I’ve always been a worrier.
From the time I was a little kid I would dwell on the worst. If my parents went out for the evening and left my brother and I at home I’d start waiting behind the curtain over the picture window in the living room if they weren’t home by 9pm. I’d stare out at the utility pole across the driveway and wait to see headlights hitting, hoping it was going to be my parents pulling in from their night out. I’d already gone thru the scenario of being orphans and forced to live with some distant relative. I’d always wonder what life would’ve been like if my parents hadn’t been killed in a tragic meteor strike on a downtown pub where they went for subs. My brother would tell me to stop it and get away from the window, but I’d still stand there fogging up the window waiting for the car to pull in. I’d eventually go to my room and fall asleep right before they’d pull in.
I’d also stare at our dog from the kitchen window as I’d assumed that he’d dig out of the fence, never to be seen again. Or that the Russians would strike at any moment, leaving me to live in the woods behind our house until The A-Team could save us.
As I got older my worry became more practical. Losing a job, losing a parent, or driving thru Chicago traffic brought much anxiety. When I became a parent a whole new level of worry commenced in my brain. Something terrible happening to your child is a fear that hits every parent. Crib death, choking, insidious people looking to snatch your child in a public place if you turn your attention for just a second. I was the overcautious dad(I still am.) When the kids were little but old enough to stray from the beds at night I’d wake to the slightest noise. The mere flick of a light switch, the creak of a bedroom door, or the stray cough when the kids were sick would wake me from my slumber. I’d get up immediately in the cold dark of night to search the house, looking for vomit next to a bed or wondering if someone needed a breathing treatment due to asthma. Or maybe there was a toddler wandering the house with a 104 degree fever.
I was never completely shut down. I was always on and ready for the worst.
Then a couple months ago the country shut down because of Covid-19. People were dying faster than morgues could handle the intake in New York. A hospital stay was a sentence to suffer alone, the comfort from loved ones relegated to pixelated, worried faces on digital screens. Some telling their loved ones goodbye in what amounted to a nightmarish Zoom meeting. Having a daughter with asthma scared the hell out of me, especially since she was “essential”. Bringing out groceries to customers that wouldn’t wear masks and thought this was just the flu. Hearing stories of small businesses closing their doors because they couldn’t keep the lights on due to the non-essential closings, while far right weekend warriors stormed state capitals with their assault rifles, kevlar vests, and military-grade weaponry demanding the states re-open because it was their right to get haircuts and dinner at Texas Roadhouse.
An absolute shit show of epic proportions was happening. This didn’t do much for my frayed nerves. But then George Floyd was murdered by a cop.
Yes, he was murdered. There’s no getting around that, and if you feel that’s not the case then you might as well just keep walking. I’ve got nothing more to say to you. And before Floyd, there’s a tragic and horrifying list of other names of African Americans who were also killed for no good reason by law enforcement. The men and women who were charged with protecting and serving us as citizens are skipping due process and just getting right to the sentencing. The sentence is death on the streets of America. For what? Trying to buy something with a counterfeit $20 bill? Selling cigarettes on the street corner? What about sleeping in their own bed? Or just standing in their own living room as an officer enters the wrong apartment?
So now we have people hitting the streets and protesting this man’s death. Yes, the cop was arrested and charged for murder, but this is a vicious cycle that nearly always ends with the cop getting off, or maybe just let go from the force. What about the other officers that stood and let this guy push the life from George Floyd with his knee on the back of his neck for almost 10 minutes? As the man pleaded that he couldn’t breathe? A man handcuffed and already detained? If he was fighting with the officers then why not use a taser, subdue him, then put him in the back of the squad car? There were quite a few options, besides crushing the life from him.
So the protests.
I’m seeing angry, fearful, and mournful people hitting the streets of every color coming together, trying to bring attention to the abhorrent behavior of certain people in the police community. And in response the cities are sending their officers in riot gear armed with night sticks, tear gas, and pepper spray using bully tactics to incite violence. There will be and are folks that see the cops in harm’s way. That the officers are being provoked. I’m sure this is the case in some isolated incidences, and I understand the need to use force to control what could turn into a violent altercation. But I’m seeing more times than not officers spraying people walking away from them with powerful streams of pepper spray. I’m seeing tear gas being thrown into a crowd not doing anything other than exercising their rights to gather and protest peacefully. I’m seeing videos of cops driving into crowds, hitting people. I’m seeing cops violently knocking people down as they comply and walk away. I saw a goddamned cop on a horse stomp someone not doing anything. And these instances are happening in nearly every city that there are protests happening. Almost like a coordinated effort to tamper down people bringing these thuggish acts to light.
I would never condone looting. Never. It’s counter-productive and pretty much destroys any good work the majority attempt to accomplish. But you can’t judge the majority because of a few. You know, like the cops. If you can stand by and say that it’s not the majority of officers that are bad but only a handful, then you should be able to be objective about these protests. The majority know something is broken in the system and want it fixed.
I’ve known plenty of police officers and those that have served in the military and they’ve all been good people. Kind and thoughtful and the opposite of self-serving. But there is a fast-growing chasm between us and those in authority. It keeps growing and becoming harder and harder to find a way to bridge the two sides. I worry we’re getting to the point of no return.
I’m writing this from my living room in the Midwest. A middle-aged white man that will never have to worry about my children being killed by a cop because of what would amount to a misdemeanor. I don’t have to feel fearful myself if I get pulled over for speeding or because of a busted tail light. These are not my worries, and they shouldn’t be an African American man’s worries either. But they are. A black man shouldn’t have to be fearful if he gets pulled over for speeding. Nobody should. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be in the United States of America. We shouldn’t be rallying behind a bunch of white guys with machine guns protesting that their civil liberties are being violated because they can’t go to Great Clips or Pizza Hut during a damn pandemic, while in the same breath chastising and condemning a crowd with picket signs in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana as thugs.
If the picture above bothers you, but the one below doesn’t, then that’s a problem.
The video below was taken by a friend of mine, Greg W. Locke. He’s a writer, filmmaker, and artist from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He shot this video on Saturday, before he was arrested at the peaceful protests that were happening downtown. The day before he was pepper sprayed without provocation by officers from the FWPD. Tear gas was used as well to disperse crowds for no apparent reason other than to show force. Officers smirked and mocked the protesters as well, much like in every other large city protest across the country.