Our Best Stuff From a Week of Widespread Unrest

Last week I wrote a bit on how the reaction to the death of George Floyd seemed different from past incidents of encounters between black men and law enforcement that went horribly wrong. It felt like the outrage and frustration was more universal, that we weren’t just falling into the trap of criminal-justice reform vs. law and order.

While I do think that those general sentiments are true, that there is overwhelming support for George Floyd’s family and broader attempts by white Americans to be empathetic rather than go on the defensive, the violence that has ensued has become just another event that highlights our differences and our polarization. And in the wake of everything else that divides us, it’s worrying.

We’re three months into a pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans and put tens of millions of people out of work. The initial outpouring of support for health care workers and sympathy for the unemployed has given way to protests of the lockdown and virtue signaling over staying at home. People who worry about the economic crisis are mocked as selfish for “just wanting haircuts.” And some people see simple requests—like wearing a mask—as an affront to their freedom. 

The same fractures are happening now in regards to these protests. Instead of having a normal debate over what amount of police and National Guard presence are sufficient to keep demonstrations peaceful and keep people safe, we have the president holding a press conference to threaten widespread military deployment and staging a photo-op that required the clearing of a peaceful protest. And, on the other side, we have woke staffers at the New York Times protesting the publication of an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton by staging virtual walkouts and calling the piece “fascist.” 

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