Australian wildfires. A global pandemic. Murder hornets (if you don’t know, don’t ask).
Could a revolution be next among 2020’s offerings? I don’t, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t changing.
After a police officer was filmed with his knee on George Floyd’s neck during an arrest in Minneapolis – an arrest that proved fatal for Floyd – a racial reckoning began. What started as a movement to condemn police brutality became about broader racial issues, then went the way so many protest movements do by becoming about any and every grievance imaginable.
As such, within just a week, not only did black lives matter, but also capitalism was wrong and trans women are women.
This – combined with violent rioters and looters whose conduct claimed lives, including black lives – took what was an important discussion and rendered it a revolution against everything, yet also nothing.
When Floyd was killed it seemed for a moment that everyone could be united in mourning a needless death and demanding accountability and justice. Such a moment was destined to be a fleeting one in an era in which nothing can exist without being politicized.
One can be a supporter of police and an opponent of racism. Anyone who calls themselves pro-life should deplore senseless and unnecessary death. It’s entirely valid to say Floyd should be alive today without needing to bestow sainthood upon him.
None of these nuances has existed in any substantive way in the weeks since Floyd’s death, as calls for change took on the form of abstractions and political posturing from so many adopters.
United States senator and former presidential candidate Kamala Harris joined one of the earliest protests outside the White House. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a knee before protesters in Ottawa as did numerous police chiefs across North America.
These displays make for good photo ops but are befuddling. If people are protesting the system, the politicians who are the system can’t join them without admitting their own complicity in the problems they are eager to identify despite years of silence.
Protesters are trying, at least in theory, to elicit action from those in positions of leadership. If politicians are allies, legislation accomplishes more than a dusted up knee.
Trudeau has not spoken about widespread institutional and systemic racism in Canada and Canadian policing in the five years he’s been in office, yet his sudden awakening suggests it’s a no-brainer that these things exist.
No doubt there will be reviews, consultants, inquests and all sorts of other naval-gazing exercises to get to the bottom of what the system needs –.but without a clear focus we won’t stray all that far from where we are now.
Is the answer more civilian oversight in policing? Is it education? Is it demilitarizing the police?
Calls to “defund police” have been mixed between those seeking to jiggle around some budget line-items and those who see the existence of police departments as a fascistic and patriarchal blight that needs to be purged. It’s hard to find any middle ground when these are the starting positions.
Polarization is never pleasant, but it was particularly bad when exacerbated by months of lockdown and coronavirus fears – both of which have emboldened a healthy amount of distrust in a number of institutions.
But the question remains to anyone seeking change: What do you want?
There are lots of people willing to tear things down. We’ve seen police cars vandalized, a Wendy’s torched, careers ruined, and statues toppled. No where am I seeing a commitment to rebuilding anything from the ashes of what’s been destroyed.
Celebrities, journalists, and executives have lost their jobs to the mob for saying (or thinking) the wrong things, even if done innocently enough. This mentality is not new but certainly had a renewed power after Floyd’s death. There are surely casualties of this climate whose names we’ll never know, too.
Any true revolutionary is seeking change, not simply a void. Though a void is all we’ll be left with, once the grievance-mongers are through, given the path that’s been forged.
It’s easy to take down things and people, which is why the old trope of a boss telling the employees to bring solutions, not just problems, is so familiar.
Anything long-lasting must be built by people committed to real change. A lot must go into this – including prayer and patience.