I was down with a migraine for most of the weekend. It wasn’t one of the blinding, don’t move, even thinking hurts my father used to get. But it kept me pretty sedentary for Saturday and a good bit of Sunday.
One of my problems is, when I’m down with something, I tend to turn to the internet for some level of entertainment. This weekend, social media, news sites – heck, just about the whole thing was taken up with protests going on around the country and around the world surrounding the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd.
I saw all manner of things, captured on news footage, still images and cellphone videos. I read all kinds of news stories, social media posts and more, talking about what’s happening in this country and this world today.
I saw and read reports of people going out of their way to be kind, to do the right thing, to step up and be counted and share their anger and frustration in positive ways. There’s the sheriff who, when he and his deputies encountered a group of protestors, didn’t react with hostility.
Chris Swanson, sheriff of Genesee County – the Michigan county that includes Flint – put down his riot gear, told his deputies to do the same and asked a simple question.
“What do you need from us?” Swanson asked.
The crowd responded, “Walk with us.”
And that’s what Swanson did. That’s policing. That’s leadership.
Contrast that with police and National Guard members in Minneapolis on Saturday, who fired “non-lethal” ammunition at a group. Not a group of protestors. A group of people, on the front porch of their home, peacefully watching the officers and Guardsmen marching down the middle of their street.
Then there’s the group of protestors who put their own bodies between a business and another group, bent on looting the store. With shouts of “No,” those individuals saved that business and prevented their compatriots of devolving into a mob.
Or another group of protestors who, when an officer got separated from his unit in a crowd, was encircled the group – not to attack, harass or injure him. Again, they used their own bodies to protect him, linking arms to keep him separated – and safe.
It both gladdens and breaks my heart – what has this world come to? Anger, frustration, a feeling of being powerless – all these and more can drive people to extremes, turn them from a group of people into a mob.
But when people on all sides of the political spectrum seem to be inciting rather than calming, shouting rather than listening, using hateful rhetoric instead of listening to valid, heartfelt concerns, there’s just something wrong.
I’m left with no answers; only questions. But I’m also left – thankfully – with the image of Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, saying to the crowd, “I want to make this a parade, not a protest.”
That gives me what little hope I have left for this world.