The bad guys don’t wear black hats anymore. In fact, it’s getting to the point when even many of the white hats are gray and getting darker.
The aftermath of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police had an effect even the pandemic couldn’t produce: totally empty streets in downtown Cleveland today. Around 7:30 this morning, a bulletin went out informing the public that all roads to downtown would be blocked. Several areas of the city were vandalized and damaged over the weekend during protests of the brutality in Minneapolis. Some reports indicated that the protests were peaceful in general, and it was a small group of agitators/provocateurs who actually shattered store windows and broke into shops. But compared with some other cities, Cleveland was fortunate. From accounts across the country, I read of police attacking unarmed protesters who’d done nothing except state their views. Members of the press, holding out their credentials, were pepper sprayed and hit with projectiles. A Congresswoman here in Ohio was sprayed by police as she tried to de-escalate tensions with demonstrators. Pedestrians trying to get home were assaulted.
As a friend who lives in Minnesota said to me, it’s hard to relax and be optimistic, “when the country you live in is dying and the state you live in is in full crisis.” Racism and victimization of African Americans continues, and then, when the public reacts, the police treat protesters as the enemy. And of course, some protesters in such situations inevitably devolve to lawlessness and destruction. When horrific reports surface, the militarized police double down and become even more violent. Thus far, it seems as if protest groups have avoided escalating to mobs and riots, but can that situation be long in coming, at this rate?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week, “Many Canadians of diverse backgrounds are watching….the news out of the United States, with shock and with horror.” When uber-polite and perfectly correct Canada ventures such a comment, we’re in trouble. Over the last couple months, the Wild West mindset in the United States is beginning to look a lot like anarchy, first with armed rebels invading the Michigan State House and putting a halt to the conduct of government; then with assault-rifle-toting militia types forcing the opening of shops in Texas; and now with police violence and subsequent backlash in 75 cities.
Frustration and fear are off the scale in this spring of 2020. There are all too many reasons to agonize: the danger from COVID19, job losses, business closings, food insecurity, lack of leadership alternating with completely incompetent leadership at the top, and widespread corruption, for starters, all added to the malaise of uncertainty as to what fresh disaster awaits. Nowhere does there seem to be a calm, rational voice offering substantive guidance and reassurance, and no one believes that we’ve seen the worst of things. The spiritual, emotional, and social lacks we’re experiencing are ratcheting up stress and feelings of helplessness. Some have found fulfilling outlets in creativity, gardening, cooking, exercise, meditation, home renovations. Many have become more closely connected with friends and family. Most have found positive work-arounds for enforced physical restrictions. It’s an unfortunate minority who have taken their negative emotions — principally anger — turned them outward, and are seeking to restore personal power in the face of the chaos in the country. If we as a nation were more mature and mentally healthy, that minority would not have gained prominence. As it is, they are not only making the news, they are holding court in some of the halls of government. We need to start taking the high road, or soon, there won’t be a road.
“It was pretty big year for predators
The marketplace was on a roll
And the land of opportunity
Spawned a whole new breed of men without souls.
This year notoriety got all confused with fame
And the devil is downhearted babe, cause
There’s nothing left for him to claim.
He said it’s just like home
It’s so low-down I can’t stand it.
I guess my work around here has all been done…” – Don Henley, “In the Garden of Allah”