We do distraction well here. We dominate consumerism. It's our thing. Many of us have our most uncomfortable moments when the TV's off, the devices are put away, and we're forced to face our own thoughts.
Lately, we’ve had no games to watch, no jobs to commute to, no parties to attend or theaters to occupy. In an era of consumption, many of us have been starved of content since the pandemic arrived, but a rare viral moment caught all of our eyes last week. George Floyd was killed on May 25th, and the video was circulated endlessly on the internet, and cable news.
Videos like Floyd's have circulated before, but we’ve always had stock markets to appraise, newsfeeds to scroll through, pictures to post or sports to consume. Distractions. This time, we couldn't move on to the next thing.
So, the protests started.
They're imperfect, but perfectly natural. They've been co-opted and diluted by different groups, some of whom have used the opportunity to loot, or push for anarchy. In some places, the protests can just as easily be characterized as riots.
As unpalatable as riots are, they're a pretty human reaction to unjust murder by officers whose duty it is to protect us. The black community has been trying to tell us for years they're treated differently. Most of us kind of listened, but went along with our distractions. This time, that's not an option.
Let's be very honest: this is probably a net positive. A wise man once said, "Authoritarianism always looks strong, efficient and dissent-less, while democracy looks on the verge of falling apart. The opposite is almost always true."
We're in the middle of one huge argument, but it's how we self audit. It hurts in the moment, but it's better than a gigantic collapse for a lack of addressing problems.
People have, and will die or be injured undeservingly in the heat of this week's events. That's gross. I wish they could be perfect protests. But, when tensions boil for years without being addressed, eventually the lid blows.
If we're being very honest again, Kaepernick tried to raise the point about police brutality in 2016, but we rejected it because his protests were during the national anthem. Most with intellectual honesty knew he wasn't protesting America, but claimed to be offended by that anyway. We were more offended that he was a thorn in the side of our Sunday viewing habits.
That's kind of our problem. I'm as guilty of it as anybody. We'll sacrifice a healthy country for entertainment and convenience. We could address or problems, or we could watch puppets argue about them on CNN and Fox News. But they capitalize on our fear, and divisiveness. Solving problems is not in their interest. They hardly ever ask the right questions.
Like, why are our leaders - local and national - so mediocre? On Saturday SpaceX and NASA teamed up to put two United States astronauts into space for the first time in nearly a decade. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, came to the United States from South Africa because he saw it as a country where "great things are possible, more than any other country in the world." The best people flock to this country, but its ruling class is middling.
Why is our news media a soap opera? Don Lemon once got in a Twitter spat with Jonah Hill because Hill didn't say "hello" to Lemon's liking at an airport. Lemon is held up as a serious anchor who challenges authority, but like most who occupy cable news, he's a cartoonish figure dependent on race-baiting, identity politics and fear rather than intellect or talent.
Why are police still killing innocent American citizens?
Why is this line so damn long for McDonalds?
The saying goes: "Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times."
We're in the midst of hard times, in part because we don't have a crutch to fall back on. Like when your wife turns off the TV, asks you to put down your phone and addresses a problem. Playtimes over. That's probably healthy, for now.