‘What do we want?” the crowd roared while marching in Manhattan last December. Without missing a beat, the protesters answered their own question: “Dead cops.”
Just days later and fewer than six miles away, the crowd got what it asked for. NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were gunned down Dec. 20 in Brooklyn for doing nothing more than being cops at a time when that was a costly and dangerous thing to be.
The rhetoric briefly cooled but soon began anew. On Aug. 28, the evening before a Black Lives Matter demonstration in St. Paul, Minn., Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth was killed pumping gas at a station in Texas by a man who shot him 15 times in the back. The murder didn’t stop participants from chanting, “Pigs in a blanket! Fry ’em like bacon!” the next day while a family grieved and a community searched for answers that never came.
I have been in law enforcement for nearly 20 years. Recent memory reminds me of a time not so long ago when our daily roll-call briefings included information about the threats to the communities we serve. Today, they are littered with threats against us.
All lives matter. But rhetoric matters, too. Or does it? The answer to the question depends on the speaker or, most importantly in contemporary politics, the agenda of the listener.
A select category of political leaders has been unable to make a connection between the caustic oratory of some in the Black Lives Matter movement and recent violence perpetuated against the police. These same individuals have had much less difficulty, however, equating irresponsible words with the death tolls that have followed in other instances where they gain a political advantage.
When US Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blamed the triple-fatal shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Nov. 27 in Colorado on the “frenzy of hate and anger” in the “Republican Congress,” he was using a familiar tactic of the left.
Salon.com — in an article published in 2013 and titled “How the right plays with murder: The anti-abortion movement’s cycle of violence” — blamed the assaults and deaths that have occurred at abortion facilities squarely on the pro-life movement.
There have been countless other examples because the politics of uninformed rage is an easy tool to employ. Why put forward policy positions or debate a rival’s proposals when you can move your agenda forward by stirring up fear and anger instead?