37. Finding the positive

Sunday May 31 2020

Last day of May.

March was awful, April worse. May leaves us with hope for better times in June, because I can’t bear the thought otherwise.

Organized protests are happening in cities all over the country, all to promote the awareness of police brutality against people of color. In Minneapolis, the riots continue with destruction to businesses and  a police station burned to the ground. And in Dayton yesterday, a peaceful protest downtown turned from waving signs and chanting to assaulting police, reckless driving in crowds, and property damage. And a lot of tear gas deployed.

The Dayton Police were at hand, of course. But turned to the neighboring cities to add to their numbers. I followed the reports throughout the day and things started off decent enough. Then a group of people marched down Wayne Avenue towards US 35. They were turned back by the police before they could get to the highway ramp. That’s when the mood shifted; the protesters started throwing rocks and water bottles at the cops. The tear gas came out and shit went downhill from there.

Later a group was turned away when they tried to get on I-75, intending to block highway traffic.

We watched a live news report in the evening and it was really unsettling to see riot unfold on our own turf. Not some other place with other people, but where I’ve worked and shopped and done so much historical research.

It was impressive seeing thousands of people on the sidewalks and streets, holding signs and shouting. Except for the COVID face masks, nothing unusual there, that’s the stuff of protests. Getting their voices collectively heard in a world where they want positive change. They were exercising their legal right to assembly and nobody was making a move to stop it.

Then some asshole tossed a metal city trashcan into the street, inciting some folk to advance towards a line of police, who were standing back, but ready to take action. With the recent history of what happened on Wayne Avenue a few hours earlier, the tear gas canisters were activated once again.

And then you’ve got the flying F word. Fuck the Police and Fuck You shouted over and over. One idiot ran into the smoke, grabbed an activated canister, and tossed it back at the police line. We’re watching all this live on my smartphone. Unreal.

This morning, I read news reports that the Victoria Theatre had sustained damage and a few other buildings, as well. Spray painted graffiti “ACAB” which I had to Google: “All cops are bastards.” The historic courthouse on Main Street, where Abraham Lincoln once gave a speech, is today sporting “Fuck Cops!” in blue paint. The owner of Lily’s Bistro in the Oregon District spent the day providing water to the protesters in support of their peaceful march. Her windows were broken before the evening was over. Other restaurants were vandalized as well, making things that much harder for them as they prepare to reopen after the sheltering-in-place mandate has been lifted.

This morning, the Dayton Police Chief announced fifteen arrests were made, with more expected as they get processed. About one third of those arrested were not from Dayton. The major stated “Unfortunately, what we are seeing are some people who may not be from our community who are coming to start problems and not here for the issue at hand.” Something I heard several times while watching the reports yesterday.  

Could have been worse, because things could always be worse. Injuries, but no deaths. Reports of gunshots, but turns out it was just an idiot who shot twice in the air then ran to hide in a business. Property damage, but no fires. Meanwhile in Columbus, they’ve called in the National Guard.

There was a commentary I read about the Minneapolis events that supported the riots, violence, and even the looting. Claiming it was all necessary to make a point. They said we need these things to happen to make a positive change in how we handle the racial division.

I don’t agree with this person’s point of view, but I tried to understand it. But honestly, I can’t. Especially after seeing the Target looting video, which included both whites and blacks as participants. There was no message about change there. That was raw opportunism and nothing else. Because look, there’s another divide here besides race. There are people who want to close the gap to achieve equal rights and there are those who want to watch the world burn. Destruction of the things the privileged care about gives these people power at a higher level they’ve not had before.   

Thanks to both the media and the way our brains work, we are pushed to a negativity bias. You know, it’s not just bad, it’s all really bad. Everybody who lives in a certain area are violent, other people over here are privileged and don’t care about anyone else, all cops are power hungry, if people look or act different, then they are enemies to each other.

The good gets ignored, right? If we’re doing things the right way, energies are turned to where the problems are. “Tell me a story where something positive happened yesterday,” you ask a friend. They pause and think for a moment. Then ask the opposite and you’ll likely get a quick response. Change the question to “something positive you heard in the news.”

We’re fed this negativity by the media. I’m guessing it’s driven by a ratings competition between professional news sources, but on social media it’s completely unregulated with mob mentality taking down unpopular viewpoints, twisting a thoughtful opinion into something the original poster didn’t even say.

I’m looking at photos posted of the results of last night’s destruction. Mostly broken windows, toppled trash cans, and lots of nasty graffiti. One photo shows a hole in an Optometrist’s glass door, two inches above a #DAYTONSTRONG sign. There were people carrying half-gallon cartons of milk, something else I had to Google. Apparently, milk helps with tear gas burns, especially when you pour it on someone’s eyes. These people were experienced and prepared.  

But as Mr. Rogers famously said, watch for the heroes. We also see people photographed as they’re cleaning up the broken glass, scrubbing graffiti, and righting the trash cans.

Name something positive that happened today? There you go.

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