In the the wake of Mr. George Floyd's brutal murder, the United States of America suddenly had something monumental at the forefront of its dissonant mind; the protests and the unrest that burgeoned across the country, and tellingly, across the world, simply said, "Enough, is enough."
In the first day or two, television news personnel were at a loss for words to describe what they were seeing; indeed, reporters on the ground seemed much more composed and ready to speak than those in the studio, which, at first glance, seems backwards. However, at some point or another, the studio personnel regained their composure and they then began to frame the actions that we were all seeing. And, in a reaction that is as American as apple pie, the media's viewpoint soon became that of everybody else's, as this perspective made its way across various social media platforms and into the minds of many who were dying for post factum air.
To be fair to the news media, their role in America has been to offer warning and, simultaneously, some sense of calm and safety for their viewers. While the protests initially caught them flat-footed, they quickly righted themselves by choosing the moral route to assuage their and their viewers horror. They essentially said, "Here's how you can look at this, America." Distinctions began being made between the "looters" and the "peaceful protesters," and the term "rioters" also came about.
The protests and the unrest that burgeoned across the country, and tellingly, across the world, simply said, "Enough, is enough."
Without overtly stating it, it is safe to say that as sentient beings, we are all mostly aware of the connotations that accompany each of these terms. Since we generally see ourselves as ones who know right from wrong, we did not reject the proffered narrative of morality, thus making this the vantage point that many people were comfortable discussing, and eventually, aligning themselves with.
Many of us subliminally knew not to defend "stealing." Thus, an opportunity to criticize the movement arose in all who chose the moral route. Protestors that were looting became a source of embarrassment for many, and it became easy and even, necessary for us to reject and deplore their behavior. It was the only way that we could right our troubled souls.
Indeed, with this tactic, the news media was able to accomplish its goal; it offered examples of the reprehensible/dangerous behavior in the community, while allowing viewers a chance to distance themselves from it. Viewers were able to continue to psychologically moisten the construct of "those people," while freely selecting the images to accompany such a narrative. The deplorable behavior was of "the other," and not of "the self," which is important in continuing the dichotomy of superiority and inferiority.
Those whom ascribed to the moral stance possibly did so reflexively, as it offered a sense of psychological safety and it helped them to quickly distinguish themselves from what they were seeing en masse. Additionally, it allowed them to safely create an anti-movement—a widely accepted narrative against the protestors. As a society, the looters lose their voices with us; we consider their actions shameful, indefensible and wrong. We deem it unhelpful, destructive and commonplace. Their feelings become ignored and second-place to our reaction to their deeds.
If we are able to rightly dissect today's unrest, we may accept the idea that many people, in and out of America, are and have been (to put it mildly) dissatisfied with this society due to its inequality, its racism, and its selective mutism.
We have now successfully contributed to the notion that these protestors had these negative inclinations heretofore, and that they are just shameful opportunists. Essentially, "They had it in them all along," is their character. Naturally, we would want justice against them and we should certainly isolate them as unacceptable, given that their behavior is unacceptable. Then, whomever is against them must, by default, be the accepted: the righteous. Thus, America and certain Americans are able to maintain the semblance of an upstanding and morally upright society by neatly ejecting a subset of society. People are now able to highlight their superiority by vehemently and publicly denouncing the looting, while successfully describing these individuals as primitive, and both culturally and intellectually backward. They are unlearned, uneducated, and uncivilized: un-American.
Because we have falsely equated economic and technological advancement with societal advancement, we wrongly view civil unrest and disobedience as a step backward. We neglect to realize that societal advancement only comes when societal standards and morals are consistently and comprehensively applied. Then, considering its most basic principles of equal rights and justice for all, American society has not advanced at all. If we are able to rightly dissect today's unrest, we may accept the idea that many people, in and out of America, are and have been (to put it mildly) dissatisfied with this society due to its inequality, its racism, and its selective mutism. The civil unrest is a direct result of the misapplication of our governing principles, as the prostrated governed seeks to apply the laws and morals that form the structure of our society. Efforts to advance this society have been stymied, derailed and piecemeal at best, which limits the options that people feel are available to them to conquer it. Naturally, violence, civil disobedience and unrest are inevitable in such situations--i.e., given the evasive response thus far--and it is insensitive, insulting and abject to ignore such fact.
The deplorable behavior was of "the other," and not of "the self," which is important in continuing the dichotomy of superiority and inferiority.
Indeed, America has been a society of moving constructs — or unyielding ones depending on your vantage point. Inconsistent ideals along with racially-applied practices across this society has caused outrage and, as an individual, it is not unusual to violently and vehemently reject something so wholly unjust when it arrives at your doorstep time and time again. Bluntly put, the function of the protesting behavior is to explicitly state, "I am indiscriminately rejecting your rules, regulations, and laws because of their partiality that is unjust and harmful to me and mine." Given these truths, one must be forced to acknowledge that the American society, and consequently, its export to other societies, is in such throes because of a lack of advancement. This society's judgment of behavior has lost importance to many of its citizens because the society has consistently demonstrated an unwillingness to adhere to its own moral stance indiscriminately, thereby losing its moral authority to some.
Resultantly, protesters are instinctively seeking to advance their own moral code--i.e., the moral code that the governing body has since refused implement--which they have now deemed to be superior to that of the governing body, simply based on its ideals and its inactions that have failed uphold them. Simply put, they are seeking a transference of power because the ones in power are failing to uphold the morality of the society that many desperately want to accept. However, these moral underpinnings of protestors is largely ignored and instead, they are denigrated and encouraged to separate themselves from each other, even as viewers separate themselves from them--and judgment by the larger, albeit inept society, is promulgated and misapplied.
Thus, America and certain Americans are able to maintain the semblance of an upstanding and morally upright society.
It is no surprise that this article started with the vicious murder of Mr. George Floyd and it is now dealing with the "looting." To be clear, I do think that it is possible for people to try to take advantage of this important and impactful movement that is aimed at advancing our society. I do think that a select few individuals, especially as the days went by, took this moment as an opportunity to capitalize on the chaos and to seize opportunities to break, enter, and pilfer. Yet, one must ask oneself, what is the purpose of any narrative that focuses on dividing and condemning protestors, rather than on the needed change that so many risked their lives and their liberty to seek?
Regardless of each individual intention, it is destructive to morality to ignore the fact that the collective purpose of the civil unrest was and is to expressly reject a racist and murderous society, and to forcefully demand it to abandon its ways. Certainly, this is a message that everyone can get around. Indeed, it is imperative that we do.
WRITTEN BYOdetta A Fraser