Vandalism, screamed the newspapers, will not be tolerated. They will pay for this.
So said the London press in 1774 reporting about the Boston Tea Party. And we did pay for it through heavy taxation. Two years later it was Great Britain who paid even more beginning with the Revolutionary War.
Uprisings are not tidy. They are reckless, sometimes given to excess and, at times, self-defeating. The Sons of Liberty, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who organized the dumping of tea into Boston Harbor are now considered patriots. If you would like a cup of tea I wouldn’t advise dipping into those waters though one of the 342 cases is now in a museum commemorating that act of looting.
Torching buildings and stealing merchandise is indefensible. I do not condone it. It is the red meat over which Fox News salivates to make the lead story. Bad optics. It is even tragic for small businesses who have already been devastated by the virus shutdown. Even the L.A. Times made looting the headline after Sunday’s widespread, largely peaceful, gatherings around the country and even in European cities.
It is unclear to me whether the bad guys are gang members exploiting the situation or White Nationalists who have infiltrated into the protest movement in order to provoke ill will. Or is this an expression of rage from a lifetime of abuse and inequality. Whether calculated or not the wanton destruction strikes at the heart of White dominant society, property rights. It is a symbolic act, however doomed, of redressing income inequality.
The upheaval we are witnessing is meant to have Liberals squirm out of our comfort zone. It takes that sort of jarring disquiet to reexamine our values. If fear has been generated it is cousin to the fear Black and Brown people live with every day of their lives. If traffic is halted so be it. If the marchers disrupt our lives it is the same disruption Susan B Anthony and the other Suffragettes caused in their decades-long battle for the vote.
This has got to be more than a teachable moment. It must be translated into legislation which changes the culture of policing and addresses the virus called Racism. We have been rendered ignorant of our own history. Our morality has been warped. We have accepted the privileges of domination and even elected a president who lives by that creed. Our belief in the primacy of property rights goes back to our nation’s inception when slaves were regarded as property.
As for income inequality systemic shifts are long overdue. The wealth of our nation must become the Commonweal to be shared more equitably. This includes access to guaranteed healthcare, housing and education. It may take an insurrection but it shall happen if this country is to survive.
In the meantime have a cup of tea. It may or may not have been looted; if not from our mother country then from the underclass in Indonesia or India. We are a mere 4% of the world’s population gobbling up 30% of its goods. There is reason to squirm. In another thirty years Asians and Africans will comprise 80% of the world population. It is time for us to wake up.