We're all holed up behind our verbal barricades on this Dixon Circle deal, me among the worst of them, surprise surprise. So maybe it's worth remembering that Dallas city councilman Dwaine Caraway was out there Tuesday night. He was urging calm among the hundreds of people angry about the fatal shooting of a young man by police.
Caraway is the exception. He sees this stuff from both sides of the barricades. I watched it on television, of course, but the best flavor I got for what happened was from our own Anna Merlan's coverage, mainly because she went out on the street with her notebook and got quotes from the people who were venting about the shooting of a fleeing parolee killed while he fought with a police officer. I read back through the comments on her story, and I got this sort of sick undercurrent from all of it.
Everybody knows that seeing a young man killed by bullets is terribly heart-rending. But everybody also knows that the basic underlying lifestyle of that young man and his peers can lead only to this. Sooner or later they are going to come into violent conflict with the police. In that conflict, most of us want the cops to win. We just wish it didn't have to be like this.
Councilman Caraway, a product of southern Dallas, is unique in a lot of this because he sees the underlying issues, but he gets both sides of those issues. We spoke this morning. First he expressed his pent-up frustration with drug houses like the one where all of this started that seem to be able to operate over a period of years with absolute impunity.
"I'm zero tolerance first with drug houses," he said. "That's not been a hidden secret with me. I think that if we know where one drug house is, we simply go and shut it down."
He said he does understand that the police have to make a case. But he said he doesn't get why it's so easy and so fast to make that same case out on the highway but takes forever when the drug dealers are locked down in a house.
"If you stop someone on the freeway that has an ounce of cocaine, that person simply is arrested, the car is confiscated and could be confiscated, and you go to frigging court," he said.
He doesn't know why it can't work the same way with drug houses: "I just think there's not enough aggressiveness," he said.
But I asked him about the argument that the young men in the Dixon Circle area drift into drug dealing because they don't have another way to make it in the world. He did not disagree.
"It's a compounded issue," he said. "When you go to jail, you get a felony. You get out of jail. You can't get a freakin' job. If we are going to put all these people in jail, they gotta come out at some point.
"You keep overcrowding the jails, and then you refuse to give them a second chance and give them an opportunity to have a job, then what are their options of survival? It's an ever compounding problem."
Lastly, Caraway brought up the gun issue. "You look at the guns that these folks are carrying nowadays. I got a .38 revolver. These folks have got Glocks and all this kind of stuff. What are these guns that they are pointing at the police? What type of guns are these and where in the hell are they getting them?"
That question raised the hair on the back of my neck, maybe because I've been thinking about all those poor people in the theater in Aurora. Maybe I need to think about the fact that our police officers have to go out there and face down entire armies of armed-to the-teeth James Eagen Holmeses every day.
Caraway said, "We have got a gun problem. We've got a drug problem. We've got a felony problem. We've got a combination of problems."
He left me with some chilling last words:
"If we don't look at the overall picture," he said, "and come with an overall plan, this stuff is going to get out of control worse than it is now."
Worse than it is now? Actually hadn't even thought of that.
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