This is a time of deep stress.
And who likes deep stress?
Well, maybe anarchists do. But anarchists are the emperors of delusion. Forget them.
Yet out of heavy stress can come good change, sparked by the re-examination of systems and ways of living that have been taken for granted or tolerated as ”the way things are.”
COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests coming together really moved the needle for change in America.
It’s hard to say which statue anywhere in this country is safe, for instance. It’s hard to know which famous person, living or dead, can withstand the scrutiny of eager historians digging for frailty, avarice, cruelty, oppression. Statues are symbols, and symbols are powerful.
Of course, the Confederate heroes of yore got theirs. Statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were toppled or removed all over the South. Christopher Columbus did not fare well anywhere (except, notably, Chicago).
The statue of UNLV Rebels mascot ”Hey Reb,” which stood in front of the Richard Tam Alumni Center on campus, was yanked by the school.
Stonewall Jackson and former Twins owner Calvin Griffith came down.
Francis Scott Key, Ulysses S. Grant, former International Olympic Committee chairman Avery Brundage, even the ”Forward” statue in Madison, Wisconsin — an inspirational bronze figure of a woman created in 1893 by female sculptor Jean Pond Miner — all were torn down.
A frenzy of historical ”correction” can be a hard thing to stop. When a mob tore down George Washington’s statue in Portland, Oregon, even a liberal-minded person had to wonder where the carnage would end, where the protesters would say, ”This guy gets a pass.”
The ultimate deduction is that our country wasn’t made with the belief that ”all men are created equal,” unless you don’t count women, Native Americans, Black slaves and their descendants. The past was pretty evil, for the uninformed.
Nor was the tumult confined to the United States. Offensive statues of slave traders, slave owners or racists were torn down or removed by officials in England, Belgium, India, New Zealand and South Africa.
Some people in Rochester, New York, tore down the statue of Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass in a public park, apparently as payback for the other attacks on white ”heroes.”
Through all this, we have wondered where our own lives are headed, when we can mingle safely with other (mask-less) humans again, what our jobs will be like, how our country will come out of this social upheaval and health terror and move into the future as the good ol’ USA. Or if anything ever will be the same.
Let’s say the virus is stopped. Let’s say work, entertainment and travel crank back up and the sky looks blue again. Let’s even say race relations improve in this country so that all of us are aware of the role we play every day in discrimination and fairness and nobody is left out of opportunity.
The voice protesters have developed is fresh and strong, and even those young people known as amateur athletes — the most voiceless folks around — have started to holler.
College football players, with so many of the stars being Black, were prominent in several Black Lives Matter marches. They also (slightly) began to protest things coaches lord over them the way only coaches can. At Florida State, defensive lineman and team captain Marvin Wilson tweeted his coach, Mike Norvell, was lying about certain talks with players.
”Man this [bleep] did not happen,” Wilson tweeted. ”This is a lie and me and my teammates as a whole are outraged and we will not be working out until further notice.”
Stuff like that did not occur in the past. Big-time, revenue-producing college football players always have been told to shut up and play. They get no money, while their coach might make — let’s see — $4.42 million a year in Norvell’s case. They can be replaced or thrown off the team at any time.
Maybe the crazy inequity of playing for free in front of 80,000 paying customers (someday, we hope) will end soon. From players rising up.
”This is a moment where the outrage of players is stronger than their fear of speaking out,” Ramogi Huma, the executive director of the National College Players Association, said recently. ”This has not been the case in modern times.”
That part is certainly true. From stress, the world might be starting over.