Too terrible — and too close to home

LM Otero/AP Standing a block away from the shooting scene, Dallas Police Officer Camille Munoz reacts as she talks about her fellow officers killed by a sniper on Thursday night. According to Munoz, one of the deceased officers introduced her to her husband.

Big news, especially bad news, feels different — and worse — when you’ve been there.

For instance, when “there” was here nearly 13 months ago, the slaughter on Calhoun Street at the Mother Emanuel AME Church hit home. It also hit harder than the mass murders in Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; and Orlando, Fla.

The same sense-of-place intensification of horror struck anew Thursday night while watching more terrifying evidence of man’s inhumanity to man.

That “there” was Dallas’ West End, where five police officers were killed in an ambush. Seven other officers and two civilians were wounded.

That “there” was a few blocks from my 1986-90 workplace, the late, great Dallas Times Herald.

The paper folded in 1991.

The site of its long-gone building on Pacific Avenue is now a surface parking lot.

And the nearby site where blood spilled Thursday night re-confirmed that violence triggered by racial hatred is a two-way street.

The Dallas police chief, who is black, said a sniper, who is black, said he wanted to kill white people, particularly white police.

The chief said that sniper was then killed by a police bomb robot in a parking garage.

Dallas has plenty of other parking garages — and an ever-changing city-scape.

The West End looks very different than it did way back during my time at the Times Herald.

That’s because it’s a lot easier to get permission in “Big D” than in the Holy City to tear down something old so you can build something new.

Yet it’s not easy to see all-too-familiar modern barbarism unleashed in a familiar spot — in a wonderful city with wonderful people.

Nor is it easy to escape, in this traumatizing age of 24/7 news, smartphone videos of harrowing gore, social-media bile of unhinged rage and the contagious notion that the world is going to, er, heck.

Before getting stuck in awful-news, apocalyptic-fear gear, though, remember the good nature — and good will — of most Americans, regardless of color, creed or political ideology.

And remember the courage of cops.

Now, as a public-service diversion, forget divisive dread and come together for a test that should remind you this isn’t the first election year when many Americans have deemed presidential nominees alarmingly lacking:

1) Name who said in a speech 120 years ago today:

“I am from South Carolina, which was the home of secession. Oh, hiss if you like. There are only three things on earth which can hiss — a goose, a serpent and a man, and the man who hisses the name of South Carolina has no knowledge whatever of its grand history.”

2) Name who said in a speech at the same place and on the same date:

“Ah, my friends, we say not one word against those who live upon the Atlantic Coast; but those hardy pioneers who braved all the dangers of the wilderness, who have made the desert to blossom as the rose — those pioneers away out there, rearing their children near to nature’s heart, where they can mingle their voices with the voices of the birds — out there where they have erected schoolhouses for the education of their children and churches where they praise their Creator, and the cemeteries where sleep the ashes of their dead — are as deserving of the consideration of this party as any people in this country. It is for these that we speak.”

3) Name the S.C. politician named for the person in the second question.

1) Ben Tilliman of Edgefield, then a U.S. senator after serving as S.C. governor from 1890-94, said that in his 1896 Democratic Convention speech in Chicago as lots of delegates hissed. A revoltingly repugnant white supremacist, even by the grotesque standards of his time and place, Tillman entered that convention as a long shot for the White House nomination. Then, according to Francis Butler Simkins’ fascinating 1944 biography “Pitchfork Ben Tillman: South Carolinian”: “Tillman’s name was withdrawn from the list of Presidential nominees after the first ballot showed that he possessed only South Carolina’s seventeen votes.”

2) William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska said that in his “Cross of Gold” speech (he wanted to scrap the gold standard and shift to “free silver”) at the 1896 convention. He won the nomination but lost the general election to Republican William McKinley. Bryan was his party’s nominee twice more, losing to the GOP’s McKinley (1900) and William Howard Taft (1908). And he was the anti-evolution-education prosecutor in the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” in Tennessee.

3) Democrat William Jennings Bryan Dorn of Greenwood represented the 3rd District in the U.S. House from 1947-49 and 1951-74. He lost a 1948 U.S. Senate primary challenge to incumbent Burnet Maybank of Charleston. Dorn also lost the 1974 gubernatorial primary to Charleston’s Charles “Pug” Ravenel, but became the nominee when Ravenel was ruled ineligible on a residency challenge. Dorn then lost the general election to Mount Pleasant’s James Edwards, who became the state’s first GOP governor since the 19th century.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.