Saturday, May 30, 2020

Race for the White House # 74

There is unrest in America. As I sit in the suburbs, safely distanced from any violence, I still feel sadness, anger, confusion, and disappointment. For two months we have been in the midst of a pandemic, but the summer season is starting and for better or worse, more things are opening up. The issue of race though in America, which has haunted us for so long, has come front and center once again this week.

Everyone knows the story of George Floyd and what happened to him last week in Minneapolis. I do not doubt that his arrest was warranted at the time, but how he was treated, resulting in his death was abhorrent and uncalled for. A white police officer knelt on the neck of the black detainee, as he plead for his life, and onlookers called for this officer to stop. For many, this was akin to a lynching. Three other police officers, of different races, stood by. They would all swiftly be fired. However, days later, after unrest already began, would this now former officer finally be arrested and charged with third degree murder. The other officers have yet to be charged, although most expect them to. Prosecutors have a duty to go by the books and the law. Overcharging, as has happened to police officers elsewhere, run the risk of a courtroom acquittal which would only lead to more anger and less justice.

To be clear, this officer should be charged and put away. This is the latest example of many well documented instances in which police officers, usually white, have mistreated black suspects, and caused their death. Not every case is the same though. Facts and evidence and circumstance always matter, but this one seems pretty cut and dry. There is no way to justify choking a man to death that way when it was clear he had no way to resist arrest at that time. If not for our culture of filming, perhaps so many more instances of these would go unnoticed and unpunished.  I will never truly know how it feels to be black in America, but I can certainly understand the anger at these stories and the frustration and the fear that a bad cop could ruin your life in an instant.

Protest is part of our history and an esteemed part of our culture. All Americans have the right to protest.. Peacefully however though. What we have seen over the past three nights is horrific as well. There are many who are legitimately aggrieved by the George Floyd situation while others are agitators, anarchists, extremists, and opportunists who do not care about Mr. Floyd. They are dishonoring him in death, just as he was unfairly tortured at the end of his life. What we are seeing in the streets of major cities from coast to coast are not really "protests" but overarching demonstrations against all police. Rioting and violence and looting have occurred. Police has been forced to show as much restraint as possible under horrible circumstances. Some media outlets soft-pedal or excuse or fail to recognize the difference between legitimate anger and mayhem. These anarchists of the street, who are of all races themselves, are more urban terrorists than they are anything else.

Certainly, bad cops need to be punished harshly. The good cops that work alongside them need to do far more to end a culture of silence and to hold the bad ones accountable, especially at the moments where brutality is occurring. This is the same sort of thing I have said in the past in regards to moderate Muslims and principled conservatives when they have seen nefarious forces co-opt what they had believed in. I will also say the same thing about legitimate protesters and those who want social justice. Extremists and radicals within the midst must be marginalized and called out.

We see police cars defaced and set on fire. In Minneapolis, an entire police precinct was allowed to be burned to the ground after law enforcement had retreated. The monogram "ACAB" or "All Cops are Bastards" are appearing spray painted everywhere during these demonstrations. This is a horrible mindset, just as it would be to lump all African-Americans together with the small percentage of them who have murdered people.

There are far too many bad cops, but that of course does not mean that they represent anything but a small percentage of all police personnel. As a child I remember being told we will always hear about any airplane crash, but almost every flight gets to where it is supposed to go without incident and we will not hear about those. The same can be said about law enforcement. The overwhelming majority of the men and women among them are honorable and professional. We hear about the bad ones, as we should, but the backlash against them only stains the good ones.

I do not believe any but a small wild minority of radicals truly believe that "all cops are bastards", but the ones that do are all over television and are being given too much legitimacy in some media quarters. As someone who wants to see Donald Trump lose this November, I wonder if this will not prove to all be a valuable reelection commercial in an unconventional campaign where he is currently behind. I have no doubt that Joe Biden and most in his party largely shares my views about the violence, destruction, and targeting of police, but too many will be afraid to say anything because they will appear "insensitive" or risk upsetting racial special interest groups that dominate the direction of the party.

So, that leaves Trump, a small petty man who will walk right into the breach as the "law and order" candidate, all the while as he sends what are at best incredibly ignorant or at worst deliberately incendiary Tweets meant to enflame racial tensions. Whether it is musing about shooting looters or talking about "vicious dogs" he is only making things worse. The average American though, likely still socially distancing (as the protesters and demonstrators seem to care nothing about), is angry at seeing this carnage and mayhem. Democrats and the left tread lightly (though some Governors and Mayors in the heart of these battles have rightly expressed outrage), and Trump is able to show how he is "different."

It occurred to me last night that the distorted, perverted, dystopian version of America described in 2016 by Trump in his convention speech has sadly never felt so accurate. He did promise though that he alone could fix things. They just seem to be worse. He traffics in mayhem though. It is how he got elected and how he governs.

To be certain, the problems we have, both of racism, and of displaced outrage, were around long before Trump ever came down an escalator. Left-wing anarchists were doing these sort of things when Barack Obama was President too, and they will be doing it again, regardless of who wins this November. Our problems will continue to be around, but the American greatness that has always been at the heart of our existence, and which has alleviated or made better our past sins, will always be needed to correct what remains as our faults.

Amid this chaos, ramped up no doubt by pent up frustration over the Coronavirus and the radical social and economic changes so many of us have been forced to endure for the past two months plus, there will still be an election in November. Joe Biden can call for calm, but those who are not calm are likely not about to listen to him. Biden should make clear to all Americans that while he will always demand justice (as indeed Trump has publicly said he will seek in the case of George Floyd), that he stands with law enforcement and against violence and destruction.

Those who wish to be Biden's runningmate are engaged in a bit of a side show this week trying to do whatever they can to keep their chances alive. The fate of Amy Klobuchar as Biden's running-mate seems to be severely damaged as is it is now more clear than ever that political pressure, if nothing else, will have Biden pick a black woman. After all, Klobuchar was one the Hennepin County District Attorney herself who literally declined to prosecute the officer who would one day kill George Floyd as it related to another matter. So, to me, that means that California Senator Kamala Harris is a very likely choice for Biden, even as many young activists denounce her time as a prosecutor. What other African-American woman is a possibility though? There is Florida Congresswoman Val Demings, but she was literally a cop and police chief. Sadly, Democrats believe they cannot win without enough young cop-hating voters on their side.

I wish the words were easier to come by during a time like this, but this has basically been my stream of consciousness rant. I have forgotten to include much that I would have liked to for certain. The death of George Floyd should serve to awaken us to the need to make things better in this society and many Americans definitely want to do so, but too many others are doing things, whether they realize it or not, that will only make things worse. Unfortunately, I think many realize exactly that they are making things worse. They want that conflict to never go away.

Last night, I was impressed when Keisha Lance Bottoms, the Mayor of Atlanta, and someone who might be a longshot pick for Vice President as well, gave an impassioned plea to people in her city to "go home." Even when Dr. King was killed in 1968, Atlanta did not have riots, but they did last night. She told people they had the right to be angry, but that they needed to pray and to register to vote far more than they needed to rob liquor stores or try to destroy the CNN building.

All of us have a role to play. We are either going to be part of the problem in America or part of the solution as the cliche goes. In a similar vein, we have heard the chant "No Justice, No Peace." That works both ways though. It will always be hard to get justice, where there is no peace. Justice and peace are both needed and should be called for by every patriotic citizen, and especially all those who are or wish to serve as our leader.


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