, the officers’ real reason for wanting to pull them over and check I.D.s is because they thought he was a robbery suspect, according to scanner audio obtained by KARE 11 NBC TV in Minneapolis”.

    Of course, Mr. Littwin has never allowed facts to interfere with a really, really good-—albeit apocryphal—-anti-cop narrative and I’m sure he’ll apologize.

    Just as Minnesota’s Democrat Governor Mark Dayton will apologize for claiming, “Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver were white? I don’t think it would have.”

    Just kidding! Neither will.

    And why did Mr. Littwin wait until the column’s penultimate paragraph to mention that “Dallas police chief said that the gunmen told police he wanted “to kill white people,” particularly white cops.”? Is it because that statement would make the killing of 5 Dallas police officers a racially motivated hate crime? Or is it because Mr. Littwin wants readers to believe racially motivated hate crimes are exclusively white?

    According to Mr. Littwin: “when a politician honestly stands up to say that peaceful protest didn’t kill the Dallas cops and that race was the determining factor in the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, that becomes news.”

    And when it’s determined that hate and race were the determining factors in the deaths of five Dallas police officers that becomes news that Mr. Littwin manages to ignore.

    Mr. Littwin has demonstrated that he is not above using tragic deaths to further his political views and ignoring those that don’t. Mr. Littwin pointed out, “The truth, the hard truth, is that we are finally being forced to take a harder look at ourselves,”

    He has apparently exempted himself from that exercise. Assist the Officers Foundation

    “Hours before the murders of five police officers in Dallas, Texas, President Obama was again spouting false claims about racism by the police. He sees racism whenever there is any disparity in outcomes, no matter what the cause.

    Obama and others inflame passions, but take no responsibility, and instead use events to push for more gun control. Yet, shouting racism can endanger the lives of police officers. The Dallas police chief tells us one of the shooters “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

    Obama is also wrong, as he was on Thursday, to infer racism from higher arrest rates or prison-sentence lengths. “African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites,” he said. What he failed to note is that blacks commit murder at almost six times the rate whites do.

    “African-American and Hispanic population, who make up only 30 percent of the general population, make up more than half of the incarcerated population,” he added. But Obama ignores the facts put out by his own Department of Justice. The FBI claims that gangs commit 80 percent of crimes in the US, and the National Gang Center estimates that 82 percent of gang members are black or Hispanic.” – New York Post

    Shortly after 10 p.m. on Thursday night, when Micah Xavier Johnson shot and killed five Dallas police officers and wounded nine others, Mauricelm-Lei Millere, founder of the African American Defense League hate group, posted a picture on his Instagram account.

    The caption led with this: “We have no alternative! We must kill white police officers across the country!”

    The picture was of a meeting with former President Bill Clinton, which Millere alleged occurred in May. – Daily Beast

    “I will call for white people, like myself, to put ourselves in the shoes of those African-American  families who fear every time their children go somewhere, who have to have ‘The Talk,’ about, you now, how to really protect themselves [from police], when they’re the ones who should be expecting protection from encounters with police,”

    “I’m going to be talking to white people, we’re the ones who have to start listening to the legitimate cries coming from our African-American fellow citizens,” – Hillary Clinton

    In a mere 11 days, arrogant, selfish actions by the Clintons contaminated three of the purest brands in Washington — Barack Obama, James Comey and Loretta Lynch — and jeopardized the futures of Hillary’s most loyal aides. – Maureen Dowd

    The number of police officers shot and killed in the USA is 44% higher than at this time last year following the Dallas ambush Thursday night that left five officers dead, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. – USA Today

    President Barack Obama’s Republican adversaries piled on the criticism on Friday after he turned the overnight Dallas police massacre into a political platform – and then grinned from ear to ear as he reconnected with world leaders at a NATO summit in Poland.
    Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, both on their way out of office soon, seemed in a particularly light-hearted mood despite the day’s grim and dominant subject matter.

    The pair laughed and joked with fellow leaders as they posed for a group picture and yukked it up as photographers kept snapping.
    Hours earlier Obama had sermonized about the deaths of five police Texas police officers upon landing in Warsaw, saying that ‘when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately it makes it more deadly and more tragic.’
    ‘And in the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well.’ – Daily Mail

    President Barack Obama on Saturday rejected the notion that this week’s stunning violence is a signal that the U.S. has returned to some of the darkest days of its past, saying that as painful as the killings of police and black men were, “America is not as divided as some have suggested.” – Associated Press

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Veterans Day – November 11, 2016

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