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Anger, Hope, and A Man Named George

By: Jefferson Weaver

I have no doubt that George Floyd was murdered.

I have no doubt that there are bad law enforcement officers.

I also know that the majority of people behind the badge are not bigots.

I know there are still problems with race relations in our society, although we should be decades past that,  there are true issues—and there are cynical politicians who love fanning the flames of victimhood for their own benefit.

I thought about those problems and so much more over the past week, as we watched a rogue cop kill a man by kneeling on his neck. I was angry, upset, fearful, and furious. From the first time I saw that footage, I prayed both for the victim and his killer, I prayed for the city those men shared, and for our country. I prayed people wouldn’t get take advantage of it for evil.

Sadly, that last prayer was not answered the way I hoped.

For just over a day, our country was united behind the calm voices in Minneapolis and elsewhere. We heard the ones who begged for the rift between law enforcement and minorities to be repaired. The ones who don’t want their children to have to fear a blue light. The ones who know we as Americans are better than the occasional rogue cop, criminal, or militant of any color.

Then people started throwing fire in the Twin Cities. Then others did the same in other cities. Everybody forgot a man from North Carolina who was down on his luck due to the pandemic, a man who even if he did commit the offense of which he was accused, didn’t deserve to be murdered. He became the third or fourth sentence in most stories, and almost passing reference.

The criminals who take advantage of every historic moment moved in, burning, looting, destroying, and justifying their actions by claiming they were against racism. They drowned out the narrative that needed to be heard, and instead of helping heal a wound, as the true protesters want to do, they ripped off the bandage and poured salt into it.

George Floyd was forgotten for televisions and selfies in front of burning buildings. He was replaced in the news broadcasts by people screaming “F— 12,” a slang term for law enforcement.  The story of a man who likely could have been your neighbor or mine was forgotten as people set aside the Bible and picked up copies of Alinsky and the Anarchist Cookbook.

I thought about all this Sunday as I made a run back into Whiteville, having forgotten a fairly major Saturday errand. There were flatbed trailers parked around the courthouse, blocking the parking lots, so the rumored bands of roving thugs – as opposed to the peaceful protestors – wouldn’t have a place to stop.

I thought about the rumors that the Ethereal, All-Knowing They were so gleefully spreading, complete with screenshots from social media showing people with guns and bottles of gasoline and concrete-filled milkshake cups. Those Chicken Littles are as bad as the rioters.

I thought about the folks I know who have done everything in their power to fight hurricanes and then the COVID-19 shut down – and now they were facing the possibility of looters destroying their hard work.

I thought about the flags proudly flying downtown, like they are in many communities, and how rather than being a display of patriotism and honor from Memorial Day, they could be awfully tempting to a punk with a cigarette lighter and a social media following. I thought about the men I saw openly wearing firearms as they stood guard over a business.

I thought about those who will never let a crisis go to waste, whether it’s to frighten people into voting the right way, support a highly-profitable non-profit, or to gain some petty vengeance for a real or perceived wrong. I thought about the type of hatred that drives some people to the point they will beat up an elderly lady in a wheelchair, or destroy a business that creates jobs and hope in their own community.

I thought about the couple of small-scale riots I’ve experienced (once or twice as a reporter, once as an armed homeowner standing on his porch with a shotgun and a dog and my bride on overwatch from an upstairs window.)

I thought about all these things, and I became angry.
I was angry for the federal security officer killed in California; the dozens of officers hurt in New York and elsewhere; the police horse that was injured by a brick in Texas; and the little kid knocked off his bicycle by black-masked thugs in Chicago.

I was angry for the business owners who have worked so hard to restore downtowns like Raleigh and Fayetteville and angry at those who have the audacity to claim racial prejudice as they steal televisions, liquor, and guns from chain stores.

I was angry as I thought about the bad LEOs I have met and written about, even covering a trail or two when they went far enough to be arrested. I was angry for the other officers I know, dedicated men and women of at least four races and three different cultural backgrounds, and the things I have seen them go through for an often-unappreciative public that still expects 911 to be answered before the phone rings. Those officers are the ones caught in the middle of this, yet they go on. I don’t know that I could do it.

I thought about all that and more, and I admit, I wanted to cry.

We are better than this.

I am not going to bore you with proof that I am not a bigot, or that I have no tolerance for bigotry. Those defenses always come across as a desperate white person’s explanations to me, and they seem fake. Like my faith, I want my witness to be seen more than heard. I don’t number my “black” friends and my “Indian” friends and my “Asian” friends. I just have friends.

We don’t always agree on everything. Indeed, sometimes we vehemently disagree. But if it came down to brass tacks, we know we have each other’s backs.

Not because we are all brothers in Christ, or all Southerners, or all the same age. We aren’t all of the same mold. We are friends because we are friends, as simplistic as that might seem. I ain’t sure why it has to be more complicated.

I was angry – but then I saw some hope.

I spent around an hour in a meeting Sunday night as people from all walks of life came together digitally to talk about a way to stand for race relations, while still preventing the madness and anarchy that has no place in our community. I came out of that meeting feeling better. What started as one man’s desire to symbolically march for justice turned into a community prayer event.

A short time later, I saw clips of other protests, where peaceful protestors pushed back at those who shouted obscenities and tried to fight. I saw law enforcement officers and emergency personnel kneeling and praying with protestors. I saw a video of people with brooms and trash cans trying to make Minneapolis look less like Mogadishu.

I saw the photos of a police officer who was being shielded by the true protestors after he was ganged up on by the anarchist punks.

Despite the fact that there is still a lot of inexcusable behavior, I am still hopeful. That doesn’t mean I am locking the gun cabinet. It just means I know we can be better.

I know God has this. I don’t like the way the narrative has been forced since I am still naive enough to believe in people being honest and mature when it comes to conversations about tough topics, but I want us to work together on this problem. That means no name-calling, no gas bombs, no blanket condemnations of any occupation or race or religion. It means everyone has to respect and obey the law. It means people being willing to come together for a common good and to shove aside a common enemy.

We can do this. I know we can. We can make George Floyd’s name push the idiots and the anarchists and the social media showoffs out of the headlines, and let him be the reason things get better.

We can do this. We’re Americans.

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