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President Obama delivered another heartfelt speech in response to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the two black men shot by police within hours of each other two days ago. Based on what is known today, neither was involved in a crime at the time the shootings took place. One was simply being asked to present identification at a routine traffic stop. The other was selling CDs. Now both are dead.

dallas police shootings

After Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas...?—Sharon Kyle

Not long after Obama's speech, news of another tragic shooting broke in Dallas. We now know that 12 police were shot and sadly five were killed in a calculated ambush. Approximately 800 protestors, reacting to the shootings of Sterling and Castile, had gathered in Dallas in pretty much the same way as others had in cities across the nation. But this gathering ended with five officers dead and another seven injured.

Details have surfaced in the hours since these tragedies. But the most obvious common threads that connect them—America's acceptance of the use of guns and violence to solve social problems and the enduring racial divide that has plagued this country since its inception.

Details have surfaced in the hours since these tragedies. But the most obvious common threads that connect them—America's acceptance of the use of guns and violence to solve social problems and the enduring racial divide that has plagued this country since its inception.

The two have proven to be a deadly combination time and again.

Over the coming days and weeks, we'll no doubt hear countless men in suits run on ad nauseum on how we share the pain and loss of the victims blah, blah, blah, blah. . .. . Their uselessness in tackling these issues is as evident as the despair and apathy that permeates the nation.

Then there is this...

In the letters we receive here from readers of the LA Progressive, we see trends indicating a growing sense of hopelessness. The depth of despair and distrust in our government is at a new low—reflected in the candidates “chosen” to run in the presidential election. At no time in history have we had an election such as this.

So, what do we do? For those of us who have neither the inclination nor desire to get in the streets—for others who can't give up but are lost. What do we do?

These questions make it difficult for me to sleep at night. At 3 a.m. this morning I slipped out of my bed and padded down to my office—thinking about the deadly combination using guns and violence in reaction to problems that at their core are manifestations of deep social ills will never result in a solution.

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Yes, we need to address the proliferation of guns in this country. Yes, we need to de-fang the NRA and extinguish the power it and other corporations hold over our political system. But until we see the connection between race and guns in this nation, I can't see us making any progress.

The Left and the peace movement in this country has proposed legislation for decades calling for the creation of a Department of Peace, a cabinet-level department of the executive branch of the U.S. Government. The proposal has been introduced more than a dozen times, beginning in 1793 by one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and most recently in 2005 by Senator Mark Dayton (D-Minnesota).

dallas police shootings

A host of organizations support the creation of a U.S. Department of Peace. And it was one of the leading ideas put forward by the public when President Obama was first elected.

Some of the provisions of a bill introduced by Dennis Kucinich include:

  • Provide violence prevention, conflict resolution skills and mediation to America's school children in classrooms as an elective or requirement, providing them with the communication tools they need to express themselves beginning in elementary school through high school.
  • Provide support and grants for violence prevention programs addressing domestic violence, gang violence, drug- and alcohol-related violence, and the like.
  • Effectively treat and dismantle gang psychology.
  • Rehabilitate the prison population.
  • Build peace-making efforts among conflicting cultures both here and abroad.
  • Support our military with complementary approaches to ending violence.
  • Monitor all domestic arms production, including non-military arms, conventional military arms, and of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Make expert recommendations on the latest techniques for diplomacy, mediation, conflict resolution to the U.S. President for various strategies.
  • Assume a more proactive level of involvement in the establishment of international dialogues for international conflict resolution (as a cabinet level department).
  • Establish a U.S. Peace Academy, which among other things would train international peacekeepers.
  • Develop an educational media program to promote nonviolence in the domestic media.
  • Monitor human rights, both domestically and abroad.

This and similar propositions had a growing swell of support in the past and was one of the leading ideas presented to President Obama by the people of the United States when he first took office. One of the first actions of the newly inaugurated president was to open the White House to suggestions from the public with a new online portal that collected ideas. This was one of the most suggested.

But in reading the proposals that can be found in this list, one glaring omission is the need to address the racial divide in this nation. In the film, Bowling for Columbine, filmmaker Michael Moore made a connection between America's love affair with guns and fear of the Black man. This notion is shared by many scholars and needs to be a part of the discussion and solution. The brilliant civil rights attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevens often says, "We are not going to be able to move forward on issues of race in this country until we tell the truth about our racial history."

If history repeats itself, as it so often does, in a week or two we'll be talking about something else. And then there will be another shooting. If you have suggestions or links to organizations that offer real solutions please provide them below. Dick and I support the Equal Justice Initiative, headed by Bryan Stevens. Organizations, like EJI, with adequate financial support, might help us to figure out a way out of this mess.

sharon kyle

Let us know your thoughts.

Sharon Kyle
Publisher, LA Progressive