The murder of five police officers in downtown Dallas, Texas by a frustrated and radical former Army Reserve private is tragic. The officers were patrolling a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest after police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Though every police officer takes their lives into their hands each time they don the uniform and badge there should not be a target on their back. The shooter allegedly said he wanted to kill as many white people—and white cops—as possible in retaliation for black deaths by law enforcement. More cops were killed than at any time since September 11.

The killer’s rage was sparked by the shooting deaths of two men, one in Louisiana, the other in Minnesota. His rage was most likely stoked further by the deaths of other African-Americans at the hands of police officers.

At the memorial service for the five officers in Dallas this week President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush offered words of comfort and condolence. Bush eloquently said: “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” Those words ring true, especially in our climate of political and ideological divisiness.

There are calls for people to come together, to communicate, to understand one another. Police are not the enemy, nor or African-Americans. Liberals are not the enemy, nor are conservatives. Supporters of Donald Trump are not the enemy, nor are the supporters of Hillary Clinton. Yet, the American people have been given permission by some pundits, orators and politicans to view their counterparts as enemies that need to be vanquished at the ballot box and in the courts.

“I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem,” Obama said at the memorial in Dallas. The president has made too many speeches after tragic deaths over the past seven years. There are words spoken at such occasions—especially after Dallas—that boil the blood of those in one camp or the other. Some say that Obama does  not support law enforcement personnel as strongly as he should; some on the other side suggest the president subtly attacked black communities when he said “[Y]ou know how dangerous some of the communities where these police officers serve are, and you pretend as if there’s no context. These things we know to be true.”

The recent red-hot national debate about guns has morphed into a discussion about support for police. We were taught as children that policemen are our friends and they will always help when we need it. Unfortunately, in some communities, the reality is much different where the lesson is to not trust and run away from cops.

It makes for a nice speech for politicans to talk about coming together, understanding and respecting one another. The important step is to understand why any community feels the way it does. Society must take as valid accusations of racism and discrimination; it is disingenuous to say that racism and prejudice do not  exist. After the Philando Castile shooting in Falcon Heights, Minn., Gov. Mark Dayton commented, “Would this have happened if those passengers would have been white? I don’t think it would have.” Castile had been subject to 52 traffic stops over the past few years. How is a person supposed to feel about cops after all that?

All the legislation, speeches and court decisions in the world won’t make a change. It will come when individuals drop their guard a bit, realize that the person they think is their enemy wants the same things: safety and security for their family and a peaceful existence. Want of food, shelter and happiness is universal regardless of background.

There is more that unites us than divides us but at times it is hard to see that through all the trees of anger, fear and disrespect.

The mightiest forest begins with but one sapling; our leaders should inspire us to plant a little sprig of tolerance that will muliply into a forest that can never be cut down.    —LAZ