Somebody phoned Rush Limbaugh: the listener posited that Democrats were in league with the Chinese, sharing a desire to take Trump down. He gently moved on, noting he’d never seen proof. But the last months have reminded us that just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get you. I do feel played – about Covid, about Russiagate, about police brutality, about, well, a lot at this point. I suspect it is simple: the media is dominated by those wearing blinders, whose reality is a narrow sliver of the world. Of course, it would be nice if such heavyweights as Dianne Feinstein and Biden didn’t owe so much to the Chinese. But then there’s a lot of Chinese money and a lot of Congressional graft – a corrupt swamp isn’t necessarily a treasonous one. (Was Hillary’s sale of the nation’s plutonium a conspiracy or just the usual Clinton graft? Was Brennan someone who plotted or just closed his eyes?)
This summer’s incidents are enlarged versions of Ferguson’s riots and the smearing of Zimmerman. For three months Portland has been ablaze; literally hundreds of police have been attacked and will bear the scars of this summer’s work. Dozens have died amidst the riots and many more indirectly as these affected the morale and morals, the aggression of mobs and hesitancy of police. Minneapolis was torn apart, but so were many cities; his funeral was a multi-day spectacle moving through three towns. I shared with most Americans revulsion at the face of the officer whose knee seemed pushed into Floyd’s neck, calmly staring out as he kept Floyd down.
We were told that Floyd had started life anew, having been redeemed as described by family and minister from Houston. So, after three months, we read that however saved his soul had been, his body took a fatal dose of fentanyl, suffered from covid and . . . He was a big man and lethal to others might not have been to him, but surely this contributed to his death and prompted his gasps he couldn’t breathe before he was prone on the street. Apparently treating such an overdose was what (in part) the officer was doing. And so the easy good/bad of three months ago is blurred. Whether he died of fentanyl or with fentanyl is likely to remain a question.
(Aside: We begin to see how often that simple question – “with” or “of”? – arises and how someone wanting to soothe a family might well chose “with”, much as Covid sufferers were more likely to be diagnosed “of” since that brings in a higher reimbursement, more alignment with the drama of the day. But such choices mean we are flying blind; without the evidence we are vulnerable to others’ interpretations.)
When this information appears months later, those films were engraved in our memories. In between, that death became the major motivation of the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020. It seemed evidence police habitually killed random black men. Heather McDonald’s (and other’s) statistics lost power when we kept seeing the arrogant cop, challenging the camera and the dying Black man. Most watching the news had strong reactions. I can remember what I felt: sympathy for the man and his family, revulsion at the police. On the other hand, the stories from Houston (holding a gun on the belly of a pregnant woman while his crew tore apart her apartment) were also repulsive; redemption had had real work. On my part, as Lott’s work had persuaded me about guns, Heather McDonald’s had about police interactions. I didn’t buy the “police bad” theme. These authors deal with emotional issues but let the stats speak. But our response to pictures is visceral.
Three months later, where are we? Town after town destroyed by mobs with destruction greater than nature’s. Hit by this looting and destruction, any community’s history is questioned and its future darkened. And now, only now, the information about the drugs comes out. Since Brown’s death in St. Louis and Martin’s in Florida are often accompanied by slogans as if counter facts had never emerged, how can we be surprised that this took months? Or that for some, it will never enter the calculation. Violence, drugs, split second decisions are complicated but in all these cases, some were hesitant to come forward (the witness reports in St. Louis portrayed a different man than Brown’s friend had that first day, and different actions by the police.)
Many saw a political opening for riots, justifiable aggrievement and therefore justifiable revenge. So the looting and burning and rioting began. Three months later it is still going on. Meanwhile other incidents have followed – of white policemen and black victims. And again first our pity is aroused then more information slowly “contextualizes” that moment.
We see new footage or hear from another voice. Rather than a random spotting of a Black man, the police are often there because someone needed protecting. We can say – and should say – that these acts should not be seen as representative of Blacks. We can say – and should say – that these acts are not representative of the police. In the end, incidents of the summer confirm the kind of reporting we’ve seen for years from Heather McDonald and not the kind of sermons Jessie Jackson preaches, the sentiments of a Jason Riley and not an Al Sharpton.
Have we been played? By anarchists Soros funds or hungry news networks or Democrats who in the end – after raising money to bail out violent rioters/criminals – declare, “This is Trump’s America” and more sinisterly, “This won’t stop if he’s re-elected, it will if Biden is in.”
Trump, to the pleasant surprise of many of us who voted for him four years ago, accepts the restraints of federalism. We my wish he would march troops in. But these responsibilities are governor’s, mayor’s, district attorneys, police chiefs. Their first responsibility is the safety of citizens – and the safety of their property, including their possession of inalienable rights. And they need our assistance – in thoughtful votes, on juries, and to bear witness to what we see. An engaged citizen is less likely to be played.