Both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush addressed a large crowd at a memorial service for the five officers killed in the Dallas ambush last week during a Black Lives Matter rally. Bush spoke first, then Obama, and for much of Obama's speech there was little that he said that a conservative could disagree with. But then it was like a switch was flipped on.
Dallas-resident Bush did not make his speech political or specifically address other police-involved shootings but rather focused on the need for unity in our nation, the need to battle against fear, and the vital role of police officers in our nation. His speech was brief, hopeful and referenced both God and the Bible.
He did, at one point, offer what could be seen as a sly rebuke of Black Lives Matter protestors, saying, "To often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions."
Later, Obama took the podium, defending the honor and courage and important role of police officers with more fervor and conviction that we have ever heard from him. He even acknowledged that the black shooter who killed the white Dallas officers was fueled by racial hatred.
He also, without naming Black Lives Matter, rebuked protestors' criticism of all police, saying, "We know that the overwhelming majority of police officers....are deserving of our respect and not our scorn. When anyone...paints all police as biased and prejudiced...we undermine the people who ensure our safety. They do a disservice to the very notion of justice they claim to promote."
But most of the way through his lengthy speech, Obama abruptly changed his tone, and that's when the four police officers sitting behind him stopped clapping and even stopped looking at him for several minutes.
He switched to rebuking those who are critical of Black Lives Matter, saying "We cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protests as troublemakers and paranoid."
Rapid-fire, Obama threw out thinly veiled accusations at Republicans and conservatives, saying that America underinvests in schools, allows poverty to still happen, refuses to fund treatment of drug abuse and mental illness, and floods communities with so many guns it's easier to get a hold of one than a computer or book. He concluded that we can't be surprised when tensions boil over because of these things.
Some in the crowd cheered loudly while others refused to applaud as Obama said, "Can we do [these things]? Can we find the character as Americans to open our hearts to each other?"
He also painted America as an inherently racist country, saying every race in America has seen bigotry in their own homes or have "heard it in our own heads or have felt it in our own hearts."
He implied no police officer is immune to that racism, saying that if citizens and police can just stand in each other's shoes, then maybe when a police officer sees a young black man in a hoody that he won't automatically see a criminal but will see his own son instead.
"But even those who dislike the phrase 'Black Lives Matters,'" Obama added, "surely we should be able to hear the pain of Alton Sterling's family" and acknowledge that maybe he's not that different from us.
What do you think of this?