I thought I’d assemble another Slishman sleeper. All the social media, news, presidential Tweets, riots, bumper stickers… there’s just so much urge to lash out nowadays. Even we boring moderates who usually keep heads down, stay quiet, maybe go to work, maybe play with kids, maybe play video games, take flak as well for choosing paths of relative silence. So if lashing out is the status quo, here’s my lonely howl:
I choose to lash out against generalizations and false binary choices… and most hashtags too. One minute we’re #flatteningthecurve, mask shaming, stamping out disease (and most small businesses too), and the next we’re standing shoulder to shoulder, shouting, battling and launching nuclear tipped hashtags. It’s jarring. No doubt about it, George Floyd’s murder was horrendous, but all this talk about lives that matter seems to be risking quite a few.
I’m tired too of feeling thrust into choosing between teams black, blue or all. For team #blacklivesmatter, agreed 100%. No doubt that darker skin makes the mountain of life a harder climb, and for many it’s a sheer cliff. Let’s acknowledge, change and improve. But can that happen without blowing up the mountain and nearby climbers?
That said, here’s another of my inner snags… I’ll admit that #bluelivesmatter works for me too. Some police are brutal. Even if it turns out to be an improbable majority, I personally believe that most, (and even the brutal ones), are trying to bring food home, stay alive, and help their communities. I meet them regularly during my shifts and can’t imagine walking even a day in their shoes. Rather than making their jobs more challenging, I’d rather work to invent things that make policing less dangerous for them, and for everyone else by proxy. More carrots, fewer sticks, and not just by police. (What if Apple offered a good driver discount someday? Stay within 10mph of the speed limit for two years and get $400 off your next iPhone. Sign this boring dad up!)
As for team #alllivesmatter, I’m a skeptic. Otherwise, we wouldn’t drop bombs, execute, imprison, abort, or treat outsiders as poorly as we do. Does Derek Chauvin’s life matter now? Even if he was a complete angel in all his life up to meeting Mr. Floyd, there is no path forward whereby his life isn’t done. Jail will be cruel and unusual punishment, and being set free to the masses will be too.
Believe it or not, I actually feel for the guy in a way that’s hard to explain. I can’t excuse his actions, but I can empathize with fear, rage and fatigue. I also never knew kneeling on a neck was viewed in some places as a form of non lethal restraint. If that’s what he was taught, it has to be considered.
As an aside, 20ish years ago aggressive patients used to be brought into ERs by medics reverse hog tied, face down, until it was determined to be life threatening. When I read about George Floyd my mind went straight there. Don’t pounce on me here, but I’ve a hunch Mr. Chauvin probably felt he was actually showing restraint… brutally. The problem of policing to me is bigger and greyer than race alone.
A while back I had a tiny female patient on meth make a mess of her room, then blast out of the ER never to be seen again. Hospital security didn’t stop her for fear or getting in trouble. We called the police and they asked if she was armed. She was barely clothed. We felt safe in the ER, but my mind went to the officer we called who then went searching in the dark for our crazed patient. We called police to prove we cared. Truth be told though, I hoped she’d just heal on her own like the Hulk in a corner somewhere, rather than get dragged back kicking and screaming, maybe hurting herself or the officer. What if the officer found her in the company of an angry and armed family?
So I see police brutality as a symptom of much more than racism. Addiction, poverty, wealth disparity, escalating home weaponry, and now unemployment, are all giant additional factors in the mix… not to mention a pandemic.
Another topic to consider is the exponential increase in video recording. Aside from all the energy going into servers to store garbage we’ll never see again, I think it could actually lead to an improved humanity some day. For now though, it’s exposing many corners of existence that need cleaning. When we suddenly come to terms with our every movement being monitored, which seems inevitable, maybe a lot of our wackiness will tone down. Or not.
I put it on level headed leaders who see the broader good in people, and who help others see and amplify that sentiment as well. But they only get in office when level headed folks go vote. So if you’re out there and still alive next cycle, please do.
I guess in summary, don’t force me to generalize and choose teams, and I’ll keep treating people with love and respect, regardless of their skin tones, uniforms, or political leanings. And remember to wash your hands literally, not figuratively.