Opinion: None of This Is Going to Get Better Soon

AP Photo/Steve Helber

 

Yesterday was a tough day. It’s one of those days where having to follow the news for your job is a curse. One thing after another snowballed, eventually culminating into an evening op-ed by Tom Cotton being called life-threatening.

Before that, we had reports of more rioting and looting (though quelled in some cities that actually care, unlike New York). We had videos of people bowing before each other in weird cultish rituals. James Mattis, who has promised to not undercut the current administration, did just that. Oh yeah, and the guy who gave millions and spent over a decade to help rebuild predominantly African-American parts of New Orleans is now a racist for not kneeling for the National Anthem.

Everything is stupid.

There can be no real disagreements. It isn’t allowed anymore. All our divisions are stoked constantly by useless sloganeering, generalizations, and emotionalized assumptions. If you want to neuter police unions but don’t see the evidence of “systematic racism” requiring de-funding of the police or demonizing of large groups of people (including the country as a whole), you are still labeled a bigot. No more discussion needed. Chants and near-religious devotion to certain narratives override any talk of actual policy solutions.

It doesn’t matter if you believe George Floyd’s killing was wrong and a crime. It doesn’t matter if you note that those who perpetrated it were arrested and charged. Justice is just an abstract at this point. Noting it takes time for justice to take place means you aren’t taking things seriously and that justice in fact doesn’t exist. If you find it disturbing that multiple police officers have been shot and killed during these riots, you are told you aren’t focusing on the bigger issue.

Misinformation fans the flames as every out of context piece of data is used to push one’s own biases.

In reality, there was a fourth white person arrested that same day. He got a $1000 bail. That’s not in the above tweet because it would destroy the narrative. Also, the black man here with the $500 bail got that higher bail because he climbed a statue and the fire department had to be dispatched. But that doesn’t matter because it must be systematic racism at play even when it’s clearly not at play. Everyone and everything must confirm one’s own priors.

Ten unarmed black people were killed by police last year in a country of 700,000 police and tens of millions of encounters. Of those ten, at least six of them were justified uses of force after being attacked and another was an accident (the only woman killed, and the shooter was charged). In the two that were clearly not justified, both perpetrators were charged. In only one case are there still open questions.  If you point these numbers out to combat the widespread idea at these protests that there’s genocide of black men by police going on, it falls on deaf ears. Even if you rightly condemn bad actions that do actually happen at the hands of police, we can’t even agree on a set of common facts to work from.

None of this is going to get better soon, because aside from no good-faith disagreements being tolerated, there is no end game being articulated. What do these protestors actually want?

Is the goal to have the justice system work properly, charging people who do evil things to black men? Or is the goal to never have evil things happen to black men again? The latter is as impossible as eradicating any other type of crime. But given the man who killed Floyd has been charged with 2nd degree murder, yet the rioting continues, it seems the expectation is indeed the latter. Are there going to be riots every time a cop kills a black person unjustifiably, even if the law works to bring him or her to justice for their deed? At what point do we say that justice needs to be allowed to work before we react? Ferguson, Missouri was burned to the ground over what turned out to be a justified police shooting. Had people just waited for the facts, that community wouldn’t be in the middle of what is a decades-long road to recovery.

But we can never wait for the facts anymore. If you want to wait for the facts, you are told you don’t care enough and aren’t showing empathy for those in pain.

I’d love to sit here and write about a coming national harmony, but I don’t think it’s coming in the near future. We can’t even agree that a murderer being charged with murder is indeed justice in action. Those marching in protest and declaring the entirety of the country evil don’t want to talk. They want a revolution. Those claiming that Floyd’s murder wasn’t a murder don’t want facts, they want to cosplay civil war. Those demanding white people kneel before black people don’t want unity. They want subjugation. And while the rich, white Democrat elite selfishly yell “go vote” to those protesting, Donald Trump leaving office won’t fix any of this either.

So what’s the solution? Unless we get back to a place of liberal thought on speech, discussion, rationality, and disagreement, there will be no solution. Right now, we aren’t working toward those things. Instead, we are running in the opposite direction with our hair on fire.

In other words, buckle up.