Opinion

It’s all too much

Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed in Georgia. A former police officer and his son have been accused in the killing. (Family photo)

I don’t know about you, but I’m just about done.

This whole lockdown/COVID-19 experience has been draining, stressful and overarchingly tragic from the get-go, but lately it’s been getting worse.

The number of deaths at this point is inconceivable. The sheer incompetence of the American response is even more inconceivable. The U.S. and South Korea had their first coronavirus cases at about the same time, but South Korea has had fewer than 300 deaths to date, while we’re at over 77,000. Yes, the U.S. has six times the population of South Korea, but adjusted for population, our death rate is a staggering 45 times higher than South Korea’s. It’s mind boggling. The fact that the U.S. bungled the response so badly is an indictment of our entire system. We’ve failed on every level. The people who built this country before us would be ashamed.

People were packed together cheek-by-jowl, and the only people wearing masks were journalists covering the story, or cops.

I’ve been trying to maintain a positive attitude, a ‘we can get through this’ stance. I know that sooner or later, we’ll get past this, and that as long as you and I and the people we love don’t die or get horrifically sick, we’ll be okay in the end. I’ve really tried to keep that top-of-mind.

Then last week I went over to the Capitol for work to cover protests — organized by anti-vaccination forces — against the lockdown.

I had barely left the house in two months, so being out in the world was strange enough.

But being out among a flood of entitled, ignorant, angry people was deeply depressing. People were packed together cheek-by-jowl, and the only people wearing masks were journalists covering the story, or cops. The stupidity was palpable.

The demonstrators were overwhelmingly white, probably two-thirds of them male — many of them State-of-Jefferson types, with many, many wearing MAGA hats. And they came to protest a policy designed specifically to keep them from accidentally killing each other through ignorance.

What’s going to happen to the musicians, the actors, the dancers, the playwrights, the DJs, the sound techs, the lighting people, the booking agents, and the venues themselves?

Just days before, a video surfaced of a hulking Rancho Cordova police officer beating up a tiny 14-year-old black youth. The images quickly went viral, and the story got worse the more that came out — the boy was beaten because he was underage and had a cigarette. A cigarette!

The Sacramento region is (rightly) becoming known as the West Coast HQ for the use of excessive police force against Black men, so this was not at all surprising. But that doesn’t make it any less depressing. That at least the boy lived is the ‘good news’ is also depressing.

This week we’ve had devastating economic news. Restaurants are closing. Huge retailers are closing. Quirky, arty shops that have thrived for years are closing. And I don’t even want to think about the music scene: It’s been heartbreaking to watch as several of my favorite musicians have begun selling off their record collections because they haven’t worked in two months  and have no jobs in sight.

What is it going to take to give Black/Brown people the equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that white Americans take as their birthright?

What’s going to happen to the musicians, the actors, the dancers, the playwrights, the DJs, the sound techs, the lighting people, the booking agents, and the venues themselves? How many will be left when all this is over?

But the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder was the last straw.

I know that this country was founded on racism and white supremacy (keep in mind that language identifying a Black person as three-fifths of a white person was in the Constitution before the Bill of Rights was) but when will we stop? What is it going to take to give Black/Brown people the equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that white Americans take as their birthright?

And, let’s be clear — this is not just about “The South.” Yes, Arbery was killed by men in Georgia, but that cop in Rancho Cordova is just as much a part of that same corrupt white-supremacist system. The protester with the Confederate flag I took photos of in front of the Capitol last week is part of it. The Proud Boys (aka “Nazi-Lite”) who confronted my friend Karlos in Sacramento last week for being Brown are part of it. The Michigan senator wearing a confederate flag mask on the floor of the Senate last month is part of it. There are literally a million more examples. No, correct that: millions more examples.

So, pardon me for being a bummer. I generally try to look on the bright side and be a booster — I think that’s a better way of effecting positive change.

But I’m tired. I’m tired of watching my friends struggle with the effects of the pandemic, I’m tired of listening to ignorant, entitled people spread obvious disinformation, I’m tired of watching Black people get treated like shit in the country that they — maybe more than anyone — built, and I’m tired of pretending that it’s all okay. I’m just tired.

Today would have been Ahmaud Arbery’s 26th birthday.

Say his name.

Ed’s Note Tim Foster is the executive director of Open California, the publisher of Capitol Weekly.


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