Escondido, CA

How did we suppose it would all pan out?

Did we really think the volatile mix of young men and women deprived of making a living for more than two months—with all physical forms of recreation and entertainment snatched away, except for  alcohol and pot and, of course no church or youth meetings. Did we think that wouldn’t eventually fly to pieces?

Back in the 1960s they used to call it “the long hot summer.”  This time it arrived early. It’s like something out of “The Purge” films, except that it’s not confined to just a single night of anarchy.

Some social scientists call the explosive flesh-eating rot tearing our cities apart this week social unrest. Might as well call a tank of starving piranhas straining against the glass as a live mouse is dangled in front of them “piscine unrest.” Better not call it what it is. 

History engages in ironies. What could be more ironic than thousands assembling peacefully in cities across the country to pray and mourn the almost execution style death of a black man under the color of law by a particularly evil police officer? 

Only to have those exercising their sacred First Amendment rights polluted by hundreds of thugs burning down innocent business owners’ livelihoods, and in some cases causing death—all in the name of fighting a great injustice. Or for some, in the name of getting new flat screen TVs, Gameboys or looting drugs from a pharmacy. That’s at least five people dead in case you’re counting. 

Having those mourning George Floyd’s death mentioned in the same sentence as the destroyers of lives and property is sacrilege. Moreover, in some locations, such as New York City, the looting is being conducted in an organized, almost military way, coordinated using Facebook. How is that a protest of Floyd’s death?

As Shakespeare wrote: “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.” Doubtless no one would have heard of George Floyd if he hadn’t been murdered in so public a way. He might have gone through life happily passing 20 dollar counterfeit bills without suffering harm. But now someday historians will have to decide whether to call the year 2020 after Covid-19, Donald Trump, SpaceX or George Floyd. Or maybe, considering who is doing what to whom: The Year of the Rats.

Can anyone doubt that this spring’s protests would not have reached this week’s fever pitch without the toxic atmosphere created by the nationwide coronavirus lockdown—which had only just been loosened slightly when the killing happened? If the murder on video had occurred six months ago there would have been outrage, tears and protests, but on this scale? I doubt it. This is as much the pent up release of steam and frustration by thousands of mostly young people finally freed after three months as it is an expression of outrage at an injustice.

It’s something to do on a Saturday night. Unlike congregating at the beach, you won’t get charged with violating social distancing laws. You might get charged with throwing bottles filled with gasoline at police but you’ll probably escape into the night first.

I am sure church parishioners banned from gathering closer than six feet from each other must see the irony of protesters pressed together mixing sweat and microbes unmolested. I’ve yet to see images of cops in military gear handing out citations for failing to practice social distancing.  

As is often the case, those who obey the law are victimized and those who flout it are excused—if not celebrated.

Floyd’s murder is an outrage. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Derek Chauvin, the cop who leaned on his neck until he died—strung up on a tree limb and his three accomplices whipped in much the same way that dozens of innocent by-standers have been lashed, beaten or robbed in the burning cities. They used to execute witches by piling slabs of rocks on them until they suffocated. How would you like that, Derek? Pretty appropriate, wouldn’t you say?

Of course, that won’t happen, nor should it, but if ever appropriate justice was, well, appropriate, it would be for these so-called police who provided the spark for our nationwide fire.

In Minneapolis police marching through a residential area like an occupying army gave a new meaning to “preserve and protect” when they fired rubber bullets at people who looked out their balconies or porches as the officers approached. “Light ‘em up!” ordered the officer in command as the residents were peppered with projectiles and driven inside. 

No doubt such actions made the residents feel very safe and secure.

Although San Diego County hasn’t been entirely free of this kind of stain, the City of Escondido, with its enlightened policies of community policing, is a bright example that others could learn from.

A different approach

In Escondido, by contrast, Police Chief Ed Varso should be praised for the attitude he and his department have taken about the public protests that took place here. The police set up a barricade to provide a safe space for the demonstrators to gather. That the demonstrators preferred to congregate across the street in front of a local convenience store in no way diminishes the police willingness to bend over backwards to support the demonstrators.

Chief Varso and one of his captains even took the opportunity to cross the street to where the demonstrators were and to “take the knee,” in symbolic support of their message.

On Monday I interviewed Chief Varso about his department and why an incident such as shocked the nation would never happen in Escondido. Check it out on the front page.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *