Waking up to read and see images of what happened last night. I’m still processing details, but once again I find myself thinking about the fact we are still in a pandemic. Seeing so many people so close together—even with masks I can’t help but think there is plenty of opportunity for transmission. Are we going to see a spike in COVID cases in the next week? Are the black and brown communities who have already disproportionately suffered from COVID going to get hit again?
Also I think of my friends in China and what news they are getting. From the perspective of that part of the world the US government’s failed response to the pandemic, the violence and unrest in the streets and the destruction of infrastructure must be so illegible. We must just look like a failed state.
A problem with law enforcement in the US is it’s militarization—so expert with escalation and the tools and weaponry of controlling and dispatching bodies. This morning leaders are talking about bringing in the real military. I shudder.
Real militaries are tools of war—they only see enemies and ground to gain or lose. Our neighbors can never be enemies. Threatening property is not the same as threatening people. This ground is ours. We live here.
When there are more people than law enforcement and the situation is “overwhelming,” as this morning’s news reports, then maybe that should be a sign. Not a sign for even more force against communities to subdue as an authoritarian—certainly the instinct of “the shooting starts” Trump.
That won’t work.
We need another strategy starting from a different assumption. People want to be safe. They want to be safe from harm and safe from want and “on the inside.” Instead if expanding the inside to increase our collective safety—the goal of many movements of the past—our society has consistently reduced the societal zone of protection, leaving even more in precarious situations. The institutions of protection have become frayed, or worse—defenders of new boundaries of harm.
Isn’t that, after all what this is about on some level? Whether you see police as protecting you from the outside or keeping you out is a good indication of where you stand. The military will only make this distinction much worse.
How can leaders who make careers managing boundaries think in ways that can bring us together? Sadly Trump is not up to this task. He is the Wall-King who ascended his throne on the promise to keep some away from others. He brought this logic to the pandemic and continues to deftly practice his art—the black magic of distraction, doubt and distrust. Donald Trump is the Anti-Christ of compassion.
In The Art of the Deal there are only those who profit and those who don’t, the inside and the outside, the winners and the losers. When Trump said we would be “tired of winning” he was speaking to some. The people taking to the streets, and those who support them from home, are tired of seeing the others always lose despite their best efforts. We see how the terms of The Deal have been set to all but ensure this. The house always wins in the end.
That house is literally The White House.
The pandemic has pushed us apart in new ways physically and economically. In these new spaces between people there are those who want to erect even more new boundaries of policing: observational, digital, biological, economic.
Seeing the images of masses of people collectively saying fuck it and pushing themselves together is impressive and moving and must be listened to if things are to change. They are trying to say something with their physical presence in a pandemic. Many are literally risking their health and lives.
I worry, however, that there aren’t enough translators of these actions to people who don’t understand. Humans have long histories of containing and destroying their others—that is a core function of the military. If the actions of recent days and nights are not translated in ways that increase collective understanding then the minions of the Wall-King will simply have more reasons for more borders and police.
And how does this happen in a pandemic? How can we have more care and compassion when we are more afraid than ever of all others, callously distanced by digital technologies and even encouraged to wear masks that hide our emotions—smiles and anger? The pandemic has been teaching us all to be fearful of an outside that stretches right up to the doorsteps of our homes.
…I wish I could continue to think through this, but the kid is up and needs breakfast.