George Floyd and the Protests Heard Across History

I feel something so positive in America. The protests are sparking us back to health. All those voices rising up for justice. The crime was against a black person – as it has been, again and again. But the people gathering are white and black and all races.

There’s never been protests like this in my lifetime. A protest is a limited-time event – there’s redress or not, and life moves on. Today’s gatherings feel like something entirely new is dawning. Like people have stood up and realized, Hey we’re all here together – this is *our* country – let’s change things! Yeah!

The collective moral outrage – it has enormous power. A body that can feel moral outrage is a healthy body, a body that can move forward.

So you can feel it. The fevered pulse of American history is regaining its beat. Conflicted as always, raucous, pissed off, frustrated – everyone in everyone’s face. Red-faced and yelling. We’re allergic to peacefulness, civil discourse is practically illegal in America; apparently we’re bored by it.

But hell, we’re not Norway, we’ve got spirit. We went to the Moon, we invented the Internet and hip hop and Double Whopper Burgers. Bo Diddley and Gloria Steinem and Charlie Parker and Martin Luther King. I mean, c’mon.

America is not so much a country as a full-fledged phantasmagoria. A wild experiment, noble in intent but ginormously messy in execution. It’s like America was invented so future historians would have something crazily inspirational to study. Like damn, now *that* was a country.

And America – here I’m getting corny, so I apologize – has heart and soul. Oh God yes, huge heart. You know what I mean. When everyone stands up at the ballpark and we sing the national anthem and it’s like, yup, there’s the feeling. History and greatness and shared spirit.

But it feels like it’s been lost in the last few years. Or it’s in doubt. A crisis of the soul. And I think – I hate to bring it back to this, but it’s true – it comes down to the damn Trump problem.

Like, if our leader is this pathetic narcissist, I guess we’re not great. Maybe the dream has died. If he’s the dude, we must be a tin-pot banana republic. This con man who wouldn’t know the Constitution from a real estate contract? No great nation would ever allow this fool into authority.

The real problem is that he reflects everything that plagues us. Corporations get a tax cut while education and healthcare are broken. It all grinds down to this: the inequality – the inequality is now suffocating.

A middle class family can hardly see a doctor. An ambitious young person can’t afford to go to college. Really, we can’t fix that? We’ve come all this way just so the rich can get richer? Really?

Enter the protests. At the center of inequality in America is its most wounded, shameful core: racial inequality. That one hurts bad; the pain can hardly be measured. Yet the murderous knee on the neck of George Floyd distills the very essence of how the system is failing all of us.

There have been countless protests against racial injustice, from Rodney King to Michael Brown. But my sense – correct me if I’m wrong – is that today’s protests are an explosive leap forward exactly because there’s a larger pool of anger to spark.

Racial inequality is the worst of it, but overall inequality has so suffused the culture that the demand for change is becoming universal and non-negotiable. It’s no surprise that as Covid-19 spread, we weren’t taken care of properly. The people? Let them eat cake.

So it’s finally dawned on us: The System is failing us. The water in the pot has gotten ever hotter, and the frog has – in this moment in history – realized: if I don’t taken action, I’m getting boiled. The need for change is urgent. Things have to change. Let’s start with the horrors of policing and racism, and let’s keep going.

So to the protesters, a heartfelt thank you. You have brought the lifeblood roaring back into the American experiment. We all owe you our gratitude.