My news and social media feeds for the last two days are full of white friends posting comments and articles whose message amounts to “Oh, sure, you care about police brutality now, but where are you the rest of the time when there isn’t some immediately recent event to jump on?”
I would like to start by gently pointing out that the majority (not all) of these folks are people from whom I have never seen a post about police brutality, systemic racism, mass surveillance, government overreach, etc. except right after there is some immediately recent event to jump on.
I post about this stuff every damned day. I write literal letters. I give money to causes. I try desperately to get anyone at all to care that our nation has spun completely out of control, with everything we’ve done wrong for 150 years coming back with a vengeance and authorities and institutions acquiring ever more power over our most vulnerable citizens with no attempt to reform the systemic problems which they are amplifying with this power. Folks who see my posts, if they bother to respond at all, imply that I’m overreacting, or that my well researched posts are “fake news” because one of my sources has a headline that seems a bit exaggerated to them, so they won’t read it or any other source I’ve provided to them. This is not restricted to either end of the left-right political spectrum.
The other night, a friend commented “You must be having an aneurysm over this stuff”. After a moment of surprised introspection, my answer was that I’m about as angry as usual, but that honestly, it’s slightly less stressful for me on these rare occasions when people wake up for a moment and pay attention. Then I proceeded to feel guilty for the rest of the night at being relieved that something bad enough to make people take notice had happened.
I know it will be short lived. I know in three weeks we’ll be right back where we were, ignoring the actual problems from both the right and the left (each in their own special way, of course) by adding law after useless, criminally incompetent law to fix the problems caused by all the previous criminally incompetent laws and declaring the problem defeated without actually accomplishing anything. I hope, as I do every time, that this time will be different, but deep down, I know it won’t.
I won’t ask you to be an activist. I don’t want you to be a social justice warrior, or a “cop blocker”, or a radical libertarian. All I’m asking is that you try to understand that what is going on now is going on because the events that triggered it are ALWAYS going on, and things just happened to boil over now. It’s not just about racism, or systemic violence, or groups piggy-backing a movement for their own purposes (looking at you, “Antifa”, “Alt-Right”, “Boogaloo” racists, etc.). It’s about all those things, and the fact that at some level, they are all symptoms of the sickness infecting our nation.
If you are a “shoulda obeyed the curfew” person, remember that you were likely one of the people chafing at being ordered to stay in your home to protect people from a disease a few weeks ago. If you are an “imposing a curfew is stripping me of my right to free speech” person , remember that you were likely one of the people calling the quarantine protesters idiots a couple of weeks ago. Were you wrong then, or are you wrong now? Do you see any connection at all? Just think about it.
If you are a “this is systemic racism” person, remember that several studies have shown that your likelihood at being beaten or killed in police custody is just about equal across all ethnicities, once they have already been detained by police, so the systemic problem is MORE than just that the police tend to target black people and poor urban neighborhoods. If you are a “not all police” person, please try to count the number of police officers you have ever heard of who actually reported the bad behaviour of other officers who hadn’t already been caught on citizen video, and in those rare cases, what happened to the careers of those doing the reporting. Is a cop who ignores the bad behaviour of another cop really a good cop?
We have a government that has been handed the power to spy on *any* of its citizens, at any time and for practically any reason. We have an economy dominated by government-created monstrosities called “corporations” that have been granted personhood, and in fact have more rights and power than an actual human, but whose participants bear none of the personal liability of an actual person, divorcing profit from responsibility. We have a health-care market in which the dominant, rapacious corporations cannot even be challenged with disruption, because the government has handed them a virtual monopoly in the name of “insuring the uninsured”, and doctors and medical facilities are prevented from escaping this morass because a private corporation, the AMA, has been given complete control of their livelihoods and can render them paupers in an instant if they won’t play ball. We have systems of authority and law that were built by racists and often for racist reasons (drug war, gun control, etc.). We have unions that were created to protect workers, but have long since become corporations in their own right and which protect incompetence and bad acts out of procedure and fear, rather than any moral necessitude.
The systemic problem isn’t any one of these things, it’s what allows all of them to happen. I won’t even give you my personal opinion of what that root problem IS. Think about it for yourself. Keep your eyes open beyond the duration of whatever outrage the current media cycle or social media frenzy has decided you should care about. Stop tribalizing issues, and look at the actual facts. LISTEN. Stop defending your ideology long enough to actually think critically about it from time to time. Examine your motivations for caring or not caring about an issue.
Right now, you give a shit. GREAT! I love it. Act, yes. Speak out, yes. And then, in three weeks, when there’s no one marching in the streets and no constant reminder to sign a petition or immediate opportunity to virtue signal with a #ShockedShockedITellYou social media post on a video, KEEP GIVING A SHIT!
And while you’re at it, maybe you could stop using your public displays of outrage or support to service your own ego, rather than actually call for action?