Today, for the first time in a long time, I want to post something that’s a little optimistic. Living at ground zero in Brooklyn as I do, I don’t see these demonstrations as a shock to the system. While the looting is unfortunate, the police violence horrific, and DeBlasio’s meltdown pathetic, the protests themselves feel very cathartic in, to borrow Mattis’s weirdly apt word, a “wholesome” way.
It’s been a hellish three years, and an even more hellish three months. Something had to give way and it has. All of these documented examples of police violence that are surfacing—the old man in Buffalo yesterday, the girl they were kicking somewhere else, the journalists being clubbed in Brooklyn—have been a revelation to white America. They were to me. So were Trump’s and Cotton’s declarations of war.
It’s been more than fifty years since rioting broke out in Newark and spread across the country after the police beat a black taxi driver. The long hot summer of 1967 and then the student disturbances in 1968 felt like a terminal spasm of the liberal consensus–the end of the New Frontier and the Great Society. The unrest today feels more like a therapeutic blood-letting. A lot of terrible things can happen between now and November and they undoubtedly will. The pandemic has yet to peak; Trump has lots more mischief up his sleeve. But the boil has been lanced; maybe soon the fever will break too.