This isn’t the piece I’d intended to write. Actually, I had something else written, but I woke up this morning, read through it and couldn’t bring myself to post it. Maybe next week instead.
Because while America rightfully rages at yet another racist killing – putting the UK’s small stories of one man’s cummings and goings into the shade, because what happened to George Floyd and countless, countless others, shows what real injustice is – it just felt wrong to write about anything else today.
Which isn’t intended to inflate my importance or position; what I have to say is just what I have to say, and whoever reads it I feel grateful for your time and focus, that’s it.
I’m no social commentator and I’m white and I live in a comfortable, predominantly peaceful part of the world and my experience of living is largely set and protected by those markers and settings, settings of a system I had no part in building, but the benefits of which are undoubtedly skewed in my favour, and because of this unquestionable set of realities there are people far better placed than I to speak to prejudice and bigotry, but it feels disrespectful, from the standpoint of simple humanity, to not acknowledge what happened, what’s happening.
It’s touched me. I feel angry. How can I not be?
A man is choked to death for no reason other than he’s black. That’s it. Nothing else. Fake $20 or whatever, that’s a meaningless incidental except for its sinister, almost pathetic, inference of the cheapness of life to some, for some.
And the man who chokes him is so corrupted by power, to such an extreme, that he literally stamps it onto another human being until he’s squeezed every last drop of life out of him.
Rightfully America rages, rightfully people vent their anger, their fear, their sickness of the division, the oppression wielded that keeps those already down, trodden on.
And stealing and looting and burning then comes, but is that a surprise? It’s misplaced, of course it is, but rage demands a channel, an outlet, and when our whole society is based on having and taking and getting and wanting, on capitalising on opportunity, then what does anyone expect?
Meanwhile the power-bloated orangutan in the White House finger-blasts his iPhone calling for calm. The empty, see-through irony.
And clips of brazen, wanton police brutality, smashing in chests and faces and skulls and limbs of demonstrators, spraying searing liquid right in their eyes from centimetres away while they themselves wear body armour and masks and visors, armed with guns and backed up by their fellow blue-uniformed gang members.
And yet, and yet. I can’t help but stop and think what trauma, what crises of soul these bullies themselves suffered, are suffering, to bring them here. Even their attention-crazy, child-monkey commander-in-chief sitting in the Oval Office watching Fox, eating cheeseburgers. By some accounts his dad was a vicious, pernicious, belittling little bully. His son becoming a grandiose parody then holds little by way of shock. You might even begin to understand him.
And what of the police officer killer? What scarred existence did he also suffer? Imagine him as a 4-year-old. This isn’t the man he intended on becoming. Things got in the way, kicked him off course, of course they did.
But to focus too much on the perpetrators feels wrong, feels too charged, feels as if someone reading this might accuse me of sympathising. And in a way I do sympathise. If I look long enough, I have sympathy for anyone in pain.
And pain is no doubt what that police officer is now in, him and his accomplices. Whatever happens next, whether convicted or set free in some twist of legal skulduggery, his is a brutalised, dehumanised life now. That’s the cost he’s paid. The cost of digging down into his personhood and instead of bringing back respect and dignity and compassion and connection for sacred humanity, he dredges up that most vile and violent part of his darkest shadow – which no doubt we all, every one of us, has, make no mistake about it, we all have darkness within us, let’s not pretend we don’t – but he chose to extinguish the light with it. He chose to become the monster, the beast. The beast will be eating him now, slowly, from the inside, one day at a time for the rest of his life.
And so, whether you agree or not, I wish him healing. Because how does yet another scar on an already deeply scarred surface of existence make this a better place for any of us?
But first, if my wishes and prayers have any kind of order at all, I wish them on George Floyd. I wish the downward suffering of his last few moments alive to circle back up into tolerance and light, and I wish on his soul love, freedom and ease and to rest fully in peace.
I don’t think racism, hatred and abuse will ever stop. But can more of us enact goodness instead, one bit at a time, each day, however scarred we are, whatever scarred faces face us?
That’s all for today. Normal service to resume next week, I promise.