Some events are so big they cry out for context. Sometimes context is almost irrelevant. We like to crowd-source events with facts. Yet sometimes the events are just what they are; and collateral damage is just what it is.
Hodgepodge from the hood of my Dodge.
There are times I feel like I am only watching random events from the hood of my Dodge. Which is important, what I’m watching or where I’m watching it? I confess that sometimes it matters where I’m sitting. Though often you could sit anywhere.
Sometimes that doesn’t seem to matter at all – any seat is the same. It prompts the proverbial question: which is more important, what I see or my seat?
I say all that because of recent events. No one wants to see things in isolation or a vacuum. That’s why time and date stamps on photos matter. That’s why sequence or context can be important. And neither can history be ignored. I understand.
Take the COVID crisis for example. We began asking if the cure was worse than the disease? Many people came to the conclusion that the restrictions were far more hazardous than the national illness demanded. But that was after weeks of shutdown and self-isolation from the virus. You can still come to your own personal conclusion on that. You are welcome to consider all relevant information in doing so. And there is a lot of it.
President Trump makes a statement and the media goes nuts. So often the entire context makes a difference but they give that short shrift. On other things, they demand it be given some perverted context only they see and understand the significance of. Context is controversial to media.
Then a man is killed by a Minneapolis cop from a knee on his throat, in a video spread instantly that makes everyone gasp for air. The context too — like what did he do and what were all the other cops doing as he did it — matters. We all know and are appalled by it. The relevant facts indeed matter. So it prompts a national reaction and protests.
Major events can cause a reaction. Covid in nursing homes brought a reaction too, at least to anyone paying attention. Our collective stomachs are sickened, rightfully so. Did it matter whether by accident or that the governors forced COVID into them? Yes. Did it matter what he said after and the official reaction to it? You bet.
Did it also matter the reaction of people to the killing of George Floyd? Sure, it did. And there were immediate firings and a major investigation. Then they arrested the cop shortly after. Justice, it seemed, was on the heels of the cops. And everyone agreed it was horrible. What’s left to decide?
Flash forward, the protests start causing even more outrage as the riots and looting began. So which is worse the disease or the cure? Well it doesn’t take too much more time to come to another conclusion. Reality should matter, too.
What is happening, organized across the country, nationalized the killing of a black man. Everyone knows his name. It propels marches and an outpouring like no other. The “mad as hell” reaction rules.
Still there is the matter of rioting. By day they are just mild-mannered protestors, but by nightfall they turn into sinister, raging crowds of anarchists looting and torching buildings. Arson, as I recall, is not a form of protest.
For days on end it continued into wee hours of the morning with large crowds breaking windows and looting out stores, one by one. Each night a different neighborhood trashing and pillaging the cities as they went. Gangs of thugs ran the streets with bags of loot into cars shuttling them from one location to another. Police could hardly get a handle on it.
Did I neglect to mention that on the first night of rioting they burned a police precinct and descended on others? It all happened as we watched in outrage.
But meanwhile, the rioting, looting and burning continued undeterred, as if the protesting and marches were only a diversion for what was really going on…. organized chaos and destruction. Civil society was on the chopping block now and it was not faring too well. The National Guard was called.
The breaking and looting led to more organized breaking and looting in neighborhoods across America. The cause for it was only a distant memory. What mattered is what was happening now. Their anger and frenzy seemed romanticized by some in the media. The old saying came back as a ghost declaring, “the chickens have come home to roost.”
What is lost in it all? Start with the real victim, George Floyd. At a memorial service where Floyd’s brother painfully paid his respects at the scene where it happened, he asked the crowd “what are you doing?” Not in my name. It was not the first plea he made for protestors to stop the violence and looting.
That didn’t seem to matter as night fell when the violence and looting continued right on schedule. Almost as if it were two separate events, with two separate narratives, disconnected from each other on paths of their own.
But there are other victims, too. Lots of them. Businesses and property owners who had no say in it from the beginning. In fact, they had nothing at all to do with any of it. They are only disconnected victims of reality now. Collateral damage.
Even businesses are almost lost in the amount of damage being done. They are each but one store owner or business. They become lost in the totality by design. Who cares?
Never mind the context of those stores who had been shuttered for months taking it on the chin for a virus they had no control over and nothing at all to do with. They have become merely irrelevant collateral damage of the people disconnected from reality.
But reality is very real to them. Their lives and fortunes suffering from forces they have no say or control over. Who’s going to pay? Minneapolis seems such a long way away.
And in comes the merchants of grief , once again, telling them they must pay the fiddler. For what doesn’t matter. Damn reality!
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