Floyd, Trump, and the End of Independent Thought

I don’t affiliate myself with either American political party. I find it strange that so many people’s beliefs happen to line up so well with their respective political parties that they indoctrinate themselves into the whole package and accept the label as a badge.

Is it miraculous that so many people have the same viewpoint, or is it more likely that a lot of people let their views be shaped into neat boxes?

I’ve thought about this for the last several years. And then two things happened.

1. Trump was elected.
2. George Floyd was murdered.

George Floyd: A Reason for Outrage

I’m sure most of you know by now that a black man, George Floyd, was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. There was video footage showing the officer’s knee on his neck as he kept saying, “I can’t breathe.” It’s horrifying, terrifying, heartbreaking, and infuriating.

The city was slow to arrest him. Way too slow. Outrage immediately swelled. This murder was on video, and no immediate arrest was made? What? Protests and riots broke out in the city, and soon did so in other cities.

The nation’s focus on the pandemic was quickly overshadowed by reignited racial tensions that go back many years. Have you noticed the clear political difference in how people responded to it?

  • Most Republicans mention the rioting and looting, deflecting discussion of race.
  • Most Democrats will mention racial injustice, deflecting discussion of riots.
  • Independent thinkers (who can be a member of either party) will talk about the nuances of all the issues.

With hundreds of millions of unique minds in America, how are we so predictable? Why don’t we have more nuanced views on things like the riots, their timing, the methods, and their justification before or after arrest? How do we reconcile justified outrage with criminal rioting? How far is too far? Does peaceful protesting even work?

And added to all of that, these crowds were not just black protestors, it was protestors of all races, interspersed with white anarchists and opportunistic looters. Some protested peacefully and others didn’t. It varied by city.

No one stance covers everything. No one stance envelops such a sensitive, complex series of events. But guess what we got? One default stance for each party.

Blind Adherence: The New American Way?

Our political system has turned into a divisive two-way cult. And like all cults, independent thinking is absent from it.

Pick a side and get ready to fight!

Can a person think that rioting is problematic and still support justice for George Floyd and cultural change in America?

The Democrat says: No way! You must only consider racism, and not pay any attention to its byproducts and their concerns.

Can a person support protests, demand racial justice, and admit that race issues exist systemically?

The Republican says: Not if they want to wear their MAGA hat today. They must label ALL protests as wild and criminal riots and divert attention away from racial issues.

The problem is, of course, that so many issues, including this one, are intricately nuanced and multi-faceted. And the party-specific canned responses really hurt our ability to even discuss these issues.

This divisive, closed-minded poison has infected our country, and increasingly so since Donald Trump took office. Whether you support him or not, love him or hate him, you can’t deny that he has divided our country. There is a greater divide now than I’ve ever seen or thought possible. And that has come at a great price.

The Death of Independent Thought

Dedicated soldiers in war maintain adherence to their side. To the death. Or in this case, to the death of independent thought.

Because Trump is divisive, and generates love/hate reactions, people have become afraid to think independently. I’m serious. People have gotten so extreme in their views out of loyalty to “their side” that they have lost the freedom of independent thought. Independent thought is too risky, especially for people who’ve built so much of their identity on their political views.

If a person hates Trump, their greatest fear is to say something supportive of him. They won’t say anything positive about any policy he’s made or thing he has said, even if it aligns with their views exactly, because that would mean supporting Trump in some capacity. In this war, that amounts to treason.

If a person loves Trump, their greatest fear is to say something that questions his decision-making, integrity, or behavior. Especially because they know so many people question his choices, they feel as if they must defend him at all costs. He is the president they’ve always wanted, and they can’t lose him. Any hint of disagreement or disapproval? Yep, that’s treason.

Even now, you’re likely trying to determine whose side I’m on, trying to read between the lines to determine what I really think. Because everyone is so divided, we forget it’s possible to have a nuanced, human view of things. This is political war, there are only two sides, and Sweden isn’t invited!

It’s been all or nothing on both sides for a while now, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing with George Floyd and the aftermath. This is especially sad and shocking to me, because it’s obfuscating problems and preventing unity.

Riots and Justice: My Take

Before the arrest was made, I was outraged. This man committed a heinous crime. Lock him up right now! People started to protest, and some riots broke out. I viewed the riots before his arrest differently than the ones after it. Not arresting this man immediately was unacceptable.

Then he was arrested and charged with murder. Finally. It took longer than it should have, but it was the first step towards justice! And yet, rioting continued. Not just protesting, but the destruction of private property. And this is where I jumped off the wagon to reconsider things.

Why were we still rioting after justice started being served?

But then a reader made me wonder: has it actually been served? He pointed out that the other officers haven’t yet been arrested. Should I jump back on the rage wagon or hope for further justice? Are peaceful protests enough to get the point across? Are the riots now because of the unarrested officers? Or is it just pure anger being expressed? Or both? Who’s to say? It’s complicated. Really complicated.

We should be able to talk about systemic racism in the country. We should talk about what protests mean, and if, why, and how they turn into riots, and whether or not it’s ever justified and why or why not. We should talk about the best ways to enact change if protests don’t work and riots are off limits.

The other officers were clearly complicit. And as of June 1st, that’s an unpunished crime. But the riots, while a strong message, are an imprecise message and damaging to local communities and innocent businesses. They can attract those looters and anarchists, too.

