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Some Commentary

It feels strange to be writing about biomedicine, even about a terrible pandemic, under the current circumstances. I was six years old in 1968 and was thus largely spared that year’s events, so 2020 is now the year that in which I’m most fearful about what’s happening in my country. My broad political opinions make it into this blog every so often, and it’s obvious that I’m opposed to Donald Trump’s presidency. Does it even need to be said, though, that I’m also opposed to police officers murdering people? And that I’m opposed to looting, arson, and destruction as well? Who exactly can be for these things?

But I’m also opposed to those police deploying tear gas and pepper spray (and physical violence) against people who are peacefully protesting. And I’m opposed to law enforcement deliberately targeting journalists who are trying to report on all this – and there is plenty of undeniable evidence of all of these. A society needs a police force, but it definitely does not need the biggest, most militarized, most authoritarian police force it can deploy, acting with no fear of oversight. That’s a disaster, and anyone who values individual rights versus those of the state should recognize it as such. But we’ve had an equal-protection-under-the-law disaster for a long time, as evidenced by the number of times black men (in particular) get this kind of treatment. Anyone who might have been willing to look away from all that (because they’re not black themselves?) should realize that injustice contaminates everything, and that a state that’s willing to apply such brutal, unequal treatment can apply it to anyone they feel like. Look around you. This country has a lot of things that need to be fixed, and recent history has made that more obvious than ever.

The murder of George Floyd was sickening. And watching law enforcement officers casually beating unresisting protesters and reporters doesn’t make a person feel any better about this country, either. Nor does watching people who are using that murder as a pretext to destroy and rob. But here I thought a pandemic was bad. Am I, are we going to look back in a couple of months at the good old days of early June, before things really went to pieces?

We’d better not be. But that’s up to us.