Douse the Flames

Your concern is quite touching. Truly. Your words of concern for all those small business owners whose shops are being looted and businesses being burned to the ground in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities all across the US during the riots sparked by the killing of George Floyd touch my heart. These people are just trying to make a living. They haven’t done anything wrong. These thugs must be brought to justice!

I know you’re not a racist. I know, because you said so. And I know that you’re moved by the plight of the oppressed and by the tragedy of Floyd’s death, (although he might have — no, probably did — deserve the treatment at the hands of the police officer — it’s impossible to tell from the video footage what came before — and after all if he could say “I can’t breathe,” then obviously he could breathe), but when the looting starts . . . well then that’s surely when things have gone too far. That’s real evil.

Of course, your words might ring a little less hollow if you had ever once voiced a word of protest against an economic system rigged against small businesses and which heaps every advantage on large multinational conglomerates, or against the systematic dismantling of anti-trust laws that are now more a reminder of a quaint board game than a living set of laws applied by our government. But never mind consistency in thought or policy.

And never mind that buildings can be rebuilt. Broken store-fronts can be replaced. Graffiti can be removed. Looted merchandise can be recompensed by insurance. But human life cannot be replaced. George Floyd cannot be brought back. Nor can any of the others who have been killed by racially motivated police brutality that consistently goes unpunished. Nor can the generations of people who have grown up under the oppression of a racist system ever have their lives repaired or set right.

But I don’t think your real concern is for the mom-and-pop shops getting caught up in the “evil” sweeping across this country. I don’t even think it’s for the rule of law. I think what really has you concerned, if you were able to think beyond the Fox news talking points, is that it isn’t just stores and cars and police precincts that are being burned to the ground. The status quo is also being burned to the ground. And that scares you. Because you are part of the status quo. And if this continues, and if the decades of pent-up rage that has been smoldering barely below the surface in this country is unleashed, you and your privilege and your comfort will also be swept away in the fury. That’s what really scares you.

The fires must be put out.

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