Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Fire this Time

Can 2020 get any worse? On a personal woe level, it started with the breakdown of my iMac and the loss of data, and it continued, in cinematic level, to a world-wide zombie Apocalypse which still has a grip on us. Not only does it not want to let go, but it has plans to come back when the warm weather dissipates and the leaves start falling. And now we have a situation that we have seen before, but this time, to continue putting it in cinematic terms, it's looking a lot like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.  You remember!  It's the fourth film of the original series. The one where the apes have evolved and forced into servitude to humans until they can't take it anymore and rebel against their masters. It's brash social satire where the violence of the conclusion of the film is looking a helluva lot like the scenes of violence and destruction that we are experiencing in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and which has trickled down to the major cities of the country. It has been a week of protests, where the peaceful protestors have been swallowed by a bigger subset that has been successful in inciting violence.

Lawlessness begets lawlessness. The kind of violence that we have seen in the streets has a contagious feeling. Fires have been set, and copycat of these disturbances erupted throughout different evenings in different metropolitan areas. The looting of shops in Los Angeles has no place in these protests. The sight of a corner Sol Moscot store being looted by hoodie-wearing teens is both objectionable and disgusting. But the kind of lawlessness we are watching is the direct result of the lawlessness that exists in many of the police departments in our country. Officers, the wild west is over! If your idea of policing comes from a scene in a Warner Brothers gangster film, then you are in the wrong profession.

To be sure, it puts any police department in a precarious situation. The present protestors have no direct or indirect knowledge or tradition of the kind of social protest that the Reverend Martin Luther King preached. It's all textbook stuff from a time before they were conceived. This crowd gets up to a police officer's face and yells a barrage of expletives. They resist when a cop pushes them back with a baton. They spit at cop's faces. And the cops are supposed to take it. When the going gets rough, the only recourse a police department has is to shoot rubber bullets into the ground. Officer's hands are tied. Why? Well, if they bring out the big guns like the water canons that do a fast job of dispersing crowds, if they bring out those scary attack dogs and cavalry horses that have the ability to injure protestors, that police department will not only be accused of police brutality, but it will bring back those days in the 1960's when Southern white supremacist cops used these methods to disperse the architects of the Civil Rights Movement.

And in the middle of all of this, Elon Musk's dream if putting astronauts into space with his SpaceX company became a reality yesterday afternoon when the Crew Dragon rocket launched from Cape Canaveral on its way to dock with the International Space Station. Shades of the Apollo program which reached the heights during the decade of the 1960s while Medar Evers, Dr. King, Malcolm X, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. President Donald Trump flew to Florida to witness the launching live. Given the murder of George Floyd, SpaceX's achievement seems to me to be a hollow victory.

Last night Don Lemon on CNN challenged the rich well-known and powerful, the likes of Ellen, Oprah and Drake to descend from their ivory tower of privilege, and get down to the crowds and  oppose the chaos and anarchy that the protests have turned into. Why not? When Dr, King was assassinated, the then Mayor of New York City, John Lindsay, walked through the streets of Harlem, as he had often done before, in order to quell any type of rioting. It worked. While neighborhoods In Washington DC, Chicago, Kansas City and Newark went up in flames, New York City remained free of the looting and arson that fell on those other cities.