‘Never deny, seldom affirm, always distinguish.’ We should dust off that old Jesuit adage in this season of riots and pillage.
It may not be quite as mellifluous as ‘persistent perversity provokes the patient pedagogue to produce particularly painful punishment’, but it does suit the case. The death in Minneapolis of George Floyd at the hands — or the knee — of now ex-cop Derek Chauvin was an outrageous abuse of police power.
It is right and just that Chauvin should be charged with third degree murder—homicide that is unintentional but nonetheless exhibits ‘a depraved mind, without regard for human life’. The fact that Chauvin has a history of complaints — and at least one previous incident of using fatal force — raises the ante. As far as I can tell from the evidence currently available, Chauvin seems to have been an equal opportunity brute. I have not read that he has a record of race-based abuse. Still, the fact that Floyd was black and Chauvin white guarantees that the incident be read in racial terms.
But this is where that admonition about making distinctions comes in. It is certainly understandable, indeed appropriate, that citizens concerned about police abuse and police accountability should demonstrate to express their outrage at the killing of George Floyd. It is even appropriate that demonstrations take place across the country, since the issue is not only a local Minneapolis concern.
What’s not appropriate, what in fact must be condemned in the strongest terms, is the violence, looting, and willful destruction of property that started in Minneapolis and has spread to many other cities, including New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Washington DC, and Los Angeles. So bad has it been that President Trump had to mobilize the National Guard to help keep order.
The media, at least the sensationalist pander-to-the-lowest-common denominator portion of the media, has only fed the beast, participating in the mêlée as much as they are reporting on it. (I think my favorite clip was of a reporter for MSNBC standing in front of a burning police station while assuring his viewers that the situation was ‘not generally speaking unruly’.)
The Dems, of course, are blaming Donald Trump for the chaos — Elizabeth Warren, for example, said he was ‘fanning the flames of racism & inciting violence against Black Americans’. And the NeverTrump fraternity — Dems by another name — have eagerly echoed that message. David Frum, for example, writes in the Atlantic that ‘Trump is the Looter.’ (‘You’d think Donald Trump would have more sympathy for looters,’ Frum begins, ‘being a looter himself.’)
In fact, the President knows that this is concession is wholly owned by the Democrats. They wail and try to blame him, Fox News, ‘the Right’. But from the very beginning Trump has condemned the looting and stood up for the rule of law. ‘The looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters,’ he said in a statement about the violence. ‘The family of George is entitled to justice and the people of Minnesota are entitled to live in safety. Law and order will prevail.’
Donald Trump is right about every piece of that. Floyd’s family — and Floyd himself — deserve justice. The people of Minnesota deserve to live in safety. What’s fanning the flames of violence and destruction are the forces of anarchy. The President summed it up in a tweet. ‘It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left,’ he said. ‘Don’t lay the blame on others!’ Sound advice.