Multiple murders by one troubled black man does not constitute a race war.
A political movement spotlighting police violence and legal unfairness has not morphed into a militant threat.
And citizens do not have to choose between objecting to unnecessary police violence and fighting crime within poor communities.
Such common sense is getting lost in the hyperbolic analysis of last week’s tragedies in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Dallas. The country is still reeling from the senseless loss of two men by police hands and the ambush murders of five officers working a peaceful protest.
Yet many are so eager to put these horrors into ominous historical context, comparing them to the late 1960s, when poverty, racial conflict, the Vietnam War and political assassinations whipped up a toxic culture.
It is more constructive to discuss ways to avoid fanning those flames rather than to generate more fear and misunderstanding.
That has led to even more demagogic criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. The loosely knit, millennial-led activist group gains broader support with each new video of questionable police conduct. Its tactics have been political protest, demand for criminal-justice reform and the push for political accountability — democracy, in other words.
The Dallas sniper sought to associate with small black nationalist groups that threaten violence, police said. But even those groups rejected him as a member, according to recent reporting.
So, using his actions to taint Black Lives Matter is not only unfair but potentially undermining of peaceful protest. That could fuel a sense of hopelessness that would further strain community accord.
Another talking point gaining traction has been that black-on-black crime is more of a danger than police brutality to black men and boys.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani even insists on making the outrageous argument that black parents are not warning their children about lawlessness in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. But he and others rarely acknowledge that if people thought police officers cared about keeping them safe they would work more closely with them to fight crime.
At any rate, law-abiding citizens shouldn’t have to decide who they fear most: criminals or the police.
The Dallas police department, by many accounts, works hard to partner with its citizens, focus on community policing and reduce citizen complaints.
The sniper, an Army veteran who demonstrated mental problems while in Afghanistan, had been planning an even deadlier attack for a while, police discovered. He just took advantage of the timing of an event that put so many officers within his sights.
So, it makes no sense to exaggerate the situation or create more bogeymen. Nor does it help to throw rhetorical bombs that distract from core issues of policing and race relations.
What we need most is the commitment and urgency to implement change that helps all.