It's really simple, folks. Murder is wrong.
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
There's an entire commandment devoted to that, you know.
I really wanted my blog entry to take a much lighter tone this week. But after the events of the past several days, I’m not sure that would be appropriate.
A tremendous evil has been loosed in our country. It’s feeding on two things: America’s original sin of racism and the festering slide into political degeneracy we’ve seen over the past three years.
Three years ago, the President of the United States of America said on live television that there were “very fine people” marching alongside Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The President of the United States. Of America. The man who holds the office that once led this country against Nazi tyranny in World War II.
Today, once again, protesters march to express their anger over the death of yet another African American man at the hands of the police. And once again, as we’ve seen play out too many times, we travel in the same rhetorical circle: “Let’s not have a rush to judgment. Let the process play out. Protests are all right, as long as they don’t turn violent. What good are African Americans doing themselves if they burn down the businesses in their own community? Above all, we must have peace.” And then we have peace...until the next African American man or woman is murdered by the police.
But it’s different this time. This time, we’re seeing near-ubiquitous saturation of images from protests taking place around the country. We can take heart from some of what we see. There are police taking a knee and letting protesters march past in peace. There are police laying down their helmets and batons and joining protesters as they march. There are police officials across the country denouncing the Floyd murder in the strongest possible terms and calling for renewed bonds of trust with their communities. One police leader called for the badges of any officer who didn’t have an issue with the Floyd video shown to the nation and the world.
Police officers in New York City take a knee in a show of respect for protesters.
We’re also seeing shocking examples of rioting and violence perpetrated by the very police officers charged with protecting the rights of people to gather and protest. Unarmed demonstrators with their hands in the air are shoved to the ground and beaten. A protester has his mask ripped off (remember COVID-19) before being pepper-sprayed. A horse ridden by a mounted officer charges a group of protesters and tramples one as he lies on the ground. Police vehicles ram into crowds of demonstrators standing behind barricades.
Let’s acknowledge for a moment how tremendously difficult it must be for a police officer to maintain composure in the face of a crowd of people who are brimming with fury over the death of yet another one of their brothers. It’s got to be a monumentally difficult thing to do. But the “she made me really angry and I blew my cool” defense has never worked in a court of law in, say, a domestic abuse case. It shouldn’t work for ANY police officer, even a really angry one, at the scene of a heated protest. And, as we’ve seen above, there are countless cases of police officers who knew how to do the right thing, how to diffuse a situation, how to tell a group of angry, anguished people, “We stand for protecting everyone. We stand for law and order. We stand for justice. We stand with you.”
But what about the riots, you might ask? Ah yes, the riots! THERE’S NO EXCUSE FOR RIOTING! THERE’S NO EXCUSE FOR THE WANTON DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY!
Let me make a couple of observations here.
First, yeah, I’m not a fan of rioting. I’m not a fan of wanton destruction in any form. The rapper and political activist Killer Mike made a brilliant, heartfelt, and off-the-cuff speech the other night telling anyone who would listen, “it is not your duty to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy.” He went on to call for people to “plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize,” and to “beat up politicians at the ballot box” this November in order to “see the system that sets up for systemic racism burnt to the ground.” In eight and a half minutes, Killer Mike said what needs to be said, brilliantly and succinctly. I urge you to watch the video linked above.
All that having been said...I’d rather watch every department store and drug store in the country burn to the ground than watch one more innocent man or woman be murdered at the hands of the police. (Frankly, I’m amazed that people who didn’t have shit to say over the video-recorded murder of a human being are so up in arms over the destruction of a retail outlet. How does this even make sense?) If you’re white, as I am, nothing should put your white privilege in perspective more than mulling over the fact that you DON’T have to look at every police officer you see and wonder if this is the one who’s going to take your life. You DON’T feel that slight clench in your gut every time you drive by a police cruiser. You DON’T have to wonder, every time your son or brother or husband leaves the house, if this might be the last time you see him again.
But let’s get back to the rioting and the evil that’s been loosed on America.
There’s growing evidence—not just from the news media, but from public officials, even from police officials—that many of the rioters, many of the people touching off the violence, are “out-of-towners.” They’re not from the areas in which they’re rioting. They’re white, and as they riot, they wear insignia of white supremacist groups whose stated purpose is to start “a second civil war.” These are people who, like the white supremacists and Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, have been emboldened by the white supremacist occupying the highest office in the land, a man who relies on division to maintain his political power. They’re using racism to pry open a lid of violence, discord, and fear that will splinter the nation permanently and put an end to everything good and right that this country is supposed to stand for.
Lord knows we’re not a perfect nation. We’ve committed our share of sins, both in the past and today. But we’re supposed to be better. We’re supposed to aspire to something better than the mistakes we make. We’re supposed to be better than this.
We need to break out of the Möbius strip of conventional thinking (“no rush to judgment, let the process play out, keep protests non-violent, can’t we just have peace”) that we find ourselves in once again after this latest spasm of racial violence. It’ll be difficult, but as we try, keep your eye on this prize: Murder is wrong. There’s an entire commandment devoted to that one idea, you know. Murder of innocent people by agents of the government based on the color of the victim’s skin is unacceptable. And finally, we’re supposed to be better than this. THAT is the bottom line.
Oh yeah--one more thing. Fuck Nazis, and fuck white supremacists. No, Donald, there aren't “very fine people” among them. And the sooner you’re out of office, where you serve as an example to every white supremacist in the country, the better.