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Death, Destruction, and Double Standards

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Mike Stewart

George Floyd’s tragic death, without question, sprang from egregious and unjustified police misconduct. Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin did not protect or serve anyone, nor any noble purpose, by jamming his knee onto a non-resistant man’s carotid artery. His all-too-passive fellow officers shared in his crime. Unless you consider your own mortal stock worth less than $20  (the amount of the counterfeit bill that Floyd allegedly tried to spend), then you, too, should feel repulsed by these cops’ totalitarian display. 


That said, there seems to be a growing, greatly consequential misconception that self-harm is a sort of cathartic justice. While thousands of impassioned Americans took peacefully to the streets nationwide to express their grievances about Floyd’s abuse, this pacifism was (and still is) far from universal. 

Click on the news, and your battle-weary eyes soon will be exposed to 2020’s newest layer of calamity. In cities across our great nation, buildings are ablaze, and cars are the new trampolines. To expose and rectify the fatal misdeeds of a murderous thug in Chauvin, these knee-jerk “avengers” themselves have turned to thuggery. 

In the six days that have transpired since Floyd’s untimely demise, this has happened: the Minneapolis Police Department fired all of the officers involved, authorities arrested Chauvin and charged him with murder, and federal officials launched a civil-rights investigation -- an indication that justice is being pursued and will be delivered at the highest level. These major steps in the right direction signify the national consensus of disgust with the disgraced officers’ misbehavior. Razing the nearest Target store shows just how off-target these vandals are in their response. Likewise, smashing the windows of local businesses within their own community smashes their own credibility even worse.     


“Waking up this morning to see Minneapolis on fire would be something that would devastate Floyd. Floyd was a gentle giant,” his longtime girlfriend, Courtney Ross, told the Star Tribune. “He was about love and about peace." If Ross can speak with such gravity and poise just days after losing her beloved partner of three years, so, too, should those who did not know him before news broke of his grave misfortune. 

If Ross’ words are to be taken seriously, then the best way to respect Floyd’s memory is to rise above the temptation to create further unrest and chaos. Justice will not be found in the embers of a burning storefront, within an empty cash register, or among the shattered remnants of a bashed-in windshield. It will be found in unanimous calls for betterment; in donating to relevant and constructive causes; in treating one’s fellow humans with common decency. 

In promoting this outlook, it’s crucial to acknowledge those who are trying actively to improve their community, rather than immolate it. The model citizens are the droves of Minnesotans who gathered to clean up the city post-mayhem. They are the 26,000 Americans who donated nearly $800,000 (a total that still rises steadily above the initial $100,000 goal) to revive Minneapolis firefighter K.B. Balla’s dream of opening a sports bar -- a dream that otherwise would have been lost in the wreckage of violent dissent. They are those who, despite their pent-up frustration and sorrow, countered Chauvin’s barbarism by demonstrating peacefully. 


When Derek Chauvin and his colleagues went low, these folks went high, setting a standard that warrants deeper recognition -- recognition which the mainstream media should feel obligated to present to their audiences. If justice and social reflection are truly the goals, throw water, not gasoline.       


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