My first reaction to the premeditated shooting attack on the Dallas police was, "well, here it is." I am anything but surprised. Millions of Americans think the police are waging a war on them. American police kill far too many people, 566 already this year. A lot of those were armed thugs who shot back, but a lot of them weren't. I think the hair-trigger shooting habits of American cops are one of our worst problems, a slow-rolling disaster where our social distrust and massive private arsenal come together to create mayhem.
But on the other hand the angry rhetoric coming out of some protesters makes me nervous. When you go around saying that the police are waging a war on black America, sooner or later somebody is going to decide to fight back. In Dallas, somebody did, killing five officers and wounding six. Of course that will only make the basic problem worse. Usually, cops open fire because they are scared, worried that every sullen citizen they encounter is packing a gun and itching to use it. Now they will have even more reason to be scared, and many will be even quicker to fire.
I do not believe this problem can be solved, not in my lifetime anyway. America is and always has been a violent place, and now we have more guns than people. But maybe we can manage it better than we have been; maybe videotaping all police encounters will help, and maybe the slow fading of racial differences will help, and maybe just talking through this publicly again and again will force improvements. In the meantime, hundreds more will die.