WE SHOULD be used to this.

I'm not talking about the murder of heroes. Or the grieving loved ones, faces contorted in pain. The flag-draped coffins. Or the phalanx of blue sending brother and sister officers home with a final, heartbreaking salute.

God help us if that ever starts feeling familiar. Each new police killing has to convey the same sense of futility and horror as the one before it. It's a necessary part of being human.

But there is something we've become accustomed to, something that causes us to shake with anger and wonder how people lose their moral compasses.

After Officer Patrick McDonald was assassinated by Daniel Giddings on Tuesday, neighbors came out of the woodwork and did what neighbors often do.

They made excuses. Worse, they eulogized Giddings, who was also killed.

Here were people who could justify the murder of a police officer by playing the race card, forgetting that so many of their own black brothers and sisters are soldiers in the battle between good and evil that takes place every day on Philadelphia's streets.

One onlooker named Kelly White had the audacity to say, "That is someone's son that is lying dead there. We aren't ever told anything. All we know is that another young black man is dead and another cop is dead, too. They want us to give the cops respect, but the cops don't respect us."

That's what White sees. That another young black man is dead. That another young black man "wasn't respected."

And, apparently, a lot of people have the same pair of glasses.

I'm blind to that type of reasoning. I want to know why we owe respect to a person who has a record of robbery, aggravated assault and extortion. Who orchestrated an assault on a prison guard, who had 25 misconducts lodged against him. What is there to respect in any of that?

And who cares what color he was? Evil comes in every shade of the rainbow.

But you have to give Kelly White some credit. He, or she, had the guts not to be anonymous. According to a report in the Daily News, one such person stated, "He was a Muslim . . . they killed him."

Another lamented that jobs were scarce in that part of town, implying that unemployment gives you an excuse for killing, or at least to blame society for being a failed human being.

Let's say this once and for all, without mincing any words:

Daniel Giddings was a worthless piece of trash whose exit from this world can only make it a better place. The horror is that, in leaving, he took with him a man like Patrick McDonald.

But still there are people who lament his passing, who see in him a symbol of the toll that racism and poverty have taken on a community. They are prisoners of the past, victims of a mind-set that looks everywhere but inward to find the cause for their misfortune.

One bystander said, "It's just going to get worse before it gets better. . . . If there were more jobs and more opportunity, people would be less hostile."

And we're left to wonder: Does having a job give you a conscience? Do you need to pull down a paycheck to know the difference between right and wrong, to understand that the thug mentality is poison in the veins?

Reflexively playing the race or poverty card is a legacy of the welfare state where people stand with their hands out and their eyes closed. To believe that Giddings would have turned out differently if he'd had a job and wasn't the object of a racist society absolves him and everyone defending him from taking responsibility for their own mistakes.

Fortunately, there are people who do get it. Tragically, though, they are often victims of the same brutality practiced by the Giddingses of this world. Miles Mack was one of them. He fought the odds with a tremendous heart and a belief in the redemptive power of achievement.

He didn't need a job to show him how to live a life of value. He didn't embrace race as an excuse.

And he would have been repulsed by the lame excuses offered by those at 18th and Dauphin, where Giddings died.

Another police officer is dead. Grieving parents and other loved ones will fill another church, and prayers will be prayed that this, finally, is the last time.

But it won't be. Not as long as we absolve the Giddingses of this world of the evil they've brought into it. *

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. See her on Channel 6's "Inside Story" Sunday at 11:30 a.m. E-mail cflowers1961@yahoo.com.