Tuesday, June 2, 2020

America is Burning

Like much of the country, I have been transfixed over the images playing out on my screens of whatever size these past few days. I am truly sad for my country; no, I am sadder. I have been sad for several years now, but the feeling has intensified as that which I and others warned of has now come to fruition, and our country is being torn apart at least in part by the words and actions of the President. I have much to say on this. Strap in because not everyone is going to be happy.

There is a rich alchemy at work in the streets of America's cities, one in which 400 years of slavery and oppression is mixed with 90 days of isolation, and then ignited by devious forces of chaos and anarchy riding the wave of technology. Atop it all sits a man uniquely unqualified for the moment, who has convinced himself that it is 1968 and he is Richard Nixon, while the much of the country realizes that he is in actuality, Mayor Dailey. Put another way, he isn't here to "fix" anything; he caused it.

Well, that's actually wrong to say. This--and by this I mean the riots--was not caused by Donald Trump. We'll get to his role and culpability in all of this. Let's look at what is going on here.

First there is the undeniable contribution of the country's legacy of slavery and oppression. The black community in America had a much different start than any other immigrant group, so different that it is a strain to even make a comparison. But we must. While you may not believe systemic racism exists, it once did in the form of democratically sanctioned law-making, and one result after hundreds of years is a particular darkness in the hearts of many white people. While laws of changed, many hearts have not.

We move then onto the police, and we think about the startling, nearly miraculous decline in crime in America in recent decades. Go and look. Check the FBI's crime statistics, and you will find that crime (mugging, robbery, assault, random gun crime, etc) was a MUCH bigger problem in the 60's and 70's than it is today. America's cities are incredibly safe today--compared to their Johnson-era predecessors. How did this happen? It happened like most complicated things, through a complicated series of inputs. Here are a few. First, there was a revolution in policing that started in academia and then moved to the streets, one in which police were encouraged to become MUCH more visible. In that visibility was included an added emphasis on the suppression of petty crime, under the theory that cleaning up the criminal underbrush would slow the spread of criminal conflagration. Police over time, became not only more visible, but more active. Dare I say, more aggressive. This added aggression over time, established a "new normal" in many places, and in that new normal, what passed for acceptable police behavior changed--and it changed in a way that behavior that went over the line now had become dangerous, abusive, violent, and life-threatening. The recipients of this treatment--tended to be members of the community discussed in the previous paragraph, inner city minorities, especially black people. Indeed, the perception grew that the police were racist, because the professional conduct of policing changed so dramatically and was felt so substantially by black people. I think racism was in the mix. But I think there was more to it.

The police also have become militarized. Or more militarized. I do not like seeing armored vehicles on America's streets operated by police. I do not like hearing police officers on television referring to "civilians", as if they are not very much part of the civilian population, the part paid and trusted to serve and protect. But let's not kid ourselves--they are facing more effective and more militarized opponents on the rioting field.

Keep in mind--there are a TON of angry but law-abiding citizens on the streets of our cities. The murder of George Floyd by a white police officer playing out on an eight and half minute video like some sick snuff porn, was just the latest instance of a black man in police custody being killed. It occurs to me that the police officer involved did not set out to kill George Floyd. He did nonetheless, and he did it for all the world to see. There are other names. There are other lives. This is a problem, and it is a problem worth protesting.

The fact that protesters have been quarantined for months is not helping, as many protesters are also newly jobless in addition to stir-crazy. There is palpable rage among a group of people for whom "the system" is not working. Much of the looting being done seems to me to be coming out of this group, but it has ever been thus when cities burn. 

And then there are the free-lance chaos artists, anarchists, and thrill seekers. Many are college students newly without summer jobs and much to do, looking for an outlet for their woke-i-tude.  They are super-empowered with modern technology, and they are--like the President they despise--accelerating the burn.  

Speaking of the President, the man is a menace. He has never been one to unite, and his go-to move is to divide. Guilty last evening of impeachable abuse of power in using federal law enforcement to violently disburse a crowd so that he could waddle across the street in the company of his co-conspirators grasping a book he has never opened to a building he does not know for a thirteen second photo-op, he is like a boy in a backyard firework display with a lighter in his hand and a crazed look on his face. He simply cannot WAIT to federalize the National Guard and force military power on Governors and Mayors who have not asked for it. Aided and abetted by men of low character (the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs), he has decided to make his last stand atop the wreckage of American civil life. He has utterly lost interest in a virus that has killed 100,000 of his fellow citizens, and he seems unfazed by the irony of his statements providing for any and all means to stop the urban violence even as he was unable to summon up these same forces to stop a virus. 

Armchair historians quick to curry favor with the regime point to the various times in our history when more virtuous Chief Executives called out federal power to quell disturbances, without ever considering the unique role this Chief Executive is playing in the disturbances he fosters and supports. 

To be sure, there must be order. We cannot go on each night having businesses torched and looted. We cannot have a caviling media on the one hand criticizing law enforcement for excess force, even as they criticize the same law enforcement for standing by while stores are looted--knowing that to stop the looting would require the use of force they would then broadcast in real-time without context. 

There may be a time where federal troops are necessary to quell these outbreaks. It occurs to me that these troops should be requested prior to their being deployed. But with a President like this one who respects not a single pillar of our founding--federalism included--we cannot be sure.

It is going to be a long, hot, summer. God be with us. 


Anonymous said...

Impeachable? Misguided and inflammatory, yes. But probably not impeachable.

Conservative Wahoo said...

American citizens were exercising constitutionally protected rights. Federal law enforcement was ordered to remove them. This is an abuse of power. It was committed by the Executive. Therefore, it is impeachable.

Stephanie Wilson said...

Nice, Bryan. A long hot summer indeed. Don't forget about a projected overactive hurricane season coming up, too. These protests are now big enough that they won't be forgotten by November, by my estimation. The only thing I worry about now in terms of ending the presidency of this deviant buffoon is access to the polls during a Covid uptick in the Fall. Any kind of return to normalcy and reach for change depends upon well administered voting in November. I remain, as ever, hopeful.

Anonymous said...

Bryan, might I suggest two books which you may or may not have already read and which your readers may be interested in digging into in efforts to familiarize themselves with the issue of racial bias and discrimination in the U.S. -- the first being "The Color of Law" by Richard Rothstein and the second being "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander. Rothstein's book focuses mainly on de jure segregation practices which took place long ago following Reconstruction and, Rothstein argues, led us to be where we are today with respect to a broken system. Alexander's book focuses more on the present discriminatory practices black Americans face.

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