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We’ve gone dark….

What can we do at times like these?

What should we do?

Should we remain silent? Pray? March? Lay on the ground and refuse to move? Cower in our bunker and tweet? Raise hell?

Should we be outraged? Scared? Confused? Hopeful?

whitehouseLast night was the first time I sat down and watched the prime-time cable news since the protests started. I’ve been hearing about the unrest, but this was the first time I’d seen it. Minneapolis. NYC. San Francisco. Philadelphia. Boston. Chicago. Long Beach. All the reports kinda ran into each other, until you weren’t sure what city you were looking at. Marching. Chanting. Fires. Tear gas. Batons. Running battles, street to street. Hurt. Anguish. And always a generous supply of knuckleheads all beer-d up and enjoying the opportunity to break shit on live TV. Mixed crowds for sure, whites seemed to be in the majority. Most looked to be around college age. The reporters on the ground were all seasoned. This wasn’t their first rodeo. They’d report from the thick of it all, always moving. Almost unnaturally calm. Most of the time talking while walking backwards, away from on-coming police lines. Every reporter was wearing a mask, which kinda jolted you into remembering that this nation is still in the midst of a pandemic. Our news cycles can only handle one large story at a time, so for now at least, Covid-19 is off the front page. I don’t even want to think about what these mass gatherings might do to the national curve. That’s for another day I guess. Another headline once the fires are out.

Just watching live feeds, sitting on my couch, I kept seeing patterns. Most cops calm and steady, but the rogue ones would break away and start shit on their own, flailing with batons or bull-rushing protesters and pushing them to the ground. You could almost see them twitching before they’d go off. Which of course would incite frenzy from protesters. And then the entire cycle would repeat itself.

And always that one person….intent on getting in a cops face. Nose to nose. Screaming. As provocative as they can be. Daring them to respond. Just watching these interactions made me tense up. What if…it was like watching somebody carelessly smoking a cigarette as they pumped gas.

In the crowds you could spot the leader….or if not the leader the person intent on causing the most trouble. Preening. Dancing between the lines. Always seemingly aware of where the cameras were. But quick and nimble…..darting to and fro, always just far enough away to not get their hands dirty.

And then you’d see them…..the aforementioned knuckleheads. In small groups. Maybe 5 of 10. All with that same look……like they were running with the bulls in Pamplona. Cosmically addicted to the adrenaline….to acting tough, whooping and hollering….truly enjoying themselves……gaining a backlog of street cred. Oblivious. If there was looting, they’d be in the midst of it. But they weren’t leading anything. They were just scavengers. Picking at the corpse. It could be anybody’s.

Overwhelmingly both sides acting legally and with the proper deference and restraint. But that’s never enough. Because all it takes is one cop on your neck, or one opportunistic protester with a pre-ordained agenda un-related to George Floyd…..and cities can burn. Everything else gets rolled up in their wake. Because there is no center anymore. We’re divided against ourselves, and can’t stand.

If all lives truly did matter, there’d be no need for “Black Lives Matter”. So don’t even go there. Shit is broken, and it needs to be fixed. We’re racist to the core. It’s our nation’s original sin, and we need to be cleansed of it. Once and for all. Dunk our heads in the river.

Our nation needs the right words right now. Uttered with the right tone. Because those words and tone matter. They filter down into a nation’s psyche. The right words can stop a riot before it happens, like Bobby Kennedy announcing the murder of Martin Luther King. Or they can soothe the soul. As when LBJ visited Louisiana amidst the devastation of Hurricane Betsy. Within 24 hours he was there, on the ground….and while touring the city he came across a shelter where a large number of blacks had taken refuge. Johnson grabbed a flashlight and illuminated his face and said, “My name is Lyndon Baines Johnson. I am your president. I am here to make sure you have the help you need!”

“I am your President”.

Where is ours?

Well we know where he is. Hunkered down in his bunker, rage-tweeting. Tone-deaf as usual. Lacking any type of understanding, and exhibiting no empathy. Surrounded by sycophants and morally compromised racist flunkies….egging him on. Making his already rancid personality even shittier. It’s one of the most egregious examples of a leader abandoning his nation in a time of crisis we’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something, since he’s the one who said “I don’t take responsibility at all” for downplaying the threat posed by Covid-19, which has thus far killed 103k of his constituents. And counting. That was last month. The bar is always moving. It’s getting lower.

The White House has gone dark.

Our nation is on auto-pilot right now. Leaderless.

There was a rally in Scranton this weekend. In support of each other. They had a good turnout. The police were there. Not with batons….but with outstretched hands. It was peaceful.

My 2 daughters were there.

Maybe we’re not leaderless after all. Maybe this all starts right here….right now. In our own homes and towns and courthouses. Maybe things can filter up for a change.

In a bit..

–tf

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