While the official anniversary of George Floyd’s death was May 25, many will remember that it was also Memorial Day.
That’s fitting since one consequence of the first Civil War was the creation of Memorial Day. In many ways, Floyd’s death can be seen as the official beginning of the Second Civil War. Like the attack on Ft. Sumter 160 years ago, his murder galvanized Americans, causing them to think harder about where this nation has fallen short of its founding aspirations and which solutions may be in order.
After one year, it is time to assess how this second war is going. Unfortunately, the answer is not well, unless you are a member of a drug cartel or gang. Most Americans are still choosing sides.
First, the nation has seen a huge increase in violent crime. Minneapolis, which is at the epicenter, has seen a doubling of its homicide rate. Things are so bad, that at the on-site anniversary observance of Floyd’s death in south Minneapolis, 30 gunshots rang out as onlookers ran for cover.
So far this year, 19 Minneapolis children have been shot, a 171% increase over 2020. Political leaders at every level — city, state and federal — remain focused on police reform, even as the carnage escalates. Democrats want kinder, gentler law enforcement; Republicans believe criminals should be punished for breaking the law. At heart is a fundamental disagreement about human nature and what will motivate bad actors to behave.
The thought here is that by the time individuals are involved in carjackings, drive-by shootings and selling drugs, so much has gone wrong in their lives that incarceration may be the only alternative. Social workers can be sent in to try to undo the damage, but it may take months or years to make the individual a productive, law-abiding individual. Meanwhile, the public remains in peril.
Regardless, our leaders continue to plow ahead with trying to reform policing. Floyd’s killer, Derek Chauvin, will be sentenced in a few weeks and put away for 20 or 30 years. If that’s not enough, the federal government has brought charges against Chauvin for violating Floyd’s civil rights. That seems like unconstitutional double jeopardy. The civil rights of all murder victims are violated, but only a few murderers are charged with this crime. Lady Justice appears to have been peeking from under the blindfold.
Meanwhile, law enforcement personnel are increasingly leaving the profession, or at least their current jurisdiction, because they think political leaders are unsupportive or don’t understand their experiences in the trenches. More than 200 officers left the Minneapolis Police Department in the eight months after Floyd’s death, and recruitment of new officers has been difficult. Paying the price have been predominantly Black communities, with the gangs becoming ever bolder.
Prosecution of last summer’s rioters and looters has not been nearly as vigorous as the prosecution of the Jan. 6 rioters at the U.S. Capitol. Instead, Progressives call for the police to stop using rubber bullets and tear gas to prevent rioters from destroying and looting more buildings.
Democrat state legislators and members of Congress have been pushing for police reform that includes ending no-knock warrants. This is because occasionally police inexcusably enter the wrong home or in the confusion shoot an innocent person. Such was the case with Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville, Ky., police 10 weeks before Floyd’s murder.
However, eliminating no-knocks would be a big win for the drug cartels, since no-knocks are used in order to preserve evidence that otherwise would be flushed down the toilet while the police wait to enter.
Brooklyn Center, in the wake of the police killing of Daunte Wright, wants to disarm traffic cops. What would police do if they came upon someone wanted for other offenses, like Wright, or why anyone would pay their license tab fees or even bother to stop are unanswered questions.
In addition, with progressives still calling for defunding law enforcement, selective enforcement of existing law continues to grow. Sanctuary cities, the renewed flood of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border, the growing conflict between state and federal laws on recreational marijuana all undermine the legitimacy of our self-government. Americans can’t seem to decide whether the police should be defunded or given the resources to do their jobs pro-actively.
Second, the idea that people should be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin, has been overrun by the Left demanding justice for all the times in the past 300 years when that did not occur. Social studies will no longer be used to teach the basic facts of our history, but selective facts will be used to show how awful this nation is. Standardized college entrance exams will no longer be used because we have allowed public schools, particularly in inner cities, to demand less academic rigor. Discrimination against high-achieving Asian Americans by elite universities is OK’d in the name of racial diversity.
Is it any wonder then that attacks on Jews, Muslims, Asians, Whites, Blacks, Native Americans or anybody who seems remotely unlike whatever group one comes from are on the rise? Can anyone be faulted then for thinking the nation is becoming more racist, not less, daily?
On to Year Two.
Tom West, now retired, is the former general manager of this paper. Reach him at email@example.com.