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Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Sonia Taylor of Baton Rouge holds a sign during a demonstration and protest outside the Triple S Food Mart, Saturday, July 9, 2016 in Baton Rouge, La., in part of the continuing response to the fatal shooting death last Tuesday of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge by a Baton Rouge Police Dept. officer.

Travis Spradling

This has been a sad chapter in the life of Louisiana and the life of the nation. A week that began with the country’s birthday is ending with a grim pile of pain that has shaken our shared assumptions about America’s promise. But from the vivid confusion of the headlines, we sense today a growing clarity of purpose. We are better than the bloody and bullet-ridden narrative that has shaped the past few days, and we will not — we cannot — let it define us.

Early Tuesday morning, only moments after the Fourth of July had passed from the calendar, Alton Sterling was shot to death in a convenience store parking lot during a struggle with two Baton Rouge police officers. His death became part of a dark daisy chain of violence that also included the shooting death of a Minnesota man, Philando Castile, during a police traffic stop, then the sniper shooting of 12 Dallas law enforcement officials during what had been a peaceful protest prompted by the Baton Rouge and Minnesota tragedies. Five Dallas officers died from their wounds.

According to reports, a sniper who died in a confrontation with Dallas police told authorities that he killed his victims because he was angry about what had happened to Sterling and Castile.

But Baton Rouge and Louisiana will not allow its good people to be appropriated in the twisted cause of a deranged gunman. We applaud the family members of Sterling who deplored the Dallas shootings, and their statements should make this message clear: Cop-killing cowards do not speak for us.

Many of us are old enough to remember another Dallas sniper who killed a president. The sniper shootings of the Dallas officers grew from a similar motive — to shatter the lines of authority that separate civilization from chaos.

But now, as then, order will prevail over anarchy. We continue to be bound by the same principles we celebrated on July 4, and which have been tested this week. They are as old as this republic, as reliable in seasons of trouble as they always have been. Now is the time to renew our resolve that all of our citizens will be safeguarded by due process of law, and that the law itself — and the police who enforce it —will be respected, not reviled.

We will not let our cherished American right of free assembly — a right enacted with dignity and calm in Baton Rouge and other cities this week — be corrupted by the cowardice of those who would use a mass gathering to cause mass death.

Though the fireworks of the Fourth have subsided, our civic ideals, so sorely tried in this week’s crucible of crisis, are a light no lunatic can extinguish, as long as we hold them dear.