Hope. Injustice. Riots. Arson. Protest. Reality. Looting. Change. Buzzwords from my youth and some images that I had hoped I would never have to see again, were repeated over the past week. This unrest has shaken me to my soul.
I remember that the leaders of my youth, JFK, MLK, RFK, all were shot, assassinated. Mohammed Ali was a hero of mine. He stood up for my fellow baby boomers by refusing to go to a war he did not, and could not support. Ali on why he's refuing to be drafted in 1967
Now it takes the assassination of a black man by the knee of a cop to bring back the horrors of the reality of racism and hatred in this country that I hoped were in the past. Instead the present looks all too familiar to me and my fellow 60 “some things”.
Our forefathers rebelled in the streets of Boston in the 18th century when they dumped tea in the harbor to send a message of independence from the colonial rule of the British Empire. Now jump into the time machine and fast-forward 245 years, just about a mile from where I saw some knucklehead light a rag on fire, and throw it inside the broken window of a police car on live TV.
In a so-called free society, civil disobedience should be a peaceful and harmless means to expressing your feelings and emotions. Hatred breeds violence and anger. Physical confrontation is the easy way to express your emotions, but provoking it, is not the best way to affect change. Looting, stealing, and destruction of property delivers the shock value to gain attention, but a few idiots always ruin the intentions of the masses. Now seeing law enforcement officers on one knee and embracing demonstrators have restored some faith I maintain for the future. At least 48 hours after Sunday night’s demonstration, subsequent rallies have ended more peacefully.
For many young people in our country this is their first experience with the realities of a so-called “free” society. Are we really free? How much has that cost us?
Did it take a pandemic to put a price on our humanity? Ask any person of color if they ever feel free from racism? Or if they feel free to jog through a suburban neighborhood or even ask for a breath of air?
I really hoped that when we elected Barack Obama, a person of color to the Presidency 12 years ago, we had progressed as a modern society. We got change, but the reality was far from that truth. Instead we buried our racist feelings inside the institutions that were created to promote equality for all. It took our current dictator to pour gas on the hatred that was boiling below the surface to expose it, and champion it. (I can't even write the POTUS name because the first duty of any President is to provide leadership!)
It’s time to listen to George Floyd’s brother, Terrence, who’s asked us for peaceful protests, education, and one action, vote. Too many people have already died trying to maintain that freedom alone.
I sang Pete Seeger’s We Shall Over Come in 1968 in the Angier School gymnasium in Waban in 6th grade, and in 2020, I’m still waiting.