Do you see the nuances? There are about 10 to 15 individual issues you could swing either way on as a human being. These are not easy questions to answer. There’s nothing obvious about any of this, but if you talk to a soldier from either party, they’ll tell you exactly how everything should be, what’s right and wrong, and more. They know. And somehow, the answer is exactly the same across party lines, as if they had a meeting and collectively decided their argument. That is disgusting, because this situation deserves more thought about humanity and less political posturing.

Justice Is the Way Forward

It is my view that justice is the answer for all crimes, racist or otherwise. It is absolutely the answer for racial injustice. One can point to systemic racial problems in the police force with enough examples to make a real case. So how can it be fixed? With swift and brutal justice to all offenders.

Law is the great equalizer.

You cannot stop crime completely. If we could, we would have done it by now. The same goes for racism and racist crime. It will always exist, but how can we respond? How can we reduce it?

America right now is screaming the correct answer (albeit imperfectly). We can change things by enforcing a just and fair justice system. That we can do. That we can improve.

There have been way too many examples of racist crimes going unpunished (or underpunished). These situations are tricky because evidence varies, and we operate on innocent until proven guilty, but on the whole, haven’t we seen enough to know there’s a problem?

And that’s why I initially disagreed with the riots after the arrest. Protests? Sure. Absolutely. Before, during, and after trial. But riots? There are good arguments for both sides. If peaceful protests don’t work, what are people supposed to do? But if rioting involves mindless crime and innocent victims, how is that helpful overall?

You could argue that until all four officers involved are arrested, we’re still in a period of gross injustice. But the flip side is that the first man was already arrested. That suggests that the others are likely to follow (if he was charged with murder, they were automatically complicit, no?). But when will it happen? And how late is too late? Again, it’s complicated.

When the killer was arrested and charged with murder, the process of justice began. For that reason, I personally think we should give it a chance before destroying more innocent businesses. But I’m not black and it’s certainly not my call to make.

It doesn’t take much digging to see the extraordinary complexity in this. While it’s okay to have a firm opinion one way or the other, it’s painfully obvious that many people are in mindless political war mode. They don’t care about these nuances. They care about virtue signaling for their side of the political war.

On Facebook, I made some comments about the imprecise nature of rioting. That’s a real problem, even if you think the riots are justified. And a few of my liberal friends took issue with it. They said it distracted from the real problem, as if two problems can’t coexist. I don’t know about you, but I have more than one problem in my life! They seem to coexist quite harmoniously, to my detriment.

George Floyd’s murder, systemic racism, and much of the rioting activity are all wrong. But people are mired in political war, and have taken too quickly to their default political angle.

One response I’ve been most impressed with is Barack Obama. I liked Obama as a president (I’m not a fan of Obamacare, but nobody’s perfect). because he seemed to be an independent and honest person. That appears to still be the case based on his response to this tragedy and subsequent events. He acknowledges and addresses all the issues at hand, and gives a logical solution. You can read his thoughts here.

Think for Yourself

To summarize, please think for yourself. Do not EVER feel pressured into taking a political stance on something for any reason. If something is wrong, call it out. If two things are wrong, call them both out. If a situation is complicated, it’s okay not to have a definitive stance.

We need to get away from political narrow-mindedness if we’re going to succeed as a nation and beat this problem. It’s okay to have political leanings. It’s not okay to let those leanings blind you to nuanced issues. Why? That’s called hive mind, and it gives all the power to the majority.

The Rise of Hive Mind

I’m fascinated to see it on Facebook on a daily basis now. I know which of my friends are affiliated with which party, and their response to every issue is predictable. Not just in their general position, but in what they’ll say and how they’ll defend it, who they’ll condemn and why, how they’ll pander to each other, and argue with people on the other team. They have unspoken rules about what they’ll absolutely avoid conceding to, even if they know it’s correct. They only share certain information that validates their position.

For example, Trump supporters have to sort through a minefield of awful tweets to share something that most people might like.

My friend told me the other night that he was surprised at my initial response to the George Floyd murder (I was outraged and demanded justice). I don’t often comment on political matters. But as an independent thinker, I was outraged. As a human, I was outraged.

We lose our humanity in politics. Specifically, the right tends to struggle to empathize with and accept the existence of racial injustice. The left struggles to empathize with businesses and lives destroyed by the riots, because they see it as less important than the racial injustice that leads to riots.

Independent thinkers are dying at a rapid clip as the chasm between the two sides widens. People are letting their political affiliation define them and their views, rather than determining what they believe individually. Again, the odds that so many people would fall perfectly into one of only two categories is nil. Zero. When everyone is either A or B, it’s a forced fit, not a real one. This is incredibly dangerous because as a whole, people are now much easier to manipulate through hive mind.

The things Trump says and how he says them provoke some of the strongest emotional responses we’ve ever seen from the people. As some praise him endlessly, others condemn him ruthlessly. Divisive.

It has torn families apart. It has driven people away from each other. And worst of all, it has killed countless independent thinkers. As an independent thinker myself, it’s exhausting to deal with people from both sides. It would be easier to join one side. At least I’d have some support. And perhaps that’s why we’re a dying breed. As tired as people are in this war being on one side, being a free agent means you have to fight both.

Whatever your viewpoint or political affiliation, please think independently on the issues going forward. It’s not going to get any less complex. If you believe something that doesn’t fit your assumed political party, speak up anyway. We need nuanced viewpoints and fresh ideas to solve problems and make progress, not more hive mind.

I am encouraged to see some unity, and discouraged to see more political posturing. I hope that unity wins out, but for that to happen, we need to be less dependent on matching our assumed political party and more concerned with the nuanced truth.

[optinly-campaign id="13fb3534-424e-48c8-9447-b499b47c79bc"]