… has felt like five years.
It’s really hard to express the toll that 2020 is having on me. I have been broken so many times, and each time not fully mended before being broken again.
I feel like we are learning two lessons right now. One is long overdue, and the other is … well, I’m afraid we might not really learn it.
The long overdue lesson is that racism is garbage AND that there really is a whole lot of racism out there. For a lot of white people, the triple hits of Breonna Taylor being shot in her sleep when the cops invaded her home which was a wrong address, Ahmaud Arbery being hunted in the street, and George Floyd’s slow murder on camera was enough to really make them pay attention to the failures of the justice system that people of color have been living with their entire lives. But I feel like the protests were the real shift in opinion. People took to the streets to support change, and they were met with an army.
It may be just me, but in prior protests, when cops showed up, there were always a lot of traditional blue shirt cops, maybe wearing black bulletproof vests, with the support of a smaller number of ERT/SWAT/RIOT gear cops. But this protest, I’m seeing almost all the cops in military gear. Head to toe body armor and assault rifles. Rows and rows of bodies clad in black, imposing and unforgiving.
And since technology keeps advancing, the average person is being given an unprecedented look at dozens of angles of the same incident from the street level. Even if you don’t live in a city and can’t experience a protest in person, there are so many videos you can watch. What CNN did for the Gulf War, cell phones and social media are doing for protest. And by that I mean that it is bringing the visceral reality of a normally obscured situation right into the homes and lives of the masses.
Most people know that we should believe victims when they tell their stories. But many of those people have trouble believe something they haven’t seen. And now it is easier than ever to see it.
The ripples of this moment are already creating change. Confederate monuments are coming down. The military and NASCAR have banned the Confederate Flag. The calls for military bases named for Confederate Generals are having requests for their names to be changed seriously considered. These are, admittedly, tokens. But chipping away at these tokens is one way to get to and expose the more deep seated parts.
Black lives matter. Black lives matter because all lives matter and right now black lives are being ended for things that don’t end other lives. The inequalities are obvious and now they are getting exposure, undeniable exposure. Black lives matter.
The second lesson is science. We’ve … and by “we” I mean the United States as a whole … been travelling down a road for a while now of science denial in pursuit of profit. When it comes to the environment, the government regulates at a slow pace and only after an unacceptable amount of blood has been spilled to make the cost of protection worth the cost to profits. Or at least worth it to enough people to pass those regulations. And for things like climate change, the effects and causes are separate enough that people have trouble understanding how (A) leads to (B) let alone how (A) leads to (Z). And where you can pull the water from a polluted river and show that it has poison in it from the runoff at a facility and convince them to stop poisoning the water, it is harder to point to the exhaust from a facility in the US and show how it’s melting the snow from a mountain in Asia.
But then you get something like COVID-19. And the scientists tell you that we need to do A, B, and C or else X, Y, and Z will happen. And when we don’t do A, B, or C and here we are with over 100,000 dead, and some people are saying we HAVE to reopen the economy to make money, even if it means more dead people sacrificed to capitalism.
I would hope that the new hot spots and rising infection rates would convince people that the science is right and that we should believe science and do better. But I’m not that hopeful. People seem really dead set on denying any science that would be personally inconvenient to them. Kind of like how they ignore a lot of racism since it doesn’t impact them directly.
I haven’t really been out since March. I drove in the car a couple times (to go to places and play Pokemon Go and Wizards Unite), and got gas once. I want to go out, but I keep hearing and reports of all these people not wearing masks and not distancing. I want to go out, but I’m not willing to put my health in the hands of people who don’t believe in science.
It will get better. It has to. The status quo and the downward trend, neither are sustainable. But I have to constantly remind myself that there is no bottom. People are always asking if we’ve hit bottom yet, the point where we can’t go any lower. But there is no bottom. It won’t stop, but it can be stopped. We just have to stop it.