Talk can empower assailants

Adopting the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye reaction to violence accomplishes nothing except, perhaps, to leave everyone involved blind. When it is directed at the peacemakers, it harms us all in a very direct way.

It has been said of the men and women in law enforcement that they “have targets on their backs.” Meant figuratively, the observation is being taken literally by a handful of brutally unbalanced people.

Five police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas, earlier this month, by a man who may have believed he was retaliating for the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Then, during the weekend, three more officers were murdered in Baton Rouge, La. It is in that city that police are under fire for shooting and killing a black man, Alton Sterling, on July 5.

Though details of what happened Sunday in Baton Rouge are still emerging, that tragedy also was part of what seems to have developed into a campaign of violence against law enforcement personnel.

Let us be very clear about this: Even the most active, outspoken critics of police officers do not support violence against them. Officials of the Black Lives Matter movement were quick to condemn the killings in Dallas.

And while hundreds, perhaps thousands of people have participated in marches during which chants advocated violence against law officers, the overwhelming majority of them don’t really mean it. They are simply carried away by emotion.

Only a miniscule percentage of Americans actually believe harming men and women in law enforcement is excusable. But if even 1 percent of one percent of the 324 million people in this country are unbalanced enough to consider it, the threat is enormous.

Many of those in that small army cling to the type of sanity that forbids murder only by slender, fragile threads. It does not take much to sever their links to rationality.

That ought to be kept in mind by those who, even in acts of hyperbole, advocate violence directed against law enforcement personnel – or even excuse it in any way.

The men and women who serve and protect us face enormous risks each and every day in the normal course of their work.

Adding to it by using language that empowers their assailants is, in a word, insane.