What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge
… fifth risk: the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions. Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk
My first hand experience with violent protests is limited. Sure, I get ginned up when I see an injustice and there are plenty of injustices to see. Always have been, always will be. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. While I may not be religious in any conventional sense, I have read the Christian Bible. I know about Mark 8:18.
Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?
I see, I hear and I remember. I witnessed the Stanford Medical Center Protest (I even wrote about it in my novel Behind The Locked Door). I was at Berkeley during the People’s Park Riots and got tear-gassed. I was exiting a classroom, not rioting. I was collateral damage. I got caught up in the pandemonium outside the Staples Center after the Lakers beat the Pacers in the 2000 NBA Championship. Collateral damage again: I barely escaped physical injury from the random fires in garbage cans, overturned cars, and from the bottles flying everywhere in the air. Once, while in the beautiful Zócalo of Oaxaca, I found myself suddenly surrounded by masked students throwing rocks into the windows of the Governor’s palace during the the annual protest of the Tlatelolco massacre. A phalanx of police in helmets and riot gear encircled the students clubbing everyone in sight and tossing tear gas in my direction. Wrong place, wrong time. Again.
Here we go again. Another black man killed by a white policeman. That’s bad enough on its own and all too common but it is just one factor in a litany of injustices and inequities that have plagued America throughout my life and before and probably after. We live in a beautiful and a bleak America. Which you see depends on your zip code, your parents, good and bad luck, government policies, human nature and you. Yes, you. Do the right thing and America won’t be bleak, it will be beautiful.
There are no easy solutions, no short-term solutions. Our friends at Global Macro Monitor nail it as usual:
- The U.S. has failed to address four major issues, which have now passed their tipping points and has destabilized the American Street
- The murder and lynching of George Floyd was the spark that tipped the nation over into instability
- Stability is unlikely to return until the nation’s political leaders address the country’s structural problems of racism, wealth inequality, intergenerational conflict, and it’s political leadership
- If not addressed soon, the U.S. risks becoming a failed state
From what few experiences I’ve had, I don’t like violent protests. I understand why they occur. I do what I can to expose the underlying causes and to correct them. It’s not enough. Not all of us have the energy and spirit and passion of William Blake.
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.
No, what I’ve done in all the years I’ve been lucky to be alive is not enough. That’s something I think about every day. There is no “enough”. There is only the “right thing.” That’s all you can do, all any of us can do. And, you don’t need the Preacher or the President or the Press or any other Palliative to Prey on you with their definition of the right thing. You know what it is. Deep inside you know. It’s empathy, its compassion, its love, its whatever it is.
What scared me was knowin’ that one day my son would ask: “Hey, what did you do, Daddy, when the shit was goin’
down?” “I did the right thing, son.” That’s what I’m gonna tell him. I did the right thing!” from Behind The Locked Door