To the Editor:

“I won’t back down; no, I won’t back down. You can stand me up at the gates of hell, and I won’t back down. Now, I know what’s right, I’ve just got one life. In a world that keeps, I’m gonna stand my ground, and I won’t back down,” – Tom Petty

Well, if we thought COVID-19 had turned the world upside down, what can you say about the last three weeks of around-the-clock-and-around-the-globe protests that have shattered America?

To start with, George Floyd really was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. We only got to watch Floyd die about a 100 times a day every day. Crushing someone’s neck for nearly nine minutes is inexcusable under any circumstances.

Were the protests justified? Yes. Did some take advantage of the cover provided by more peaceful protesters to burn and lot? Yes. But if the looters do not represent the majority of protesters, then by the same exact reasoning, the handful of hyper-aggressive, out-of-control policemen do not represent the majority of honest, hard-working officers who just want to do their jobs and go home alive every day at the end of their shifts.

It would be wonderful if hot-tempered, prejudiced police candidates could all be weeded out by tests or during the training process, and some are caught and eliminated. But you can never tell how someone really handles such a stress-filled job until they’re actually out there in the field. The thing is, if one of them loses control, get rid of the gut, don’t cover up for him or find excuses to keep a loose cannon out there. Chauvin had years of disciplinary problems on his record and should have been kicked out long ago.

Was it only a month ago that our police were being celebrated nationwide along with the firemen, EMTs and health care workers as our essential first line of defense against COVID-19? How rapidly everyone turned against them! The virus hasn’t taken a vacation. It’s still killing in every state, even if it’s not the top news story anymore. There still isn’t a cure for it yet.

Now, reporters and cable news “wise men” all say these huge protests mean America has reached a turning point in history. All kinds of wonderful changes are going to take place, and there will finally be racial justice and great new laws. Really? On what planet?

How many protests and marches have we seen after every new mass shooting? After every unarmed black is killed under suspicious circumstances by a white policeman? I lost count years ago. I’ve heard the expression “thoughts and prayers” so many times that it has become a cliché for doing nothing. Just because these current protests have more volume and durability (and more publicity while no other news stories are taking place) doesn’t mean real change will soon occur. As soon as a big shooting or hurricane or wildfire blows the protests off the front pages, the protests will be forgotten as fast as we have already forgotten the virus. We have very short memories.

Just out of curiosity, consider this: every news network has hundreds of hours of footage of all these protests, and the police and the protesters all look pretty much the same in every protest in every city. If some unscrupulous news show wanted to recycle protest footage from last week or two weeks ago and claim it was footage from today, would anyone notice? How could you tell old protest footage from new ones?

Here’s something that caught my attention two days after Floyd’s death. Reporters were doing their job looking into the backgrounds of Floyd and Chauvin. They were talking to a Minneapolis woman who managed a nightclub where Chauvin had worked part-time in security when he was off duty a few years back. It turns out that Floyd also worked there for a while, also in security…at the same time as Chauvin and even on the same shift as Chauvin. That’s too many coincidences. Even if Floyd and Chauvin didn’t talk or associate at the club, it would be impossible for them not to see each other several times a day on their shared shift. A nightclub isn’t so big that they could miss each other.

I worked at Amory Garment for 25 years and saw lots of folks come and go. Sometimes several years after an employee left, I’d be in a store or on the street and see a guy coming and get a flicker of recognition. “I’ve seen this guy before, don’t remember his name now, but I think I worked with him.” Everyone had experiences like that. I wonder if, on that fateful day, Chauvin and Floyd felt that “I knew this guy” moment, and whether that had something to do in some small way with the events that led to Floyd’s death unfolded? If there was some history between the two, it may come out at Chauvin’s trial.

I respect the protesters’ desire to change laws and racial attitudes and their taking a stand for what they believe. Good for them; that’s the American way. But overcoming generations of history won’t happen overnight. I’m sorry, but I’m a cynic. I’ll believe things can get better when I see it and not one moment sooner. Meaningless things like changing the name of something here or taking out their anger on a statue there won’t improve the life of even one American. Those are just empty publicity stunts.

Changing laws takes months or years, and changing hearts and minds can take decades. Do protesters have the stomach for a fight that could last their entire lifetime? When the shooting and marching gets old, what comes next?

If the people of my generation, say age 45 and over, had any useful ideas or solutions to improve relations between the races, we would have put them into practice many years ago. Racism has existed at least since the days of Noah, and political and economic disparities are always going to be a fact of life. We live in a fallen, imperfect world full of injustice, cruelty and prejudice, and that won’t change until Jesus returns.

We do what we can to coexist with each other in peace and fairness, and often fail. Perhaps the younger generation that is coming up and taking their stand and speaking out can find a way forward that has eluded us.

We’ve taken our best shot at it, with very little good to show for our efforts to lead. Now it’s their turn to try and create a better future and a better America. Wish them luck, folks; they’ll need it. Let’s hope they don’t trip over their feet while they’re looking down their noses at the rest of us.

I believe in America. I believe in our proud history, warts and all, and can’t imagine another nation anywhere better than what we have here. Our people are much better than the worthless “leaders” we are stuck with. (Seems like the only people in politics are the ones who can’t hold an honest job doing anything else). I’m proud of who I am, where I come from, and all my ancestors, no matter what they believed or who they fought for (I had family in both the North and South). Whatever flaws our ancestors had, none of us would exist today if even a single one of them vanished from our family trees.

Slavery existed worldwide for thousands of years so, depend on it, we all have slave owners somewhere in our ancestry, no matter what race we are. No one’s hands are clean – white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, whatever. As Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead.” We all have enough to deal with right now, today, without re-fighting the battles of the dead and buried.

If the more sensitive, politically correct and morally perfect among us want to, figuratively speaking, go to the cemeteries and spit on the graves of their ancestors so they can feel superior, that’s their business. But they don’t have the right to tell me to spit on my family’s graves, and, if I don’t do it, I’m a horrible, bad person. Okay, spleen vented, they won’t back down and I won’t either. So, it goes.

By the way, as much as I detest (President) Trump, I will frankly be stunned if he isn’t re-elected in November. All the electoral college math is in his favor. He’ll lose the popular vote handily, but popular votes don’t count.

Richard Wilkinson


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