Is an epidemic of fear replacing the pandemic of COVID-19?

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

Photo by Simon Watkinson on Unsplash

Editor’s note: We are so fortunate to be living here in Indian River County. COVID-19 cases are declining and there are no riots, only peaceful protests. Rarely if ever do we hear of police violence against minorities. Yes, we have the usual political differences, but they seem to be limited to unfriending someone on Facebook. We all strive to make our community better. However, that does not seem to be the case in much of the country. The following editorial is directed at them and I hope it is from all of us here in Indian River County.

In the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Today his words still apply. In the year 2020, we have every right to fear COVID-19 and the next hurricane. But we never expected to fear each other.

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer ignited the Black Lives Matter movement. It became an international protest against police brutality and seemed to inspire serious change in our nation’s attitude towards racism.

But then what began as a straightforward, single issue has become a political battleground, in which protests have become synonymous with violence. We are still sorting out whether peaceful protesters are the source of violence or is it caused by the animosity between the right and left views of our society.

Fear is unquestionably a great motivator and we hate to see it directed at fellow Americans simply because they back one party versus another. Democrats fear if Donald Trump is reelected, our democracy will end up like a Russian “democracy.” Republicans fear that if Joe Biden wins, our country will be rife with violence. The irony there is that the violence everyone fears is happening right now during Donald Trump’s presidency.

That brings us back to Black Lives Matter. The violence toward George Floyd that sparked the movement was not an isolated incident – it was the latest in a long series of incidents that reeked of police on black violence that has always existed in this country. But the Floyd incident was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. With public sentiment now squarely in support of police reform, it is incredible that so many similar incidents of police employing deadly force against black citizens have occurred since then, each of them arousing similar protests and more violence.

But somehow, BLM has slipped into the background as the issue now is violent protests, not what caused them.

Certainly, we cannot generalize that all police are racist any more than all blacks are criminals. Police violence against minorities can be eliminated with better recruitment and training. Black crime can be eliminated with better education, healthcare and job opportunities. Neither will happen without the full support of our government and the people who elect them. If we don’t take action to solve these problems, fear will continue to prevail as it is today.

 

 

One comment

  1. Hi Milt.

    I’m going to touch on just one aspect of your otherwise upbeat piece.

    You refer to our need for better police recruitment and training, and I agree.

    The problem we’re facing now across small town America is that few young people have any interest in law enforcement as a career, and of those few that do apply for and get the gig, on average, they stay on the job for under five years.

    The City of Vero’s Police Department is always running an ad for new officers— $21 an hour.

    Thanks. Nick.

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